Looking over my own best-of-2013 list, I'm struck by how different these games are from each other. The horror of Outlast couldn't be more different from the unfettered joy of A Link Between Worlds, but I don't think that speaks so much about my own taste in games as it does the sheer amount of variety in today's games climate. It's easy to brand so many games as copycats, but look closer and you see just how many different kinds of experiences are at our fingertips. Personal journeys, examinations of the idea of player agency, and plain pure fun: it's all up for grabs.
So let's break it down. In 2013, I learned of young love. I shot giant dinosaurs. I made friends with a Welsh fairy, and we saved a kingdom together. I sang pirate shanties, hid from grave danger, and foiled a terror plot aboard a soaring base of operations. I shivered and I mourned and I held aloft the Master Sword. In games, anything can happen. And in 2013, anything did.
2013 was also the year I embraced my dark side, if my top two games are any indication. Metro: Last Light and Path of Exile don't play like each other, but they both occur in hopeless worlds weighed down by the stench of decay and endless remorse. In that sense, they have something in common with Dark Souls, one of my all-time favorites. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon made me laugh, and The Stanley Parable made me think. But Metro: Last Light shone a light into the darkness, giving me a glimmer of hope amid all the despair--and that hope was as bright as the despair was black. Any game can be fun, but it takes a special one to make my heart feel so heavy, yet make me believe that I might one day reach a promised land.