MisterFaulkner's Game of the Year 2013

I went into the generation of this list with games I feel truly stuck with me during the year. Many of these games have their own unique merits and flaws, the analysis of which far too long to accompany their descriptions in the list. There might be some light spoilers (in particular for The Last of Us), but nothing game-breaking.

List items

  • I've never really had a Zelda game stick with me quite like A Link to the Past. What is so moving about A Link Between Worlds is the link being made between myself at 29 and myself at 9, a child who would be infuriated to find this game missing from a GotY list twenty years later. Truly creative takes on Zelda dungeons coupled with a strong sense of open exploration make this game a must-play this year.

  • While I find this latest installment of the GTA franchise to have its own usual missteps with its approach to "activities", I find this game truly resolves a previously very tricky problem with ludonarrative. GTA IV tried to address this when Niko states that he sometimes feels he has no control over his actions, but GTA V introduces a character to allow the player to blow off steam (murder, genocide, etc.) and have his or her actions justified through the plot. GTA V deserves a spot on the list for that reason alone.

    Also, downhill mountain biking.

  • Paper, Please offers a funny and inventive story with some pretty simple mechanics, but it asks a lot of the player in terms of choice. Where many games feel limited by their binary choice structures, Papers, Please forces the player to make judgement calls in a visceral, true-to-life fashion. Though certain consequences evoked by the game are apparent and immediate, the long-lasting sense of nervousness embedded into the player for potentially wrecking an innocent person's life lasts long after the end credits roll.

  • When I go to the movies, I always buy popcorn. I am not particularly fond of popcorn (and would never make some to accompany a movie night at home), but nevertheless popcorn has become a necessary component to my movie-viewing. I usually start off enthusiastic while eating, fisting my mouth with handfuls of buttery, salted nothingness well into the exposition of the film. Then, I grow frustrated and thrust the popcorn under my seat, no longer pleased with the repetitive routine of mouth-fisting and clothes-wiping. But it always returns. It returns to my lap after the film's climax and will return again and again every time I want to see a movie.

  • Devil May Cry 3 is one of my favorite games of all time. Seeing my Dante with short black hair is akin to a father seeing his son come home from college with a phallic face tat. Nevertheless, like most phallic symbols, Dante's appearance grew on me. The developer put the same carefree, cavalier attitude into the creation of a character I admired and controlled because of those very same characteristics. Even Vergil offered a few fun surprises along the way. Add to the mix fun, combo-based, twitch action and you have the makings for a solid spot at number 5.

  • There were times while playing LoU where I forgot I was playing a PS3. The sheer beauty of the game's environments instilled in me a memory that will be long lasting; they might eventually even overpower the memories of frustration trying to sneak my way through a giant maze of clickers in the dark with no idea where to go in the first act of the game. One image that almost defines 2013 for me, though, is the giraffes. Those goddamned giraffes. Sniffle.

  • For PS4. I mean, just look at it. It's hard for me to admit a sports game to the list, but I suppose it's justified if Super Hexagon also earned a spot. There's not going to be much to love here outside of the circle of fans that follow the NBA 2K series. But seriously, look at it. Wow.

  • At this point in the list, it's getting serious. Year Walk I played from start to finish, a rarity for my game playing. The interaction between the player and the game's environment is intimate and tactile, making for a deep connection with the events unfolding on the screen. The horror undertones, with danger seemingly lurking around every corner, accentuate the unique mythos detailed by the game's companion app. The sound design begs a playthrough with headphones, as evidenced by the game's direct command to play through the game with headphones, and becomes a character in and of itself by the end of the game. Year Walk shows that tablet games have a lot of unique gameplay experiences to offer and is definitely one of my favorite games of 2013.

  • After finishing Gone Home, the only other game I played in one sitting this year, I thought for sure I had found my Game of the Year. The story is heart-wrenching, featuring a real sense of pathos for its characters. As I explored the house, turning on and off the lights, I began to feel comfortable, as if I was in my own home after years of living away. Though the man story unfolds almost entirely through voice-over narration, the subplot in text surrounding Kaitlin's mother and father provide a deeper sense of emotional connection than I've ever experienced in a game before. Gone Home is brilliantly paced and is one of the best games to be released this year.

  • My Game of the Year.

    Many games provide players with a sense of excitement. Comedy, empathy, and even sincere emotional tragedy are all becoming commonplace human emotions reflected in my favorite artistic medium. It's rare (superultra-rare) for a video game to make me experience a dirty, grating, overwhelming feeling of anxiety. In fact, in many ways, Don't Starve isn't fun. I find it incredibly hard to recommend to people for this reason. As a huge fan of both Demon's and Dark Souls, I laugh at their attempts to cause me frustration. Progressing through Don't Starve is similar to progressing through a failing marriage. There's no confetti for solving any problems. There's no fanfare or leveling up when everything goes during a day's run. In fact, most days in Don't Starve are characterized by regret and resentment, questioning one's own motives and decisions. Why didn't I start that berry farm I've been meaning to create? Why haven't I noticed that I'm running out of fertilizer? Why am I eating seeds? In fact, the game forces the player to sacrifice something for virtually every decision. There's no reward, only the perception of reward. Then winter arrives and the difficulty spikes like Mount Everest. When you die, so does everything in the world. So does your pride.

    Yet, I keep playing. This game is my Game of the Year because it generates an emotion inside me that no other game has ever done successfully - stress. Don't Starve is a game that challenges me regularly, and while I might feel anxious during every minute I play, I only smile when I scroll through it in my library. i know that every challenge the game presents me with is solvable, even though it might seem without solution in the dull, baking heat of the moment. The offering of reward in Don't Starve does not appear until months after you finish playing, and then it hits you like a hammer.