Gaminghooligan's Top Ten Games of the First Year of Luigi (2013)

I figured I'd go ahead and put this out there since more than likely I won't be playing much else until after the holidays. There were a lot of great games, and having my PS3 finally kick the bucket has limited me to PC and XBOX 360 games for the time being. So don't expect any PS3 exclusives here.

The 2012 Game of 2013

It's Crusader Kings 2! This little gem by Paradox has been my major time sink since it's release last year. With amazing support through patches, game changing DLC, and insanely detailed mods made by it's fantastic community Crusader Kings 2 is the gift that keeps on giving. One minute I'm riding high on a wave of gold plundered from the Anglo Saxons, spreading the wealth around to gain influence among my Norse court. The next I watch as my brother leads a rebellion that ravages my lands and leaves me a prisoner stripped of my titles in a dungeon. The random nature of each game you play let's you tell your on stories in an alternate history Europe where the Republic of Venice rules all of Italy or the Mongols conquered Ireland. I cannot stress how much fun the game is for someone who enjoys grand strategy and while it may seem overly complicated at first, a little time with this one will show you how much depth there is to it's gameplay and keep you coming back for more.

Biggest Letdown of 2013

It's Sim City.

Best Episodic Game That's Still Running

Kentucky Route Zero is something special. A beautiful point and click adventure set on a strange road that seems to lead to another world, this one grabs you from the beginning with its strong writing and style. Accompanied by a hauntingly gorgeous bluegrass soundtrack performed by The Bedquilt Ramblers this is an easy recommendation. Though Act 3 has taken awhile Cardboard Computer has said via twitter they are working hard to finish it, and as far as I'm concerned they can take as long as they need. It's well worth the wait.

The Top Ten

10. Payday 2

Payday 2 is a latecomer for me that I hadn't even considered before picking it up during the Thanksgiving Steam Sale. The first game never caught my attention, but after the disappointing launch of GTA: Online I was looking for my cooperative heist fix. I found it in Payday 2 Electric Boogaloo. With a four man team the player is tasked with robbing various things and using whatever means necessary to get their ill gotten gains to the escape vehicle. It's tense and frantic since even the best laid plans can turn to complete chaos with the introduction with a few well placed armored cops.

9. Papers, Please

An indie title devoted to letting you live out your dream of being an immigration inspector at the border of a made up nation. As the game progresses the guidelines used to identify those who are allowed to cross the border get more and more complex, making your job even more difficult since the more people you process successfully, the more money you make to feed your starving family and heat your government assigned home. I found that Papers Please really tested my morality, and more often than not I left a session feeling guilty or tired. It's a game that deserves your attention. Also the title screen is awesome.

8. Injustice: Gods Among Us

When you tell me the guys who made Mortal Kombat are making a fighting game featuring the DC roster, I'm going to buy that game regardless. Thankfully Injustice is a lot of fun. A pretty good roster of characters takes part in a the single player story mode and the fighting just feels right. As I'm not someone concerned with balance issues this game has finally dethroned Mortal Kombat as "that one fighting game I play."

7. Tomb Raider

When they first announced the reboot of Tomb Raider I was more or less uninterested. After a string of Tomb Raider games I found boring I had given up hope on the series. However a friend demanded I give this game a chance and I'm glad I did. The reboot takes Laura and changes her from a boring overly sexed up adventurer to a competent character who feels more real than her predecessor. Combat feels harsh and violent, and every battle feels like you're fighting for your life. A strong story revolving around a shipwreck and Laura's fight to reunite with her crew offers a promising start in a new series.

6. Saints Row 4

Say hello to the flying samurai who is President of the United States and leader of the infamous street gang The Saints. Even though the fourth installment of the Saints Row franchise doesn't change a whole lot from the third, the additions more than make up for the reuse of the city from three. Those additions are the super powers given to the player character via the simulation in which the game takes place. There is nothing more satisfying than flying around the virtual city and power bombing into cars from the sky. Packed with great music, fun characters, and tons of stuff to do Saints Row 4 is the total package.

5. Rogue Legacy

Rogue Legacy is a erhm.. ahhhhhh.. ooooo..... game with... roguelike elements in which you play as a hero from a long line of heroes who is tasked with adventuring through a perilous castle. If you die you restart with the treasures of your previous run to upgrade a new hero born from the previous heroes lineage. It's awesome and will have you looking at the clock wondering where the time went.

4. Metro Last Light

I fell in love with Metro 2033's post-apocalyptic Russian world instantly. Last Light is the continuation of one of my favorite games in recent memory. Set shortly after the events of the first game, Artyom is tasked with recovering one of the last known Dark Ones for his order. The game is gorgeous, and some of the scenes outside of the cramped tunnels where the humans now reside are breathtaking in their execution. The actual mechanics of the game have been greatly improved as well. The gun play feels solid, and stealth feels like a real alternative play choice. What kept me going though was a solid story that didn't overstay it's welcome filled with characters who felt like the real results of a twisted society. Play this game.

3. Grand Theft Auto 5

Where do I even start with GTA 5? It's world is so massive in both scale and execution that I find myself spending hours wandering aimlessly through its cities and forests. The characters that you play all feel like individuals, to the point where I have various ways of playing with each one. For example Trevor always listens to punk or country while driving recklessly down Vesspuci beach. The heists, while few, all gave me the same feeling you get watching Heat or The Italian Job. I could go on and on about GTA 5 but you already know how you feel about it more than likely and I won't try to sway your opinion. I loved it, even if it's online component was a little bit of a let down. It's one of the few games I find myself popping in for no reason, just to revisit that world one more time.

2. Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag

Never again. Never again would I buy another Assassin's Creed after the third (well sort of) installment of the series. However here I am, eating crow and telling you just how much I love AC4 Black Flag. It's got ships, pirates, swashbuckling, treasure hunting, whaling, a big open world, and even SEA SHANTIES that you can unlock by collecting them. It's amazing how much better this entry is compared to the last. Edward Kenway is a main character I can get behind and doesn't start the game bogged down by ideology or a lust for revenge. Instead Edward is his own man and the game shines because of it. The story just works and putting it within the Golden Age of piracy adds a special cast of characters I won't soon forget.

1. Bioshock Infinite

The sequel to one of my favorite games of all time. Infinite is just the whole package. A great story. Great characters. Great soundtrack. It's a game that had to pull itself up to the lofty pedestal of its predecessor. For me it did and continued climbing past it. The world of Columbia is like a painting. A vision of America from a different time, from a different reality. For me it's a masterpiece. A game I recommend to everyone without question and one I've already completed three times since its release. If you're still somehow on the fence about playing this game, I hope you'll give it a chance.

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A better hero.

Maybe it isn't my place as a white guy to argue this point, maybe I should just keep my mouth shut, but with the anonymity of the internet I sometime have the urge to express my opinions. I feel like more often than not when I sit down to play a new video game I'm always met with the same stoic white guy protagonist. His 5 O' clock shadow, his gelled messy hair, his gravely yet uber manly voice starting the narrative of the game. This is absolutely not a problem that would ruin the experience of any game for me, but as someone who consumes quite a bit of gaming media, I often times find myself wanting a drastic change in my hero. What if the game's hero was a lady. Not an overly sexed up woman with a big bottom, but a strong defiant heroin who could give the Ezio's and Marcus Fenix's of the gaming world a run for their money. What if the main character was a Saudi soldier or an African doctor. The beauty in gaming is that by being gamers we live many lives, from a soldier on a battlefield to the quiet assassin, and even a German farmer in some cases. Gaming has come a long way in recent years, changing up our protagonists and making them feel more human.

I want more though, I want to see characters of all races, genders, and sexes. What if in one of your modern war games the hero wasn't fighting to get home to his wife, but to his husband. Instead of flashing his sexuality to the player with a big controversial sign that says "Hey look we have a gay hero!" the game just lets the player figure it out on their own. I mean, what if the hero in a your RPG didn't have a choice in the matter. The character would be a strong fighter, a skilled diplomat, and a romantic and his lover would be the same. I want to play these roles, since I love the ladies but totally see the other side of the argument as well. For example I played the entirety of Mass Effect with a gay male Shepard, and found the experience just as rewarding as my friend who played it straight. I cared for Kaiden the same way I cared for my own girlfriend in real life, because in the eyes of my Shepard I knew this was the person I wanted to be with. (Although I tried in vain with Garrus lol)

I love that we live in a time where these are possibilities, but I'm still waiting for a game to really take that next step and say, "Hey we have a lesbian protagonist, she's strong, assertive, and not afraid to kick ass." However I don't want this to be the game's selling point, as the idea could just as easily be exploited as used skillfully. Many games are trying to branch out and include these kind of things, and I really appreciate it. A lot of my friends would be opposed to this idea however, thinking that a white straight male protagonist is just what they want to be. One even watched in horror as I considered marrying a male follower in Skyrim over Lydia. I know that not everyone will agree with this sentiment, and while I understand their feelings, I also want them to understand that what makes the gaming community so awesome is that for the most part we are an extremely diverse community. Unlike any other group we all share a burning passion around the same thing, and when we get together to play games it doesn't matter whose black or white or gay or straight, but that we all share a love for this new art form. (Yes I said ART.)

I hope this post isn't to long, or to much of a ramble. I don't claim to be a skilled blogger, but sometimes I just need to vent into this keyboard. I also hope I kept my wording appropriate and polite, as I really don't want anyone to be offended, and if something I said did offend you or if I missed a misspelling I want you to know I truly apologize. Please feel free to list an awesome gaming experience that differed from the norm as I for one love to hear about games I haven't played.

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so I quit my job.

So today after a summer working at a certain game store, I finally had enough. What did the customer do to push me over the edge you ask. Nothing. It was the manager then right? Wrong. It was the way the company was run. It had been my dream to be that guy selling games to people, the perfect college job, getting to chat about games all day. I started with the fire to please the higher ups and worked my hardest to achieve the goals set by my managers. As I continued my training there I was caught off guard one night when a fellow employee showed me the "correct" way to work a certain deal I had already been setting up for the customer. By buying a certain game with another certain game the man would have saved around 10 dollars, but instead the other attendant told me to ring up a different version of the game which was seemingly cheaper but not part of the deal, thus negating the 10 dollar value and cutting it to around 3 dollars off. This never sat well with me but I shrugged it off. It was when the focus of my job went from selling games and keeping the customers at the store happy to making a quota of pre-sales and membership cards that my disposition at my place of work started to falter. Why pester a customer who has already made a purchase and has said no to the pre-sales to then sign up for something else. I know that it's a business and for the company its all about the bottom line and the money earned, but as a human being and as someone who above all else loves and respects gaming I couldn't become that guy.

You know the ones I'm talking about. The guys that you bring up when you tell your friends about how you'll never shop there again because some clown in a God of War shirt kept asking you why you didn't want money down on Black Ops 2. Another issue I had was more minor. It was that only a few of the people working around me had any knowledge of the games themselves. Now these people could tell you the release date of any game on the market, but ask one of them what the premise of Bioshock Infinite is and they immediately call me over, the season help, to spin the take of Bioshock. Most of them hadn't actually played a game since the ps2 era and would simply repeat information they received via an email every morning verbatim, like some kind of robotic sales clerk. Maybe I'm just old enough to remember a time when the guy behind the counter at the local game store were just as into gaming as the folks on the other side of the counter. Maybe it's that nostalgia that drove me to leave the store. Along with the fact that I had found more gainful employment of course. I had planned to give a 2 weeks, and after expressing my grievances over a repeating lack of hours on my schedule I thought I would at least be given enough days the next week to pay fo the back and forth gas. Keep in mind my hours went down because I refused to pressure the customers into a sell, because I know that after I've given my pitch the customer can decide for themselves whether this product is what they want. I would rather see them leaving with a smile excited to play their new copy of GTA 4 or Katamari Damacy, the cursing me under their breath and vowing to never return again. I was reassured in this method when I discovered no customer had ever complained about me, and in fact most knew me by name and always said they appreciated my help in choosing a game, since I never pressured and only assisted if asked. I always gave my honest opinion, i.e. Duke Nuke Forever in my opinion isn't worth anyone's time, so I would never suggest they buy it if they had it in their hand, nor would I ever try to make them change there mind. Growing up I learned about what games I might want by asking the opinions of those that had already played them, and in turn I was never told not to buy something, instead the seller would simply give his opinion and let me make the decision. I tried to mirror this level of consumer/seller respect and honesty. For doing so I was told I should just let them buy it, and always say every game is fun and a good game.

I left on good terms for a better job and hope that my coworkers feel no resentment in me leaving. I simply won;t work in an environment where the customer is just a means to an end, a dollar sign on a spreadsheet. To me places like that destroy the reputation of gamers and gaming more than they help them. Perhaps it was seeing the horrible truth of the game trades for petty cash, only to sell them for a large profit, minus half the included contents. I feel better now, I guess. But it was never that I hated the place I worked, more just the lack of love for what they were selling and the construction of a consumer/seller barrier that made me feel like a terrible person. Like that moment when you tell a little girl her Wii is worth 30 dollars and the parents tell you off. I wish those I left there who truly do love games and gaming culture nothing but luck, but I know that I will be changing the place I purchase games from now on knowing the things I know, since maybe that extra 20 dollars isn't such pain when I know my money goes to the devs.

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A cure for the hiccups...

Recently grabbed that game slender and started the long build up needed by a coward like me to play the game. It was this very morning that I awoke with what seemed to be an unending case of hiccups. This was the moment. I readied myself, prepared to have the hiccups shocked out of me. Missions success. Within 4 minutes of playing I was locked to the monitor the eerie soundtrack playing in my noise cancelling headset as I ventured to an abandoned truck near a large shipping crate. I hiccuped quietly from the tense fear that held me. I grabbed the third page, and as I turned noticed something odd about the red truck I had just examined. I realized that I was staring into the face of the slender-man. My hiccups were cured. What a game! So simple and totally free, it's a must try for anyone even mildly into the horror genre. Like amnesia the dark descent it's the terror of the unknown that makes this one so good, but unlike amnesia the short playtime gives this game a more powerful sense of terror than most horror games I've played. With the upcoming Machine for Pigs I feel like this is the direction the horror genre needs to lean towards. Taking a lot of the power away from the player and absorbing them into the overall experience.

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Crusader Kings 2 and the power of storytelling.

Recently got my hands on crusader kings 2 for the pc. The grand strategy game appealed to the obsessive in me and after watching the QL here on GB I grabbed the game off steam with the Sword of Islam dlc. I began as the duke of a small section of Ireland and married a young woman from my noble court. She was gifted with the charitable and kind traits, but within a few months of our marriage found out she was a leper. My duke was stricken with grief when she passed later the same year. I married an older woman this time, the princess of Bohemia. She was a spymaster in the making, and gave birth to many of my character's children, most important his heir Colin macShea Patrick. My marshal and I rode out in the summer of my 20th year in power, and as my son and heir celebrated his birthday my character was killed in an assault, his marshal taking a serious wound defending him. The attack was planned and carried out by my oldest son and heir, I know because I became him after my original character died. That was a mere 20 years in a game that goes throughout the crusades. The game is a must play if you like strategy, and all though the game has a rough learning curve, the payoff is worth all the effort.

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