- Metro Last Light
- The Last of Us
- Bioshock Infinite
- Saints Row IV
- Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
- Fire Emblem Awakening
- Papers, Please
- Year Walk
- The Swapper
- Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag
1. Metro Last Light
Everyone should try the Metro games. Exploring the metro systems of post-apocalyptic Russia is exciting, tense, and strangely enjoyable. I prefer to play them in Ranger mode where there is no HUD and I have to glance at my gun's clip to know how little ammunition I have. Everything from hoarding ammunition for survival, paying for essential equipment with that ammunition, and using a hand crank to keep my flashlight powered adds to this gritty world in some great and unique ways. Even the story behind the game's development is incredible. Look it up.
2. The Last of Us
This was one of those rare games that managed to really satisfy me. The narrative and character arcs were great, it looked terrific, and I enjoyed the tension a great deal. I'm tired of zombies at this point, but The Last of Us made it work by doing what Robert Kirkman does with The Walking Dead books: it focused on characters and human drama to build tension , dread, and excitement. I'm looking forward to the DLC and in a time where I have less time to play games and so much else to look forward to, that says something for me.
3. Bioshock Infinite
I finished Infinite just before leaving on a business trip for Seattle. I was so enjoying picking the story apart the story in my head that I was thrilled when a friend called me while I was waiting for my plane. We talked for about an hour and even that was only the start of a larger conversation we would have later. I reveled in exploring every inch of Columbia, this grand city in the sky. I've read the critiques of the story and they have merit, but Ken Levine still succeeded at creating something only a select few are even trying, telling a complex narrative. The only thing keeping this from topping my list is the actual gameplay, a damning criticism for a game to be sure. The loose shooting and bullet sponge enemies--that are often engaged in obvious arena-style combat sections--were less and less fun as I moved forward. However, I wanted to see and hear more of what Columbia had to offer--those old time classic songs!--so I paid my dues and pushed onward.
4. Saints Row IV
Oh, Saints Row. Such a video game of a video game. I've never had this much fun exploring a cityscape. The game had everything I needed for dumb fun: stupid jokes, ridiculous radio stations in my head, the ability to jump over buildings and fly, and a lot of silly weapons and things to shoot at. I won't spend a breath trying to defend the story, but then again I can barely remember it. The memory of this game makes me smile and that's really what Saints Row is all about.
5. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
I never thought I'd ever play a Monster Hunter game, but I wanted to test the waters of different genres and game types. It turns out I really, really like Monster Hunter. I played it on the Wii U, carried it with me on my 3DS, and went way out of my way to develop strategies and different sets of armor and weapons. After over 100 hours I realized why I liked it. It was scratching my MMO itch without requiring me to find dozens of other people to work with to hunt a grand beast. The big disappointment for me was I was deep into the late game and still HR2. When I went to try to level-up I had to take on quests from 80 or 90 hours ago and I couldn't bring myself to do that. This eventually led to me playing less and less, but I'm ready for the next game.
6. Fire Emblem Awakening
Last year's XCOM: Enemy Unknown primed me for this game. I wanted to avoid playing too much XCOM so wouldn't be tired of it when the expansion was released, so Fire Emblem Awakening came at a perfect time. I played through it on Hard + Classic. It was brutal and a lot of fun.
7. Papers, Please
Lucas Pope created Papers, Please. I owe Lucas Pope a thank you for some of the most bureaucratic fun I've had all year. I was constantly stopping to remind myself that the game I was playing was basically a re-skinned version of the least enjoyable parts of my own job and yet I was still having fun. The way the story played out was interesting, if a little depressing. But that's the balance of Papers, Please: there's fun here, but you can't put on your finger on why stamping passports is fun and then you're making some terrible decisions about strangers and your own family all while dealing with some funny and ridiculous individuals. Somehow this came together to keep me engaged and interested. Papers, Please is a singular game that was a highlight of 2013. Glory to Arstotzka!
8. Year Walk & the Year Walk Companion App
I tried to play this game exclusively with headphones and in the dark. The crunch crunch crunch of the snow as you walked, diorama-like art style, and creepy atmosphere made me want to lean into the game. Part puzzler, part horror game, Year Walk is an outstanding game. The game doesn't even end at the end. You can switch over to the Year Walk Companion app, your introduction and study aid to the Swedish folklore referenced in the game, and enter a code to unlock even more of the game. Playing it on an iPad actually adds to the experience because it allows for the jump scares to really get at you. When you have to have your hands holding the screen you can't back away. It's amazing the Simogo managed to release Year Walk and another great original game this year, Device 6.
9. The Swapper
I think I must have played a lot of The Swapper slack-jawed and dead to the world. The oppressive art style, environments, audio, and story really played well in my headphones and dark office. The puzzles weren't always the most difficult, but the game makes up for it the the occasional head-scratcher that makes you stop and rethink your strategy. Too much of that might have detracted from the game. It's a game I'm still trying to get my wife to play.
10. Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag
I bought this game because I bought a PS4 and I wanted to see what it was like to buy a digital game on this new console. I figured I'd have some fun being a pirate for a while and then lose interest. What started out as a truly dumb financial decision turned into something I would not regret. The Assassins v. Templars story is exhausting me by now (I loved the early games and Brotherhood was near perfect), but that storyline is mercifully downplayed for most of the game. I did have fun with the entire game, but what kept bringing me back was the naval combat. I sailed around with hunter ships chasing me most of the game because if I was in my ship I wanted something to fight.
So there you have it. I'm locking it in. My top 10 list. I have a few games I want to remember here, though.
2013's 2012 Game: Dark Souls
I nearly completed Demon's Souls. I never got back to it because after several months away I found I couldn't hack it. That was OK, though, Dark Souls was coming. Then I didn't play it. I finally played Prepare to Die Edition on the PC. Something clicked this time and I barrelled through it with glee. I even started a New Game+ and collected the Lord's Vessel before stopping. I may even go back to prepare for Dark Souls 2.
My runner-ups and other favorites:
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
The storybook art of this game was a joy. The dual-stick controls for moving the two brothers simultaneously for puzzles was frustrating in the best ways possible. It didn't always work, but it was a challenge. However, what carries the game is the story and the emotions it tries to extract from the player. If it fails to grip your heart with it's story the last third of the game sort of falls flat. That's not to say it's not worth playing, even if you have a heart of ice.
This game is so good. I just wish it was longer. The incredibly simple, but powerful, mechanics make it a lot of fun to play even just for a few minutes. I want to get back to it at some point and try replaying it by following a different path.
Spooky and touching. Usually those two words don't go together. It's sort of unintentionally spooky, I guess. Silent empty houses and stormy nights are just inherently spooky. But this game is about more than the setting. I have memories of the 90's references throughout the house and the game, but I have never experienced the emotions the characters in this game have endured. For that reason I feel as if I missed out on something special, which is quite strange. So for me *Gone Home* is special because the main character, the player, turns out to be hardly the most interesting character or really the main character. If you're willing to explore and read into the story you will learn some of the darkest secrets of your father, mother, and younger sister. You lift the veil and learn things that should leave your character crying in the corner until her parents return home. But you don't see that. Your character is a blank and almost never reacts in any way you can hear or see. I was left wondering what happens next and dealing with the discoveries myself.
I'm an awful mayor. I haven't visited Arkham for weeks, and even then that was my first visit in over a month. I'll check-in at Christmas. In a way that's what makes Animal Crossing New Leaf so wonderful. I want to check-in with my town over the holidays to see what's up. Will I be able to decorate the town? I don't know! The game is a mystery box, a really adorable cutesy mystery box. I've sunk a lot of time into this game by building up my town, visiting my wife's game, and interacting with distant towns and residents. There always seems to be something new that I can stumble upon and each time I'm sort of amazed there is still one more thing in this game.
I've never played a Tomb Raider game. They had no appeal to me and then I saw the movies. Lara Croft was not for me and I dismissed the entire franchise. Like my foray into the world of Grand Theft Auto this year, I picked up Tomb Raider because I just wanted to experience one of these games. It turned out to be a highlight of 2013. I wrung every bit of gameplay I could get out of it because I so enjoyed exploring the world. I agree that Lara's arc from scared shipwrecked archaeologist to cold and successful mass murderer was a little too quick, but I appreciated everything else this game tried and accomplished.
A competent Mario-style platformer. What makes it special is it's like a glimpse of what a Paper Mario 3D Land could be. The game uses the Vita's hardware so well and looks so good that it makes you smile. I had a lot of fun playing around with this papercraft world, and knowing that it all could be created with paper made it even better. I plan to make some of the papercraft models (a great idea for a collectible for a game like this).
Platformers came back for me in a big way this year, but I might've burned-out on them shortly after receiving this game. I played Rayman Origins on the Vita last year and loved it, so I picked-up Legends for the Wii U. I haven't finished it yet, but it's a game I've enjoyed picking up and playing for short periods of time in the evenings. It's also nifty that I can play it just on the gamepad while my wife watches TV. I'm sure I'll keep coming back to it.
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