GOTY 2013

I'm going to be totally honest; I've only barely played more than 10 games that came out this year. It's been kind of a letdown of a year for a number of reasons, but all of that doesn't mean that the games I'm putting on this list aren't pretty damned great.

List items

  • I've never beaten a Fire Emblem game before. As a long time fan of Strategy RPGs I admired the series from a distance, loved the designs and animations and generally thought that it was something I'd enjoy if I tried... only I never did, never got pulled into the stories or found myself engaged until this game. Maybe it was making my own Avatar to insert into the world, or the surprisingly in-depth support system that pays off in a big way later into the game. It might even have been something as simple as a difficulty setting that would keep me from tearing my hair out stressing over losing a character and missing their contributions to the story. Whatever the case may be, Fire Emblem Awakening quickly became my favorite way to spend time this year. I sank what is possibly an unhealthy amount of time into the game, but honestly wouldn't have it any other way. Hands down the best offering of 2013.

  • I first encountered the Third Street Saints a couple of years back, when they went on a whirlwind tour of Steelport; things haven't quite been the same since. I loved everything that The Third had to offer, but wanted more, and so I delved into the past and played my way through Saints Row 2. This turned out to be a good idea, because the fourth entry in the saga (yes, saga) makes some serious callbacks to its origins. Old faces resurface, and old wounds are reopened; for a game that bucks any lingering thoughts of reality aside, it has heart in all the right moments and places. As an added bonus the gameplay and humor are both improved from the last entry, which is something I'd pretty much written off as impossible. All considered, it's a great way to close off the series, and I'm happy to have ended my time with the Saints with a smile on my face.

  • I went Monster Hunting before, and truth be told it didn't go well. Sure, I worked my way up through the ranks and made an Elder Dragon into a fantastic looking set of boots and matching gloves, but it felt like I'd won through attrition rather than any semblance of skill. I gave the hunter lifestyle a second go on the Wii, and had a much better time of it overall; when this game came out on the Wii U, I settled in and prepared for another grueling struggle against some really foul-tempered wildlife. There are some changes between this and the original Wii version, including some new areas, new monsters, and surprisingly stylish helmets and hats, but I got back into the swing of things relatively quickly and made it deeper into the game than any previous attempt. I burned out, eventually, but I still feel satisfied, for the same reason mentioned above: the monster that was putting me through hell one week was a nice looking pair of pants the next. It's hard to win more definitively than that.

  • Standing here, I realize that I have no clue what I really want out of the Metal Gear franchise. I used to like it for being a stealth game, and then for the insane plot, and then for letting me go shirtless with the American Flag painted on my face. At some point I lost track of what about the series I loved, and I was barely interested in a game starring a cyborg Raiden. Then I heard Platinum Games had taken command of the title. Then they named it REVENGEANCE. I was as on board as I could possibly be, and it didn't disappoint. I cut Metal Gears in half, I fought cyborg grapplers with cannons on their hands, I talked on the Codec about foreign food and crazy technology, and the entire time the soundtrack was reminding me that this was the most fun I'd had in ages. I had a swordfight with a spanish cyborg samurai, Detroit got wrecked, and somewhere along the way Sunny turned into a cool character. In short, this game was fucking rad.

  • Speaking of great soundtracks, the music alone earned this game a consideration for my Game of the Year list. That wouldn't be enough for a spot, however, so luckily the rest of the game turned out pretty awesome too. There's a huge cast, they all ooze style (though let's be honest, Mathilda is the best hands down), and the action is just the right mix of intense and chaotic. Fun times were had charging into the melee and wanging someone in the head with a spiked bat, only to have someone charge in and blow everyone aside with a rocket-propelled hammer swing. The alternate game modes turned out to be surprisingly fun as well, as a test to find out what "Deathball" was turned into the most competitive, murderous experience I ever had with the game. There was also a point where I had a chainsaw swordfight with someone else on a helicopter. Or rather, our helicopters drew chainsaws and then had a swordfight while we hung on for dear life. Shit got crazy, and it was a blast.

  • Dragon's Dogma made my list in the past, despite the multitude of downright baffling flaws that the game carried with it. The Dark Arisen edition fixes a number of my old issues (most importantly the almost total lack of fast travel in the previous version) and throws in a ton of new content just for kicks. Granted, the new content is hard enough that you probably won't be seeing it until the endgame or beyond, but there's just no way I could ignore one of my favorite games when it comes back with a significant amount of improvements and shiny new toys to play with. The story's still great and confusing as all hell, and the new dungeon-crawl gives a deeper look at just how the intricacies of the world work. Just be careful on the second go-round, because Bitterblack Isle does not fuck around.

  • A Dynasty Warriors game on a top 10 list. If my credibility wasn't shot to hell before, it certainly is now! If you haven't closed the page yet, it's storytime: I made my own character and set him loose on the campaign mode, a free officer with no alleigance and nothing to his name but a really crappy weapon. My first day was uneventful, and I spent it figuring out how things worked. The next day war broke out and I was narrowly surviving a fight against Lu Bu. Having not died, he told me that the guy he worked for wanted me on his army; not wanting to anger the giant asshole, I told him sure, I was up for that. I spent years in that army, conquering and recruiting and eventually I was promoted... to the same position Lu Bu formerly held. I realized a year later that our ruler was a moron who was wasting all our money and never actually going to give the orders to take out the enemy nations. I had a few close friends among the officers in the army, and we were tired of this crap. One rebellion later and the empire was mine, and after a serious letter-writing campaign to rebuild old alliances and create a new army, we conquered the shit out of the country. For kicks, when we found our old ruler again, I exiled him. Screw that guy. In short, fun game.

  • I make a shockingly good border guard. That was my first takeaway from Papers, Please, after I cruised through and kept my family fed and warm and alive at the cost of only some people's comfort and (probably) the lives of a few people who were (probably) rebels and up to no good. Could I have handled things with more care, let a few more people slip past my checkpoint for sentimental reasons? Likely, but I did what I could whenever I had the chance, and didn't regret the hard decisions that had to be made to keep the line moving and money coming my way. My second takeaway was that maybe I should be unsettled about that first one.

  • There's a lot I could say here about the randomization of the castle and your characters, the stat-upgrading system and class unlocking... but really, this all comes down to one very simple fact. I got to play as a Lich. Hell yeah.

  • I do not normally enjoy racing games. Well, not for long periods of time. I enjoy racing games up until someone hits me with a blue turtle shell at the end of a long race, and then I just see red and breathe fire for a while and curse the existince of karts. In this case, I found myself entertained for a hell of a lot longer than I normally did, and never got particularly upset at any particular obstacle in my path. That's not to say the game was easy, but things never felt obscenely unfair or made me swear profusely. It was, all told, the most fun I've had with a kart racer in several years. I'll give it the 10th spot for that any day.