1. BioShock Infinite
If Gone Home was my definition of an indie game masterpiece, Bioshock Infinite is my definition of a AAA masterpiece. My favorite game since Skyrim, Infinite was historically interesting, politically poignant, beautifully sculpted, ingeniously written, and told an incredible story from beginning to end. Massive visuals, rewarding combat, engaging gadgets, and its aforementioned story make this my favorite game of 2013, and a game that, like Skyrim, I won’t soon forget.
2. Gone Home
This is my definition of an indie game masterpiece. It’s cerebral, engrossing, and demands to be finished in one sitting (which is absolutely doable). It kept me on the edge of my seat during the entire playthrough, and left me paralyzed at the end. This is a must-play that is truly more of an experience than a video game.
3. The Stanley Parable
This is a difficult game to describe because it feels like a giant joke that simultaneously demands to be taken both seriously and not seriously. Although the game really needs to be experienced to be understood, I’ll say this - it’s continuously funny, perfectly sarcastic, beautifully voiced, and psychologically testing. It also has a demo that’s a completely different game, so give that a try too.
4. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
What an absolutely incredible, story-driven adventure game. Brothers’ narrative is interrupted only by obstacles that are tuned perfectly for player enjoyment, and the game succeeds from a technical standpoint simply because the story is furthered through the context of rewarding, pseudo-ego boosting puzzles. It’s an emotionally unforgiving game that masterfully weaved its way into my heart.
The most attractive aspect of Gunpoint is the way it encourages players to come up with their own solutions to the game’s stealth-based, futuristic puzzle scenarios. The best part is that this doesn’t mean you have to learn to utilize a lot of different mechanics. Instead, Gunpoint succeeds through the utilization of very few techniques in very grandiose ways. I enjoyed the freedom of coming up with my own solution to each puzzle, and enjoyed the fact that the way I accomplished something was likely very different from the next person, yet was completely viable.
There are very few games that make non-Euclidian geometry as fun as Antichamber, and there are even fewer games with puzzles as good as these. Though the protagonist is unnamed, I couldn’t help but feel as though Escher would be oddly pertinent. The game succeeds in its execution due in part to the puzzle-solving techniques the player learns along the way, but also because of the psychological exploration that manifests through adages that aid both in solving the puzzles, but also understanding real life.
7. Papers, Please
I never really thought being an immigration inspector could be so… fulfilling. Of course, I don’t want to make it sound like I enjoyed bringing down the long arm of the law, but intriguging decisions and a dystopian atmosphere really set the stage for an engaging game.
8. Rogue Legacy
Despite my general malaise towards dying and starting over again frequently, games like Rogue Legacy and FTL are slowly teaching me to love roguelikes. I’m still hesitant to both buy and play them, but I so thoroughly enjoyed Rogue Legacy that my feelings are definitely starting to shift.
9. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
I was meh, II was incredible, III was bad, and IV brought it all back. Sure, there were spinoffs like AC: Brotherhood in between these releases, but none of them felt as close to AC II as Black Flag does. After absolutely hating III, I wasn’t sure if Ubisoft could turn the tides (pun definitely intended) and come up with another AC game that rivaled the best the franchise has to offer. Though Black Flag is still a ways away from AC II in terms of sheer awesomeness, I did feel like it brought the series back around from mediocrity, and I sincerely look forward to the next release.
10. Tomb Raider
If I was to give an award for best series reboot, Tomb Raider would be at the top of the list. Though it wasn’t as technically proficient as many of this year’s best games, I thought it was beautiful (did someone say TressFX?) and ultimately engaging. The more I played the game, the more I wanted to keep playing it, and although I do not think its overall tone aligned with its gameplay, I enjoyed every minute I spent with it.