If 2013 had a theme, at least as it pertains to me personally, it would be Hitting All the Right Buttons. Looking back, a considerable amount of what came out this year catered to what appeals to me most about games: my love of strong storytelling, my desire for non-traditional game experiences, my affinity for good dumb fun, even the sentimental side of me reared on tales told in 2D on 16 bits.Part of me thinks my list is too dull, too obvious. You?ll be hard-pressed to find very many people who write about games for a living (or even those who don?t) not listing BioShock Infinite, A Link Between Worlds, and The Last of Us on their respective toplists. But what can I say? These games left quite the impression on me. Once more, I invite you to have at me?tell me how this list proves I?m crazy. That?s what the comment section?s for, after all.
Chris’ Top Five Games for 2013
Xbox 360, PS3, PC
You know what, Devil May Cry purists? You?re wrong. DmC is awesome. It breaks my heart that the concentrated effort of privileged crybabies combined with a poorly chosen release window have pretty much guaranteed I won?t get a follow-up to one of the most enjoyable third-person action games I?ve played in years, let alone 2013. DmC is fast-paced and stylish, boasts art design that?s actually appealing and not generically gothic like the original Devil May Cry, and takes Dante in a direction beyond the ?character that looks cool? status he celebrated as a purely Capcom creation.
Sony Computer Entertainment
I was going to introduce The Last of Us with my now-go-to anecdote about obliterating a red DualShock 3 over how frustrating I found the gameplay at times, but our regular readers probably know that story as well as I do. Does The Last of Us stumble as something that?s played? I certainly think so. But despite this, including The Last of Us among my personal top five games of 2013 was a no-brainer. Outside of Gone Home, no other game this year has furthered storytelling in videogames as much as The Last of Us.
#03: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
There was never a moment I thought A Link Between Worlds would be bad, but I never thought that it would rival its predecessor, A Link to the Past, in terms of quality. Honestly, this sequel to the series-defining SNES installment proves to me that there are still wizards working at Nintendo capable of casting the same spells that worked on me as an elementary school student. But A Link Between Worlds is more than a nostalgia farm?Ravio?s rental shop shakes up the coarsening Zelda formula in a surprisingly, welcomingly refreshing, and non-disruptive way.
Xbox 360, PS3, PC
BioShock Infinite is the inverse of my Game of the Year pick. It rings a lot of familiar-sounding bells as far as videogames go, but hits its notes with perfect pitch and narrative harmony rarely achieved in this industry. I think Infinite?s biggest detractors failed to understand that Ken Levine and his team at Irrational set out to make a first-person shooter first and foremost, not a story that they wrapped a game around. There?s no narrative dissonance found here, but rather gameplay perfectly in line with the industry commentary that BioShock has been a vehicle for since its inception.
The Fullbright Company
The Fullbright CompanyPlatforms:
PC, Mac, Linux
In my life, no game has moved me emotionally as much as Gone Home. And not because of themes and elements that struck chords familiar to my own youth, but because it was an intensely personal, character-driven narrative that eschewed exhausted, conventional videogame tropes both in storytelling (Gone Home is the most down-to-earth game I?ve ever played) and in gameplay. No guns, no magic, no melee, just exploration and observation within a household that I could very well imagine having grown up in myself. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, Gone Home?s narrative is powerful.
Chris’ Off-Topic Awards for 2013
The Peer Pressure Award for Best Instance of Gettin? Gamey
Look, I won?t deny bias?Crysis 2 was scripted by my favorite author, Richard K. Morgan. But I maintain that Crysis 2 is a first-person shooter that sports better storytelling than most others because it feels like it was written by an adult for adults and, as such, never talks down to players. Crysis 3, on the other hand, feels like a giant leap back in an effort to give mainstream players the simplicity they want, complete with poorly executed plot points and a giant, gamey final boss that?s eye-rollingly banal.
The F*** Yeah Award for Best Use of Middle-Finger Flippin?
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is an over-the-top love song to equally over-the-top ?80s action flicks. I could talk at length about how absurd Blood Dragon is, but I think the best instance of its silliness, in terms of something players can elect to do in-game, is the taunt-like option to press a button and flip enemies off. It has absolutely no bearing on gameplay, but there?s something undeniably satisfying about following a string of murdalizing with a triumphant ?F*** you.? It?s very metal, and very ?80s.
The Cutest Couple Award for Best Videogame Marriage
Lost Planet 3
Romance is a hard thing to pull off in videogames, and marriage portrayals are few and far between. No doubt this is largely due to our industry?s insistent desire to appeal to adolescent straight white males by having the typically male protagonist save the day and get the girl. But because Lost Planet 3 abandons this tired trope in favor of an established marriage between protagonist Jim Peyton and his wife, Grace (and because Lost Planet 3 is a surprisingly well-written game), their long-distance (off-planet) relationship actually feels genuine.
EGMNOW’s Best of 2013 Awards Schedule