2013 was a unique year for me gaming wise. It was one of the first years I had a gaming capable PC, and it was also the first “next-gen” year in which I could actually go out and buy my own console. I tried to base my top 5 list solely off of hours played, but games with strong stories reigned supreme this year. My number one pick may lead to scratch your head, but Dota 2 is a unique experience, one that involves several tens of hours to even begin to understand how deep the game really is. 2014 is shaping up to be another 2007, where next-gen finds its footing and we start getting games that will make dropping hundreds of dollars on a new console worthwhile.
5. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
I’m a huge sucker for immersion, and Assassin’s Creed IV made me feel like quite the pirate. Whether I was lurching my ship over rogue waves, hunting for buried treasure, or using “dancers” to distract guards, ACIV put its hooks in me and would not let go.
The only other game I could compare to ACIV‘s level of immersion(besides my #3) was Red Dead Redemption, which was my Game of the Year in 2010. That says a lot to me, seeing as how terrible I thought last years Assassin’s Creed III was. Between the story mission that I actually wanted to play, and the collectibles that I actually wanted to find, ACIV kept me coming back. Also, it was another game to keep my glorious Xbox One warm.
4. Bioshock Infinite
To this date, Bioshock Infinite is the only game in which I had beaten, set the controller down, and then immediately called my BFF (fellow writer Terrence Vitali) to discuss the ending. He had lived in California at the time, and we almost never spoke on the phone, but that call lasted a half-hour. My jaw was on the floor. Ken Levine and crew managed to write a story that on paper should have been a cluster fuck.
Time travel and various dimensions are not something that is easily digestible, but through our medium of video games, Irrational was able to deliver one of the most memorable moments in gaming. While the gameplay was nothing new, and at some points down right frustrating, the execution of the story was something to marvel. Infinite is one of those games that will stick with me, despite only playing through it once.
3. The Last of Us
Naughty Dog’s recent track record is nothing to scoff at. The Uncharted series was pretty much what made me buy a PS3. They have consecutively released three AAA games to glowing reviews. How did they fare on a new, original IP? Well, this is pretty much the no-brainer of the year. Gripping story, tight gameplay, and graphics so good it makes me wonder whether or not they have a black mage working for them.
Like I stated above for Assassin’s Creed IV, The Last of Us was all about immersion for me. I WAS Joel. One moment, in particular, that stands out for me was when Joel and Ellie and just crashed their car into a store. As I gained control of Joel, I noticed there was a thug on top of Ellie. Before checking my environment, or looking for any other threats, I sprinted towards the thug and immediately kicked his face in. Joel and I had the same goal, to protect this girl. I actually had feelings for pixels on my screen. A bunch of ones and zeros had managed to give me goosebumps, and nearly brought me to tears on a few occasions (that opening). While Bioshock Infinite has “The Moment,” TLoU is about all of the little moments put together to breed something that will stick with me for years to come.
2 . Grand Theft Auto V
While I believe the story in Grand Theft Auto V is not as memorable as my number 3 or 4, I have to say it is straight-up more FUN. Don’t get me wrong, Rockstar has some of the best writers out there. Michael, Trevor and Franklin are all expertly crafted leads, to the point where I had a hard time choosing which one I wanted to play as most. While I felt that switching between characters often didn’t help a lot with the narrative, it definitely led to some of the most thrilling gameplay I have experienced this generation.
There are so many memorable missions in GTA V, that I cannot pick a single favorite. Was it shooting down the jet and trailing it on a dirt bike? Chasing a crazed women through an airport, with police cars tumbling every direction from a departing jets turbine? Not only were the characters and missions memorable, but the city and surrounding countryside of Los Santos is a place I will keep visiting for years to follow. I’m having a hard time keeping this paragraph so short, because there is so much I loved about this game. Excellent music, superb graphics, hilarious physics, tight gameplay, chuckle-inducing multiplayer….it goes on and on. Between all of this, I believe GTA V is the first true “next-gen” game, and it came out on consoles that are nearly ten years old.
1. Dota 2
What am I thinking? A Free-to-Play game that has been in beta for three years? At number one!?! Yep. Dota 2, is my most played game of the year, and it will be my most played game of the following year, and likely the year after that. With the exception of World of Warcraft during is golden years, no game has even come close to touching my hours spent on Dota 2. The thing is, I still have so much more to learn. The fact that I can spend 700 hours on a game with one map is mind blowing to me. It also helps that the game is being made by Valve, arguably the best developer out there.
The amount of tiny details they have put into the game, and the way they have listened to their players, will keep me coming back for another 700 hours. The incredibly high skill ceiling and learning curve leads to the most rewarding and frustrating game I have ever played. Despite the crappy community, the anger-inducing games, and the anxiety I feel when I hit the “Find Match” button, Dota 2 will always find a way to make me miss it when I’m not playing.