Best of 2013

I'm free of the tyrannical naming conventions of years past!

Unfortunately, I'm not free of the prison of time. I barely played anything this year. So, here's a list of what I did play, in rough order. It somehow hit ten items! As usual, list of shame:

  • The Last Of Us
  • The Swapper
  • Brothers
  • Gone Home
  • Saints Row IV
  • AC IV
  • Tomb Raider
  • Probably others!

List items

  • I've been waiting for this for a long time, and it did not disappoint. This game feels entirely arbitrary at first, and indeed its intro is intended to disorient. But once you start putting together the pieces…

  • I've taken more delight in reading the incidental prose in Kentucky Route Zero than I've had with great literary works. It's a game that demonstrates rather than explains, and yet it does so using the tool of language, which so many wield as a crutch. What a curious duality.

  • Yeah, it's got problems. It's a story that yearns not to be a game, but is ultimately tied to that framework anyway. It may be grander and mechanically superior to its predecessor, but in context it could never possibly make the same impression. Credit is due to the careful way in which the ideas toward the end are laid at the beginning.

  • A Link to the Past is the greatest Zelda game ever created. When I heard Miyamoto talking about doing a 3DS remake, it made sense in my head, and I looked forward to having the game on the go, but it also seemed a bit lazy. When Nintendo started talking about making a new game altogether with the same mechanics, I dismissed them as lunatics to even try. And yet, here we are. I think too much is made of the open world shift, but maybe that's just the jaded sequence breaker in me seeing every Zelda game that way. ALBW's biggest problem: too easy.

  • Here it is. The game that justifies the tablet as a gaming medium. It's tactile, it's smooth, it plays with conventions and expectations. And it's written like a 60s pulp spy novel. Also, it's actually really creepy.

  • I actually hadn't caught all the hype on this game when I bought it. Someone recommended it personally, so I checked it out. 5 hours later, I stumbled out of my paper-stamping trance: it was grey out, cold in my apartment because the heat was out (really.), and I felt trod under the heel of the system. And then I played some more. What!?

  • Tom Francis is possibly my favorite games writer, due largely to his longer form pieces where he narrates particular playthroughs of games. His diaries on Galactic Civilizations are endlessly entertaining. So when he started talking about writing a game in Game Maker, I got vaguely curious. When he didn't stop talking about it a year later, I paid more attention. And when he quit his job to focus on Gunpoint full-time, I was frightened on his behalf, and maybe a bit excited. The game has its problems, but it's a sterling effort and a great puzzle game.

  • I put Splice on my list last year because I respected its stance on handholding: there are no tutorials, and even the perfect-completion system of the game is manifest as a cryptic, easily-missed interface element. Starseed Pilgrim takes that idea far beyond its logical conclusion. Maybe an hour into the game, you finally work out its basic mechanics. A few hours later, you might finally discover what you're apparently supposed to build towards.

  • Ending is an exercise in two things: incredible sound design, and even-odd parity. I don't even know how those two things end up in a game together, but here we are. Fantastic puzzles.

  • Hundreds is an exercise in two things: Helvetica, and substitution ciphers. This game jumps out of your screen at you with its visual design, and kept me going through all hundred levels because I simply cannot resist a good cryptographic puzzle.