For me, 2013 was about change. Life changes, career changes, and changes in the way I play and enjoy games. Almost every game I truly loved this year would never be found on a GameStop store shelf, and they brought me immensely more value than any number of AAA titles. I was looking forward to developers improving existing formulas this year, but instead I got completely new experiences that I wouldn't have dreamed of just a few years ago. Here are a few of my favorites.
Favorite Game Released Before 2013, Played in 2013: Borderlands 2
I loved the first Borderlands, but never got around to the sequel last year. I expected more of the same, and while Borderlands 2 delivers that, the improvements and additional content Gearbox brought to the follow-up give it more longevity than the original.
5. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
The last Zelda game I was interested in was 1998's Ocarina of Time, and I never played A Link to the Past for more than a few minutes, so A Link Between Worlds was a very pleasant surprise. The changes to the item system lend the game a much more relaxed progression with less frustration, and the game's style is gorgeous.
4. The Stanley Parable
Everyone who cares about games should play The Stanley Parable. It's funny, clever, and profound in a way that so few games ever reach. Maybe it's commentary on games in general and maybe it's not, but either way, every second of the game kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next.
#3: BIT.TRIP Presents... Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
Most highly-anticipated games these days fall short of expectations. Runner2 not only delivers on all its promises, it does so much more. It's a rare gem that perfectly accomplishes everything it sets out to do without flaw, and the music is sublime.
#2: Dota 2
I'd always ignored MOBAs due to their RTS pedigree, but then I decided to give Dota 2 a shot. More than a game, it's a force of nature. It's not only the game I've played most this year, it's the first game to ever get me interested in watching other people play the competitive scene. And all of that comes at the low, low price of free.
#1: Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons
In a year filled with great narrative-based games, Brothers does more than just deliver the greatest emotional impact, it invents an entirely new method of storytelling that literally — and I don't use that word lightly — made my jaw drop. Don't make the mistake of writing it off as an action puzzler. If you care about story in games, you owe it to yourself to set aside a few hours, turn out the lights, and play through Brothers in a single sitting. You wont' be disappointed.
Honorable Mention: Tearaway, Guacamelee!, Rogue Legacy, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, Risk of Rain