By AARON YNCLAN, Staff Writer
The purpose of an awards season is to distinguish and commemorate those games and developers that have been viewed as the best of their medium, from triple-A blockbusters like GTAV to indie darlings like Gone Home. But what about those that are our favorite? Must they be award-winning titles to be worthy of four, five, even six playthroughs, or simply because we enjoy them so? With that in mind, I present to you my favorite games 2013 gave us (for reference, only games released in 2013 that I played in their entirety are eligible).
The Last of Us– Where else can I start besides my personal Game of the Year? Excellent gameplay, a riveting cast and story, gorgeous, console-straining graphics, even a fun twist on multiplayer: what more could I ask for from a game? That’s to say nothing of Gustavo Santaolalla’s hauntingly beautiful score and the incredible performances from Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson.
Tomb Raider– Having had no experience with Lara Croft’s previous escapades, I wasn’t sure what to make of the gaming heroine’s return. After a few days with the rebooted star, however, I was completely hooked. The platforming and story were fun, but exploring the vast island of Yamatai was easily the best highlight for my first outing with Ms. Croft.
Fire Emblem: Awakening– I first heard of Nintendo’s turn-based RPG thanks to Super Smash Bros. Melee, and since then Fire Emblem has become my favorite franchise from the House of Mario. With Awakening, Intelligent Systems raised the bar even higher thanks to brutal combat, a great cast of characters, and an upgraded presentation that took full advantage of the handheld’s 3D.
Injustice: Gods Among Us– As one who’s never been much into fighting games, I found NetherRealm’s foray into the comic book realm to be a complete blast. Seeing my favorite DC heroes and villains slug it out in such over-the-top fashion never got old, but the storyline’s alternate universe take on classic characters mythology was so intriguing and authentic it felt as though it were pulled straight from a comic panel.
Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep– This might be cheating as Borderlands 2 came out in 2012, but between Gearbox’s never-ending supply of DLC and Dragon Keeps’s release in June 2013, I was among plenty of gamers who were playing Borderlands well into the year. And with Dragon Keep, Gearbox gave us plenty more of what we love about the franchise: crude but witty humor, excellent character writing, and lots and lots of explosions (seriously, there’s a gun that fires EXPLODING SWORDS).
Bioshock Infinite– Released six years after the critical acclaim of the original Bioshock, Infinite had a lot to live up to. And though the story has caused its fair share of division amongst audiences Columbia provided just as beautiful and wondrous a place to explore as Rapture, and Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper’s powerful portrayals of Booker Dewitt and Elizabeth were easily the greatest strength of Infinite.
Saints Row IV– How exactly do you follow up a game that featured everything from an auto-tuned pimp to weaponized sex toys? Volition’s answer: add superpowers. Originally planned as a DLC pack, former THQ President Jason Rubin convinced Volition to expand the add-on into a full-fledged title. And while the humor and gameplay elements don’t always add up, Volition still managed to top the insanity and fun of The Third with some of the most ridiculous scenarios you will ever experience in a video game, including blowing up a 1950’s town with a “Dubstep Gun,” fighting a Godzilla sized energy drink, and escaping an alien ship while listening to Haddaway’s “What is Love.”
And there are my favorite games from 2013. There were plenty of titles I experienced last year that reminded me why I love being a gamer, but these were the ones that stuck with me the most. Even games like Pokemon X & Y and Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Remix, games that didn’t make my list, proved wonderful additions to my gaming library, and I can’t wait to see what marvels 2014 will present to me.