Best of 2013

2013 was my favorite year for games since '07 (and before that, '98). Just so many excellent games from developers of all sizes. My list of games that I liked or wanted to play was around 50... but that's too many. So here's 10!

List items

  • I've been a fan of Tomb Raider since the original (it was my first PS1 game). Crystal Dynamics has been one of my favorite developers since Soul Reaver. Like Revengeance and dmc, was this a game made just for me? Yep!

    When they revealed this one I was worried that it'd just be chasing Uncharted. But the design was completely different. The progression and exploration felt like a Metroidvania and that came out of nowhere. The combat was dynamic and incredibly fun. The visuals were some of the best on the 360. The story was very interesting. The puzzles were creative but unfortunately not as upfront. The bow was versatile and awesome to use. The characters were likeable, and new Lara was developed well (sure, she starts killing a bunch of fools but they pushed her to it). There was a 2 hour chunk in the middle that made me just stop playing the game (it was SO incredible that I didn't think it could get any better). A couple months later I came back and I knew it was something special. And then the part with the two pistols made me freak out.

    Just an expertly made game that tried a ton of things and pretty much nailed them all. I don't think I'll replay it any time soon (like most of the top games on this list), but I'll probably just buy the PS4 version eventually. After all, I bought Anniversary on PS2 and 360. If the sequel can bring back some of the giant puzzle rooms that built the foundation for the series, it could be one of my favorite games. But for now, this is one of my favorite games.

  • I wasn't a big fan of Bioshock 1. The world was cool and all, but it felt repetitive to me. I wasn't too excited about Infinite and didn't play it til about 6 months later. But man, what a game. When I first got onto the streets of Columbia, I spent 20 minutes just soaking it all in (this not making the best-looking list is an atrocity). I liked the combat, I thought the pacing was miles better than part 1, jumping into the revolution was amazing, and Elizabeth is such a cool character.

    I didn't really care for the ending despite some memorable moments, but the experience as a whole was way better than I could've expected. Especially since I started playing after it became cool to hate on it. Hell of a game.

  • Like Alex, this game's standing improved as the game of the year deliberations went on. Naughty Dog's been a favorite of mine since Crash Bandicoot 2, but The Last of Us is something they've never attempted before. I'll just copy what I posted in the GotY article:

    What's strange is that playing The Last of Us may have been more stressful than Papers, Please. While going through, it was incredibly tense and exhausting and not necessarily enjoyable. But the thing is the gameplay to me was fucking awesome.

    Playing on hard made the whole thing very tactical, and the focus on your resources made it feel like the most survival horror game since the PS1 Resident Evils. The controls, while feeling heavy, allowed me to do exactly what I wanted to. Each scenario took extreme focus and the ensuing violence made it all very impactful. And when a careful approach to a zombie-filled area went completely sideways, running and barely making it through was a god damn thrill. If I replay this some day, it'll be on Survivor difficulty, and it very well may break me.

    The gameplay absorbed me into the world as much as the art and sound design did. The story was well told, the characters were deep and interesting, and just.... fuck yes, Last of Us.

    On a side note, the environmental storytelling was second to none. I felt that the way your understanding of Ish unfolded, as you found his notes and put together his story, was better than anything in Gone Home. But I digress.

  • I want this to be tied with Brothers, because I just keep switching them (at least a dozen times on this list alone). Muramasa: Rebirth was the first game I bought for my Vita. And boy, did I love it. Sure, the music and art is as beautiful as anything Vanillaware has done, but the combat was fantastic and the bosses were highly imaginative. One of those games that really requires you to dig into (and appreciate) its systems to triumph on hard mode. This holds the distinction of being one of the few games where I liked using new loot (stuff like Diablo drives me crazy with constantly switching). I finished it with both characters. And like Brothers, it felt like a presentation of its country's culture. I really liked Dragon's Crown, too, but Muramasa just edges it out. Now, where the hell is Odin Sphere Vita?

  • A wonderful game. I've always been interested in Swedish culture because of the Gothenberg/Stockholm metal scenes, and this felt like traditional folklore. Beautiful, touching, and I thought it was fun to play. The puzzles were creative and the world just felt alive. I finished it in one sitting, but this game continues to stick with me. Fantastic.

  • I watched the GB guys play this game a ton, but never got around to it myself. Once it came out on Vita, I played it every day for weeks and finishing it felt great. The music was great, the random levels always felt fun, and the control was super tight (sorry, I'm waiting for Rogue Legacy to come to Vita before making a comparison). Spelunky rules

  • Like 3, I got about halfway through and stopped. Like 3, I'll come back later and continue to love it. It's a ton of fun, it's got heart, and it feels like a continuation of the previous game (in a good way). I still like The Matrix and Mass Effect so this all works for me. By the end of 3, people call you a "superhero" so this felt like a logical extension. I wish I didn't have to play it on 360, but I don't want to melt my laptop for the 60fps. I loved Volition for Red Faction, so I hope the next one brings in Geo-Mod and they continue to make open-world games super fun to play.

  • I've been a fan of Metal Gear since MGS 1, and Platinum's become my favorite developer of last-gen. Like dmc, my perfect game... right? The combat was great after I finally understood it, it was absurd, the music was ridiculous, and I can't overstate how much I loved that opening Metal Gear Ray fight. The only reason it's not higher is because it could've been so much more, but Platinum came on late and started working on existing template. And the environments were just super dull. If they work on Revengeance 2 from the beginning and every boss hits the highs of that Ray fight? Game of the generation.

  • There was only one day where I couldn't connect to a game, and my campaign progress got wiped on launch day. But as the first military game I've played online in a couple years, I'm blown away by how much fun it is. Going from Bad Company 2 on 360 to the giant battles on PS4? PC players may be used to it, but what a jump for a guy like me.

  • I'm a huge fan of Devil May Cry. Beat 1, 3, and 4 on every difficulty. I'm also a huge fan of Ninja Theory, so this seemed like my perfect game. I did enjoy it quite a bit, but I only beat it twice. It's a dumb barometer but it didn't hit me as hard as the previous games because the combat design relied too much on enemies being light/dark. Ah well.