Game of the year talks. People feel uncomfortable around me when the game of the year talks start. Let me tell you, these are tough, time-intensive conversations that involve a lot of yelling, getting angry, and having to leave the room in frustration. Despite all of that, the reason people feel uncomfortable around me when these talks start is because I don’t actually work with anyone, and am simply arguing with myself, at a very loud volume, like a crazy person. That is at least until someone forces those pills down my throat that keep me from screaming. Then the game of the year talks tend to get a lot quieter, which I am sure everyone around me appreciates. Now before I actually start talking about the games I found to be my favorite games of 2013, I should explain myself a bit beforehand, and the policies I adopted for this.
First of all, I am only going to talk about three games. Why three games, and not something like ten? Well when it really boils down to it, I am not a professional games reviewer, and as such do not have access to all the games, all the time. I could if I wanted to buy them all, but that is an expensive thing to do, and I have bills to pay. Usually I end up buying newer games when they’re on sale. Like I JUST bought Bioshock Infinite for ten dollars during the Steam Autumn Sale. I haven’t played it yet, and who knows if it would go on my list.
Second thing about this: I don’t play only new games. I have a huge backlog, and I find it hard to quit on a game forever. If I ever made a real list, on paper, and put it up on my wall, I would probably cry. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2 is still on my backlog, so that should be a good indication of where I stand. Next year…will hopefully be better using my free time more effectively. Maybe I will write an actual backlog list. I could use a good cry. Alright let’s talk about the games now. Also note that I don’t have a “Game of the year”. These are my three games, in no particular order.
Saints Row 4: If there was a series that I could marry, it would be Saints Row. After being blown away with Saints Row 2, and then being further blown away by Saints Row: The Third, I was worried that I could not be blown away any further. While Saints Row 2 was basically the GTA game I really always wanted, it had some older tech running it, especially in the face of GTA4. Saints Row 3 was truly the game that put the series on the map, with tech and a story that gave people a very real alternative to Rockstar’s work, which had started to take itself far too seriously. Saints Row 4 continued on that amazing trend, dialing the crazy up to 15/10 with an alien invasion, while you (a gang leader) is President of the United States.
Even crazier is that Saints Row completely shakes up its own formula. While the GTA-ish type stuff is still there, pretty much unchanged, Volition went ahead and gave everyone the Crackdown sequel I always wanted. Let’s be honest, Crackdown 2 sucked, but Saints Row 4 did not. Giving you this crazy arsenal of powers, and unleashing the character on a digitized version of Steelport was a great idea to breathe new life into a series that frankly didn’t need it. It is really that sort of dedication to staying fresh that gives Saints Row 4 a place on my very small list. Thanks Volition!
Papers, Please: Papers, Please from Lucas Pope is one of the ultimate distillations of the Indie game boom. Everything about this game’s design is something that was chosen for a very specific purpose. From the pixel graphics with the washed out colors to every line of text, Papers, Please is a game determined to leave you feeling worse than when you started. A dreary and depressing game at every turn, this title also has one of the better difficulty curves I have seen in a long time. Taking full advantage of the fact that this game really focuses on one thing, Lucas Pope made a game that goes through just about every logical permutation of checking documents at a border crossing and adds enough drama-filled moments to make sure you want to spend your meager earnings on medicine for your sick son, even if you need to take a large bribe to do so.
Unlike so many other video games out there, Papers, Please forces you to think. Plenty of games require quick reflexes, which this one does, but not many require the mental agility Papers, Please does. Every time I miss something, even if it only gives me a warning, I feel like an idiot; doubly so if I know I would need to use that other warning later to get someone through and I just wasted some of my safety net. This certainly is not a game for everyone, and I totally get why people would be turned off by this. However this is a game I didn’t even know I wanted, and ended up truly excited to load it up each time. I truly hope Lucas Pope can have lightning strike twice in his next endeavor, he has a finger on how to truly tug at emotions in a game, a rare ability.
Fire Emblem: Awakening: Tactical RPG’s have always been a favorite of mine. Especially the Japanese ones that are turn-based. Like many American console gamers, I can blame Final Fantasy Tactics for this. However, Japan has a much longer love affair with this type of game, and one of the sacred cows of the genre is the Fire Emblem series. Since the Famicom days, the series has never set out to reinvent the wheel with each sequel. Quietly iterating on what has come before, Intelligent Systems has put out a series of games that is one of the most consistently good series in the short history of video games.
While the newest title, Fire Emblem: Awakening doesn’t go nuts with changing the series, it probably propels the series further forward than any one before it. With the addition of controlled random battles, and the marriage system leading to both new characters and expanded story, Intelligent Systems certainly tried to bring something new to the table while keeping true to what has worked in the past. The other more obvious changes, such as the 3-D graphics, the voice acting, and especially the difficulty levels possibly turning off the signature perma-death, Fire Emblem was brought into the modern age of gaming with great success. Nintendo has always had a workhorse in this series, and with the face-lift we got in the adventures of Chrom and company, I am sure we will see more quality titles in this quality series for a long time to come.
So there it is, my top three for 2013. While writing this, I have really gotten the urge to go make a physical list on oak tag of my backlog and hang it up near my entertainment center, as a way to always keep me going on my backlog. While right now I am still…chipping away at Legends of Heroes, I also have other games I really want to get to playing, and will hopefully get to soon. The games from this year I definitely want to get to and own are The Stanley Parable, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Bioshock Infinite. Maybe I will get to these soon, and get really bummed I didn’t play them sooner. Also as a final note, two games that didn’t make the final cut, but you should go play, Rogue Legacy and Gunpoint. Both are fantastic.