Game of the Year 2013

Jess McDonell's Top 10 Games For 2013

Powerful delights.

by

This year brought so many examples of games that stepped outside the understood boundaries of what a game should, could, and would be. Some games did this metaphorically, like Depression Quest, which delivered meaning through the patient illustration of what it's like to live with depression. Other games, such as The Stanley Parable, took this quite literally and had you, the player, looking in from the outside of an in-game level, listening to the insistent narrator tug fruitlessly at the shirtsleeves of the protagonist, whose body you had abandoned.

For me, this year was as much about hurt as it was about fun. I love the even dichotomy created by games like BioShock Infinite, which, while it may not have been a masterpiece, was bright and inviting in all its first-person shooter glory. In this same vein lived incredibly charming games like Tearaway, which tore my heart right out, but unlike the solemn Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, it did so only to have it grow three sizes and subsequently shove it back in my chest, leaving me grinning like a fool with my Vita camera watching on.

The only motto or vague life affirmation I've ever stuck to is to "Always be better"--better than yesterday and better than what is simply expected. In a strange way, I feel like all of my chosen games from this year really pulled through on that one. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons didn't settle with just creating a grand, beautiful adventure with a moving story; it took its game mechanics to the next level too. There was nothing "by the book" about making gamers control each brother with the left- and right-hand side of the controller respectively. OK, so it was sort of wonky and difficult, but at least it did something different. Telltale continued to push the boundaries of adventure gaming into something that was so much better than the tight restrictions of point-and-click could ever have produced. The Wolf Among Us was dark and brilliant, as was the suggestive and mysterious story of The Swapper, where the simple act of placing clones and swapping into them left you with a burning question that the game only needed to hint at: "At the end of this level, after all of these lifeless, abandoned clones, what am I leaving behind?"

This year I made crappy crowns for squirrel kings, cheered and wept with two brothers, finally saw people from the non-fantasy world represented as honest and unembellished, and had a hell of a lot of fun in the process. These games were the kind that had you talking about them to friends and family in detail because the gameworlds were so painstakingly detailed and deep, while their mechanics were evolved and integrated neatly into the stories to which they belonged.

Whether I was laughing or crying, I can't help but admire the games of this year that exploded with new and clever ways to tell magnificent stories and evoke such extreme emotions. I swear any day now I'll stop crying over Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Any day now.

Jess McDonell's Top 10

Discussion

48 comments
Foxxkp
Foxxkp

Beyond, i love Beyond

trente
trente

BioShock Infinite was the year's biggest disappointment for me. Personally, it wouldn't even make my top ten for March, let alone for the year. Apart from the convoluted story, I thought the game was completely lacking in the atmosphere that made the previous entries in the series such a joy. I'd switch it out for The Last Of Us every time. But that's just my opinion. What would life be like if we all liked exactly the same stuff? Nicely written article, JM. Merry Christmas!

jecomans
jecomans

Awesome Top 10 Jess. Except of course, Wolf Among Us, because you haven't finished it yet.

wgerardi
wgerardi

I wanted to put Wolf Among Us in my top 10, but it just doesn't feel right until the series is finished. I'm pretty much counting on it being top 5 in 2014.

neowarrior121
neowarrior121

its kinda sad i have bio shock 1 and 2 and i still have never played them and i can borrow infinite off people as well, there on the pile of when im THAT bored i shall play them, but right now im having fun on gta V online, fallout 1 2 and tactics and  AC black flag on my ps4 so.

AyatollaofRnR
AyatollaofRnR

I'd swap out bioshock for something else. Really need to check out brothers.

herviross_2
herviross_2

Only one episode of The Wolf Among Us is out. Does that still qualify for Game of The Year contention?

PacoTaco
PacoTaco

I find Path of Exile very daunting to get into, because of that skill tree.  I can be a little indecisive about how I want my character to play when I am just figuring out the game :D

GH05T-666
GH05T-666

My top 10 games of this year are:

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between World

Super Mario 3D World

Ni No Kuni

Fire Emblem: Awakening 

Grand Theft Auto 5

Path of Exile

The Last of Us

Tomb Raider

StarCraf 2: Heart of the Swarm

Pokemon X & Y

sol_invictus55
sol_invictus55

Depression Quest? That doesnt sound like much fun...

heguain
heguain

Hmm..Great list. Glad to see infinite & Wolf among us in there :)

hystavito
hystavito

Controlling 2 characters, one with each stick, was that something that was prominent throughout Brothers?  I'm just curious because Ni No Kuni had that as well, but only in one area for one sequence, at least as far I am in the game.

gabonorris
gabonorris

I dont know... Gone Home didn't make any connection with me... i really tried to find fun on simply turn an empty house out, but no... it didnt. 


I loved the emotional chores that beyound two souls and tomb raider touched. But i really felt lost in gone home... 



AjenoMerveilles
AjenoMerveilles

Jess wins my heart for putting 'The Swapper' amongst the top ten. What she does with it is entirely her call.

Zjarcal
Zjarcal

Gone Home, The Swapper, and Stanley Parable, yesh!


Awesome list (except for Infinite, but I digress... =P).


Gotta check out Wolf Among Us, because wolves.

Jacanuk
Jacanuk

Awesome list Jess :D you have a good taste in games.


porcupeth123
porcupeth123

The swapper, great! Finally someone picked it


...next to.. B2souls? Depression quest? Gone home? Stanley parable? ...am i in the Twilight zone or something?

Renoo27
Renoo27

Beyond: Two Souls, YEAH! Nice one Jess, that game doesn't get enough attention. 

Bgrngod
Bgrngod

A lot of love for Brothers on all these lists.


Seems I have a new holiday game to play...

thisBlueDude
thisBlueDude

My top ten for 2013:

1. Sonic Lost World

2. Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I don't know

3. Football Manager

4. Knack

5. Ryse

6. Angry Birds (PS4)

7. Fighter Within

8. Pokemon x (3DS)

9. Android games

10. BattleBlock Theatre

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

Dear Jessica, Please write more articles. I find your writing legible and not annoying. - Me.

Gazkapop
Gazkapop

Infinite is my GOTY at the moment although I don't own a PS3 so haven't played TLOU or Beyond. I also haven't found the time to play Gone Home, Stanley or PoE yet for that matter.

It may just be me, but I found it tough to get into Brothers and it feels like everyone has just recently started talking about despite the fact that it was a Summer of Arcade title IIRC.

Anyway, great list Jess. It's refreshing to see such a list of games with such a varying mix of gameplay mechanics!

larkin-54
larkin-54

@sol_invictus55 well its not all about fun in the traditional sense, games are a medium they evoke emotion there are plenty of movies that arnt fun but still worth seeing, 

LordCrash88
LordCrash88

@heguain Wolf might be on my list next year. I don't think it should be on this year's lists after just one of five episodes....

Xristophoros
Xristophoros

@hystavito yea that is the control mechanic for brothers throughout most of the game from what i know. i recently passed that section of ni no kuni you speak of. it was tricky the first few attempts.

hystavito
hystavito

@gabonorris Gone Home is $5 on Humble Store today.  I think I will buy it, so much buzz there has to be something especially interesting about it.  Admittedly I am skeptical though :).  After reading the review, seeing the community response, and then a lack of response to that from GS, I was a little upset.


EDIT: I bought it so I wouldn't forget to later when I get back.  We shall see :).

jecomans
jecomans

@Bgrngod Brothers is absolutely fantastic. I'm seeing alot of support for The Swapper, which I hadn't heard of? Back to Steam...


Brothers is a 2 1/2-3 hour game, so you'll need a few more than that for the holidays : ) 

Also, play it on PC with a controller if you can, the frame rate drops to much on PS3 and it's lower res.

befo72
befo72

@Bgrngod Brothers is an outstanding game for the too short time that it lasts. It is probably my game of the year despite its brevity. If you played and enjoyed Ico for the PS2, you will love this game. And it is probably the only game that has ever caused my eyes to leak saltwater in 30 years of gaming, and with no actual dialogue (unless you count "Simlish" as dialogue). An incredible feat.

Xristophoros
Xristophoros

@thisBlueDude  no offense, but who puts angry birds on a top 10 list? let alone ryse and knack. not saying people don't enjoy those games, but they surely are not top contenders in a year that was filled with some really great games.

tempertress
tempertress moderator staff

@Grenadeh Hahaha legible and not annoying. I need to jot that down somewhere as one of my favourite compliments. 

tempertress
tempertress moderator staff

@Gazkapop Brothers gets better as it starts rolling I think, but yeah people definitely starting going nuts about it. Thanks =]

Bgrngod
Bgrngod

@befo72


"If you liked Ico..."


This got my attention right quick... I loved Ico.

hystavito
hystavito

@jecomans@hystavitoI had no idea it was that different, but I guess that makes sense given how different the platforms are.

jecomans
jecomans

@hystavito Wrath of the White Witch was in general very different on DS, where is was basically just a battle RPG, no exploration or towns or anything really.