GOTY 2013

2013 has had so many good games that it felt almost criminal to constrain it down to 10. But sacrifices must be made, so here are my 10 favorite games of 2013.

Sorry Pikmin 3 :(

List items

  • Ni no Kuni is a game with a lot of heart. It looks and sounds fantastic, the world is engaging and magical, and the characters and creatures you meet on your journey are varied and endearing. The sense of wonder I got from exploring this fantasy is something I haven’t had in a while, and the excellent in-game Wizard's Companion book is a fantastic way to give so much flavor to what is essentially optional tutorials, hints, lore, and also essentially a player’s guide. Putting together a team of familiars and building out your party is exceptionally fun, and there is no shortage of options when doing so. Ni no Kuni is a truly outstanding example of a spin on traditional Japanese RPGs made for 2013, and it is my favorite game of the year.

  • While A Link Between Worlds deftly wields the nostalgia and preconceptions of Zelda fans and at the same time moves the series forward in many key ways, that isn't even the best thing about it. A Link Between Worlds is a fantastic game all on its own. It boasts a rich and densely packed world full of secrets and upgrades, really excellent controls, and some of the best music out there. Finding everything the game has to offer is not a chore - it is probably the most fun thing about the game. For all of these reasons, this is a game that was 100% enjoyable every minute I played it.

  • The Swapper gives you a single mechanic that is very simple to use and understand, and runs with it. As I played through this adventure, I learned how to use this mechanic in so many different ways, to accomplish so many different tasks, all without any real hints or tutorials, and that really made me feel like I was figuring out things that were unique and special. Not many games with puzzles let you complete them and think to yourself “I don’t think that was how they intended for me to do that”. The Swapper also has a great look and atmosphere to it, and the limited amounts of writing are subtle and thoughtful, culminating in a pretty fantastic ending.

  • Papers, Please is one heck of an experience. As an immigration inspector working the border of a country ruled by a totalitarian regime, you are given a lot of control over individuals wanting to cross the border. You suddenly find yourself trying to balance the needs of the people coming through your booth, the financial needs of you and your family, the will of your oppressive government, and the aspirations of a brewing underground revolution, all while performing the task of checking documents correctly. Papers, Please is a delicate and masterful balance of ethical dilemmas mixed with a mechanically simple game, and it should also be mentioned that it has some of the best sound design of any game this year.

  • The Last of Us is one of the finest video game narratives out there. It builds a believable and interesting world, characters you can really connect with, and then drags all of it down a dark and twisted path. This is not a game about the good guys saving the world, but its story and the way it tells it surpasses pretty much every game before it. The visceral violence, scrounging and crafting are parts of the gameplay that reinforce the world in strong ways, and the pacing is spot on for almost the entire journey.

  • What can I say, I’m a fan of the Pokeman. X/Y is a fresh new entry in the series that felt a little stale last time around, and it sure feels good. The new Kalos region is beautiful and alive, and the graphical overhaul of the entire game does wonders. The new Pokemon designs are great too, and Game Freak is continuing the long, slow march towards great online capabilities and making a competitive Pokemon team easier and more intuitive to build.

  • Awakening is a great RPG/Strategy game, which makes you care about the characters under your control. Not only do you care about them as a person, but you invest a lot of time and effort into shaping who they become, both mechanically as they level up and narratively as some characters get married and have children based on what you've done. While so many games are content to hand you a villain and tell you that you should probably stop them, Fire Emblem makes you want to save these people and this world more than anything.

  • The floating city of Columbia is a far cry from the original BioShock's Rapture, but that doesn't mean Infinite is not a worthy sequel. Infinite is a great action game that leads you through a mind bending world, all the while poking at your expectations and daring you to wonder about every piece of it. The gun play feels great, and zipping around skylines and fighting the various enemies thrown at you is exciting, but make no mistake - come to this one for the great world, characters, and crazy plot points.

  • Gunpoint is kind of a dumb game, but it handles its own silliness so well I can’t help but love it. The style and swagger this game displays with its ridiculous jumping mechanics and tongue in cheek dialogue had me smiling the whole time. What’s better than zapping an enemy with an electrical outlet that you wired to a light switch, which was flipped by another enemy because you turned off the lights with an elevator call button? Tackling somebody through a fourth floor window maybe - but you can do all of the above here.

  • Rayman Legends takes what Origins did very well and does even more. This is a beautiful game with great music, level design, and longevity. There are so many levels, secrets, unlockables, and just good old fashioned fun in this game that its hard not to recommend. The Wii U version was especially fun for me because my wife could play Murfy on the touch screen, and changed up the game significantly in good ways.