I’m continually amazed each year by the kinds of stories that videogames are willing to tell and the worlds they can create. 2013 is no different. From para-dimensional offices to post-apocalyptic Russia to a computer simulation in a computer simulation to a vacation house by the sea, this has been a phenomenal year to be part of the gaming community. But there are always too many game to play. When I think of what it means to be game of the year, I think of games that embodies the idea of “must play.” They’re games that no matter what genre, no matter what platform, they should be experiences by everyone. No games I’ve played in 2013 meet that description quite like these do.
Favorite Game Released Before 2013, Played in 2013: Alpha Protocol
Alpha Protocol is like Mass Effect-light. While similar, the combat is not as good, the writing is not to the same quality and the world is not as interesting. While that may sound like it’s terrible, remember that I am comparing this to my favorite game of all time. Few games enrapture me the way the Alpha Protocol did this summer. A game that I often thought about purchasing but never did, due to other’s warning, it completely surprised me and remained my sole topic of interest for many of our summer episodes of the Darkcast. While it’s not a game that I would easily recommend, it is one that I thoroughly enjoyed.
5. Saints Row IV
I loved Saints Row The Third. Correction, I love Saints Row The Third. It is a monument to all that is good in a games. Saints Row IV is not. Even so, Saints Row IV is an amazingly good time that somehow satisfies my need for a new Saints Row, Crackdown and Just Cause all at the same time. Let me put it this way, I liked Saints Row IV so much that I bought, played and beat Saints Row 1 and 2 for the first time immediately after finishing it. And that first game is kind of terrible. Plus, it’s the best superhero video game. Ever.
4. The Stanley Parable
There’s not much I can say about The Stanley Parable without giving away what makes it such an exceptional experience. It’s a game about dichotomies. It’s a game about choice and consequence. It’s a game about how much free agency we have as players and about how little. It’s a game with no plot but a great story. And it’s one of the very few games that has a message intrinsic to the medium in which it lives. It’s a game that has to be a game but is barely a game at all.
3. Rayman Legends
Had I played Rayman Origins when it launched it would have been on my Top 5 list for 2011. I vowed never to make a mistake like that happen again. I went so far as to pre-order a Wii U in order to play it’s sequel, Rayman Legends, to honor that vow. Thankfully that sacrifice was not asked of me and I played it on an Xbox. Even if it had, it would have been worth it. Legends is easily one of the finest games of 2013 but it is also one of the best platformers I’ve ever played. It’s colorful, it’s goofy, it’s melodies are charming and it is a blast to play. I cannot complement it enough,Rayman Legends is the greatest Rayman game of all time.
2. The Novelist
I heard about The Novelist earlier this year but forgot all about it until the day it released. Instantly my curiosity peaked and I bought it on impulse. That was one of my best decisions of 2013. The Novelist maybe an odd game but it is also one with a touching story of a father trying to balance his, his wife’s and his sons needs. Not since The Walking Dead have I felt the weight of my every decision. The Novelist requires you to ponder how much you’re willing to sacrifice, not to save the known universe, the human race or even the country, but to see yours or your family's happiness come to fruition. It is without a doubt the most human experience I’ve had in a video game. And not just 2013.
1. Metro Last Light
Shooters were my first love, Defender my first game and Star War Jedi Knight the first game to earn the title “favorite.” But shooters have escalated to the point where the individual enemy is no longer a threat, ammo is essentially unlimited and everything moves so quickly that you don’t have time to soak it all in. Metro Last Light is the solutions to the modern shooter-woes. I could tell you that it delivers an experience in an fantastically frightening world with great enemies, a compelling narrative and with gunplay that is rock solid, but that wouldn’t sum up half of the reasons that Metro Last Light is my game of the year. There’s so much personality and sentiment packed into this game. From the ruins of post-war Russia to the clustered groups of long-dead people to the little friend you make along the journey, Light Last begs you stop and smell every rose. Because you never know when it will wither.
Honorable Mentions: Gone Home, Gunpoint, Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, Splinter Cell Blacklist, State of Decay
Jonathan is the host of the DarkCast, DarkCast Interviews, and Gamers Read. He loves books, video games, and superheroes. If he had to pick favorites, they would be Welcome to the Monkey House, Mass Effect, and Superman respectively.