GOTY 2013

New console's FINALLY launched and CHANGED THE GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAME by having a very fine, but not great, lineup, and I can't afford them anyway...but "current" gen consoles/PCs showed they still have PLENTY of fight left in them with some very solid outings! Here are ten of the solidest!...man, I'm SUCH a great wordsman.

List items

  • The end credits should append this title with the tagline "It Turns Out YOU'RE the Asshole." Apparently this game becomes even more resonant if you have kids, but I'm not sure how that's even possible. Perhaps the apex of the disempowerment trend we've been seeing, this game combines the gameplay of scraping together the bare minimum to get by with dynamic, in-game character development and one of the most nihilistic storylines I've ever played. Alongside one of the most uncompromising endings I've ever experienced in ANY medium that isn't a Cormac McCarthy novel, this game stands out incredibly and while not every note hits, this was still one of the best videogame experiences I've ever had. Also kudos to Nolan North for another unrecognizable, amazing performance.

  • In a year where dour, downtrodden games wanted to crush you under their steel-toed boot of unrelenting sorrow and bare-bones survival, Saints Row IV lets you literally soar through the air while throwing fireballs at aliens and then beating them to death with a tentacle bat (very popular in Japan!) It might use an old map, but you'll barely recognize it as you break the sound barrier on the ground, or leap through the air on your way to the next mission. This game is, unequivocally, about having fun. And I have not had more fun with any game this year, or any year in recent memory, as I did with this game. Not that it's all wacky fun, the serious plot moments actually hit even harder, even as they deconstruct the tropes of the open world genre. They're great parts that are actually very well earned and beautifully realized, but they don't clash with the main themes of insane, bizarre fun, a fact I can't fully explain. Between skewering the romances in games like Mass Effect, a character progression that awards exploration but doesn't demand it, and gameplay that's challenging enough without ever becoming a chore, this MIGHT just be the best Saints Row game. Also: text adventures.

  • The best controversy is a grand controversy that turns out to be a non-controversy. Remember when New Dante was "too emo" and then everyone got reminded of "I should have been the one to fill your dark heart with LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!!!!!"? Remember when the narrative quickly turned to him not being enough of a smartass quipster and then it showed that, actually, he was going to be a total smartass? Remember how the narrative then shifted to him being TOO MUCH of a smartass and not treating the SUPER SERIOUS Devil May Cry lore (that you wouldn't even know about without watching the anime and reading the manga because clearly FOUR VIDEOGAMES aren't enough to establish a universe or characters) with the gravity it deserved? Remember when all that stuff became irrelevant in the face of a super approachable, but by no means easy, game that had some amazing writing and characters? A game that allows you to shift combat styles on the fly, creating your own amazing, dynamic combo moves while never feeling out of control of Dante. They even give a coherent, satirical narrative about energy drinks and modern society with a strong central cast.

  • Opinion in the community sure has turned against this game in recent days, hasn't it? I honestly can't see why or how and I don't just want to point to contrarianism, so I'll just say that I absolutely adored both the plot and the character interactions. Was it always perfect? Of COURSE not, but it worked far, far more often than it didn't, particularly in the optional scenes. The gameplay may have been, from time to time, incongruous with the established character moments, but it never falls to the level of truly out of place and rarely became tedious (though I'll say the boss battles, much like its predecessor, aren't great). It has a mind-bending enough ending, that it completely earns, to make it a rare exception in videogames for that reason alone. The fact that its fun on top of all that makes it one of the best.

  • Talk about a massive turnaround from unveiling to actualizing. From QTE torture porn to engaging, character-driven, semi-open world exploration. With some of the absolute best bow and arrow gameplay in videogames and some incredibly, if not exaggerated, combat scenarios where an inexperienced, trembling explorer murders hundreds within the space of a few days...but viewed through the lens of action media, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Not every single game needs to have total, psychological realism (in fact next to none do) and this game is, quite frankly, just plain fun. It's completely loyal to the tone of the original Tomb Raider games, including weird supernatural bits, but also blazes new ground by making Lara Croft an actual character with an interesting backstory.

  • Not the best open world game, but one helluva ride from the standpoint of plot and characters. Unlike Saints Row IV, I wasn't compelled to complete every side quest, but ALSO unlike that particular game, I was far, far more compelled by the story and characters. They're not the most complex, but they're still incredibly compelling and differentiated enough to make playing as any one of the three alter one's method of gameplay, and not just according to the stats of the characters. And the heists. The heists are what I wanted from games like Kane and Lynch or Payday: a heist that you plan, hire, then execute. Where things can go wrong and there random variables, and at the end: the grand pay-off. Between the story and the heists, this game is worth it.

  • Remember back when a Shadowrun game was announced and it sounded like the best news ever? Then it turned out that it was an FPS and...well you remembered things like Troika's Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines, and thought it could STILL be awesome? Then you heard "multiplayer focused" and...well...

    But here we are, years later, with a Fallout/Fallout 2/Fallout: Tactics style isometric, text-driven RPG-ass RPG. And isn't it just grand? The character creation is a thing of true beauty and even though the main plotline is brief, the mod community had more than picked up that torch, and we've apparently got more official content coming. For such a reduced price, I'll happily take it.

  • The SINGLE greatest final boss monologue belongs to this game. I have a very clear recollection of not only falling out of my chair laughing, but applauding at how over-the-top action movie insane it was, particularly considering who was giving it. It was a US senator, by the way. That MIGHT have been enough to land it on my honorable mentions, but this game was absolutely incredible, delivering exactly what it promised: dynamic dismemberment at the blade of Raiden and incredibly satisfying gameplay involving stealing electrolyte packets from enemy's spines. It's not the MGS2/4 bridge I was hoping for, but it was over-the-top in more ways than just the final boss' monologue, it was completely crazy in terms of gameplay as well. It also contained some incredible boss fights, which is oddly rare for games these days, that made wading through piles of soldiers completely worth it.

  • Not nearly the Mortal Kombat clone all the naysayers warned it would be, Injustice gives a great fighting engine to the multiplayer community while delivering a metric TON of singleplayer content just like MK spoiled us with. From a story mode that actually tells a pretty interesting story to a challenge mode that contains far, far more than "beat this guy up while you're losing health" in addition to one of the most varied rosters, from a gameplay perspective, this side of King of Fighters.

  • Bureaucracy and paper filing made compelling. There's basically nothing more to say about this strange, stressful game other than it delivers exactly what it promises. Oh, and it's a beautiful, hideous treatise on the banality of evil and the agony of morality.