GOTY 2013

It's been a weird year for video games. A lot of really superb titles hit this year, but I had some trouble parsing out one that stood clearly above the others. This is almost never the case for me.

It was another big year for indie/smaller titles. I'm no AAA hating hippie, but it's quite obvious that the current playground for innovation and weird ideas lies in the indie space. It's also a generational launch year, which typically means we get a huge drought leading up to the console launch, followed by a cavalcade of boring/tired games that look pretty. That was pretty much the case this year, but that doesn't mean there weren't fantastic games to play. Enough jibber-jabbering! On with the list!

*2016 commentary*

Looking back at this list, I definitely don't feel quite the same about the order as I did in 2013. GTA 5 grew on me a lot over the last 3 years, and if I were to reorder this list today, I would put it at 2 or maybe even 1. I'll leave the list as is... as an odd piece of my gaming history.

List items

  • I'm not sure when it happened exactly, but the internet decided to turn real hard on Bioshock Infinite after it's launch. I can't say that I agree with any of the sentiments of that crowd. Infinite hits all of the right notes with me. It features a stunningly gorgeous world that sucked me in on the first step. Columbia is beautiful, imaginative, and at times, very haunting. Sure, Infinite could of explored the racial themes deeper than it did, but I didn't feel that it was Infinite's obligation to do so. With the exception of one or two spots, I loved the game play. I'm a sucker for games that beautifully marry shooting and magical spells/abilities. A game hasn't hit that note for me since Mass Effect 2. Zipping around on the sky-lines was an exciting addition. I also loved the story in Infinite. Yea, you could probably pick it to pieces if you really felt that it was the best use of your time, but I was won over from start to finish. It doesn't necessarily blow away the competition (of this list), but it's the game that had the most impact on me. Also...the Luteces might be the greatest duo in gaming.

  • Part of me wanted to hate this game. I guess it was more that I hated the fact that a bunch of 30-something insatiable assholes who were incapable of articulating exactly what nintendo should do with the franchise were suddenly jumping for joy at the prospect of a throwback. Despite their best efforts, I love A link between worlds. Sequel, remake, throwback...call it what you want, but I call it a sublime video game. It's a formula that works, and nintendo has finally found a way to remove the tedium from past entries with a game that doesn't bother with making itself a chore. All that's left is a game with fantastic visuals, music, and game play. It's a triforce of awesome! ...Sorry.

  • GTA is straight up one of my favorite series in gaming. San Andreas and GTA4 rank among my most favorite games of all time, in fact. I came into this year assuming GTA5 would be my far and away favorite game of the year. It didn't quite work out that way, but I still feel very fondly of it. Los Santos nothing short of an expertly crafted city. I've never seen to much loving detail in such a large area before. It's a serious accomplishment. The heist missions are phenomenal. The setup for them can be a little tedious at times, but the payoff is some of the most exciting experiences this year. Oh, and Trevor might be one of my favorite video game Characters ever. It's a little dated in spots, and it isn't my favorite in the series, but GTA5 manages to impress me in ways most games don't. It also says something that I was unwilling to leave Los Santos after the credits rolled.

  • I was around 10 or 11 years old when Pokemon was first taking the US by storm. I was, in every sense of the word, obsessed. I played the games, watched the tv show and movies, and collected the cards. I wanted to live in the world of Pokemon. But, like all things, I eventually grew out of that obsession. What I didn't grow out of is my love for the games, however. I found myself able to go back to Red/Blue and Gold/Silver, which is what I consider to be the golden era for Pokemon (the original 151 will always be my favorite). I suppose this is because my first foray into the world of Pokemon were the games instead of the cards or the show. X/Y is the first pokemon game I've played since Ruby/Sapphire, so I had been out of the loop for a while. Coming back to the series let me know a few things right off the bat, it's still totally pokemon and I still totally love it. I can't really express in words how much it makes me happy that I still have love for the formula. I never want to become cynical of Pokemon. I never want to "grow out" of loving these games.

  • Tired jokes aside, Brothers is actually fantastic. My expectations going in were so lopsided, that I worried I wouldn't enjoy the game. I forgot about all of the pretense as soon as I entered the game. Brothers contains no filler. Every moment matters, and every moment is a beautifully shot epic adventure. It's not challenging, or mechanically dense, but it doesn't need to be. Where Brothers really shines for me is in it's creative world. It's the kind of world that captivates my imagination in the same way A Never Ending Story, or The Lord of the Rings does. On top of that, it manages to accomplish so much in so little time. It's surprisingly dark, and often times very moving. My hats off to Starbreeze.

  • I'm no drum beating champion of the whole "use of the term rogue like" debate, but Rogue Legacy barely fits into the genre. Your money, upgrades, and gear carry on from one hero to the next as you inevitably eat shit time and time again. You can even give up some gold to remove the randomness of the dungeon. That being said, a game's genre does not determine whether or not it's any good. Rogue Legacy's brilliance lies in it's design and tight controls. It's hard as nails, but I was so hooked that I found myself jumping immediately back in every time my hero fell to his demise. The persistence is what kept me grinding, and oh what a satisfying grind it is.

  • There's not much to say here. It's mother fucking Animal Crossing. It's the first entry I've played since the original Game cube release. I adored that first Animal Crossing. I ended up playing it almost every day for a full year, making sure to experience every event and holiday. I don't know that New Leaf can ever hope to hang with me as long as it's grandfather did, but what I do know is that the formula still works for me. I guess I feel that way about a lot of Nintendo games, and certainly of the three featured on this list. It's the comfort food of gaming. Sometimes I'm just hungry for a hot meal in a familiar place. Wait, does that make Nintendo my mother?! ... OK, let's not think about that anymore.

  • Guacamelee is a stunning game to look at and listen to. It doesn't hurt that the combat and controls are rock solid and surprisingly deep. It even manages to make me crack a smile with it's humor from time to time. I'm a sucker for a good Metroidvania style game, and Guacamelee scratches that itch very well.

  • Saints Row 4 didn't impress me the same way it's predecessor did, but dammit if it isn't a hell of a good time. SR4 essentially says "fuck it" to balance in favor of loud, goofy, and fun game play. It's funny, and dumb in the ways I've come to expect from the series. I feel like Volition is exponentially upping the "crazy" ante with every entry in the series. I'm excited to see where they take it next. At this rate, I feel like Saints Row 5 is going to feature the Boss uppercutting Jupiter in the nads while the song "don't stop believing" plays. I'd be down for that...

  • Gone Home is a touching game. It wasn't the emotional powerhouse that the Walking Dead was for me, but what does do is tell a great story in an unconventional way. The house in Gone Home is masterfully crafted in excruciating detail. Games usually forgo detail in favor of convenience, but Gone Homes attention to detail is it's bread and butter. I adored the juxtaposition of the innocence of the story with the creepiness of the house. It's not a horror game, but I couldn't shake the sense of dread at times (that fucking attic). It's a poignant, touching, and refreshingly grounded story that I'll keep with me for a long time.