For me, 2013 was a year where I picked back up in my gaming. Looking back, I spent way more time playing video games than I had in the last several years, and began following some gaming publications and podcasts.
These are my top 5 favorite games from 2013:
5. Beyond: Two Souls (Playstation 3)
Beyond: Two Souls surprised me with how good the visuals were. It had some of the best, realistic-looking humans I’ve ever seen in a game. The characters were modeled after, and voiced by, Ellen Page (Juno, Whip It, Super) and Willem Dafoe (Boondock Saints, Antichrist). It had a great story with lots of variety, so I never got bored.
The most interesting thing about Beyond: Two Souls was that it wasn’t really a game, so much as an interactive drama. Made by the same studio who did Heavy Rain, it was like watching a really long movie — except that you would control the main character from time to time to interact with elements in the environment.
If you’re interested in a really good game with lots of action, this might not be for you. But if you find yourself interested and drawn-in by the excellent story, it’s definitely worth checking out.
4. Tomb Raider (Xbox 360)
This was the very first Tomb Raider game I’d ever played, and I really enjoyed it. I’m a big fan of games with a good story, and this one had me on the edge of my seat a few times. Couple that with really solid gameplay, and this makes for an excellent game.
Lara Croft was voice-acted by Camilla Luddington, and the game offers a good arrangement of weapons and upgrades for the character. While the puzzles in the game aren’t quite like something you’d find in a Zelda game, there was still plenty of thinking and stealth involved as you moved to solve the mystery of the island.
3. The Last of Us (Playstation 3)
The Last of Us is set 20 years after a zombie outbreak. The main character, Joel, is not the same man now that he was when he lost his daughter on the first night of the outbreak. Now a smuggler, he is tasked with delivering a package to a group of freedom fighters outside of the police-state-like quarantine zone. His package is a 13-year old girl that may hold the secret to finding a cure for the infected.
This game pairs an excellent, excellent story, with really good gameplay and weapons. I died a lot while playing through this game on normal mode, but it was so good, and the ending had such a pay-off, that I immediately played it through a second time.
2. Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)
Nintendo is kinda like that friend you had growing up that you always had such a blast with. You don’t seem him much anymore because he’s wandered off and gotten into some really weird stuff. But every once in a while he calls you up, you go hang out, and you have a blast all over again. This is the story of Super Mario 3D World.
The best way that I can describe Super Mario 3D World is that it is really, really fun! All of the things you know and love about the Mario series — suits, power-ups, his friends — are all back again. But it isn’t just old-school Mario stuff; You also get to see many of the things from the Wii and DS-era Mario games (e.g., New Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 3D Land).
Everybody knows that, with rare exception, the best games for any Nintendo console are the first-party games. After being (mostly) bored out of my mind with the few titles available for the Wii U (except for New Super Mario/Luigi Bros. U and Zelda: Wind Waker HD), I wasn’t sure that the game would be worth the cost. I was wrong.
Super Mario 3D World is one of the most fun games I’ve played in recent memory, and although I’m still working my way through it, everything about it has been an absolute delight.
1. Bioshock Infinite (Xbox 360)
Bioshock Infinite was my very first game in the Bioshock series (I’m currently playing through the first Bioshock now), and I must say — MIND BLOWN. From the prologue, to the twisted alternate universe, to the weapons and gameplay, to that mindf**k of an ending, Bioshock Infinite is my favorite game of the year.
Having gone back and played the original Bioshock after-the-fact, I can appreciate the improvements they’ve made to the overall story and gameplay. It’s good that the main character now has someone to talk to. The controls on the original Bioshock are driving me mad, but Infinite has a secondary control style that is more like Call of Duty, which I greatly prefer.
These are games that I thought were very good, but didn’t quite make my top 5.
I loved playing the original Zelda: Wind Waker on my GameCube 12 years ago. I still have it. My son plays it regularly (although he really should have beaten the game by now, come to think of it).
Wind Waker HD is an update to the game, made exclusively for the Nintendo Wii U. It has HD graphics, and some subtle improvements to the game. Sailing on the ocean is faster, so you can get from island-to-island faster. Also, the original had some interaction with the Game Boy Advance which has now been replaced with the Wii U Gamepad serving the same purpose.
While I’ve enjoyed playing this updated version of the game, it didn’t make my top 5 for 2013 simply because the game is 12 years old. It still holds up well, though.
The Wolf Among Us (OS X; Steam)
The Wolf Among Us is a game made in the style of a 1950’s noir detective story, but darker and grittier. All of the fairytale animals from fables have been relocated to a modern-day city called “Fabletown”. They have the ability to look human in order to avoid suspicion, and The Big Bad “Bigby” Wolf has become the Sheriff.
You’re investigating the murder of a young girl, and you end up crossing paths with the Woodsman, Snow White, Ichabod Crane, Tweedle Dee & Dum, and others. This is not Walt Disney’s version of the characters either.
Oceanhorn is an adventure game with a very Zelda-like feel, and is one of the best games I’ve played on iOS. The touchscreen controls are straightforward and intuitive, and it even supports the Game Controller Framework in iOS 7, in case you’ve been keeping an eye out for someone to make a good one (here’s hoping CES 2014 produces something good).
Games that I haven’t played yet
These are games that I’ve heard were amazing, but I haven’t yet had a chance to play.