Gaming wise 2013 was great (even though SimCity tried to tarnish it), we had studios who pushed the envelope on a last generation of consoles and stories were told that rivaled movies and books. A new era of systems entered the fray and we even saw yet another Call of Duty. Personally 2013 was the year that I strived and succeeded to play quite a bit of games. I dipped my toe in the open world genre, comboed my way through some action adventures and even took another crack at JRPGs.
Now naming a top five in gaming is hard. I could go and name most of the strategy games that I spent weeks playing in 2013. But as I sat thinking about most of the games that I played I realized that I enjoyed the shorter games just as much as the games I poured daily nights into. I found it unfair to judge my top 5 about the hours I spent playing but instead what I got out of them. With that said DotA 2 will not be on this list. My closest friends and teammates would tell you how much I love the game, but the DotA experience is not new to me as it is to millions of players flocking to it in 2013. DotA is something I have been playing for years both for fun and in a competitive state. Since that has been cleared up let’s check out my “Top 5 Games of 2013.” *Drumroll*
“Randy’s Top 5 Games of 2013”
It has been seven years since the Orange Box introduced us to Portal. Within the span of four years Portal 2 came out and showed the world how to make first person puzzle games once again. In those four years no company nor team attempted to make a game similar to Portal. But the year after Portal 2 was released we saw a slight intake of first person puzzle games with Qube and Quantum Conundrum. Both were well made games but neither grabbed me in the ways Portal 1 & 2 did. Finally, in January of 2013, Antichamber was released and my fondness for the first person puzzle genre was revived with it. Antichamber captured me in ways I didn’t expect with its psychological messaging that was placed meticulously around the environment, level design that kept you thinking outside of the box and its unique artistic style that fused color with unbelievable geometry. Antichamber has no narrative direction but instead is driven by the need to explore mind bending puzzles that shift the world around you. In many ways Antichamber was a fresh new look at this still young genre and it stands next to Portal as one of my favorite puzzle games of all time.
4. The Last of Us
I will tip my hat to Naughty Dog for doing what they did with The Last of Us and how it ran on the Playstation 3. There are many things I dislike about this game, from the gameplay to the pacing set at the beginning, but I’m very glad I compelled myself though those parts and saw it to the end. As always in a post-apocalyptic theme, the humans are truly the enemy while the infected, aka zombies, are there to add to the tension and desperation. The Last of Us hits this idea square on the head while also painting a beautiful world for the player to explore. Troy Baker (Joel) and Ashley Johnsons (Ellie) performances kept the characters alive and drove the story home. There were so many moments between the two characters that got me either teary eyed or laughing with joy. The supporting cast of characters also brought in the urgency and showed just how dire everyones situation really was. As I said earlier, the world is beautiful. Naughty Dog went above and beyond with its creation and art. Each room/house/level had a story to tell and I was never bored of the environments I encountered. At times I stopped playing and simply admired with reverence what Naughty Dog were able to accomplish.
3. Gone Home
Gone home is an exploration game that kicks it up a notch. It’s not done by some new gameplay mechanic or with crazy realistic graphics, instead The Fullbright Company kept you playing by making the house and story take center stage. The feel of Gone Home is superb as VHS tapes, old consoles and TV shows many of us are fond of litter the environment with flickering lights and a ransacked house setting an eerie tone to the overall game. But those aren’t what really sell the game, what does is the voice acting and story. Sam, who is voiced by Sarah Grayson, does a substantial job drawing you into her world as she struggles to find herself. For me the story hit home, even though the subject matter in Gone Home differs from my own life, the feeling of being lost or uncertain about life struck at me as i’m sure it can and did for many others.
2. Fire Emblem: Awakening
Now we come to why I bought a Nintendo 3DS. On the wake of beating XCOM: Enemy Unknown, my body was left trembling wanting to play more of the same game. Fast forward four months and I caught wind of Fire Emblem, a game that had been released in 2012 in Japan was now making its appearance here. Better yet it was coming out on the 3DS that had not been selling well. I spent hours watching and reading about the game. Each second I felt the urge to go out and buy a 3DS to join others discovering FE for the first time. Story wise it isn’t anything special but was good enough to keep me going and guessing. What really grabbed me was the character relationships and combat. When characters are near each other in combat they receive bonuses depending on the character type and the relationship between them. The only way to raise either is to have them fight together and bond, thus opening special stories that you the player get to see unfold. Two characters hate each other? Set them up and watch as their stance on each other changes as the story goes on. With these features in place the characters feel that much more personal to you and make you take more caution than you otherwise would since you want to see what each one has to offer in terms of story and individual relationships. With new wrinkles atop an already solid strategy game, Fire Emblem is one of the best purchases I have ever made!
1. Bioshock Infinite
Here we are, sitting at my favorite game of 2013 and one of my favorite games of all time! Full disclosure, I don’t normally like first person shooters as I find most of them stale. With that said Bioshock Infinite did something for me that I hadn’t experienced in a long time and that was actually having fun with a first person shooter. It starts with the rail system. The skyhook gave me a fresh new look at combat in a game. Jumping to and from the rails felt seamless and it worked. Sadly, it was only promoted in certain areas but was used well enough to allow me to get my fill. Second, the Tears. I never once felt cheated when I didn’t use them and I when I did use them they didn’t provide me with unfair advantages. Being able to call in a flying bot to distract the enemy or bring forth ammo and health packs kept the combat rolling and felt natural to both the gameplay and the world. Finally the Vigors, the equivalent to Bioshock’s Plasmids. These provided me with the most enjoyment when it came to the combat. Lifting a whole room of enemies then shocking them while they float in mid air or collecting the bullets being shot at you while charging in amidst a group of enemies and unleashing blow after blow made me feel like a badass and look forward to the games encounters. Parallel to the gameplay you have a story that throws you into a city above the skies to clear your debt. You meet unforgettable characters like the Lutece twins, Elizabeth and the infamous Songbird. You watch as a city falls into disarray and encounter racial and class welfare presented in a way few games ever do. On top of everything, Irrational Games made a beautiful world in which you easily lose yourself. Seeing the city in the sky (Columbia) for the first time was breathtaking with how well it was all put together. Personally Bioshock Infinite is the one to play out of the whole series and definitely the best game of 2013.