GOTY 2013

Well another year has passed. Quite literally, passed by. Almost the entire calendar year was spent either in school or built around school-related tasks. I had, what I would consider to be my last practical exam of the semester on the 30th of December, and I already have to make plans for more education next week. Is this indicative of the times we live in? Are people becoming more and more progressively busy and spending less time on themselves or their loved ones?

Somehow I've managed to fit in my fair share of video games anyways. Probably by virtue of ignoring and avoiding any lengthy game that can't be played on the long bus ride to school. Sorry, Ni No Kuni, maybe Tales of Xillia was not bad, gosh darn, Assassin's Creed 4. Maybe you're all alright. I have no time to figure out myself. I did manage to make time for these fine choices, and it's a weird, eclectic bunch.

List items

  • Well this year peaked early. Nothing in 2013 came close to the series of highs and more highs experienced while playing through the better of the Devil May Crys. It's a series of imaginative moments, stacked onto each other, with interesting combat and an unflinching commitment to anarchist style. It's also the most believable conspiracy theory to date; of course Fox News is run by Satan, why wouldn't it be?

  • Gone Home is one of the stronger cases for video games as a superior narrative delivery mechanism than film. Too many games stand by the old format of cutscene, action, cutscene, murder action, cutscene etc. (See #1). In Gone Home, the player is left to his or her own devices to explore the house and figure out the details of the family there. You get to be that weirdo who snoops around and derives personality traits out of a dad based on what movie shares VHS space with Ghostbusters. The game has faith to let you piece together as much of the narrative as you care to seek out, at your own leisure. Also, they ninjaed an LGBT love story into a semi-major game release. Anti gay rights activists should maybe think about playing Gone Home and develop some semblance of empathy.

  • It plays the song from the Zelda game that I liked and therefore it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

    It's also the most interesting and unique take on a Zelda game since the Wind Waker. It's a game with enough faith in the player to finally SHUT UP and let you play. The dialogue/bush-slicing ratio is skewed more in favour of bush slicing and the game encourages players to explore the world at their leisure in a quasi-linear fashion. I hate bushes.

  • Am I a bad person for having fun? Was it wrong that I was giddy with delight any time I caught a person red-handed? Would I have reveled in the Stanford prison experiments?

    This is another case of interactive video games telling a more compelling narrative than any movie or show I watched all year. The player is forced to grit their teeth and make the hard, family-destroying decisions. Those awful decisions then wind up affecting the political hotbed around you, and only force you into more unusual and awkward positions. Meanwhile, all you want to do is buy your kids medicine and stare at that title screen.

  • I felt like I got real close to Kenzie this year.

  • My Easter holiday break was spent in a state of mental depletion, as I tried to piece together what exactly the heck happened at the end of Bioshock Infinite. This while I had to sit at the dinner table and hear my relatives argue passionately about the state of religion in 2013, so I was having my fill of heady conversation.

    Bioshock Infinite is the perennial case of that traditional storytelling format of cutscenes followed by action violence, and the two being as ludonarritively dissonant as oil and piss. But hey guys, the combat wasn't THAT BAD.

  • Just like with Zelda before it, Mario 3D World hits the nostalgia beats you want Nintendo to whack. There's blocky cacti dancing to the music in the overworld. There's the Mario 3 death tune when you get killed. There's goombas and then there's the other type of goombas, acknowledging that goombas are a multicultural race. There's...still no hammer brothers suit, which is why Bioshock Infinite is an infinitely better experience. Nintendo needs to stop letting such awful things like bad network experience and no hammer brothers suit hold them back.

  • Awakening is certainly the most game-game out of anything on the list. It's got a hefty amount of length, ideal for the insane bus rides I have to take, and the default difficulty setting allows me to feel just challenged enough to never have to permadeath-sacrifice any of my party members to advance the plot. For allowing me to politely sidestep the defining feature of Fire Emblem, this is the best Fire Emblem to date.

  • School has unkindly shot my memory, so any fighting game that asks me to learn new moves and combinations is at an innate disadvantage. (See below) So it was real courteous of Divekick to just cut out all the nonsense and let me keep it simple. One button dives and the other kicks. It's either the most colourful game of Chicken ever made or the smartest fighting game ever made.

  • Injustice has to settle for second best because it has MOVES and I'm starting to turn against fighting games that have MOVES in them. Also, it's DC, who's like fourth or fifth when it comes to comic book franchises. But there was some fun to be had in this Mortal Kombat-ish fighting game. There was still Doomsday punching people through the Earth, Flash running around the Earth to land a single punch, and that Superman II gag returning.

  • Gunpoint feels like some kind of tradesperson version of Mark of the Ninja. The game gives you all the tools necessary to run roughshod over some hapless guards. But instead of ninja reflexes, you're given the electrical layout of the facility and the freedom to link a light switch to a door to this and that and well go nuts. It's becoming the game I most need to revisit on the list, just to see how weird I can make my Rube Goldbergian deathtraps become.

  • A lot of people seemed to unjustly ignore this one. If Bowser's Inside Story was a strange character study on the pathos of King Koopa, than this game is a sort of examination on the psyche of Luigi. It's not MUCH of a character to study (he just wants to be a good guy) but there is something kind of adorable about the resilience of the better bros. There's also a fantastic middle chapter that would probably win middle chapter of the year, if such a category was a thing in some universe where middle chapters were cherished.

  • I can rally behind something made in Toronto. I can just as easily rally behind something made in Toronto doing what seems to be a loose approximation of what they think Mexican culture is. You also spend a lot of time annoying a goat man, and that's rad too.

  • The Swapper is very Braid-esque. There's a series of puzzles and the biggest reason you can't solve one is because you've fatigued your brain too much on the puzzle before it. The next morning, you wake up and your freshly caffeinated cranium is capable of cracking that riddle. Meanwhile, these riddles are solved by transferring your conscience/soul/thing from these clones of yourself and wondering what the hell the nature of being really is. It might have ranked higher if it had the presence of Luigi.

  • So I played Legends on the Vita because I like to save money however which way I can. That meant having to deal with the touch-screen Murfy levels without a human partner to join me. Not quite as fun when you have to manipulate an AI nitwit through specific stages, but Rayman Legends still has it's high points. Like Guacamelee, it has a strong-horrible interpretation of Lucha Libre, but unlike Guacamelee, it takes the necessary steps to incorporate Eye of the Tiger into a single great sequence.

  • There's a lot of real great dumb moments in Rising. I mean, really. You can spend large portions of the game rocking a sweet poncho and sombrero. And I think that fits how I envision Raiden being than at any point in his Metal Gear lifespan. The dog is a robot dog who talks and has a chainsaw tail, who probably also played The Swapper because he has some questions about conscience. When Rising gets political or philosophical, it goes for it in a really goofy but also really committed manner.

  • The problem with Brothers on this list is that you can't talk about what makes Brothers actually good without giving away it's secrets. Brothers is a game that has a true face, and it'll show you that true face at a certain time in which it'll all make sense. It's like 2 hours, you can find 2 hours to see for yourself.

  • I felt like Grand Theft Auto 5 gave me a lot to hate. But it would seem kind of weird for me to trash a game for reasons besides "it didn't have the hammer bros suit." There's some real issues, but Grand Theft Auto 5 still has some of the strongest moments in any game this year. The torture scene is a moment of lunacy, an intelligent and relevant comment on American government in a game running out of mean things to say about America. There's also all those Trevor rampages. When Trevor was around, I felt like it was okay to abandon any pretense of seriousness and acknowledge Grand Theft Auto as a crime game again.

  • Rogue Legacy feels like the penultimate junk food game on this list. I spent an awful lot of time hacking and slashing and not wanting to stop hacking and slashing. I'll probably do it all over again when the Vita version drops. But to what end? I leveled up my oddball family, saved up a bunch of cash, got upgrades, looked for treasure, defeated crummy bosses, and for...I had a real crisis of identity after some 20-odd hours of Rogue Legacy, asking myself why I play video games for the first place. Most everything else here on this list can say they offer some narrative reward, or test of wit, or sense of imagination. I'm not sure what I got out of Rogue Legacy outside of time passed. But I guess at least it was the most effective time passer.

  • This may as well be my trolling pick, more to bug the people I know who are really into Pokemon. It's good, you guys. It really is. Trust me. It's a solid number 20.