Top 10 Games of 2013

2013 was a year in where I seemingly fell in love with narrative in games. Made more evident by my write-ups below. Though, not to say it was all story and no gameplay as, hell, I still like to have fun playing games too. So I present to you my list of games for you to all judge and ask why I didn’t include such and such game!

10. DmC: Devil May Cry

The reboot of the Devil May Cry franchise had a lot of things going for it. There was a fluidity to combat that I haven’t really experienced since the original Devil May Cry. Each weapon felt uniquely different and being able to switch on the fly made me actually use them all. The levels were amazing set pieces (night club, I’m looking at you) and made you active participants in its cinematic sequences rather than relegate them to QTEs. Maybe Dante didn’t have the hair style everyone wanted, but the attitude and tight gameplay that made the series a hit was all there.

9. Gunpoint

It’s not the addictive cross between stealth action and puzzle platformer. Nor is it the fun of figuring out how to dissect a level. Or even the way it streamlines failure by letting you rewind time a few seconds rather than restart the whole level. It’s on my list because I never expected a noir narrative with a funny, snarky, sometimes an asshole main character. The dialogue choices you make really feel like you affected the story and by the end I had weaved my own personal tale of what happened. It doesn’t hurt that it also has thebest achievement I’ve seen in a game in a long time either.

8. Outlast

I couldn’t play this game in longer than 30-40 minute increments because of how freaked the shit out I would get while playing. This game had a ton of good scares exacerbated by the creepy setting, sound design, and the fact that you can’t attack. I’ll never forget how heart pounding it was being in that first chase sequence. It’s a bummer that by the end some of these sequences became easy to game, thus killing some tension. Not to mention the story took a real bullshit turn too. Still, as a fan of horror games, it was great to see Outlast revitalize the genre.

7. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team

It would be an insult to the Year of Luigi to exclude one of his games on my list. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team has all the charm and addicting gameplay as the previous games in the franchise. The writing, story and characters were quirky and fun (Zeekeeper being a bro!). The in-game achievement system made me want to perfect every battle I was in. The combination of badges, equipment and character ranks made it possible to really customize to the way you play. And giant Luigi battles were, well, fun as shit. Just one thing Nintendo, can we please cut down on the number of tutorials?

6. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Sure the gameplay is one of the reasons why I love this Platinum Games work. Combat is both mechanically and visually satisfying. But, let’s be real, the reason it’s on this list is the larger than life, crazy and sometimes dumb characters that Metal Gear is known to have. From the deeply philosophical cyborg wolf (!), to a spaghetti western style showdown, to “Nanomachines son!“, Revengeance kept ratcheting up the crazy and every time I strapped in for the ride.

5. Gone Home

Some might argue that this doesn’t belong on this list for the sheer notion that it isn’t even a “game”, but I think it’s one of the most important games this year. Gone Home really played with my idea of what a “game” should be with its use of tropes. It is important as it puts the word out to other developers that a good story, detailed world building, and fully realized characters can make a successful game even despite minimal gameplay. It’s a game that manages to be surprising by not being surprising at the same time.

4. The Last of Us

Naughty Dog did a great job of crafting both a believable and beautiful post-apocalyptic world. It set the stage for Joel and Ellie’s emotional journey of survival. Everything felt real, from the passing of the seasons to the scarcity of resources and brutality of combat. And great voice acting and performance capture really brought the whole package together. The Last of Us always gave you just enough pause to breathe before it took it away again.

3. Bioshock Infinite

Ken Levine knows how to craft a hell of a story. From the original teaser trailer, they had me hooked. I had to know everything about Columbia, Elizabeth and whatever weird time travel plot they were teasing. I loved seeing this world of jingoism and nationalists gone wrong. And it’s ending made me rethink every event in the game, as multiple “ah-ha!” moments were had. If only the gameplay lived up to theambition trailer. While not being bad or offensive, the gameplay only felt like a minor upgrade to Bioshock‘s gunplay. Still, in the end Ken Levine still knows how to blow minds and the ending sequence will be one I will never forget.

2. Device 6

Device 6, which I can only describe as an interactive 60′s mod style mystery novel, only works on an iPad (ok well I guess it works on any tablet). Text scrolls left, right, up and down, serving both as story-telling and providing the sensation of physical exploration. And the puzzles. I had not taken so many notes and drawing since my days with Fez. There may have even been a mirror involved at one point. I loved how at no point did it hold your hand. It throws you right into the game with little explanation and forces you to figure how to play and how to solve puzzles. And without going into spoilerific territories, you’ll find that all of this design is 100% intentional and shows that Simogo Games really knows how to craft a game that blurs the lines of reality. I guarantee no other game this year comes close to matching this experience.

1. Grand Theft Auto V

I admit, I was a bit skeptical going into Grand Theft Auto V. Having never really been a huge fan of the PS2 era games and having my issues with Grand Theft Auto IV, I didn’t know what to expect. After finishing the game, I knew it would be the top of my list. Rockstar’s strength is creating fully realized worlds and characters and it shows. Every character from main to side made the world feel alive. I loved how the fake social networks shows the impact of Franklin, Michael and Trevor actions and it was great to see them not exist in a bubble. Both Rockstar’s writing and some excellent voice acting shine through here. I’d always listen to all of the dialogue, even if I had got to my mission destination. All of the heist scenarios were awesome too. If anything, I wish there were more of them as I wanted more Heat and Ocean’s Eleven type moments. Up there with the heists were the Strangers and Freaks missions. It introduced a ton of weird characters and scenarios, like kidnapping a celebrity for a weird British couple. Yeah. And just when I felt tired of doing one thing, I’d switch to another character and do a whole other set of missions. I can’t think of any better sendoff to the last generation than this game.

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Ryan Davis. The closest friend I've never met.

I've been thinking for a few days, "Man I hope the Giantbomb guys go to California Extreme this year, I'd really love the chance to meet them in person. Especially Ryan, I'd love to take a picture with him doing his famous hover-hands pose." Now I am coming to grips with the reality that I'll never hear Ryan's boisterous voice on the Bombcast ever again.

It's a testament to Ryan's larger than life personality that so many people, myself included, felt like they lost a close friend today. It's hit me like a punch in the gut that I just can't recover from. All of this, it's so surreal. To feel this way as someone who never knew him, I can't even imagine what his friends, family and wife must be going through.

To say that Ryan will be missed is a huge understatement. Yet all of us Giant Bomb fans know better. Ryan would never want us all sobbing over his accord. If anything, he'd want us to celebrate all the stupid dumb things he's done all in the name of making us laugh and keeping us entertained. So my final thoughts will be one of my favorite videos. I can only hope, that wherever Ryan is right now, he's looking down and giving that copy of Dante's Inferno a huge middle finger.

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Fundraiser Tournament-SFIV, Smash Bros, MK VS DC, 5/17, San Mateo

What: Fight Night Fundraising Tournament
Where: Play N Trade, 206 S B Street, San Mateo, CA 94401
When: May 17th, Check-In@11am, Start@Noon, Estimated end time@6PM
Why: To fundraise for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
What else? Raffles all day, $1 a ticket, 6 for $5. Impromptu Roseball tournaments!

Team in Training and Play N Trade are proud to be hosting a Fight Night Fundraiser Tournament on May 17th! Come on down and compete in one or more of these great fighting games: Street Fighter IV, Super Smash Brothers Brawl (1 v1) and Melee (2 v 2), and Mortal Kombat VS DC.

Best of all whether you win or lose, know that in the end it's all going towards a good cause. A portion of the registration fee will go towards the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training and the fight against blood cancers.

In addition we will be raffling off prizes all day, so even if you're not a hardcore gamer, you can come and check out the action and still walk away with a great prize donated by the ever generous merchants of the downtown San Mateo area.

It only costs $10 if you pre-register before May 17th ($15 day of registration), so call 650.343.1155 or email TnTFightNight@gmail.com to pre-register. With your help we can knock out blood cancers in our lifetime!

All rules and prizes posted here:
http://www.studiodaikon.com/documents/fight_night_rules.pdf

Also a bit late, but here are some fliers nonetheless for the event:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/38350273@N03/3527008239/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/38350273@N03/3527819374/

Prizes include store credit to top finishers as well as various Street Fighter and Nintendo swag, t-shirts, and posters. Participation prize for everyone who competes! Raffle prizes include gift cards to local merchants, prize baskets, video games, and more!

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