Howdy, Gamespot. You sure look nicer than you did last I left you. Maybe I'll come calling a bit more now that your blogging layout isn't stuck in 2007. ;)
My rules: if I first played a game this year, it qualifies. 2013 was so much better than 2012. I had a really hard time with my top five, 'cause the quality differences between them are as small as any range of rankings on GameRankings.com. I mean, is there really a big difference between a 98.72%, a 98.61% game and a 98.56% game? But I digress.
: their previous installments have been featured in my GOTY space before, but Crysis 3 and Dead Space 3 couldn't crack my Top 10 this year. Each are fine games but both have a myriad of problems that don't let them rise above everything else. I'm PS4-less and will be for most of this year at the very least: I still have too many PS3 games to play and just can't justify that kind of money on a useless (at the moment) box. I've historically waited at least a year and a half to get a new console since the start of that generation. I got a SNES in April 1994, an N64 in December 1998, a GameCube in April 2003 and a PS3 in April 2009. When will the PS4 / Xbox One / WiiU (HA!) arrive? We'll see. But for now...
10 - The Walking Dead (+ season 2, episode 1)
The Walking Dead was one of the first games I played in 2013. I waited for the boxed copy of all five episodes and wanted to plow through them. Episode 1 left a good first impression, and after not going back for a while I burned through episodes 2 to 5 fairly quickly. I know I would've appreciated them more if I'd waited between episodes but I just couldn't put it down once the motel alliances got going, and it was a roller-coaster of choices, regrets and emotions all the way to the bitter end. Lee, Clem, Kenny, you guys are always gonna be in my head.
And I'm throwing the first episode of season 2 in here as a "bonus." It was short and sweet, and I know the full season will be on this list next year.
9 - Batman: Arkham Origins
Batman: Arkham Origins gives you more Batman. No more, no less. So many things are wrong with Arkham Origins, mostly falling under the umbrella of "obligatory low-effort sequel." But the thing is, it all still works very well. The combat still feels great and is fun to do, the sandbox of Gotham is still fun to romp around in (if slightly too big to be completely comfortable), the gadgets are still fun (disregarding any prequel/canon issues) and the story is actually strong, even if in hindsight I should've seen most of the twists coming. I like losing myself in a game, and "value for your gaming dollar" and some bug issues aside, Batman: Arkham Origins is still a game you can get lost in.
8 - Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3 doesn't do any one thing particularly well, but it's just such a well-crafted all-around open-world game that it doesn't need any back-of-the-box bullet points (pun intended). The guns handle well. The upgrading system is a bit annoying but works extremely well. The organic-ness of the world is so good that you can reload a save at a stronghold six times and have taking the stronghold work out six completely different ways. The sandbox is great in that you can run in any direction and only return to your main objective hours later, after finding all the lost diamonds and skinning all the rare animals you can find. And the story, while still laughable and face-palming at points, works at enough points that I felt genuinely drawn in by it. Oh, and choose to leave the island at the end. The "stay on the island" ending is the dumbest thing I've seen since what happened to Rad Spencer's wife in Bionic Commando.
7 - Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Four years after buying it and five years after it came out, I at last played, finished and loved Metal Gear Solid 4 in 2013, and it was one hell of a ride. I played Twin Snakes and the PS3 HD collection before diving into Guns of the Patriots, and the refresher course felt a little obsolete when every chatacter in the game decided to explain everything single thing incredibly thoroughly. But it still looks fabulous, the numerous winks at the older games while still being its own game were appreciated and the controls were no problem when you have three previous games with horrible antiquated controls fresh in your mind. ;-) I'm sorry it took me so long, MGS4. You were worth the wait.
6 - Remember Me
Remember Me is such a weirdly lovable game. As I was playing as Nilin, the memory hunter, the words "Mirror's Edge" kept repeating in my head because they feel so similar. Yes, their from different perspectives (1st vs. 3rd person) and the pace doesn't match, but their both so utterly, incredibly unique. The dystopian cityscapes you climb around and fight in feel so right. The memory-altering sections are the best new feature I've seen what feels like forever; I just wish there would've been more of them. The combat gets extremely entertaining when you unlock the ability to chain together longer and longer combos with different abilities (or "Pressens"). And for Remember Me's shortfalls and linearity, fighting giant robots by insta-hacking other robots from a distance and building up such a powerful combo than all your health regenerates as you KO five enemies at the same time just feels so fun.
5 - Tomb Raider
I was never a Tomb Raider player. I never owned a PS1 and Lara Croft was a ghost of herself by the time she initially arrived on PS3 in Tomb Raider: Underworld. The Uncharted series that I've loved so much is always compared to Tomb Raider for better and worse, and this Tomb Raider struck a chord with me when I decided to buy it without renting it first. That usually ends in a significant amount of heartbreak. This time it ended with one of the few games in the last few years that I played more than a couple of times for the game itself and not because I was hunting for collectibles and Playstation trophies (though those certainly didn't hurt). Perhaps only having a vague idea about who Lara is meant to become lends itself to my immersion in her journey, but it was such a great-looking, well-controlled, expansive journey filled with great characters and great moments that it really was a plus. Play Tomb Raider.
4 - The Last of Us
For all the praise that's been heaped onto The Last of Us, this was really a dark horse for me this year. On the plus side, it has the best first 20 to 30 minutes you will ever play in a video game, bar none. It breaks your heart and sets Joel's entire mindset up perfectly. On the minus side, the three hours after that are too focused on setting up the world and not enough on setting up the game; too many glimpses of the ruined world within the QZ and not enough of explaining how I'm supposed to effectively navigate the world, save for learning how to throw bricks and Joel using his Batman-esque hearing. The Last of Us is also a bit stingy with player training: I had to pause and look up the controls on my phone after not touching it for a few days because, like too many games these days, TLoU doesn't list the controller layout in the menus and my mind decided to try controlling Joel like Nathan Drake; that ended with Joel's throat getting chewed up after attempting to stealth past too many regular zombie and one clicker I didn't notice. Joel and Ellie escaped the first city and I finally starting warming to them as a duo, even if I found the pairing slightly forced.
But the contrast of the state of the world to Joel and Ellie's attitudes is what eventually won me over. Here's this girl who knows nothing of the world before the outbreak, and she's just as much of a 14-year-old tomboy as one here in the real world; cursing like a sailor 'cause she likely just recently learned how, sulking like her parents have dragged her to their bank appointment, wanting to read comic books and just messing with Joel. Her inability to swim didn't strike me as a game-like escort quest, but genuinely that a girl raised in this world likely has no reason to learn how to swim. The scene in which she runs off on a horse, breaks into an old house and reads a long-abandoned diary struck me the most: "Is this really what they worried about?" she asked Joel, as if boys, makeup tips and pop stars were vital to teenage girls' survival before the world went to hell. Ellie was so surrounded by death and horror but never let it affect her 'cause that's just the world now.
And, of course, there's the ending. It completely flew over my head the first time, and took a good amount of time and internal debate and processing for me to really "get" it. I thought of it too much like a Hollywood movie, and when it didn't end in a very formulaic way it threw me for a loop and made me feel almost resentful. But stewing on it, thinking about it, going back to it in my mind over and over may just be what the developers were intending. The perfect chase, the perfect rescue, the perfect cut to black make The Last of Us stand out in my mind.
Oh, and the multiplayer's alright. I should probably play more of it.
3 - Borderlands 2
2013 was a much better year than 2012, but if it hadn't been than Borderlands 2 could've easily followed up its predecessor as GOTY for the first half of the year, easily. The core Borderlands game and concept worked amazingly well, so a few tweaks, UI changes and new classes was really all it needed to add to the new parts of the world of Pandora to be easily remembered years from now. Just watch, Borderlands 3 will be the game that gets me to jump onto the PS4 bandwagon.
2 - Bioshock Infinite
I waited this long into January to do this just to make sure that Bioshock Infinite, the last game I finished in 2013, did belong on this list and I wasn't simply on an adrenaline high. Well, here I am saying that Bioshock Infinite has rightfully earned its spot on here. The chemistry between Booker and Elizabeth is second to none when it comes to "sidekicks" in video games, the setting, decor and visuals are truly something to get completely absorbed in, and the numerous uses of alternate realites and "tears" make the story a story that you can churn over in your mind and still not completely understand, but be completely satisfied with. Much like The Last of Us, the ending really makes Bioshock Infinite, and if Irrational has any sense they'll end Bioshock right here. There's no better way to go.
1 - Saints Row IV (also Saints Row: The Third)
This one was a dogfight in my head, but after playing the How The Saints Save Christmas DLC on Christmas Eve and re-aquainting myself with Saints Row IV, I couldn't not give my GOTY to this game. Well, these games. I've cheated in this category before (Guitar Hero I & II in '06, Uncharted 1 & 2 in '09) so perhaps I was due. I only even touched Saints Row The Third because it was a PS+ freebie, but it was such a breath of fresh air in its simple fun-ness that I couldn't stop playing it and felt genuinely surprised each night when I'd look at my clock and it would be hours later than I thought it was. Three months later, it felt the exact same thing with Saints Row IV, but even more so due to its new Infamous/Crackdown-inspired gameplay. Its crudeness and utter insanity are all simaltaneously just utter dumb fun and also biting commentary on the "morality" of characters in games: The Boss is a well-known utter psychopath who loves violence, cursing and death, which is exactly how we all behave in video games in the first place. The superpowers coupled with the sandbox definitely make SRIV stand above SRTT, but since I played them once after the other they're pretty much the same lengthy game in my head. But for simplicity’s sake, if I have to take only one off my shelf to put a sticker on, it goes to IV. Rise up, Saints Row IV to be crowned my Game of the Year for 2013.