Gameological Q&A

Halftime Report

What is your favorite game of 2013 so far?

By The Gameological Society Staff • July 25, 2013

Welcome to Gameological Q&A, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. If you have a brilliant question that would make a fun Q&A, send it to brilliantquestions at gameological dot com.

For this week’s Q&A, we’re taking a cue from our compatriots at The A.V. Club and looking back on the first half of 2013. The question is simple:

What is your favorite game of 2013 so far?

Steve Heisler
The Last Of Us

I’ve fallen madly in love with The Last Of Us. It’s a zombie (ahem, “infected”)-survival game about a grizzled smuggler, Joel, who lost his daughter 20 years ago when the outbreak started and now must shuttle another young girl, Ellie, out of harm’s way. There are lots of sweet moments between them, and there are a whole lot of dark rooms full of zombies you have to get through, forced to move at a snail’s pace. The game sets mood with the subtlest shifts in lighting and sound—and with minimal dialogue. But The Last Of Us really sticks with me because of the ending, which I will write around for the sake of not revealing too much. (Still, if you’re touchy about these things, consider moving on to Anthony’s answer.) There is a climactic scene near the end in which Joel does something very much fueled by emotion—this from a guy who barely ever breaks his tougher-than-you veneer. To me, The Last Of Us is a story about a delusional guy allowed to exist in a delusional world, with others actively acknowledging that humanity can be ugly and beautiful at the same time, so you might as well embrace both.

Anthony John Agnello
Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Like Steve, I’m pretty enamored with The Last Of Us, but I don’t love it quite as much as I love Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Every Animal Crossing prior to this 3DS entry feels like a rough draft by comparison. New Leaf breaks down many of the barriers that made it difficult to inhabit your village, streamlining the way you visit friends online and even how you use your various tools. It somehow makes the most mundane activities thick with emotion. Because of work, I tend to only play late at night, when the game’s music gets melancholic. I always take a second to just sit on the park bench I built in front of my house looking out at the beach. Writing about the meaning behind moments like that is my job, but I have to admit, I have trouble verbalizing precisely what makes Animal Crossing so powerful.

Cory Casciato

I’ve been waiting for a game like State Of Decay, for a long time—probably ever since I first saw Dawn Of The Dead and definitely at least since I read The Zombie Survival Guide. Every time I’d play a zombie game, I’d wonder, “Why doesn’t this stupid game just let me live out my own zombie apocalypse survival fantasy?” and that’s exactly what State Of Decay does. I also love that the first two characters you get to play with are a black man and a woman, which is not only a rarity in gaming but also true to the zombie genre’s egalitarian roots. It’s kind of a buggy, ugly mess with clunky controls and a punishing learning curve, but damn it, there’s simply never been a finer zombie apocalypse survival simulator, and until there is, I’ll be spending a disproportionate amount of my gaming time with State Of Decay.

Drew Toal
Blood Dragon: Lady Liberty

With all apologies to The Last Of Us and Don’t Starve, my favorite game so far this year is Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. I have never laughed so hard at a game as much as I have with Sgt. Rex Power Colt, latest in a line of Mark IV Cyber Commandos, as he attempts to avenge his buddy Spider and stop the deranged Col. Sloan from finishing off what remains of the world with his blood dragon-tipped missiles. The one liners, the bad puns, the montages, the loving nods to terrible ’80s actions movies—this is a game tailor-made for kids who, like me, grew up religiously watching iconic terrible movies like Escape From New York and Commando. The game itself is not spectacular—it uses salvaged and stripped down bits of Far Cry 3—but the formula works perfectly for the batshit insane, neon-flecked dystopian world of post-Vietnam II 2007. And again, with all apologies to The Last Of Us and its great ending, the final leg of Blood Dragon is the most satisfying endgame sequence I have ever experienced.

Sam Barsanti
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

I really enjoyed BioShock Infinite and was blown away by the ending, but my actual favorite is a little more, well, let’s say stupid. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance shows its hand right there in the title. This isn’t a game for high-minded literary discussions or smarty-pantsing, this is a game about revenge with a vengeance. It’s a gleeful celebration of absurdity, and it shows that the infamously long-winded Metal Gear series might be a little bit more self-aware than it gets credit for. You play as Raiden, a cyborg ninja who lives in a world where “cyborg ninja” is a realistic job description, and your mission is to prevent a private military company from inciting a world war by using your electrified katana to slice the shit out of everything on Earth. This includes: buses, helicopters, missiles, bridges, giant robots, small robots, Ferris wheels, and an evil United States senator. Also, a major part of the game involves cutting enemies in half and ripping out their spines. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds and about 100 times more ridiculous, which is really saying something.

Matt Kodner
Press [X] To Give Up

Because Hotline Miami, which I only just played, came out in 2012, I’ll go with Press [X] To Give Up, a similarly disturbing game that forces its players to experience its violence on a deeply personal level. The brief game places you in a matador’s leather shoes and has you face off against a monstrous bull. The fight itself isn’t so bad—bait it toward you, avoid getting gored, slip a sword in its neck, repeat—but it’s the outcome of the violence that gets me every time. Every hit you take pollutes the screen with more glitches and digital hisses, and every successful stab transforms the bull into a more grotesque and desperate version of itself. To beat the bull, you have to become an equally desperate beast, killing your opponent in a primal rage. This all happens in the course of a few minutes, and it’s astounding how well it works, especially for a game made in just two days for the Nordic Game Jam. It might not have the edge-of-your-seat tension of Hotline, but for what it is, it’s fantastic.

Derrick Sanskrit

My first instinct is to agree with Agnello and say Animal Crossing—it is by far the game I’ve sunk the most hours into this year—but I know I’d be lying to myself. Only one game made me giddy every time I pressed “start.” Only one game made me say “one more time” upon failing the same stage six times in a row. Only one game featured a tap-dancing rabbit and a monkey with a pair of cymbals. That game was HarmoKnight, the ineffably charming musical-platformer from Game Freak, home of Pokémon and Drill Dozer, among others. Every bit of dialogue, from the tutorial to the unnecessary plot exposition, was delightful, due in no small part to the cartoon cut-out art style that looked wonderful with the Nintendo 3DS’ 3D slider dialed up. The cutesy visuals and fantasy setting belied a sometimes-infuriating difficulty, with music that would change tempo at a whim and a camera that would crop in tight or slide off at an angle to obscure upcoming obstacles. It may have been a good bit shorter than this year’s other rhythm-platformer, BIT.TRIP Presents Runner 2: Future Legend Of Rhythm Alien, but it offered more variety, wider smiles, and one of the most colorful and diverse casts of all-ages characters I’ve seen in years.

John Teti
Rogue Legacy

Sometimes you come across a work that resonates with a special vividness because of where you are in your life. Rogue Legacy was that kind of game for me. The castle-storming adventure takes an idea that has been enjoying a renaissance—semi-randomly generated worlds—and experiments with it by allowing the spoils of one playthrough to carry on to the next one. The more I play Rogue Legacy (and I’ve played it a lot), the more I’m struck by how the developers at Cellar Door Games must have deeply considered the implications of a multi-generational legacy. The upshot of their creative process is a fun, challenging game with a subtle but powerful humanity. It’s an early frontrunner for my personal “Yup, I’m going to keep playing the shit out of this” award that The Binding Of Isaac won last year.

Ryan Smith
Remember Me

If I were pressed to come up with the best games of the year, Remember Me wouldn’t even crack the top 10 when shoulder-to-shoulder to the BioShock Infinites and The Last of Us-es of the gaming world. Much of it is just too rough-hewn, especially the frequent sections that involve leaping from one clearly demarcated exposed pipe to the next. There are times when the game’s star, Nilin, responds sluggishly to button presses like she’s not quite up to the task. Even the science-fiction story, fixating on a corporation that commodifies memories, feels like a Philip K. Dick B-side. Yet I love Remember Me for its unique puzzle-like approach to fistfights and its sense of place. The game’s cyberpunky Paris of 2084 is wonderfully realized. The memory remix sections, where you alter small elements of someone’s recollection of an event to change their entire perspective, are worth the price of admission alone. Like The Fifth Element, another work of bold French science-fiction starring a pixie-coiffed female hero, it’s better to have a piece of art that swings for the fences and sometimes misses than another bland mediocrity. It may not be the best game of the year, but Remember Me is one that I won’t soon, well, forget.

Matt Gerardi
Kentucky Route Zero

If BioShock Infinite had been no longer than its first hour, it would have easily taken this spot. I’ve never experienced anything like wandering around the streets of Columbia, bathed in golden light with their fascinating melange of turn-of-the-20th-century culture. There is one other game this year that was able to capture that feeling of discovery and wonder you get when walking into a weird new place for the first time—and that feeling stretched across its entirety. That’s Kentucky Route Zero, the episodic southern-fried, Lynchian adventure game from the two-man outfit Cardboard Computer. Its world is so strange and lovingly defined—a surreal blast of the mundane punctuated with the fantastic in always unexpected ways. You might wander into a bait and tackle shop and end up plummeting down a trippy text adventure rabbit hole. The gorgeous environments are similarly surprising, appearing flat and cramped, but slowly opening up into massive three-dimensional structures as their scenes progress and the player’s perspective shifts. Kentucky Route Zero might only be two episodes into its five-episode run (with a total runtime of around four hours), but it’s responsible for most of my favorite gaming moments of the year (the mine, the bear floor, Julian). Its only flaw is that there isn’t yet more of it.

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180 Responses to “Halftime Report”

  1. Cloks says:

    Kudos to Matt Gerardi – I hold KR0 in similarly high esteem. It’s almost the exact opposite of all the overstuffed titles that are big in the gaming world today; it knows how to use small spaces to create smart interactions that are largely character based. The only thing I don’t like about it is that it’s hard to recommend to my friends and even then, it’s something that I don’t feel like most people would enjoy. One only has to look at the johnny boys on the Steam hub to find comments like “I would made [sic] a game that has 12-15 hours gameplay” or “5 acts still in the making they best get a ball fing moving this game was out like before cognition and like back at the beginning of the walking dead ones almost dont walking dead already starting their second come on now get the ball rolling maybe people will throw some more money”.Here’s to hoping that by the time the next three acts have been released I can figure out a way to convince people that they need to try a game about driving around the state routes in Kentucky.

    • Marozeph says:

      “Games you love but find hard to recommend” could be an interesting Q&A. KR0 is great and has some wonderfully haunting moments, but i don’t know anyone among my friends who would enjoy it.
      Kinda reminds me of my brother telling me he had no interest in playing Portal because “it hasn’t much action”.

      • caspiancomic says:

         That’d be a great Q&A, you should submit it. I’ve played some games in my time that I adored, or at least found compelling in one way or another, that I’d probably never sincerely recommend to anyone else.

      • Dave Dalrymple says:

        People often have broader tastes than you think.

        I remember when the ads for Final Fantasy VII were all over television, and everyone was getting super-excited. A lot of these excited people, though, were those whom I could never imagine playing an RPG. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw my brother and step-brother both play the game to completion, and then go looking for more RPGs to play.

      • Goon Diapers says:

        I had that problem with Out of this World on the SNES when I was a kid. I tried to get my friends to play it and they thought it was boring. It was so good though!

      • Dorian_Mode says:

        Yeah, I think that could be really fun discussion. Catherine would probably fit into that category for me. The bizarre anime storyline seems likely to turn people off automatically, and then there’s the fact that it’s basically a survival-horror puzzle game, which is a strange genre mash-up.

      • HighlyFunctioningTimTebow says:

        I can get behind that. There’s a good amount of critical reflection required, but at the same time you get to describe what features, elements, or mechanics a game that you particularly like possesses, but you’re not obligated to defend the game as a whole. Nuanced.

      • throbbin_bitchcock says:

        I was thinking about this playing Psychonauts the other day. The game-world is really compelling and the overall experience is great, but the actual gameplay is basically just “middling 3D platformer”.

      • signsofrain says:

        That’s a great idea for a Q&A… I’d love it if I could get anyone I knew to play Katawa Shoujo, but it’s hard to get past the anime hurdle for a lot of people, not to mention the “this game is primarily reading text and looking at pictures and very occasionally making a pretty ambiguous dialogue choice…” hurdle not to mention the “herp derp, cripple porn” knee-jerk reaction…

    • needlehacksaw says:

      “KR0” is, together with “Year Walk”, my favourite game of the year so far as well. That rare case of a game that is not only smart and hauntingly beautiful, but 100% bullshit-free.
      As for your problem of convincing others to play it: Maybe they have a background in theater, art history, history or Buckminster Fuller-fandom? Because the game is positively brimming with allusions to all of that stuff that you don’t have to know, but is admirable nevertheless.
      Here you can find an in-depth analysis of those aspects for both parts… it’s really rather fascinating stuff:

    • Girard says:

      KR0 kind of wins by default for me (I don’t think I’ve played any other new games in 2013, apart from maybe the odd forgettable Flash game). But that’s fine, because it’s also a really visually, tonally, and structurally interesting game.

      The only mark I’d hold against it is that it sometimes feels a little linear, and a little too spare – the second episode sometimes just felt like I was clicking my characters from place to place simply to advance the plot, without actually interacting meaningfully with anything. The only point where I seemed to have any sort of choice/exploration is when driving around, but the rewards for going off of the beaten path – two or three lines of enigmatic text – tend to feel a little anemic. There are times when I feel like it would work just as well as an animation as a game, but other times when I feel its interactivity is warranted and capitalized upon.

      Ooh! I just realized Anti-Chamber came out in 2013. That game may actually edge out KR0 for me.

    • neodocT says:

       I almost got that when it was on sale this week, but reading that they’re only two episodes in convinced me not to. At least not yet. I realize that getting it know would help the developers, but I’d rather have a full game experience for my money. Not to mention that it might be cheaper by the time the full game comes out.

    • Ryan West says:

      I just started playing Kentucky Route Zero on Tuesday, and now all I wanna do is eat, drink, and breathe Kentucky Route Zero.  It’s absolutely bewitching.  I’m forcing myself to only play it around midnight, with headphones on, in absolute darkness.  I’ve only finished Act 1, and I’m going to be destroyed when I don’t have any more for a couple months.

    • throbbin_bitchcock says:

      So… do you think I would like it? I like adventure games in theory, but it feels like I haven’t legitimately enjoyed one since Riven. I look mainly for atmosphere and well designed, difficult puzzles that are well integrated with the world. What I loved about the old Myst games was the sense of isolation as you wandered around discovering things. 

      I don’t think a linear plot is necessarily a bad thing — as long as it is actually good and not just some rote high-fantasy crap — but I’m wary of the game just becoming a movie where you click an object every once in a while, or a boring scavenger hunt. The concept for KRO sounds really intriguing, but from certain descriptions I’ve read, i’m not sure it will be interesting enough to overcome those linearity issues.

      • Cloks says:

        It’s hard to say – try the demo called Limits and Demonstrations. It’s not that much like the game but it’ll give you an idea of the laconic pacing and magical realism in the full product.

        I wouldn’t go as far to call KR0 a movie where you click an object every once in a while because the emphasis is on interaction with other people. It’s not a game where you can go through every conversation choice, you’ll have to pick one and stick with it as you gradually build your own, unique main character.

        • throbbin_bitchcock says:

          Ooh, ok… if the choices you make have a really tangible effect on the shape your character takes, I could get behind that. A lot of games try to do that to some degree but get it wrong, but that at least seems interesting enough to try the demo.

  2. PaganPoet says:

    I was looking over all my games, seeing which one was my favorite from this year. Suddenly, I was a little bit embarrassed that the only game I own that was released in 2013 is Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. It’s not a hard explanation: I don’t really buy games at launch, I wait until the price is lowered.

    That said, Sly is actually a pretty good game, but I somehow doubt it compares to Bioshock: Infinite or The Last of Us or the other big (and small but acclaimed) games that came out this year. Its PS2 roots are definitely starting to show, but it’s still charming and fun enough to recommend.

    • Blatherly says:

      Oooh, another vote for Guacamelee! Only spent 2-3 hours on it but it appeals to me more than any other game I’ve been playing recently, which includes The Last of Us, Catherine! and XCOM (Thanks for the last two PS+). 

      A light snack of a game that fits well with a nice, relaxing summer. But at the same time the combos appear to be reasonably deep and there are quite a few side quests.

    • SamPlays says:

      I, too, find it hard to splurge $50-60 on a game when there are other things in life that require money. As such, the best game I’ve played so far in 2013 is Arkham City.

      • Sarapen says:

        I hear that. The best game I’ve played so far in 2013 is FTL, although lately I’ve been losing sleep to Torchlight 2 and Uplink before that.

      • Long_Dong_Donkey_Kong says:

         Go to Best Buy. Purchase Call of Duty Black Ops 2 for the Wii U. It’s $20 this week. Go to a store that lets you return games without a receipt in exchange for store credit (Walmart, Target, Toys R Us). Return CoD for $59.99. Take $59.99 and buy a brand new game like Last of Us.

        • SamPlays says:

          The ethics of what you just described are, at best, completely unethical. It would probably also constitute a retail crime – fooling a retailer to give you money that you didn’t spend at their store is fraudulent. Be careful!

        • PPPfive says:

          Yeah think about the poor kids at Best Buy and Toys R Us trying to scrape together a living

        • mizerock says:

          Fraud is not a victimless crime.

        • signsofrain says:

          No one gets hurt in that scenario. A store gets a sale and another store gets an extra piece of inventory and our friend gets a little extra scratch for brokering that exchange.

      • Long_Dong_Donkey_Kong says:

        Unethical maybe, but most stores have policies regarding returns/exchanges without receipts. Not every Christmas gift/birthday present has a gift receipt, yet they allow people to return those items. Most stores also limit you to X amount of dollars returned without a receipt within a certain amount of time and some stores won’t allow it at all.

        • SamPlays says:

          But those policies would only apply to merchandise bought at the store (or within a chain). If that wasn’t the case, it would be completely appropriate for someone to go into Toys R Us, declare that he/she is returning a discounted item bought at Best Buy and then expect a store credit for the regular price of the item. Nobody would actually do this because the store and the person know it’s a dishonest practice and there are potential legal consequences for anyone caught defrauding a store. That said, retailers lose billions every year as a result of consumer abusing store policies so there’s obviously some wiggle room when stricter policies may result in less revenue.

        • aklab says:

          You know, I don’t think it’s actually unethical. If a store was losing too much money over some generous policy I think they would change that policy. Unless they thought that the goodwill engendered by a customer-pleasing return policy was worth the resulting loss. (Costco for example.)

          I’d wager that a high percentage of returns are made by people returning gifts from parts unknown. That’s what I do all the time, at least: “this was a gift, I don’t know where it came from, will you take it?” And if it’s something they stock, then they pretty much always do take it. 

          I don’t think the store cares about your motive or the secret story of where you bought the item. If they have a policy that says they’ll take returns without a receipt, and apparently think it’s worth it to have said policy, then it’s fair game. 

        • SamPlays says:

          @aklab:disqus It’s a debate, not an argument:) I’ll take every advantage I can get when it comes to the marketplace but some things (like playing The Last of Us sooner than later) are not worth compromising my sense of equity (i.e., I don’t think it’s fair to cheat stores out of money). Now, if dollar-sign-person was defrauding a retailer and then donating the stolen good to a charity case (i.e., someone who couldn’t even afford to defraud a store), I’d probably give it pass on ethical grounds. I’m kind of joking on that last part but there are times, in my opinion, when ethics take precedence over law.

        • edincoat says:

          Sure, they will let you. But when generous policies are abused, they get revoked. Then some kid who’s grandma bought him a crappy game will be SoL trying to exchange it because she didn’t keep a receipt.

      • Jackbert says:

        Same! At least for consoles. My overall favorite game I’ve played in 2013 is the five-years-old DS game The World Ends With You.

    • Jackbert says:

      I don’t buy games at launch either. The only game I’ve purchased this year was Fire Emblem: Awakening, and even that was a game released in January that I bought in June. It’s pretty fun, though it’s not anything more than that. Still, by default, it’s my GOTY so far.

  3. Games shmames, the real question is what is the Gameological user comment of the year?

    I humbly submit @Cloks:disqus do-it-yourself Digest script from the Don’t Starve episode.

  4. Citric says:

    I haven’t played a lot of 2013 titles so far – for I am a cheap arse and generally unwilling to buy things for more than $30. I did really like Metal Gear Rising a lot, as well as Blood Dragon, for their gleefully goofy tone, but only one game actually convinced me to spend full price, and at the end of the day it was totally worth it.

    Ni no Kuni isn’t perfect, the last hour or two is clumsily tacked on, but it created a unique (and frigging gorgeous) world, a place where it’s just nice to hang out, dick around and have fun. It’s also the kind of game that is a genuine stress reliever, when the world is getting me down, it’s time to go to the undead casino and play some cards, or maybe do one of those quests I never got around to doing. It’s the only game I’ve played this year where I just love being in the world it has created, so it is the best of the year.

  5. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    I’ve just begun Last of Us, so I’ve nothing definitive to say about it yet, but given this year has two games (this and Infinite) that have caught my attention significantly enough to compel me to buy ’em both fresh is something of a testament in it’s own right.  It may just be a testament to my shitty taste in games, but for this purpose, we’ll say it’s not.
       There’s a lot of comparison between the two for all the obvious reasons, and the majority I read seems positioned as Ellie is what Elizabeth should have been, or failed to be.
       And I guess because the tone of the two games is so different, I don’t see these as being oppositional titles.
       I love Infinite and so far, I’m positioned to love Last of Us as well.  This is a fan response, not a critical response.  Both games are far away from flawless.
       But through all the arguments I’ve read about cinematic aping, failure to execute a high-minded premise, the standard game trope of hero and princess being traded up for a wan half-step evolution to hero and daughter, or just straight-up dissatisfaction with game play -through all of that I just feel fortunate I’ve had the chance to experience both.  And I don’t say that about a lot of games.  Even games I like. 

    • PaganPoet says:

      Gameological Society:
      A testament to my shitty taste in games

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

       I think people need to accept that the maturation of AAA games is not going to be an overnight thing.  Big studios aren’t suddenly going to drop over a hundred million on games that don’t have the prerequisite amount of headshots the young kids crave.  While not perfect, games like Bioshock Infinite and Last of Us are steps in the right direction and should be praised for this even if they do still have their feet stuck in the swamp of “shooting your way out of everything”.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        Well said.  I think that summarizes my feelings in a more articulate and succinct way.

      • mizerock says:

        It took a long time for Harmonix to convince the remaining Rock Band obsessives (like me!) that coming out with a new version was literally impossible, because it cost literally several million dollars just to “slap together” a full title (and a lot more to make it actually good). That’s way more than could even dreamed of being raised by the remaining few thousand players.

  6. Spencer Greenfield says:

    Kentucky Route Zero i my pick. This ghostless ghost story kept me interested and invested into just what is happening in Ol’ Kentucky. It’s not about big action set pieces, but the slow explorative moments of Kentucky’s past, it’s present, and something beyond time and space entirely.

    I also love the game’s approach to a choice system. There’s litlle to no evidence that anything you decide to do, when given multiple choices, has any real impact, but is there to give a unique experience while keeping everything the same. If the choices do matter, it is presented in a subtle, mysterious type of way that could be trivial or the most important thing in the game. I can’t wait to see what the next three acts bring Conway and Shannon as they explore the strange world that Kentucky Route Zero offers.

  7. caspiancomic says:

    I’m normally late to the party with videogames, waiting a couple of months for prices to go down and hype to die out before I finally deign to actually play something (I’ve been sitting on Dishonoured since Christmas, and Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, and Metal Gear Rising are all in my “some day” pile), so my contributions to threads like this tend to be pretty negligible. There are, though, games that I absolutely can’t resist, and which I must play instantly. One of those is my game of the year so far: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. I have a lot of complicated feelings tied up in this game (some of which I’m spinning out into my next major Game Theory article due out next month or so), but my most overwhelming reaction to 90% of its duration was one of pure childish glee. It created an unusual sensation in me that was like nostalgia, but for something I hadn’t yet experienced.

    On the one hand in many ways it was like playing one of the original flavour JRPGs of my youth, come unstuck in time and accidentally washing ashore in 2013. On the other it was like getting a chance to participate in a sixty hour Studio Ghibli movie, and having an opportunity to hang out in and explore the kind of world that studio is rightly famous for. But those two sensations combined created an experience greater than the sum of its already substantial parts. I was worried for a while there that I was becoming curmudgeonly in my mid-twenties, unable to lose myself in foreign worlds like I could when I was a fresh faced mid-teen, when Lindblum or Midgar or the Toran Republic felt vivid and real, like something I was genuinely exploring. I hadn’t felt that way in a long time, and I figured either video games were getting worse or my ability to get absorbed in them was beginning to die, and wasn’t sure which of those two options was the more cynical. Turns out, though, that everything’s fine: I got totally and wholly swallowed up in the world of Ni No Kuni, in a way that I hadn’t experienced for probably ten or more years.

    Also, one of the main characters is a grouchy Welsh fairy. GOTY 2013!

    • Cloks says:

      I’ve been on the fence about getting Ni No Kuni for a little while. I’m generally more in love with the idea of lengthy JRPGS than actually completing them and it sounds like an overwhelming amount of content. Hearing that it’s like living in a sixty hour Studio Ghibli movie definitely pushes me towards borrowing or buying it though. My favorite part about Ghibli movies is almost always the unique and entrancing worlds that they build – from the dystopic Nausicaa to the seaside village of Ponyo and the small towns and coast of Porco Rosso – so the chance to live in one if only for just a little while sounds great.

      • PaganPoet says:

        What I love about Ghibli movies is that there are no clear cut villains and (sometimes) no clear cut heroes. Princess Mononoke illustrated this concept quite well. Lady Eboshi may be exploiting the resources of the forest and angering the nature gods, but she’s also a philanthropist and her village is a refuge for social outcasts and lepers.

        • Girard says:

          I always wondered how this tendency would sync with the JRPG tendency toward “level up until you are an unstoppable beast who can kill the final, ultimate, evil boss.” I’m not sure if I’ll ever play Ni No Kuni (I lack the requisite hardware*), but it definitely has my curiosity piqued.

          *That’s what my wife says, at least! HEEEEEYOOOOOOO!!!

      • Enkidum says:

        You do know that Ghibli were part of the development team, right?

    • NakedSnake says:

      I’m with you on holding out. There are too many good cheap games to play to convince myself to buy a game at launch. It doesn’t help that the last time there was a game I “had to play” and bought for $60, it was Resident Evil 5.

      • PaganPoet says:

        I can’t defend Resident Evil 5 as a game, but…it DID have Chris Redfield’s biceps. I ain’t saying, I’m just saying…

      • Enkidum says:

        Yeah, think mine was Red Dead Redemption. Even then, I got it months after launch, but I paid full price as an Xbox download. Which, in retrospect, was silly.

      • DrFlimFlam says:

        I guess I didn’t hold out for BioShock Infinite but I got the Season Pass for free. And I didn’t hold out for Animal Crossing but now I’ve got a super cool 3DS XL that looks like a pop tart.

      • mizerock says:

        I “had to play” Rock Band 3 and XCOM. Both were totally worth it. Everything else I pick up for $16 via GameFly or $6 on Steam (and then never play it).

      • edincoat says:


    • Marozeph says:

      I finished around half of Ni No Kuni and loved it so far. The visual design is especially amazing – everything is bright and shiny without looking garish or kitschy.
      I haven’t played it in a while, but for some reason, i tend to start JPRGs, play them for quite a while, then take a long pause and finish them later.

    • Dave Dalrymple says:

      Ni No Kuni wins for me, and not just because it’s the only new non-browser game I’ve played this year. There’s lots to do and see. I never find myself being rushed forward as I do in many RPGs.

    • indy2003 says:

      This one really is amazing. The only sad thing is that it left me with a slightly bitter aftertaste – the last stretch of the game seems unnecessary, and the final boss battle took me an eternity to complete. Roughly 50 hours of pure joy followed by about 10 hours of ever-increasing frustration – and the final cutscenes seem awfully rushed, too. Still, there’s so much beauty along the way…

  8. Merve says:

    If I had to pick a favourite game so far this year, I second Gerardi’s vote: it would also be the first two acts of Kentucky Route Zero. I hesitate even to call it a “game,” because it presents no real challenge. But it’s certainly an interactive adventure, and it’s one that successfully marries its ludic, aural, and visual aesthetics. There’s something eerily beautiful about how the minimalism of its droning soundtrack and polygonal visuals reflects the minimalism of its left-click-only gameplay.

    My runner-up is BioShock Infinite, which transported me to another world like no other video game in recent memory. It’s gorgeous, ambitious, and exciting, and though it has some (huge) stumbles, I think it’s well worth experiencing.

    I also have to echo Ryan’s sentiments about Remember Me. It’s far from one of my favourite games, but it does a lot of strange, unique things with its setting and certain elements of its gameplay. If you think about it, it’s a platformer, a beat-’em-up, a rhythm game, and a point-and-click adventure all rolled into one, and it’s amazing that this never feels like genre-hopping madness.

    With Broken Age being pushed back to 2014, the only upcoming games that are really on my radar for this year are Watch Dogs and Contrast. Fingers crossed that they’re good!

    • GaryX says:

      Really need to play Kentucky Route Zero. I’ve heard David Lynch comparisons, which I’m too much of a sucker for.

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

      No love for GTA V Merve?  What gives?

    • Cloks says:

      I’m still waiting for Mewgenics and Wasteland 2. I guess I did just get Shadowrun Returns as well.

    • Fluka says:

      Yeah, Watch Dogs is the one of the only AAA releases I’m looking forward to this year.  Though I’m very much waiting for reviews: system-hacking based gameplay looks intriguing, plot and character look rather dull so far.

      Also curious about Saints Row 4.  Trailers make the game look super-fun (plus the fabulous interview on this site!), though the whole anal probe thing has put me a bit more on edge.  Again, will wait and see!

  9. ocelotfox says:

    I’ve had the chance to play a surprising number of high-profile titles this year.  Yet, in spite of a year with Tomb Raider, Bioshock Infinite, DmC, and The Last of Us, it’s a small title that stands out the most.  Guacamelee, that wonderful cross-play bit of Metroidvania, just struck a wonderful chord with me.  A great combination of visual flair, clever winks and nods to movies, internet memes, and video games, and a surprisingly robust combat system, it stood out more than any of the other titles thus far.

  10. EmperorNortonI says:

    This is a hard question to answer, because easily the most engrossing gaming experience I’ve had this year was with a very old game – Fallout New Vegas.  For all the problems I had with it (which, admittedly, are just ways that I see for it to be so much more and better than it was), that game was just incredible, and I’m quite thankful to the Gameological Game Revue to prompt me into finally playing it.

    As for games that came out this year that I’ve enjoyed?

    Well, if you go by hours played, it would have to be Company of Heroes 2, with 40-some hours played in about two weeks.  I play too many games.  However, I can’t say this is my favorite, because I am so incredibly angry at the Nazi-fetishism and the glaring imbalances and the refusal to base game stats on the actual matchups of Red Army vs Wehrmacht that I can’t in any way claim it as a favorite.  Maybe when I try again in a few weeks, but not now.  I have to say, though, I’m still itching to get back into it.

    Rogue Legacy has been a lot of fun.  Silly, relaxing fun.

    I’ve just started playing Fallen Enchantress – Legendary Heroes.  That is surprisingly good, and I’m finally satisfied with the money I spent on the Elemental pre-order back in 2010.

    At some point, I’m going to dig into Wargame AirLand Battle, and Civ 5 – Brave New World, both of which I’ve heard great things about.  

    • mizerock says:

      Early on in FO:NV, I decided to wander around the glorious open sandbox, like I used to do in GTA. 90 minutes later, I came upon a critter [coyote?] that was a little tougher than anything I had faced to that point, but I took it on anyway. And died. And went back to where I was 90 minutes earlier, all experience lost. Did I miss something about how to play the game properly? Did I wander too far from save points? Or go out on my own way before I was “ready”? Because that completely killed my interest in ever playing again.

      • djsubversive says:

        You can save anywhere – the autosave only kicks in when you go through doors (and at certain points in a couple of quests). So save often when wandering around in the desert.

        It’s possible that you stumbled across something beyond your level/skill – the game doesn’t really have level-scaling like Fallout 3 did. Nightstalkers (the coyote-rattlesnake hybrids) are a pain in the ass at low levels and/or before you get decent armor and weapons. Dynamite is pretty easy to get early on (the Goodsprings quest and all the Powder Ganger encampments outside the NCRCF – the prison itself is tough if you head there early).

        If you’re on PC, you should get CASM, the autosave mod. It just saves every few minutes so you don’t lose an hour and a half when you get murdered by something you weren’t ready for (or when the game decides it’s crash-time). It’s the one “must-have” mod for New Vegas.

        • mizerock says:

          OK, thanks for the confirmation, I should have figured that there would be more options to save progress. Most games today aren’t that hard core, and those that are are infamous for it [Dark Souls?]. Either I never looked for the manual save, or looked in the wrong place and gave up too easily.

          I play just about everything on the PS3 instead of on my aged laptop. Somehow I picked up the impression that most PC mods are used for multiplayer cheating, and I have no tolerance for that. But I suspect that, in reality, there are plenty of mods that would add a lot to my gaming experience, maybe even “saving” some games that (unbeknowst to me) are left buggy on the PS3 because they are so expensive to patch.

        • djsubversive says:

          New Vegas is an Obsidian game, published by Bethesda, made in about a year, using Bethesda’s version of Gamebryo. “Buggy” is pretty much par for the course, even moreso on non-PC platforms (because of patches and mods).

          I hope you’ll give it another shot, even though the PS3 versions of Bethesda games (and New Vegas) are the least-stable and most problematic, especially as you get further in the game and your save file gets bigger.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

          When people talk about mods on PC they are never talking about hacks for cheating at multiplayer. Mods are fucking awesome, and can range from a few ini tweaks to change the spawn rates of bad guys in a singleplayer game, to content mods that add goofy weapons and NPC models, to total conversion mods that make the game something else entirely. 

          Famously, Valve has hired modders in the past, and most of their games at this point began life as mods. Counter Strike, TF2, and Dota 2 all have roots in the mod community.

          Mods are awesome. I love them, and you should too!

  11. edincoat says:

    Fire Emblem Awakening is the game I has been my most enjoyable time-sink this year. The punishing difficulty caused me to have quite the competitive relationship with the AI. 
    The Last of Us is perhaps the best-told story in gaming, even if it features zombies. 
    Looking forward, I recently picked up KR0 and am way excited to explore that world. Some GS commenters raved enough about it to get me interested.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      Oh my gorp it’s so hard early on when you play it as intended. I think I’m good, I’ve got it locked down, and a random crit comes out of nowhere and yay, let’s start all over…

      • ocelotfox says:

         That’s the joy of Fire Emblem, though.  The best example is Radiant Dawn, where the first act of the game was brutally difficult at times due to the relative fragility of some of the main characters.  However, as you build up certain units, the game trends towards easier (except when you try to level up that one new unit and he/she gets killed by a long-distance magic attack…that gets old after a while).

      • edincoat says:

        I’m gonna admit to not being able to get past the first battle on the highest difficulty setting.

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          I have no intention of ever trying to tackle anything tougher than Normal. I just ground out a victory in Paralogue 2 (couldn’t save Anna no matter what I did, even with Rescue) and am now trying Chapter 6. Soon Donnel will be a beast again. Soon.

  12. The_Helmaroc_King says:

    I can hardly remember which games I’ve played this year that also came out in 2013, but looking back there’s a few that could fill my top spot.

    Bioshock Infinite is definitely the “biggest” 2013 game I’ve played so far. I love so much about it, even if the gameplay hasn’t changed appreciably since the first game in the series.

    Rogue Legacy is my current obsession; it’s wonderful, but I only started two days ago, so it hasn’t much time to digest… so to speak.

    The Swapper hit all of the right notes in my book, but all of the things I’d say it did well were also very low key.

    Instead, for my favorite game of 2013 so far, I’d have to say Receiver. It doesn’t have an exceptional amount of content, but to be frank I just love what it did to experiment with the mechanics of an FPS. It flips the usual bigger-is-better mentality and puts so much detail into the low-level functions of a few select firearms that I felt more accomplished after a few hours of play than across the entirety of a lot of big-budget games.

    • Marozeph says:

      Thanks for reminding me of Reciever, that’s one of those games i always wanted to try out.

      And while we’re at games with little content (honestly, this fixiation on the amount of content in games is kinda bugging me anyway – if it’s pointless, cut it!), i also enjoyed Gunpoint a lot. It’s very short, but satisfying and the core mechanics (catapulting yourself and hacking the electric systems) are both a lot of fun and make the game quite replayable.

      • Shain Eighmey says:

        It’s interesting watching the rise of quite a few minimalist games recently. For years, possibly decades, the trend has been overwhelmingly for more content with less complexity. However, right now there seems to be a not insubstantial market for games that focus on paying very close attention to a few important things. 

        • Marozeph says:

          Considering how budgets have exploded in recent years, a bit of minimalism is probably a good idea for the whole industry.
          Nobody has ever complained about “not enough bloat”. And bad pacing is a killer in any form of entertainment.

    • TheInternetSaid says:

      Infinite was a little too short and easy for me (nothing as scary as a room full of splicers), but I adored the Inception-esque ending.

  13. My list goes:

    Most fun open world adventure so far: Far Cry 3 for making me fall in love with the idea of being a bad island driver.

    Best story: Bioshock Infinite. Goddamnit those feels man. Oh fuck, that ending.

    Best DLC/Expansion Pack: Civ 5 Brave New World.

    Best fighting game: Injustice Gods Among Us. While Man of Steel was “meh” on the serious gritty Superman story, Injustice actually makes a better story out of it on top of a great fighting game mechanic. Also, the Evo 2013 videos were great too.

    Best reboot: Tomb Raider. I had tonnes of fun with this game. In the end, i just wanted more. It’s a better game reboot than most game reboots that’s for sure.

    Best combat mechanic: Lara Croft’s bow in Tomb Raider. Possibly the best use of bow combat ever. It has better bow combat than in Skyrim and Far Cry 3 and that’s great in a way.

  14. Godots17thCup says:

    If I said that “Animal Crossing: New Leaf is my favorite game of 2013”, that might indicate that it isn’t an insidious drug that’s actively destroying both my life and the lives of my loved ones.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

       It’s strange because I look forward to playing it but I can’t often say it’s FUN. I spent twenty minutes organizing my in-game storage on Tuesday. TWENTY MINUTES.

  15. Posthummus says:

    It really comes down to Bioshock: Infinite and The Last of Us (I think they’re literally the only two games i’ve had time to play to completion this year), but I go with TLOU, hands down. And I loved so, so much of Infinite. The Last of Us, for all its flaws, is trying to push storytelling in big budget gaming forward, both in how it uses the medium to present a narrative, and in the content of that narrative itself. Seriously, if there was any doubt about me being in love with this game after the brilliantly constructed wringer of a prologue, the porno mag joke after leaving Bill’s town sealed it for me that this was something special. This is a game that looked at what other Triple-A developers prioritize in their stories, and said “we can, and need to do a hell of a lot better than this.” For that, it’s my pick.  

  16. Destroy Him My Robots says:

    No surprises here, I’ll go with Attack of the Friday Monsters. It’s certainly not the most ludically exciting game (the card battling isn’t all that), but Ayabe managed to maintain his masterful sense of place while taking the story in a more fantastic direction this time around. Once again his characters straddle the line between archetype and individual, making them both recognizable and memorable. And it all culminates in a beautiful finale that (mild spoilers) really just wants to remind you that dad is the best. It hits with the same emotional heft as the conclusion to the grandmother’s story in BnN3, only this time it’s uplifting.

    • EmperorNortonI says:

      That sounds really awesome – too bad I don’t have the right console.

    • Hunter Taylor says:

      Oh my god!  I just played AotFM and I was pleasantly surprised.  I was also shocked to see that this is the first time it’s been mentioned on this website: I feel that the game’s focus on story, settings and characters would make this a big draw for a website like Gameological Society.  It’s a short trip, but touches a lot of themes that games haven’t really explored before.  It’s the kind of game that falls through the cracks but hopefully becomes more successful down the road.

  17. rvb1023 says:

    1. The Last of Us
    2. Bioshock Infinite
    3. Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut
    4. Shin Megami Tensei IV
    5. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

    In my defense, I have yet to play KR0 as I would rather just play the game all at once. Episodic gaming doesn’t really work for me. I take my time going through games so when a game can’t keep up with me I find it rather annoying.

    Both Rogue Legacy and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon are sitting in my wishlist waiting for a lower Steam sale but both of them have the chance of being there as well. I also have yet to start my copy of Pandora’s Tower as I picked up Fragile with it and wanted to beat that first. And as much as I love Ni No Kuni, it wears on you and never gets much harder than the beginning of the game. Had I a Vita, Soul Sacrifice might be there as well. I haven’t played it yet but it’s art direction and premise is just so goddam metal I love it.

    I just noticed how few new games I have picked up this year so far, or at least prominent ones. Maybe it’s just TLoU and Bioshock Infinite being such big releases that they somehow hide this fact, but I think I have bought more older games this year than newer ones. The recent Steam sale has me looking to the past for games I picked up cheap and the only day one purchases I have in the near future are Dragon Commander and Killer is Dead in August.

  18. 4by4by4 says:

    Kentucky Route Zero would my vote at this point but I hesitate to get behind it fully considering we’re not even half-way through it yet. So what else is there from what I’ve played?

    Bioshock Infinite proved itself as a solid adventure game with minor political themes but did little to offer itself the grandeur of the original. Metal Gear Reavegeance felt like nothing more than a competent hack and slash, but unfortunately they are still trying to better Bayonetta at this point; a game which much more focus and appeal. Tomb Raider was a pretty terrible if a bit of a guilty pleasure; a description that befits DmC: Devil May Cry too.   

    My vote therefore goes to Monaco: a small but delightful game which is packed full of charm.
    I still need to get around to playing Kairo, Starseed Pilgrim and The Swapper.

  19. DrFlimFlam says:

    It’s difficult to say at this point. BioShock Infinite is probably my favorite game this year, in no small part due to the wonderful discussions had around it, but I’ve also put a LOT more time into Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem, and what I’ve played of Luigi’s Mansion (maybe halfway through at this point) has been loads of fun, too. At times frustrating, but I don’t often play games that require figuring stuff out,and this one has been good for reminding me that sometimes figuring stuff out can be fun.

  20. fieldafar says:

    Since I doubt The Walking Dead: 400 Days counts and I haven’t started The Last of Us (Thanks, Naughty Dog for making me buy a secondhand PS3), I’ll go with Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Couldn’t bother finishing the original FC3, but adding a deliberately-cheesy-80s-homage theme to the game’s mechanics has made it a winner for me.

    Runner up would have to be Tomb Raider, a well-done reboot. Hopefully there will be more in the future. I would also like to try out Kentucky Route Zero, thanks to the praise it’s getting. 

  21. thestage says:

    “I really enjoyed BioShock Infinite and was blown away by the ending, but my actual favorite is a little more, well, let’s say stupid.”


  22. SamPlays says:

    [strikes match against Drew Toal’s head and lights cigarette] 
    [disinterested tone of voice] 
    So you think Escape from New York is terrible, huh? 
    [reveals mini crossbow attached to wrist, shoots arrow through Drew Toal’s forehead] 
    Yeah, that’s what I thought.

  23. doyourealize says:

    Haven’t played too much new stuff. I’ve got Blood Dragon and Kentucky Route Zero sitting in my queue thanks to the Steam Sale, but I haven’t played either of them. Last of Us would be my choice (like @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus , the fact that I even bought a new game at full price says quite a bit), but there’s been enough said about that. Most of my time has been spent with games from last year, both Dragon’s Dogma earlier on and Skyrim, which I can’t get away from, now. I spent a glorious day replaying King’s Quest VI – thanks, GOG! Ni No Kuni, which I was reminded came out this year in these comments, was a nice game but I wouldn’t label it as my favorite anything.

    I’ll add a new game to the list. Part of my enjoyment may stem from the fact that I beat it in a single day, but Evoland was great fun. I wouldn’t put it on any “best of” lists, but I really loved the nostalgic trip from Game Boy to PS2. There’s a lot of surprises in there, and some great in-jokes. It does require a knowledge of RPG-past to enjoy, but for that reason I was smiling all the way through. There’s a lot there to love, but I don’t want to get too specific as the surprise is part of it.

  24. I’m going with a third-party Wii U exclusive* title that features hundreds of hours of play, full online features (that don’t require you to share your NNID first), local multiplayer**, and some intense boss fights against giant enemies. Yes, one exists. It’s Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. I put it down for a while to focus more on New Leaf, but Pacific Rim put me back in the mood to beat up humungous monsters so I’m back to devoting probably too much time to doing so in between my mayoral duties.

    New Leaf aside, I don’t think any other game is going to eat over 200 hours of my life this year. Maybe Pokémon X/Y, but by then my MH3U time might well be up over 300 hours.

    *Ok, and 3DS too. Nintendo-exclusive? The fact that you can transfer your save from one to the other is a giant bonus.
    **If your friends have the 3DS version.

  25. The_Misanthrope says:

    It seems somewhat telling that, despite the image at the head of this article, not too many people cited Bioshock Infinite as their favorite of the year.  I did like it and its mad fever-dream of America, but it also shares the same problem I had with the Mass Effect: it’s just too much of a slog.  The “reality tear” and skyhook mechanics did spice up combat a bit, but not quite enough.

    I would, however, like to give it up for the 400 Days DLC for The Walking Dead.  It’s a perfect little palate-cleanser of a story.  True, not all the stories quite work, but I still found the whole thing very affecting.

    As for the full-blooded game that I’m spending the most time with this year, that’s a split between Super House of Dead Ninjas and Rogue Legacy.  The latter is on par with Super Meat Boy as far as platformers go; The former takes the best bits of a rogue-like and merges it with a skill-tree mechanics.  I can only play either for short stretches of time, since both can quickly become dispiriting.

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      I loved 400 Days as well. It’s short enough that I might try playing again, to see if I can get more people to join up at the ending.

      As for Rogue Legacy and similar, I’m the opposite since I find it hard to put down. It’s partly a “one more run” kind of mentality, but every time I die, I can say to myself, “I could have avoided that.” I didn’t, obviously, but the game is never entirely unfair.

  26. Effigy_Power says:

    Considering how much I’ve played this year, certainly more than most years, I can’t really put my finger on a single game for this list. I enjoyed parts of Bioshock Infinite, but not enough to proclaim it my favorite game so far. Some parts of the plot are too hacky, some of the alternate dimension stuff too much of a MacGuffin and just generally it devolves too much into shooty action at times when I would have loved to take more of a Dishonored approach, but well.
    Kerbal Space Program isn’t really out yet, after all the game is still basically in beta, but it already has the makings of a big hit. Still, I also can’t really call this a contender for the title. It’s too frustrating, too experimental, too sandboxy to really be a game per se. It requires you to do all the work and while that can lead to moments of extreme elation, it feels more like a craft than a game.
    ArmA3 seems like it could be on to something, but again, it just started beta testing and to be honest, the single-player aspect has never been fun to me. I doubt I’ve ever completed a single goal in that game, considering that I either broke my leg stepping on some pointy rocks or the AI shot me in the face from a mile away. It’s the MP that counts in that game and only if people don’t take it too seriously.
    Warframe didn’t have the staying power, sadly, but still bowled me over with its extraordinarily amazing design. Of course becrying a Freemium game for being grindy is a little redundant, but there we are.
    Reus looked like the clear candidate for a while, but once you reach that certain point 3, 4 successful runs in, the game’s difficulty achieving something new plateaus out and since then I haven’t really gotten anything done, so nix that.
    Kinetic Void, Under the Ocean… neither one is in finished game state just yet, so also no game here.
    I guess I don’t have a favorite of 2013 yet, too many 2012 games are still in much higher regard for me. Maybe in the second half. Saints Row 4 could fill that hole in my heart, but I think in the end it will be Europa Universalis 4 that will take the prize.
    Plus I haven’t played enough Chivalry yet to judge it all the way, but it looks and feels fun and it’s from 2012 so nevermind.

    • djsubversive says:

      I hope I’ll be able to do some neat mp stuff with ArmA 3. Being able to change uniforms is a cool idea, and Rainbow Six Vegas-style weapon attachments are a good way to have a variety of weapons without needing 16 separate variants of every gun.

      Also, up to 5 people can fit in the civilian pickup truck. I found that out the other day, and I don’t know what use it has (the pickup doesn’t have guns).

      • Effigy_Power says:

        Your home-made missions were really the only time ArmA2 was fun, so I have to wonder in retrospect why I bought ArmA3 considering the experience hinges on you making awesome maps to drive around in and blow people up. I guess that puts an undue amount of pressure on you, so sorry about that. ^_^
        Now get to work, map-slave. Tank Girl wants to drive the not yet implemented armored vehicles over some people.

        • djsubversive says:

          APCs have been implemented. No tanks or BMPs, though. 

          There are submersibles now, too (but no way to remap controls for them!), so when they finally add in jet planes, we can have the whole trio of Girls – Tank, Jet, and Sub. Tanks are still going to be the most fun, of course.

          Shadowrun Returns comes out in a few hours, so tonight will be running in the shadows instead of map-slaving for the Warlord Tank Goddess. forgive me. :)

        • SamPlays says:

          Using photos of military infrastructure for map-making purposes is strictly prohibited. I’ve filed a grievance with the map-slave union.

        • djsubversive says:

          @SamPlays:disqus But Warlord Effigy said to! I can’t argue with that. Really, I can’t. She has missiles. Missiles win arguments.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          I call them ICBNags.

    • sirslud says:

      Man, that is a weird slice of games Effigy. I definitely have been keeping my eye on Kerbal Space Program, but I find I get turned off of sandbox games if I get into them too early. Warframe is really nice at the actual mechanics level – it’s fun to play – but without a millions of subscribers, you can’t hone a narrative and the amount of content required for players to give a shit. That was a tough proposition on DE’s part.

      My favorite game so far in 2013 is Antichamber. Anyone who hasn’t played it yet .. do it.

      I might try out Arma3 if they can get it to a point where the polish of the mechanics do the design scope of that series some justice.

  27. The_Misanthrope says:

    If State of Decay ever patches out the bugs, I might be tempted to pick it up.  It kind of reminds me of the browser MMORPG Urban Dead (I’m not sure if the site is still up).  I played the demo and it was smooth sailing up until I hits a massive zombie mob, at which time it became a hot unplayable mess.

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

       Really?  I didn’t know there were any game-busting bugs.  I’m about 8 hours in and have been having a blast, except when they killed my first main character because I was too slow getting there from the Diner…

      • The_Misanthrope says:

        It was pretty good up until my melee weapon broke in the midst of a 10+ zombie ambush. I figured that it was going to be a setback, but nothing that I couldn’t get out of if I just played smarter. On reflection, the smarter play would have been to bolt right away, leaving my partner to the horde. I hammered away at zombie after zombie with my fists and feet, but it only seemed to buy me a little time. If I had confidence that my AI partner could thin the herd, I could’ve just moshed with the zombies until he solved the problem, but since he kept yelling “I need help” from elsewhere in the mob, I knew that wouldn’t work. I did manage to finally disentangle myself from the midst of the mob (again, at this point, I probably should have just ran), so I decided that I would try drawing out one zombie from the herd at a time, so I would maybe have a chance to knock it down and finish it. This proved harder than I thought. It took forever to knock down (at this point, I also noticed some hits weren’t connecting) and it didn’t let me perform a “stomp head” action once I finally knocked it down. And by this time, several of his friends showed up and I was back to square one.

        On the whole, it was still better than Resident Evil: Outbreak.

  28. Roswulf says:

    The only one of 2013s Heavy Hitters I’ve played is Bioshock Infinite, which was…not the game for me. I was however very pleased with the big DLC releases of Citadel for Mass Effect and 400 Days for Walking Dead. My best gaming experiences I’ve had this year have either been with Crusader Kings 2 or Saints Row 3.

    But my favorite game of 2013 is a small game called Seven Grand Steps. By the guy behind the very interesting Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble, its essentially a computer representation of a board game. You play a family, guiding the leaders of each successive generation along the wheel of time from the dawn of civilization through the Iron Age. You watch as your family rises and falls in status, from one era to the next.  It’s a beautiful and almost meditative game that spoke to me about legacies and relationships across time in a manner not unlike how Rogue Legacy spoke to Teti. It’s currently $15 on Steam, which is admittedly a bit steep for a pretty simple, repetitive gaming experience, but I highly recommend it as an unusual and really well-crafted work.

  29. Kyle O'Reilly says:

    This year has been awesome in the fact that we’ve had amazing AAA, AA and A games come out that I can see myself playing for a long, long time.

    Rogue Legacy and State of Decay are both on my list for end of the year but they’ve been enumerated well enough already so let’s go over my tie for GotY so far.

    Proteus This game received a lot of comparisons to Dear Esther for it’s First-Person-Rambling but what puts it above the world’s saddest salt-water air simulator, i its refusal to throw anything even resembling a story at you.  It’s just a beautiful game.  No objectives, no words, no text, just an island, its music and the strange lo-fi graphics that bring it all to life.  No Proteus isn’t the most fun game of the year but it’s an experience unlike any other game to come out this year and it is an experience that I find myself coming back to over and over and over.  On days when I’m stressed from work and the numerous other real-life doldrums that hover over me, I know that I can put on y headphones and for at least an hour, go to a meditative place where all I have to do is walk and listen.

    and yes tied for GotY, Bioshock Infinite yes, this game’s hype train was the size of an up-ended empire state building and the majority of the criticism levied at it is valid but dammit, it’s ambitious, it’s emotionally engaging and most of all, it’s fun.  The biggest complaint, I hear for BI is Why all the shooting?” and yes, this world would have been awesome for some kind of RPG, but you can’t deny the shooting felt good.  The guns had weight, the Vigors (while shoehorned into the world) were varied and interesting, and the few times when they showed up, the Handymen were an absolute blast to battle against. 

    And yes, we could all have a long argument about the ending but most everyone can agree, even through its missteps, the game had something special to show people.

    When the Vox Populi are overrunning Columbia and you see a proud group of them having their picture taken over a ruined Handyman, do you remember the words in the Voxcoder tucked underneath his corpse?

    Samuel, when the spells of anger come, I want you to play this recording
    and remember that I am the proudest woman in Columbia to have been your
    wife. They said your soul was choked by the fumes in that metal box,
    but this I do not believe. And we shall meet again, on that eternal
    shore– both of us whole and smiling. I love you. I love you. I love

    I cried like a baby, and all the over-the-top exploding heads, and seemingly random time-and-space-maguffins can’t cancel out emotional moments like that.  And shit, now I’m tearing up just from thinking about it. 

    • Xtracurlyfries says:

      I’d agree if they found a more natural way to get things like that in the game than those freaking recordings.  It’s such lazy writing to rely so heavily for exposition on objects that you can easily ignore . That annoyance prevails over any emotional resonance they might have.

    • Roswulf says:

       That moment sounds wonderful- I wish it had been part of my playthrough.

      It reminds me of my favorite, non Mordin related moment in Mass Effect 3. Mass Effect 2 featured a silly side bit of dialogue concerning a Krogan and Asari romance. The characters reappear periodically- bickering about their new life in 2, the Asari worrying about her husband who has gone to war in 3. And then, as you near the end of Mass Effect 3, you find the Krogan’s corpse, and on his body a final message for his love. It wrecked me emotionally.

      One of the great strengths of sprawling virtual worlds is the ability to place these fragments of beautiful human stories on the margins. Size leads to filler (why hello New Vegas, I am playing you right now). But sometimes that filler is worth so very much.

  30. Dave Dalrymple says:

    I’ve enjoyed this year’s fleeting ASCII sensations, Candy Box and A Dark Room.

    I’m still occasionally compelled to open a Candy Box tab while I’m browsing the web. There are no more surprises, but there’s a tiny bit of randomness that keeps it from getting too stale. I enjoy trying to beat it as efficiently as possible. It provides satisfaction with minimal interaction. There are no negative consequences to letting it be.

    A Dark Room, on the other hand, uses time in a much more conventional way. There are cool-downs that force you to wait, but you’re never allowed to leave the game alone. You’ve got to keep stoking that fire. Plus, there are various random events that pause the action until you respond to the prompt. It’s familiar to anyone who has played a real-time sim or strategy game.

    • aklab says:

      Reading all the comments has made me realized that I haven’t played a single game released in 2013 other than Candy Box and A Dark Room. So I’ll say those.
      Actually, even if I had played any of the big 2013 games, I still might say Candy Box. Lord knows it took over my life and the lives of everyone dear to me for a few days.  

    • caspiancomic says:

       Oh man, I almost forgot about Candy Box and A Dark Room. I actually accidentally closed my Candy Box tab when I was a stone’s throw from victory, but there’s no way I’m going down that rabbit hole again. A Dark Room was a little easier to digest. It took hours, rather than days, to complete, is what I mean.

    • Fluka says:


  31. neodocT says:

    I’ve played most of the big, AAA, major releases this year (The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider, Blood Dragon…), but none of them struck a chord with me, like other games sometimes did. I haven’t decided if that’s because the games weren’t as good or because I’m becoming a cynical asshole, but nothing I played quite impressed me. If I had to pick a favorite it would be Bioshock Infinite. Despite it’s gameplay’s shortcomings, its setting and plot are pretty fantastic, and hearing God Only Knows from that barbershop quartet was likely my favorite gaming moment this year.

    But best game I’ve played this year, though, is definitely Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. That game is top to bottom amazing, and I strongly recommend that people pick up the MGS HD Collection to experience it. I admit that I took a while to understand how the new camouflage system would work, but that, coupled with the lack of radar and the food hunting, made for such a strong, environmental experience. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game create a living environment as well as MGS3. The game also has the most straightforward plot in the series, and the best bosses. It’s so filled with little details and awesome moments (the ladder! the Sorrow’s fight! impersonating Raikov!) that this is easily the best game I’ve played all year.

    • Sam_Barsanti says:

      MGS3 is actually my favorite game ever. It’s not THE BEST game ever, but it does so many cool things that no other game does, and the straightforwardness you cited gives the whole Metal Gear saga some grounding. It’s not at all surprising that Kokima keeps going back to Big Boss’ story.

    • ocelotfox says:

       I went back and replayed MGS 3: HD earlier this year as well, and I was immediately reminded why it’s one of my favorite games.  The stealth system is fun to play with, the environments so varied and (still) beautiful, and a story that seemed more James Bond-style espionage than the glutted mess of modern technology jargon that MGS 2 had left us with.  And surprisingly, the HD update actually made the game look appreciably better (though you can really see the lack of mouth animations).

      • neodocT says:

        I liked the graphics and level design in Snake Eater, but as far as looking good, MGS2 looks gorgeous in the HD collection. Yeah, the character models are a bit off, but otherwise it’s a fantastic looking game. 

    • GaryX says:

      God, that game is so great. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • indy2003 says:

      I have to go with Bioshock: Infinite, too, and completely agreed on the God Only Knows moment. The opening and closing stretches of the game were strong enough to overwhelm any little problems I may have had along the way.

    • stepped_pyramids says:

      o/~ I’m stiiiiiill in a dreeeeeam, Snaaake Eaterrrrrrrr o/~

      MGS3 is so much better than anything else Kojima has ever done that it’s almost suspicious.I like to watch people play it more than I like playing it, though — I’m terrible at keeping track of the jillion buttons on the PS2 controller.

  32. GaryX says:

    I think I would have loved Blood Dragon a lot more if it was played more straight. It’s funny, but part of the charm of films like Escape from New York is the total, sincere commitment to the project. If it had been a little more serious, I think it actually could have been funnier. It was clearly trying to balance the line between sincerity & irony; I just think it went too far towards the latter.
    I think the only other new game I’ve played this year is Bioshock: Infinite. I’ve been slacking.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      The game is fun, and I like playing distilled Far Cry well enough, but yes, it’s a bit too on the nose.

      • GaryX says:

        Yeah, I want my legit Escape from New York. Give me that please.

        I did enjoy Blood Dragon more than Far Cry 3, which started out fantastic and then did an almost impressive nosedive in quality as the game went on.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      I think Airplane! and Airplane 2! are a good example of it. In the first movie everyone played their part with absolute and never-waving gravitas, just like they did in the movies they were spoofing. That’s what made these absurd jokes so funny. The characters were never in on the joke. The second movie didn’t quite hit it like that and so jokes often fell flat because the characters acknowledged them.
      Absurd and outrageous humor is only funny if it’s played straight up and nobody points at the jokes and goes “Hey, look how funny this shit is.”

  33. ChicaneryTheYounger says:

    Easily The Last of Us for story, world building, character and character-gameplay interaction (i.e. the gameplay serves to build Joel and Ellie as people).

    For sheer fun, and despite it’s problematic as fuck sexism and nu-metal edginess, DmC was a great game. Probably my second favourite of the year so far.

    I think that’s all I’ve played that came out this year, actually.

  34. billjonesink says:

    I enjoyed the list — a good mix of stuff I was like “hell yeah, that better be on there” and a few I haven’t played and now need to check out. Thanks for the suggestions.

  35. jakemckenzie says:

    I think it’s quite important to distinguish between your favourite & best games you played so far in 2013. Personally I don’t think much else holds a candle to the excellence in design of both Rogue Legacy & Civilization V Brave New World, that said I think Ryan Smith answer the question quite honestly. I think overwhelming joy I had from “Haunt the House”, the Synecdoche, New York-esque ending of The Swapper or Anodyne’s engrossing trip through the bias self-conscious. Those three experiences do as they are intended but as pure games they don’t reinvent the wheel mechanically. That said I would still probably pin either Rogue Legacy or Brave New World as my favourites so far, and I can’t be arsed to choose. 

  36. Sanford Abernethy says:

    I can’t bring myself to play The Last of Us. It just looks like yet another incredibly bland game intended to coast by on the fact that it’s incredibly zeitgeisty. How many games have we seen in the past couple years where a morally ambiguous man becomes a father figure to a young girl in a fallen, steadily collapsing and doomed society?

    Maybe it’s not huge as a subset of all games ever, but the fact that at least three of them got huge wads of critical acclaim despite not really having much going on in the gameplay department (The Last of Us based on videos I’ve seen, Bioshock Infinite, and The Walking Dead) is incredibly irksome to me because I sort of feel like they’re getting praise not for being good games, but for being written for the increasingly aged games media. They make the common mistake of confusing parenthood with profundity and I kinda wish they’d just fuck off.

    • neodocT says:

       I get where you’re coming from, and I agree that the setting and premise of The Last of Us is very unoriginal. Where it really stands out, though, is that the script is excellent, and the gameplay is a tense, strategic affair, that seems to me much more reminiscent of a weird mix of MGS and Resident Evil than it does one of the Uncharted games.

      It’s a bit overrated, and the hype is huge, but it is a very good game, one that deserves its high ratings. Definitely recommended.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      I believe that you’re correct about a lot of the media, and The Last Of Us is not as smart as it thinks it is.  However, I have no love for Naughty Dog, and I think it’s fantastic with very few caveats.  I think Bioshock Infinite is mediocre and The Walking Dead is garbage.

      The narrative theme is, indeed, undercooked and old hat, but the intellectual themes that emerge from the gameplay are very smart.

  37. Andy Tuttle says:

    Of the several games I purchased this year, only one actually came out in 2013, and that was Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded. I wouldn’t call it my favorite game that I’ve played this year, that would probably be Borderlands 2, but since that came out last year LSL:R wins by default.

  38. Fluka says:

    Man, I don’t think I’ve played a new full-length AAA game so far this year.  Obviously there’ve been some great games, but somehow nothing which has really captured my imagination enough to actually buy it.  Too many man-shooters.  So it’s been all about the indies and DLCs instead.  (And of course, the backlog.)

    Lots already said about KR0, which is a pretty strong contender for me so far.  Also have to put in a word for Proteus, which (echoing Kyle O’Reilly’s  comments above) is probably one of the most relaxing games I’ve ever played.  Chilling in the woods next to an owl and watching the moon rise maaaaaan.  (Talking about this game makes me want to end every sentence in “maaaaan”, maaaaan.)  It’s the perfect counterpoint to an culture in love with inaccessibility, violence, and high-fidelity graphics.  Plus, best ending of the year.  Maaaaaan.

    Also, I’m nothing if not predictable, so I also loved Mass Effect: Citadel, which was the game equivalent of eating a giant bag of delicious candy.  It somehow managed to walk the line between providing a real sense of closure and emotional resonance, and being hilariously self-mocking.  

    2013 games I bought this year that I really should finish: Antichamber, The Swapper, Gunpoint, Remember Me.

    2013 games I am still looking forward to: Sir You Are Being Hunted, Quadrilateral Cowboy, Watchdogs (WITH EXTREME CAUTION AND SUSPICION).

    • SamPlays says:

      As a matter of transitivity, does this mean that if I eat a giant bag of delicious candy, then it’s no longer necessary to actually play Mass Effect: Citadel? Now I’m kind of worried to play it because the implied emotional resonance will probably include feelings of guilt, shame and disgust.

      • Fluka says:

        Nah, it’s more satisfying than guilt-inducing!  If there’s any guilt, it comes mostly from the fact that the main plot is utterly ridiculous.  Like, Saturday morning cartoon style ridiculous.  As long as you don’t think that space opera needs to be serious business, you should be fine.  Also there is a dance party and all your squadmates get drunk.

        • SamPlays says:

          A “serious business” space opera would tear the space-time continuum apart. The more purple, the better. And the dance party sounds AWEsome.

      • Effigy_Power says:

         As long as they are not Lucky Charms Marshmallows. Those things are toxic beyond what should be labelled as food*.

        *Warning: Lucky Charms are neither cereal, food nor lucky. Or charming.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      I am optimistically looking forward to Sir you are being Hunted, it just looks like zany fun and the Upper-class British Gentlemen Robots just look fun.
      Watch Dogs however fuels my inner cynic. Every trailer so far has been awesome and full of amazing hacks and impromptu decisions, but I am really unconvinced that the game will play like that. Especially the bit where the main character raises those roadblocks seconds before the cop car shoots past. I have yet to see a game that gives me that kind of peripheral vision and situational awareness to pull that off, so I am still really quite convinced that the game looks a lot less smooth and devolves much more into shooty-time for people who don’t know ever single 1 and 0 in it. That said I am looking forward to the opportunity of being proven wrong here. Games that positively surprise me are rare, so I am hoping for one here.

      • Fluka says:

        Yeah, pretty much.  The gameplay *sounds* great, and it looks great in trailers, but I worry that it’s actually going to be nothing special.  And the plot and characters of the game otherwise don’t really catch my attention.  So I am…cautiously optimistic?  Enthusiastically pessimistic?  Basically, waiting for reviews.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          How can you not be instantly drawn in by “white dude with second hand coat and baseball cap”? WHAT DO YOU WANT?

          PS: Another danger of that roadblock-example of course is that this happens in the game every 12 minutes or so, by which time it will just seem silly.
          That said, the non-lethal shooting action so far has really been a refreshing thing.

      • Andy Tuttle says:

        I always get Watch Dogs confused with Sleeping Dogs, and I own Sleeping Dogs.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          There’s a good example for a game that didn’t faze me much with its trailers, which focused almost entirely on the environmental kills and looked very gory. Yet the game turned out to be the thinking Gamer’s GTA, while being better at just about everything that made GTA GTA.
          Thanks to @Merve2:disqus for droning on and on about it until I bought it.

        • Andy Tuttle says:

          Right? It looked really bland and generic when I saw trailers for it, but it was 5 bucks during the Steam sale so I figured I’d give it a try. I’ve been enjoying it so far, kind of like a cross between Yakuza, Shenmue and GTA. Three games I really love.

  39. Chalkdust says:

    Do we have to limit ourselves to games that came out in this year?  Because if not, both Persona 4 Golden and Virtue’s Last Reward have, hands down, been the most enjoyable gaming experiences of this year for me.  Both games had me utterly giddy for their full duration, so that’s well over 100 hours of pure fun (there were times in playing VLR that, after some beautiful string of plot twists and revelations, I literally had to get up and wander around to calm myself down).

    As for stuff that came out this year?

    Bioshock Infinite didn’t pull together as elegantly as I hoped.
    The Last of Us I haven’t finished.
    Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon I haven’t finished.
    Tomb Raider I’m actually really enjoying, and am close to finishing.  I gotta do a big write-up once I’m done (stay tuned!)
    Project X Zone has been really enjoyable but again I’m not finished (are you noticing this problem I have?)
    Shin Megami Tensei IV, if I can get past my current roadblock (and onto the next roadblock!), will probably take the crown, though.

  40. TheMostPopularCommenter says:

    Dark Moon.

  41. lokimotive says:

    This thread is really making me annoyed that I have no way to play The Last of Us.

  42. Piss_Pissedofferson says:

    “watching iconic terrible movies like Escape From New York..”
    My Dear sir I’m going to politely ask that you go outside and play ‘Hide and go fuck yourself’

  43. Bioshock Infinite was good, but it was way too stuck up its own ass; plus justifying gameplay constraints with pseudo-clever meta-storytelling is getting pretty cop-out-ish. Tomb Raider was good, but it SO MUCH wants to be a movie that I almost felt I was getting in the way with my attempting to play it.

    My GOTY 2013 is Remember Me, hands down. How is it that RM didn’t automatically achieve Beyond Good & Evil’s/Mirror’s Edge’s status of cult phenomenon right off the bat, I’ll never know. For me, Nilin stands right up there with Jade and Faith, and the game was not only gorgeous to look at, but crazy (and I mean CRAZY, like, flawless, out-and-out, start-a-new-playthrough-just-as-soon-as-the-credits-finish-rolling-crazy) fun to play. 

    Sure it had issues, but every single thing it does, it does it right. In my opinion, it just need more of everything: Larger world, more freedom for the acrobatics, more memory remixes, more clue-based puzzles, and even more combos. 

    So, in short the only complaints I could have about RM would be easily fixed by a sequel with a larger budget on which Dontnod can apply everything they learned. Which I’m hoping is a thing that will happen.

  44. boardgameguy says:

    i’m a little surprised that Teti didn’t go for Starseed Pilgrim given how glowing the review was. or that it hasn’t been mentioned by anyone. did anyone like that game beyond Teti and Jonathan Blow?

  45. Kyle Pinion says:

    The Last of Us is a damn compelling experience, pulling me in the same way the Arkham Games and Mass Effect series did. I also really enjoyed Injustice, it just tickled that DC funnybone of mine and was the kind of fighting game that had enough bells and whistles that I didn’t get bored of it after a few days.

    Then there’s Bioshock Infinite, which I think I wouldn’t have enjoyed if I liked FPS’s but I thought its concept was pretty compelling, I just found the gameplay so monotonous after awhile.

  46. Brain Stew says:

    If the Last of Us were just a great story I’d say fuck it, but there’s a real sense of desperation to the way it plays with so much of it spent rifling through drawers and cabinets looking for the basics needed to survive just a little longer -especially on the harder difficulty settings. Then there’s the visceral thrill of the combat which is loose and dirty and CRUNCH. Running into a crazed infected and cracking its head open with a metal pipe has never felt so wrong or right and the fact that the game is interested in what happens after you do, usually a gutsy but stupid move, is what makes it genius. It’s my pick for reasons that go well beyond the much praised story.