My gaming tastes feel like they’ve warped a bit this year. Is 35 the age you start drastically changing? I played quite a few games in 2013, but not many of them were current-gen console titles. I’ve been more likely to dig into smaller and/or indie games.
First, let’s address how I’ve done at my original goal, which is to not buy anything in the year from October 10, 2012 to October 10, 2013. So yeah, I definitely bought games. However, I probably bought less games than I have since before I joined the game industry (late 1999). That’s something to be proud of, right? Eh.
Now, let’s look at some gameplay stats. According to my calculations (I keep an Excel sheet), I played 123 different games this year. 55 of those were for iDevices. Only 32 were physical disc/cart games. 38 were games I had played prior to 2013.
I completed 22 games this year. Here’s a little about each one, in chronological order:
XCOM: Enemy Unknown (360) – My game of the year 2012
Lost Cubes (iPad) – I like puzzlers where you trace lines on a grid
Dust: An Elysian Tale (360) – Cute and engaging Metroidvania type
Halo 4 (360) – Some of the best narrative for a Halo game, which isn’t saying much
Unfinished Swan (PS3) – Artsy game that expertly plays with your mind
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (360) – Can’t compare to original, but still a fine game
Metal Gear Solid HD: MGS 2 (PS3) – I beat it on PS2. It definitely holds up
ZOE HD Collection: ZOE 1 (360) – 1st big game I reviewed (PS2). Repetitive but fun
Super Mario 3D Land (3DS) – My favorite 3D Mario. Quantity and quality
Scurvy Scallywags (iOS) – Puzzler that wore on me while keeping me hooked
DLC Quest (PC) – Clever quick little game. Beat it on 360 years back
DLC Quest: Live Freemium or Die (PC) – Sequel to DLC Quest; good follow-up
To the Moon (PC) – Virtual storybook that elicits emotion. Hope Kate plays some time
Silent Hill 2 (Xbox) – Games Radar gave it best story award, so I went back and finished
Hotline Miami (PC) – A murder simulator meets arcade puzzle action. Very satisfying
Papers Please (PC) – Who thought I’d love being border patrol for 3rd-world nation?
Guacamelee (PS3) – Stylish Metroidvania that wasn’t quite what I hoped. I still 100%’d
9-9-9 (DS) – Graphic adventure game I abandoned. Glad I returned for true ending
Bioshock Infinite (PS3) – I was fairly blown away by this one
Nimble Quest (iPhone) – A near-perfect portable game. I thoroughly completed it
NBA Jam (360) – My best friend was in town, so we played through this throwback
Starship Damrey (3DS) – Atmospheric adventure game was creepy and captivating
And now, I’ll name my top 5 games of 2013. Keep in mind that – as I mentioned above – I didn’t play a ton of the year’s big releases. Obviously, I can only talk about games I’ve personally experienced. Thus, this list will be missing some obvious darlings.
5. Papers Please – Steam (buy it)
I already wrote quite a bit about this game here, so I’ll keep this brief. Since that post, I finished the game then starting over with a new philosophy (obey the rules). It’s amazing how games don’t need to be about shooting or punching, and can immerse you in something as menial as checking people’s IDs at a border crossing – provided they’re done right. Papers Please is done right.
4. Animal Crossing: New Leaf – 3DS (buy it)
This is the third Animal Crossing game with which I’ve had a whirlwind love affair. It’s an intense couple of months of almost daily playing, then I eventually taper off to not touching it. Such is the case when you build a world for me to live in – and in this new installment, to run: Absence makes the heart grow colder.
Even still, Animal Crossing is awesome when you’re tweaking your house and earning bells and chilling with your homies. New Leaf finally takes all of that to new levels, and doesn’t just feel like a simple expansion of the 2002 GameCube (American) original. There’s the island, and the online home-touring component, and mayoral customization. Kate and I played a combined 150 hours in 2 months, according to my 3DS. That’s a crazy figure, and if I never touch it again it was well worth the investment.
3. Nimble Quest – iPhone (buy it)
A great mobile game, to me, encompasses this formula. 1) You can play it for a couple minutes or a couple hours. 2) Its gameplay and controls are suited for a touchscreen. 3) There is ample game progression and character advancement, and maybe even some leaderboard chasing on top of it. Judging by it being on my Games of 2013 list, you can image Nimble Quest checks off all those factors.
You form an obedient row of heroes that snakes through small-ish levels, fulfilling a bad-guy-destroying quota while grabbing power-ups and currency. You can die easily; or you can spend 20 minutes on one life. That currency will level-up everyone’s health, or boost one specific character. You’ll want to unlock everyone, level-up everyone, and work your way up the leaderboard. It’s habit-forming without becoming “a problem.”
2. Grand Theft Auto 5 – PS3 (buy it)
Rockstar so often sets both design and graphical goals that appear unreachable, yet they so rarely disappoint. GTAV should go down as one of the best games of this generation. Its setting, characters, and gameplay are all second to none, and it looks/sounds amazing. It’s one of the few surviving members of the “done when it’s done” school of game creation. I wish more companies and franchises would follow suit.
The timing for GTAV for me was maybe its only flaw. My PS3 died while I was in the middle of the game. As such, I had an involuntary sabbatical. Even now that I replaced my console (thanks, Black Friday), I haven’t really gone back to it. That will change. However, it results in the game only getting the #2 spot.
1. Bioshock Infinite – PS3 (buy it)
I didn’t complete the original Bioshock. I got frustrated by a Big Daddy fight and shelved it. I know I should go back and complete it. But regardless of that, HOLY CRAP is Bioshock Infinite a great game! It gives us a world and a relationship basically never before seen in the medium. 1900 city in the clouds? America’s founding fathers as gods? A utopia with a not-so-subtle race relations problem? A companion with trippy powers who doesn’t get in your way? Every one of these is compelling.
I see people bagging on certain aspects of Infinite. Maybe it’s pretentious; maybe it doesn’t actually make a strong statement about some of its subject matter. To me, at least it’s going there. I rarely spent 5 minutes without truly enjoying myself, and the ending is well worth the journey – even if it took me a bit to wrap my head around it.
– Justin Leeper (@StillManFights)