Well, 2013 was certainly a big year for video games. The 3DS and Vita really hit their stride, home consoles got some late-life classics and, with the arrival of two new gaming machines, 2014 is looking to be just as awesome. So which games from the past 12 months were the best?
I always get a kick out of writing these annual write-ups because of how preposterous they are in the first place. Like reviews, these types of list are 100 percent subjective, meaning that the criteria and selections are entirely up to the person doing the jabbering.
That being the case, I always like to look at these yearly wraps as a chance to say: What games did I get the most out of this past year? Which games will stick with me the longest? Which ones kept me grinning or, groan-worthy as this sentence may be, which ones really made me think?
Remember that I'm just one guy and, as such, have not played every single damn game that came out this year. I've even had to miss out on some of the big ones, like GTA V, simply because it didn't fit into my schedule. You may even notice that some of the big PC indie games that everyone is talking about aren't on my list, simply for the fact that my computer is good for typing, and that's about it. And you know that one game that you really, really loved this year and are going to be furious not to see it on a list like this? There's a pretty good chance I either didn't play it or just didn't like it that much. Sorry about that. It turns out we're all different people and there's no such thing as “the best games of the year.”
That being said, I did play a metric ton of games this year, and a handful of them quickly sprang to the foreground when I asked myself which ones should make it on this list. And, without further adieu, here they are in no particular order.
The Last of Us
There are a couple of 800-pound gorillas on my list that are likely to pop up in more than a few “best of” lists this year, so I might as well kick things off with one such title. Naughty Dog has been one of my favorite developers since the Crash Bandicoot days and only cemented their warm place in my heart with the Uncharted series throughout this most recent console cycle.
The Last of Us, though, is a beast of an entirely different color, offering elements similar to my beloved Uncharted series while forging a completely new path full of horror, stealth, gut-wrenching drama and some of the most memorable characters to ever appear in a video game.
Coming from the folks at Media Molecule, I knew going into Tearaway that I was likely in for an adorable, charming and all-around lively good time. Thankfully, this Vita exclusive absolutely delivered, giving me some of the biggest “oh, wow” moments I've had in 2013, no matter the platform.
This papercraft world is all about creativity and fun, making it the first Vita game to make good use of the console's features rather than make them feel tacked on. Similarly, it's a game that absolutely couldn't be pulled off on another console, which speaks well to the team that devoted so much time to getting it right.
Tearaway is unadulterated fun, a game I will remember well for the goofy grin it kept smeared across my face from start to finish.
Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut
I finally had the opportunity to play Deadly Premonition this year, bent on finding out why everyone refused to shut up about this game when it released on the Xbox 360 a couple of years back. With the Director's Cut releasing on the PS3 this year, I found myself drawn into one of the most bizarre gaming worlds ever crafted that, just like the Twin Peaks burg that inspired it, somehow felt perfectly natural in its absurdity since it permeated from every facet of the game.
Of all the games that made my list this year, this one probably had the biggest impact due to its unflinching dedication to its street-rat-crazy story, cast of characters, mechanics, etc. It's hard to describe any one component of the game as “good,” –the shooting is rough, the driving is slippery, the graphics are rubbish—but because of how it all blends together so seamlessly into a fun, lengthy and campy-as-hell wonderland, I have no trouble calling the entire package great.
BioShock Infinite is the one game from 2013 I'm just about ready to stop talking about, only because it garnered so much conversation in the first place. Whenever chatting with friends and occasional strangers about video games this year, BioShock Infinite was always on the tip of everyone's tongue, completely derailing the conversation to delve into the lovely characters, the beautifully realized world of Columbia, the twisting and turning plot and, of course, that little bit of delicious fan service stowed away in the final hour of play.
I seem to be one of those rare gamers who actually quite enjoyed the shooting in Infinite. The mixture of gunplay and tonics blended together smoothly for me, and a lot of those big setpiece shootouts had me sitting on the edge of my seat until the final enemy crumbled to the ground.
More importantly, Infinite was fully deserving of all of that conversation that followed. Maybe it didn't pull everything off in the most elegant of fashions, but its themes and complex narrative were the type that absolutely demanded discussion.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Now, I know what you're saying, but just hear me out on this one. Animal Crossing: New Leaf was the game that made me finally get a 3DS. It's one of the few games I've spent a large number of hours online playing this year, visiting friends and having them come to my little town to take part in the ridiculous number of activities the game affords. It also managed to sink its hooks in nice and deep, leaving me an addicted mess for the first couple of months following its launch. And now, with more than 100 hours crammed into its adorable little world, it's the only game I still return to months after its launch.
From a technological standpoint, Animal Crossing is one of the most impressive games to come out this year. There's always something new to discover, a new activity to take part in, new stuff to collect, more bells (money) to make, etc. There are dozens of systems at play here, each cleverly weaving into the background to crate a darling little gem of a game that can quite literally be played forever.
Every time I put Animal Crossing down, I find myself coming right back to it a couple of days or weeks later. In short, I've had a hell of a lot of fun with it, more so than any other game to come out in 2013.