I would like to preface this by saying that I am not a curator, and I’m not going to fill my list with a bunch of games that “pushed” the medium forward just because I’m afraid the taste police are going to show up to my house. These are games that I genuinely enjoyed unabashedly, and all of them are the ‘Citizen Kane of gaming’ in my eyes. So, without further ado I present my favorite games of 2013.
5. NBA 2K14 (Next-Gen)
Taking up the number five spot we have NBA 2K14, which is visually the best looking game on the next-gen consoles, and the most accurate representation of Kobe Bryant in a video game ever. For those that don’t know, Kobe has had a rough year and is on the downside of his career. It’s really depressing when you think about it, however, NBA 2K14 allows me to mow over the Heat at my discretion in the best sports game I’ve played since NFL 2K5, and that alone is reason enough for it to be on my top 5.
4. BioShock Infinite
BioShock Infinite felt like watching Donnie Darko for the first time, and it sent me down a deep, dark rabbit hole. For the most part am not a forum type of guy, but I was reading crazy theories all over the Internet till the wee hours of the morning after completing this game. I thought about it for weeks, even months after I played it; I even quote the damn thing. I can recall so many great things about BioShock Infinite; using the Skyhook for the first time, the musical performances, the Lutece twins, Wounded Knee, there’s honestly too much to list.
3. Tomb Raider
Coming in third on my list is a game that genuinely surprised me, especially after the backlash it got for one particular scene. Tomb Raider is a reboot of a franchise that has been around since I can remember, and have thoroughly loathed the entirety of my life, but I’m glad to say I am a not just a fan, I am a fanatic when it comes to the reboot. It does a plethora of things perfectly, and traversal is one of them, using the pulley and pickaxe never gets old. Lara jumping across a chasm and me pressing the X button to hear the satisfying “thunk” when she caught her pickaxe into the side of a cliff remains in my mind. Tomb Raider’s is also the second best Metroidvania-esque, gear-gating game that came out this year — the first one is number two on my list.
Next, is a game that may have slid under the watchful eye of the internet zeitgeist; Guacamelee. The game excels at the basic, yet essential, parts of a “Metroidvania” style game, while changing the formula enough for it to feel new. The platforming is so good Mario should go back to being a plumber, and the combat is better than anything I have played in a while. That’s not me being hyperbolic, the game is that good. It is also a game that tested my dexterity, and sometimes my patience, yet it felt unfathomably good when I was able to complete a challenge I was beating my head against for hours. Drink Box, makers of Guacamelee, is the bomb diggity, and I will buy anything from them in the future.
1. The Last of Us
First and foremost, is The Last of Us a game that, quite frankly, I may never play again, but that’s because of Naughty Dog’s ability to make me emotionally invested in their characters. Joel and Ellie’s journey was bleak, morbid, gruesome, grating and bunch of other incredibly morose adjectives. The Last of Us as a game that takes advantage of, well, everything. Firstly, Naughty Dog shows they can do environmental story, and every single place you encounter in The Last of Us is crafted in such a way it is able to communicate who lived there, how they lived, and what happened when the outbreak began.
Troy Baker (Joel) and Ashley Johnson (Ellie) bring these environments to life by turning in some of the best motion capture performances I have personally ever seen. There was actual acting going on with their facial expressions communicating intent, or reaction, instead of dialogue. In addition to all the other things The Last of Us gets right, combat is excellent. For me, it nailed the balance between realism and remaining a game. Items were scarce, but never felt unattainable.
Another thing I absolutely love about Naughty Dog were their subtle moments that are effective in their message, but minimal in execution. Who can forget finding Bill’s partner? Or what the ending conveyed with just eye movement. The Last of Us is an emotionally tiring game, and completing it is draining. However, at the center of that is the story of a man that transforms from a monster to something recognizable as a human being, thanks to his love for Ellie.