Obligatory GOTY List Over Here!

NOTE: These are the best games of the year I played. Meaning there are probably a bunch of games that might have made this list had I played them but I didn't so I can speak to them.

2013's 2012 GOTY: Kairo

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This game speaks directly to my tastes. The atmosphere is awesome, the exploration is fun, the puzzles are interesting and unique, it looks amazing. It's exactly what I want out of a game.

'If I could play it on my PC...' Games: Metro Last Light

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This game looks awesome. But, though I can play it relatively well on my PC, the framerate isn't consistent enough for me to play through it. So I gave up on it. Maybe, after I get a new PC, this will end up on a future list.

10) Gone Home

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Gone Home is a really good story. It has its problems for sure. I think I like it less than a lot of people out there, particularly the press. But, I can't deny that the story, both the main story and the stories under the surface (particularly with the Father), were some of the most interesting I've seen in a game all year. Which says a lot because , besides the references (which were a bit on the nose for me), there's nothing about the story that speaks directly to me personally. But they wrote a compelling story that I found easy to get wrapped up in. This was all helped by fantastic voice acting.

9) Zelda: Link Between Worlds

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I never owned an SNES and only played A Link to the Past when it came to the Virtual Console on the Wii. Even then, I only played about half of it and lost interest. So A Link Between Worlds wasn't really made for me. But the design of the dungeons, the world, and the gameplay was so well done, so well considered that I couldn't help but be wrapped up in it. It was a fantastic game while it lasted and the best Zelda game I've played since Wind Waker.

8) DMC

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I had no interest in this game when it came out. I had never played a Devil May Cry game before it and had bought Bayonetta for cheap and didn't like it much. Though I like God of War and Ninja Gaiden well enough this style of action game isn't usually a style I care for. I ended up getting this game during one of those Steam sales and, after a few chapters in, it all clicked. It is so fun. The combat didn't grow old, the graphics are amazing, and I actually found myself caught up in the story. It's a really great game.

7) Thomas Was Alone (PSN)

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I heard about this game during the quick look with Patrick when it came out originally on PC and thought it looked neat but I didn't really give it much thought. Then it came out on the PS3 this year and thought I'd give it a shot. Holy shit. The story, the music, the graphics. It's all so good. The gameplay is good enough but what sells it all is the presentation and story. It's amazing how caught up I got in a story about blocks. Though it doesn't end very well the journey getting there is fantastic.

And, yes, I know technically this isn't a 2013 game. But it is my list and I say it's the 7th best game this year.

6) Bioshock Infinite

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Infinite is a game with really high 'highs', a lot of meddling stuff, and really unfortunate lows. The story is really great...most of the time. The gameplay is a ton of fun, until it isn't and grows tiresome. That entire middle section was a bit of a bummer wasn't it? Remember the 'mother' story line? Yikes. But, kind of like with Kairo, the things Infinite does really well (the sense of discovery, the art design, the concepts that drive the story) all speak to my sensibilities. So I found myself ignoring some of the unfortunate parts because the amazing parts were so good. But it is in the middle of this list because of how many ways it didn't live up to its potential. I think I'll remember Infinite as being more disappointing then anything else as years go by. But it was also a great experience while it lasted.

5) Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

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This game came out of nowhere didn't it? The gameplay in this game isn't amazing. But it is so unique and interesting, due to the control scheme, I found it pretty easy to forget those shortcomings. At times, even by the end, controlling the two characters with the two analogue sticks felt a bit like tapping my head and rubbing my stomach. There's something just really cool about a game that can do that to me. It was certainly unique for games this year. Then there's the story. At the end of it all, a bullet-point breakdown of the story in Brother's wouldn't yield a particularly engaging story. But there are moments within it that are so well done. I made a whole thread discussing the ending and how I reacted to it. The way that ending tied the control scheme and mechanics into the emotion of the scene sealed this game as making this list. It just came down to where. It turns out it's going in at 5.

4) Year Walk

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Whether I'm a fan of it or not, mobile is an important platform for games now and in the foreseeable future. Knowing this and accepting it, I always wanted to see games that would take advantage of the platform. I don't just mean using the touch screen to slice objects, pick them up, or whatever else. I mean really take the device and do something with it that couldn't be emulated anywhere else (or at least not easily). That's what Year Walk does. The game itself tells a really intriguing story and does use the features of the device, like motion sensing, to create novel puzzles. But what really pushes this game over the top is the companion app. Not to give anything away, but the interaction between the companion app and the game is so novel, so unique that I couldn't have ever imagined it myself. Maybe that just means that I'm not particularly creative. But once the nature of that relationship was made clear to me I was amazed. It was one of the best moments of the year to me.

3) Tomb Raider

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This is a purely gameplay pick for me. Yeah, the story is fine and the journey up to the resolution (which I didn't much care for) was engaging enough to keep me interested. And Lara is well characterized. The apparent 'ludonarrative dissonance' that was brought up over, and over, and over again didn't bother me in the slightest. But what makes this game amazing is the gameplay. Everything works so well and is so much fun. There are so many pieces and moving parts to the gameplay but it never felt overly mechanically due to really smart design decisions. The cover, for example, is completely contextual and out of the player's hand. But it always worked the way I wanted it to. The shooting was the most satisfying I had experienced all year and the exploration, though simple, was still very fun. This is the only game this year I 100% and I loved every second of it. Then add in the presentation. I played this on the 360 and it is one of the best looking games on that system and ran at a nearly perfect 30 fps. That all added to the gameplay experience. Where Uncharted is fun despite some of its gameplay (mainly its shooting), Tomb Raider is great because of its gameplay.

2) Bit.Trip Runner 2

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I love everything about this game. If my #1 pick hadn't come out this year this would be my top pick easily. I played the hell out of this game. The graphics, the music, the gameplay. It all works so well together. It is just fun, pure and simple. Sometimes I just want to play games and just have fun. I don't want to think I just want to see pretty graphics, hear good music, and experience fun gameplay. Last year that was Forza Horizon for me. This year that game was Bit.Trip Runner 2.

1) Last of Us

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I knew next to nothing about this game before I played it which I think was the best way to experience it. I didn't know anything about Joel, Ellie, the world, the disease. I came to know about all of it through the game and it was so well done. The 'it's good writing for a game' remark still holds true to me for most games. But every year, and more as each year goes by it seems, more games become the exception to that rule. Eventually, maybe, they won't be exceptions. Eventually they might just become the norm.

In the case of Last of Us, the writing is the best example of an exception to that rule. Besides one small part, the dialogue is better than most movies I've seen this year and the story that is told, and the ending that you go through, is incredible. It is one of the best experiences I've had with a game purely because of the writing and story.

The gameplay, on the other hand, had some bumps for me. It took me about an hour to get used to the controls and I didn't really start to like how it all felt until the end of Fall. Even then, at best it is a tense experience but nothing noteworthy. Well, maybe that isn't quite fair. The stealth in the game is pretty well done and the shooting, being as off as it is, helps build that tension (which is surprising as, on paper, the shooting should be very frustrating as a result of being so loose and inaccurate). But looking back, the experience I had with the gameplay was fun enough. But what pushes it over the top for me is the story, writing, and atmosphere. The gameplay is good enough that, even with its faults, it ended up adding to the overall experience.

When making this list, I thought back on the games I had played and tried to put myself in the position I was when I played them and compare that to what I think about them now. Tomb Raider was really fun to play and the atmosphere was great but the story and characters, besides Lara, were pretty poor. Bit.Trip Runner was pure fun and the atmosphere, graphics, and music were all great. But those sort of platformers will always be marked down by me personally because, as I mentioned before, I'm a sucker for worlds, atmosphere, and writing. Dear Esther was in my top 5 last year purely because of the writing, atmosphere, and exploration and the gameplay in that game is nearly nonexistent.

Last of Us has good enough gameplay that is improved because of how tense it is. Add that to a world, story, atmosphere, and writing that is the best I experienced all year, and potentially all this generation, it was the clear stand out for me.

Honorable Mentions:

Saints Row 4, Fire Emblem, Rayman Legends, Grand Theft Auto 5, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, The Novelist, Gran Tourismo 6, The Stanley Parable.