By Ghostiet 14 Comments
Let the GOTY blog post bullshit begin!
2013 was a real fucker of a year on pretty much all fronts but one: video games. For vidya, 2013 has been fucking stellar. If every year capping of a generation of hardware and games is this good, then man, I can't wait until we say goodbye to the Xbox One and Playstation 4. 2013 in gaming brought me titles that I can easily call one of my favorite ones of the entire generation and at least one that I can now call one of my most favorite games ever. And thanks to the beauty/asshattery of Steam, I can't even say I played all the worthwile games of 2013.
Alright, let's do this.
One of the most cleverly written and designed games I’ve played this year. Gunpoint is funny and smart, with its hilarious achievements and possible conversation options, also having solid ground to stand on gameplay-wise. The way it subtly encourages you to do different stuff and favor unorthodox approach to missions makes it a unique experience to me – most of the time, I’m one pragmatic motherfucker in video games, to the point where my second playthrough is always the same. Here, I wanted to see what happens if I do something differently. And when the game rewarded me with an achievement when I accidentally smacked myself with a door, it marked the first time I ever gave a shit about Steam achievements.
When playing Shadow Warrior, I kept thinking about Duke Nukem Forever. Because Flying Wild Hog’s remake is what that game was supposed to be. It mocks how utterly ridiculous and out of touch the archetypical ‘90s action hero is in this day and age, but also celebrates him, by making Lo Wang a nerdy Jack Burton of “Big Trouble in Little China”. It’s an homage that never feels pathetic or pandering, showing that this sort of character can still be done well. Oh, and the game is a fucking blast, too. Mowing down hordes of enemies with your sword is fun, while the few guns the game has manage to feel fresh, since they pack a solid punch, but never distract you from the meat of the gameplay – slashing demons with a katana.
Runner2 is one of the most positive, fun games I’ve played this entire year. It’s tough as nails, but in a way that isn’t sickening – I never felt like the game is tearing away bits and pieces of my soul, even during the most wall-banging moments. It’s also full of charm, with its warm graphics, great music and Charles Martinet’s awesomely alliterative narrations. I mean, it has a fucking dance button. It’s no hug button, but still pretty damn good.
I’m cheating on this one a bit, but since the re-release came out in 2013, I’m fine with that.
Dragon’s Dogma is a deeply fucked game. Some things (the affinity system, checkpoints, sidequests) are so baffling that it seems like the game was made by aliens trying to imitate human thought processes. But on the other hand, it has a fascinating universe, great combat and a sense of wonder and exploration that few games have. And absolutely the best boss battles this year. Fucking A. Climbing on top of a chimera and stabbing the shit out of it was fun the first time and the tenth time I’ve done it. Once 2014 comes, I’m rerolling into PS+ just to spend more time in this weird, weird game, since I didn't even touch the Dark Arisen content.
The funniest game that came out this year. Blood Dragon had me at “hello”, that is, when it introduced Spider and his amazing way of saying “motherfuckers”. And it didn’t stop there. The game rolled out a sidequest referencing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, an out of the blue speech on the video game violence craze, the world’s greatest sex scene, the announcer from Mortal Kombat and much, much more. It’s just fucking bananas in the greatest ways and I never felt like the self-referential humor/homage overstayed its welcome. It also refines the gameplay of Far Cry 3 by being simply better paced – the original game dragged for a bit too long, while Blood Dragon ends right where it should.
Best co-operative experience I’ve had this entire generation, hell, probably in games, period. Monaco is a superbly designed and made game, period. From its interesting premise and easy to get into mechanics, through the challenging gameplay, to the great story, it’s been an immensely fun ride. Even when playing through it a second time, playing with people was an amazing thrill. Something always goes to shit, so you scramble around, trying to save your friends, or trying to utilize the commotion to your advantage. And when things go right, there is a true sense of fulfillment.
GTA V is probably one of the most ambitious games I’ve seen. It has an enormous, rich and lively world, a lot of shit to do and a story that is too epic in scale for its own good. As someone who didn’t care for GTA IV in any way, GTA V is a return to form by Rockstar North. However, despite all of its great parts, V seems more like a proof of concept. But that’s also why it seems so great – there’s a big promise to everything. So even though I don’t want to return to Los Santos right now, once GTA Online gets more content and some single player DLC pops out, I’ll be back in for more. Because I want more of this game.
You shouldn’t spoil Saints Row IV for yourself. The amount of balls-out stuff that happens should be experienced fresh. It’s a dumb, dumb game, in the best ways possible. Instead of reining it in and trying to make it a more focused experience, Volition took the plunge into crazy. Every mission is a set piece, everything is tailored for you to get the biggest mileage out of your stupid, overpowered abilities. It’s nuts. And it’s really, really funny. Fuck Warren Spector. This is what I want. This is what we all should want.
Normally, a sufficient justification for this game being so high should just be “it’s fucking pirates”, but for the sake of this argument, let’s pretend that you don’t have a soul and the very thought of a well-made, epic pirate game isn’t enough to wet your willy. Assassin’s Creed IV is, in many ways, the same sort of improvement to the series that II was. Ubisoft removed all the shitty things that III was boggled by, on top of making everything bigger and better. The Assassin’s Creed formula is expanded even more, but a completely new and big system based around sailing on the high seas transforms it into its own thing. Add to that a bleak, intriguing story with one of gaming’s best protagonists – the deeply flawed, human Edward Kenway, who finally manages to strike the morally ambiguous promise of the series’ overarching plot.
Hell, it made me hate Assassin’s Creed III for not being this game.
Some things are just tailored for a specific person. Everything works out in your favor – your favorite director is doing it, it has your favorite setting, it’s an adaptation of your favorite book, it’s your beloved band releasing an album after 10 years of silence.
I’ve been waiting on The Last of Us since that VGA reveal trailer. I knew I will like it. There was no fucking way that game could be bad, because it would break my heart.
And it delivered. It gave me a dark, well-crafted and justified post-apocalyptic world. It gave me a set of well-written and acted characters, including Joel, one of gaming’s best, darkest characters. It gave me engaging stealth/action gameplay. It gave me thrills and stressed the shit out of me. It gave me an atmospheric, touching road-movie story. It ended perfectly. And I felt fulfilled. A lot of games don’t end, there always has to be a hint of something else coming, but The Last of Us felt like a complete whole. It didn’t feel too short, it didn’t feel too long, it never dragged for me, always moving at a steady pace. It just had everything I wanted out of it. And when I played it again after a couple of months, I still liked what it was doing.
It was simply made for me. And this is why it’s my game of the year.
When I heard about the basic premise of Gone Home, I became wary of the game. I’m liberal, but I also hate it when someone expects everyone to immediately fall in line and immediately agree with every minority, shoving its glurgy messages up your ass. Gone Home’s most impressive feat is that it doesn’t do that. Fullbright managed to craft a story that’s smart, touches a sensitive subject and provides plenty of valid interpretations of the characters and their motivations, without ever giving the player a definitive answer or telling him what he should think. It also does something that few games really do with their narrative and gameplay. Stories need conflict, but in video games, that conflict has been usually a higher pressure, higher caliber one, outside of few outliners that served more as metacommentaries. Gone Home is not a revolution, but it’s so far the best example of how to do this kind of stuff.
BioShock Infinite had the impossible task of trying to be as culturally significant to the medium as the original BioShock was in front of itself. Fortunately, Levine & Co. ignored that. Infinite stands on its own legs, without the legacy of its predecessor dragging it down. While gameplay-wise it didn’t really excite me, since none of it stuff lived up to all those trailers, the story is something else. It’s an impressive feat to write a cohesive, coherent tale of obsession, love, sacrifice with alternate realities and parallel universes mixed into all of that, with a little sprinkle of some metacommentary on the process of creating art without the whole thing falling apart. Not many books and movies managed that, let alone video games, but Infinite pulls it off with gusto.
During the first 20 minutes of Metal Gear Rising, I’ve heard Raiden wax poetical about samurais, I’ve seen a burly Texan dude kill an African leader quipping “give war a chance!”, I grabbed a Metal Gear by its blade and played with it like a ragdoll, a Russian named Boris yelled at me through my CODED and I got my arm chopped off by a Mexican ronin. Considering that the game marries the respective brands of crazy of Kojima and Platinum, that this game is going to be really fucking stupid in the best way possible was pretty much a given. Platinum crafted an exciting, ridiculous and fun action game that starts at 10 and then slowly goes to 11. Even though you can tell that the last two “proper” levels of the game were done in a hurry, it doesn’t really matter. MGR is a fun, dumb game.
I wish I discovered this game earlier, because it would have a secured spot in the top 10. Everyone with even a vague interest in game design should play Toki Tori 2+, since the way the game teaches you its mechanics without ever explaining them outright is just magical. I’m not too deep in the game yet, but what I’ve played was so impactful that I had to put it in here.
Divekick is a perfect party game. It’s really easy to pick up and play, literally everyone can be good at it and it’s emotional and exciting every time you play it. And since in some magical, satanic way the developers managed to give the mechanics actual depth, despite being controlled with two buttons, you’ll want to play it again and again. What was supposed to be a five minute distraction ended up being a fucking great way to spend time with friends.
Papers, Please, alongside Gone Home, showed everyone this year that you can make a video game about anything and still make it interesting, if not exciting. The story of an Eastern Bloc border checkpoint officer should have been a painstakingly dull affair on all fronts, but it wasn’t. In fact, it managed to be one of the most human narratives in video games, while having barely any direct narrative. It was also one suspenseful game to play. Anyone whose hand was shaking scrambling for the gun locker key will know what I’m talking about.