Best of 2013

These were my 10 favorite games of 2013. All in all, it was a fantastic year; whittling everything down to just 10 was super tough.

Shout outs to The Wonderful 101, Super Mario 3D World, Pokemon X/Y, Animal Crossing, Pikmin 3, Assassin's Creed IV, and LEGO Marvel for being awesome, but there were just too many other games vying for attention this year. Also props to The Last of Us for telling a fantastic story, but man that gameplay was frustrating and wonky. It felt like it could've been executed better as a film than as a game. All but one of the best parts weren't interactive at all.

Gone Home was a big step forward for in-game storytelling, and one of the scariest games I played all year (thanks in no small part to my overactive imagination). The way it used video game tropes to set your expectations in a very specific trajectory was nothing short of brilliant, and made the heartwarming ending all the more welcome. However, I found that the experience didn't stick with me as much as other, more mechanical games this year, and so it has unfortunately been excluded from my list.

Speaking of scary, you guys/girls should try Outlast. It's one hell of a freaky ride, even if it does go on for just a liiittle too long.

A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS also seems amazing, but sadly I just haven't played enough of it to make a call. Saving that one for the Christmas flight home. If I manage to play enough by the end of the month maybe I can come back and update the list then.

Anyways, enough rambling. To the Top 10-mobile!!!

List items

  • Irrational's penchant for creating wild and unpredictable worlds made BioShock Infinite one of the year's most fascinating games. I personally found the shooting and sky-hooking incredibly satisfying, but the best moments of Infinite came in simply absorbing the world around you. Too bad about that DLC...

  • Fire Emblem's strategic edge was honed to a deadly point with Awakening, the best game the series has yet seen. The CG cutscenes were beautiful, the combat made you think, and there was plenty of character growth and side content to discover outside of the critical path.

  • Rayman Legends is the kind of platformer that would sell systems when I was a kid. And really, I don't think it's that crazy to compare Ubisoft's latest to Super Mario World on the SNES. The perfection of control, the unbridled enthusiasm for the genre that shone through every onscreen sprite - Legends has a lot of "feeling" in common with the classics of the genre. It seems like the team at Ubisoft has learned a lot about streamlined level design since Origins, because the levels flow much smoother than before and there's a vastly greater variety to the environments and the playstyles on display throughout the surprisingly lengthy game. All in all, the best 2D platformer I've played since I had a SNES in my living room.

  • This one came as a total shock to me, because I've never like Devil May Cry in the past and I wasn't exactly in love with what I'd seen of the game at PAX and E3. But from the moment I first swung Dante's sword, I was hooked. The thing that matters most to me in video game combat has always been a sense of weight to the character's movements - it's the reason I loved Killzone 2, it's why I think Killer Instinct is the best next-gen launch game, and it ended up being what I loved most about DmC, too. Dante's sword, guns and scythe were all satisfying weapons in their own right, but that hammer - oh man, that hammer. That thing swung with force. Oh, and the world design was mega creative, and the story was actually great. BUT THAT HAMMER.

  • What's ingenious about Brothers is the way it manages to convey a relationship between two characters not through onscreen text or actions, but through the way you as a player interact with the game. As the one holding the controller, you physically represent the bond between two brothers. It's a smart, startlingly simple way to get you connected to the in-game characters, and while the endgame didn't hit me nearly as hard as it clearly did others, I at least appreciated what they were going for. The last five minutes in particular were quite clever in the way that they mixed up the game's control scheme.

  • I don't really have a ton to say about this one. It's just a really challenging, really precisely-controlling platformer with tons of replay value and cheeky humor. But hey, sometimes that's enough to form a -mild- addiction.

  • Listen to Patrick. Buy The Swapper. It might look like only another indie puzzle platformer, but nested inside this unassuming adventure is a striking world just waiting to be explored. Its numerous puzzles will push you and its nontraditional visuals will wow you, but the most striking thing about The Swapper to me was the skill with which it conveyed the very specific sense of being endlessly, irrevocably alone in space - even when you're not always alone. It's haunting and beautiful stuff.

  • Again, not a ton to say here. Tomb Raider was just a super-solid action game that took equal inspiration from Uncharted and The Descent, and ended up as something just unique enough to stick in my mind all these months later. Lara's transformation from innocent explorer to blast-your-face-into-mush serial murderer could've been better handled, but regardless it was a theme that I enjoyed exploring as the game went on.

  • It's tough to articulate exactly what I loved about Shelter without talking about the ending, but given that the game's only around an hour and a half long and ten bucks on Steam, I'll just tell you to play it for yourself. What I will say is that it's impressive how the game builds a sense of family through seemingly inconsequential actions. You're constantly tasked with feeding your young by unearthing veggies, for example, and you'll have to keep them close during storms and fires. By the end of the game, I was surprised to find that I had become more attached to my four little badgers (sorry, Stripey!) than I had to more or less any other game protagonist this year. Shelter is a quiet game, but one that has the potential to be quite powerful to gamers of a more thoughtful disposition.