It's that time again. It’s time for me to look back on the year prior to determine what games stood out. What games made me go, "oh yeah, that was good. I can't wait to write this up." So no witty one-liner, let's just get to it.
10. Skylanders: Swap Force
Skylanders continues to be a series that I like. It's a game I wish I had as a kid. Toys in the real world brought to life in the virtual world. Skylanders: Swap Force adds the twist of being able to swap torsos and legs of special Swap Force characters. You are still able to use your characters from all of the previous Skylanders series in this newest game and use them on any system to boot. The story was fun and developer Vicarious Visions kept on-going bad guy, Kaos, fresh by bringing in his mother to be a foil to his predictable pattern.
9. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing
A clicktastic adventure in the Diablo mold with a lot more humor. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing started out a bit buggy. In my initial review I only gave it 3 out of 5, but it got better. Good enough that I include it here in my top ten. The story was light, but the adventure and exploration was addictive. The dialog between Van Helsing and his ghostly companion, Katarina, was very humorous.
8. The Bridge
Games are often touted as art, The Bridge pushed that thought even further. Not only was the game a kick to play and beautiful to look at, but the overall art style looked like something M. C. Escher had made. Not only did the look take inspiration from Escher, but the gameplay did too. Manipulating the scene so that the unnamed main character could get from point A to point B sometimes made for a mind warping exercise. I hope creators Ty Taylor and Mario Castañeda team up for many more games in the future.
7. Killzone: Mercenary
Killzone: Mercenary was one of the biggest surprises for me in 2013. Up until then any first person shooter (FPS) game on a portable console was so-so. They all tried hard, but none had measured up to how well the games played on home consoles and PC’s. Yet here it was, on the PSVita and it played like a real FPS. I was floored. It gave me hope for more FPS games on the PSVita.
Killzone: Mercenary is my PSVita Game of the Year.
A song in the trailer caught my attention, but the story and gameplay won me over. Contrast was a game I almost overlooked if it wasn’t for the pulsing jazz music that fit so well with the action in the trailer. When I finally got the game I was a bit let down that the trailer song was not in the game, but after playing it a bit, it was soon forgiven. The story of a young girl and her "imaginary friend" trying to get her parents back together was sweet. The unique use of shadows and light gameplay mechanic was very interesting and made for a few head scratching puzzle moments.
5. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
I feel I would need to turn in my role playing game fan club card if I did not include Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. This game showed that the Japanese role playing game style was far from dead. It doesn't hurt that one of the greatest animation houses in Japan, Studio Ghibli, helped with creating the visuals for the game. It was a beautiful game with a story that tugs at your heartstrings.
4. Beyond: Two Souls
Speaking of tugging at heartstrings, Beyond: Two Souls, the story of a woman who has an entity tied to her, pulled at them a few times. The story was good enough to pull in the talented Hollywood actors Ellen Page and Academy Award Nominee William Defoe. The game played almost like an interactive movie flittering through the life of Jodie Holmes from young girl being studied in a lab to adulthood as a CIA agent. In my opinion, it had some control issues. Even if you were to pit the control issues against the overall story and adventure aspects, it still slipped into my top ten…easily.
Beyond: Two Souls is my PlayStation 3 Game of the Year.
3. Bioshock: Infinite
A story that kept people talking about it long after they finished it, Bioshock: Infinite was a game that made people think. On one level the story spoke about religion and politics, but digging deeper you could find other meanings including possibly unintended commentary about creator Kevin Levine and his development studio Irrational Games. Columbia, the city in the sky, provided an ample playground for the story to unfold. Not only in the traditional FPS elements, but the freewheeling, roller-coaster ride of using the cable car system for movement between parts of the city made for a wild ride.
2. Grand Theft Auto V
Rockstar proved that their venerable Grand Theft Auto series could not only still be a good game but it could even reinvent it’s series a bit while they were at it. Follow the story of one main character, no…wait, try three characters that you could swap between almost whenever wanted. Franklin, Michael, and Trevor each had their own lives that they lived even if you were not playing them. Then there was the matter of the size of Los Santos, going from one end to the other took seemingly forever. How Rockstar fit that much city into the game is a mystery I am glad they made. That gave the game so much area to play in that when the online did finally launch later players could have their own little adventures without getting in the way of each other.
1. The Stanley Parable
I have still not found all of the endings, but I will keep trying. This is one of the reasons The Stanley Parable is my #1 game for 2013. A story that keeps you guessing as to what the real story is, a narrator that you never quite know if he's helping or hindering your progress, and just plain crazy fun, this and more is what made The Stanley Parable such a great joy to play. The humor was spot on and you never quite knew what was going to happen when you turned a corner. Davey Wreden crafted a game that kept me coming back to try to find more bits and pieces that I might have missed the first time, second time, or even the tenth time through. And then the genius of making the demo for The Stanley Parable a separate game unto itself, not something I've ever seen before.
The Stanley Parable is my Indie Game of the Year and my Overall Game of the Year.
Lastly, as always, a big thank you to you who read my reviews and stories. Thank you for being here. I write these not only to help you choose games, but for you to enjoy.