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EGM’s Best of 2013: Editor’s Awards: Josh Harmon

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Posted on December 21, 2013 AT 12:00pm

Introduction

2013 was a rollercoaster. This year brought me titles that will easily be remembered among my all-time favorites, but it also brought me some of the most miserable gaming experiences of my life. While the tip-top of 2013’s lineup probably did more to advance the medium than any games in the last five years, I feel like the average quality was way, way down, with a lot of high-profile disappointments and utterly forgettable next-gen launch titles bringing down the mean.Here’s to hoping that 2014 will see the industry settling in comfortably on the new generation of hardware, taking the lessons of the last consoles’ greatest triumphs, and delivering something that can really push videogames forward.

Josh’s Top Five Games for 2013

#05: Gone Home

Publisher: The Fullbright Company
Developer: The Fullbright Company
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux

Josh’s Take

Two games brought me to tears this year: Ride to Hell: Retribution, from a potent mix of glitch-induced hysteria and existential fear at what my life had become, and Gone Home, from the genuine human connection I felt toward its hauntingly absent characters. I didn’t grow up as an angsty Oregonian teenage girl in the mid-’90s, but it’s a testament to the Fullbright Company’s environmental storytelling that I was able to so completely internalize Samantha’s struggles.

#04: DmC: Devil May Cry

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Ninja Theory
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Josh’s Take

Haters wanna hate. Lovers wanna love. I don’t even want none of the above. I just want to keep playing DmC: Devil May Cry, the only game in 2013 that managed to capture my attention enough to warrant four—count ‘em, four—separate playthroughs. You can shout at me all you like about how much “Donte” sucks, how a Western dev ruined your beloved franchise, and how garbage the framerate is, but I’ll be too busy enjoying myself as I juggle demon babies into quad-weapon SSSensational combos to hear you.

#03: The Last of Us

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platforms: PS3

Josh’s Take

There are a few things that really bother me about The Last of Us, namely the rough ally AI and the fact that one really videogame-y enemy type spoils the grounded tone for me at every appearance, but I know the primary reason those flaws get under my skin so much is because the rest of the game operates on such a high level. Naughty Dog managed to craft a moody, uncompromising portrait of a world collapsed with tense gameplay beats that put anything wheeled out with a “survival-horror” label in the last five years to shame.

#02: Grand Theft Auto V

Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar North
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3

Josh’s Take

As a Southern California native, I was giddy to hear that Rockstar would finally be giving Los Angeles the same loving send-up they gave NYC in Grand Theft Auto IV. When the day finally arrived, my journey to San Andreas in GTAV did not disappoint. On every corner, I witnessed details so insignificant they’d only stand out to a SoCal intimate, yet here they were in all their hyperreality. Sure, I could wax fanatical about the character swapping or the heist gameplay for hours, but, to me, the world-building was what elevated GTAV from fun romp to masterpiece.

#01: Bioshock Infinite

Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Irrational Games
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Josh’s Take

Over the last nine months, I’ve warmed to the idea that BioShock Infinite is, like the period America it channels, an imperfect union. Perhaps its ideas would feel more timelessly coherent were they not wed to the gameplay baggage of an established franchise. Perhaps its impact is lessened by contrivedly slotting Infinite’s square peg into the original BioShock’s round hole. But if I accept that sequels are inevitable—and the pragmatist in me must—then this is the sort of sequel I want to see: unsafe, imaginative, and wholly engrossing. No game this year sparked a greater initial impact, nor such lingering fascination long after the credits had rolled.

Josh’s Off-Topic Awards for 2013

Close But No Cigar Award
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
The Bureau had the potential to be one of the most remarkable games of the generation. (In fact, I might still even argue that it was, at least in some aspects.) But due to a troubled development cycle that took too long to find its footing, the finished product was a handful of great ideas and phenomenally fresh real-time tactical gameplay buttressed by more rough edges than the sandpaper aisle at Home Depot. I’ll still always love TBXD for what it is, but I won’t deny that it’ll stand as an enormous wasted opportunity, one that sadly dragged 2K Marin down with it.
Best Game from 2012 That I Didn’t Play until 2013
FTL
I know, I know. This is totally cheating. But once I finally got into the widely praised indie space roguelike FTL, I was gutted that I didn’t get a chance to champion the game while it was fresh in the public consciousness. It’s just as brutally addictive as many of my all-time favorites, a quality that’s made it my go-to title for airplane trips, quiet nights, and EGM meetings where I should probably be paying attention but am instead trying to put out a fire in my engine room because f*** the rebels. If, like me, you missed out the first time around, trust me when I say FTL is still completely worth your time.
Quickest Trip from Addiction to Hatred
GTA Online
When GTA Online first launched, I was smitten. I did every mission I could get my hands on, dominated races, murdered hapless newcomers, the whole lot. Unfortunately, I soon realized that the economy was completely busted, which forced me to grind for hours just to purchase a decent vehicle and apartment. I’m not definitively claiming Rockstar made it so difficult to force people to shell out real-world cash for in-game money, but I will say that the slow pace of the game, regardless of the reasoning, quickly made everything feel like a chore. If I want to work painfully hard for money and status symbols, I’ll live my real life, thank you very much.

EGMNOW’s Best of 2013 Awards Schedule

Josh Harmon, Associate Editor
Josh Harmon picked up a controller when he was 3 years old—and he hasn't looked back since. This has made him particularly vulnerable to attacks from behind. He joined EGM as an intern following a brief-but-storied career on a number of small gaming blogs across the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @jorshy. Meet the rest of the crew.

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