GOTY

The past year has been very busy for gaming, highlighted by the corporate shuffling of Take Two and Atlus, the launch of several next generation video games consoles, and, of course, the release of some spectacular games. In fact, there were more great games than any one person could hope to play. So, with all of the outstanding titles out there, what did I find to be my Best of 2013? Well, read on, friends, and I’ll explain.

#5 Gunpoint – PC

This indie title is a bit on the brief side, so it might have flown under people’s radar. However, the noir setting, along with the game’s bizarre premise and sense of humor, caught my eye immediately. Playing as some bizarre mash up of super spy and Spider Man proved to be endlessly amusing, especially since the dialogue trees allowed me to play my character off as a snarky bastard with a heart of gold. The hacking mechanic, while making absolutely no earthly sense, made for many interesting approaches to each of the levels. Tricking guards into opening doors, wiring light switches to make guns go off, and tackling a man out of a 12th story window are all equally viable and equally hilarious. It was over far too soon, but I’m sure I’ll find myself replaying Gunpoint sometime soon, if only so I can see what happens when you punch a guard in the face 1,000 times.

Gunpoint title
#4 Shin Megami Tensei IV – 3DS

Without a doubt the biggest JRPG I’ve ever seen on a handheld, SMT IV proved every bit as capable as its console predecessors. With  hundreds of demons, monsters, heroes, and angels to meet, talk to, fight, and recruit, players have near endless ways to customize their party and skill set. Probably the most impressive aspects about this game are the changes that make the game so much more approachable and user friendly. Adjustments to the saving system, a stream-lined fusion mechanic, and the ability to tailor your main character to your liking all help to reduce frustration and give a more empowering experience. While the opening chapters will have you begging for mercy, by the end you’ll feel like a god as you kick bosses’ teeth in. Even so, SMT IV maintains its high level of challenge, making every encounter seem important and dangerous.

SMT 4 box
#3 Bioshock Infinite – PC

After a long wait, the third game in the Bioshock franchise hit earlier this year with quite a bang, and for good reason. Like Rapture before it, Columbia is a beautifully realized world, one that manages to tell a story all by itself. From the cult of crows to the monstrous heavy hitters, every aspect of the game demonstrates the amount of thought and effort that went into them.  The game also sounds amazing, with some of the best voice work I’ve ever heard. All of this just helps to reinforce the game’s story, which includes the most fun and interesting twists and turns I’ve even seen. Its not very often that your game brings up quantum physics, and the last few hours of the game are something I’ll remember for years. The gunplay, while not the highlight of the game, is very solid well; each of the weapons and vigors have a distinct feel to them, and are very satisfying to use. Bioshock Infinite also just received some DLC that I haven’t had a chance to experience yet, but looks just as awesome as the main game.

Bioshock Infinite Reverse Cover
#2 Fire Emblem Awakening – 3DS

After skipping the DS entries in the series, I was waiting with great anticipation for Awakening to release early this year, and I wasn’t disappointed. The new art style managed to find a comfortable balance between the more detailed 3D models of the console games and the hyperactive sprite work of the Game Boy Advance titles, making every clash more fun to watch. The story was suitably epic, with a final boss encounter that leaves quite an impression. The coolest thing about the game, however, is its use of time travel, and how it incorporates that story point into so many other aspects of the game. Upon nurturing characters to the highest Social Link, you would then be able to recruit a new time-traveling companion, who would just so happen to be the child of those two characters. This mechanic made me care that much more about each of my soldiers that much more, which made me strive even harder to keep as many alive as I could. Fire Emblem Awakening is probably the game that I’ve sunk the most time into this year, and while it could be a bit punishing at times, I enjoyed every minute of it.

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#1 The Last of Us – PS3

While I’m sure that this entry will not be all that unique or surprising among the many “Best of the Year” lists, I really can’t think of a game that more deserves it’s praise. The Last of Us has some of the most fluid gameplay and the best stealth mechanics I’ve ever seen, without a doubt. The tension of creeping past a pack of clickers or group of roving bandits made for very memorable moments, and the item crafting system was seamlessly incorporated, giving players more strategic options and tactics. All of this was rounded out by an unbelievably good presentation. This game raised the bar for all of gaming with its fluid animations, breathtaking lighting effects, and detailed, evocative world. Remember how I said that Bioshock Infinite had “some” of the best voice work I’d ever heard? Well, Troy Baker saved his best performance for The Last of Us, and the rest of the cast followed suit. Out of the many interactive experiences I’ve had this year, the one’s I’ve had with The Last of Us will stick with me the longest, which is why I name this the Best Game of 2013.

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