2013 was a pretty strange year for gaming . Although it was sort of obvious that new consoles were going to be coming down the pipeline, I don’t think I fully understood just what sort of changes and discussions would end up taking place. I went into this year flying a Microsoft flag hoisted high, only to end the year in a state of limbo wondering where my video game playing would end up in the future. I found myself just sinking more time into playing games just to play games. Wildly different genres and tastes and games I could just fall deep into and just sort of ignore all of the crazy weird Next Gen/DRM/Spying/Cloud Based jibbergabber on the internet…and in the long run I think it worked out pretty fuckin’ well.
10: Resident Evil 6
This game is awful. It’s horrible. It’s probably one of the worst games I’ve played this year…even though it came out last year. Every summer during the video game drought I always like to think of challenges for myself to make the time pass. This year I decided to go ahead and beat every current-gen Resident Evil game (5, Operation Raccoon City, 6) and…it was a feat. Those games are terrible. But why is it on my list? Because after forcing/drafting one of my buddies to play through THE ENTIRETY of Resident Evil 6 in co-op I noticed we were actually having a lot of fun with it.
The controls were clunky and just about everything about the game was just bad…but there was something to be said for the two of us just sitting back and riffing on what we were doing and completely not taking the game seriously. I try to avoid things like “It’s so bad that it’s good” but that largely sums up my experience with Resident Evil 6. It was an awful game that was really fun to play. I will say, however, that RE: 6 Mercenaries was legitimately fun and something I wouldn’t hesitate to pay for if it were sold stand alone.
9: Diablo III (console)
If you haven’t noticed yet I don’t have many PC-centric games on this list…it’ because my PC is booty butt doo-doo garbage. As such I do most of my gaming on consoles, this means the first time I was ever able to play the continuation of one of my favorite franchises was the year they decided to port it over to consoles and I must say Diablo III plays pretty damn well. I had always been a fan of dungeon crawlers and top down beat-em ups with loot so to see that this game made the jump to a controller fairly well is great. Diablo III consoles is basically everything Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 should have been. Fast, easy to work with the controls and its stable enough that even with four players on the same screen you are still all having good time. A Blizzard console port that is good. How the hell is that even possible?
8: Ridiculous Fishing
Mobile games are games, too! Ridiculous Fishing is just addictive as all hell. Many a lunch break at work or bus ride was spent staring intently at my phone while tilting it side to side and then tapping like a madman. It’s hard to really articulate what is so great about Ridiculous Fishing because it’s just so simple. It’s a nice little addictive game to play that you can sink a few minutes into it and then go on about your life. It also largely avoids the microtransaction cancer that is running rampant on mobile games nowadays, which is great.
7: Grand Theft Auto 5/Grand Theft Auto Online
Grand Theft Auto 5 was just a strange game to play coming off of something like Saints Row IV. Here you have this huge sprawling and incredibly detailed world…but really nothing to do in it. I liked what I played from GTA5 but I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing out on what the game had to offer because the game never really gave you any reason to seek any of those things out. The story, however, was pretty great and really tight. GTA juggled its three characters well enough but it all still felt a little short. But if I am so down on it why is it even on this list at all? Grand Theft Auto Online.
While it started off clunky and all but broken GTAO eventually morphed into something I sunk way too much time into this year. All of the things I wanted from GTA proper seemed to find its way into Grand Theft Auto Online. Having a crew of people just drive around and explore the world while occasionally doing missions (or starting wars with rival gangs) was something that felt like it worked. Having a character that lived, breathed, was customizable, and even made mundane things like car and home ownership a feat to be achieved rose the game up from its roots and made it feel more like a world I just wanted to spend time in and hang out with. That’s what GTAO felt more like to me…a place to just hang out…and every now and then commit a felony or fifty.
6: Far Cry 3
Yes, I know this game came out last year BUT I didn’t play it until this year. With all of that being said if I HAD played it last year it would have very well been my Game of the Year. Rarely ever does a first person shooter game feel FUN to me. I’m not saying that I don’t have fun playing them, I mean in the sense that I never feel like I can just HAVE FUN. It’s always a very rigid “Go here, shoot that don’t get shot” experience that feels good in the long run but leaves me feeling like I am being commanded rather than just organically playing. That is what Far Cry 3 fixed.
I felt like no matter what I was doing in Far Cry 3 that I was having FUN. Shooting dudes in the face with arrows? Fun. Leaving landmines on the road so mooks can drive over them and explode? Fun. Luring a tiger to an enemy base and then sitting in the bushes while it mauls everyone to death? FUN. Just throwing a goddamn Molotov cocktail into the woods and just watching it burn? FUN. Far Cry 3 was just FUCKING FUN. Also Vass.
5: Dynasty Warriors 8
It’s…Dynasty Warriors. It’s beating up tons of mindless mooks with oversized weapons and weird costumes. It’s listening to cheesily voice acted lines and mispronounced Chinese names. It’s hearing some of the best buttrock soundtracks ever to grace a videogame. It’s the 50th retelling of the Yellow Turban Rebellion. I could explain to you all of the things that DW8 does that are good this year like more characters, a better weapon swap system, a better weapon element system, larger and more varied maps, a WONDERFUL story mode that rewards you for actually following orders on the battlefield and sticking to historical accuracy AND giving you ‘what-if’ scenarios if you go out your way to change history (something that is purposefully impossible to do on your first playthrough). But…it won’t matter. Dynasty Warriors 8 is another in a long, LONG line of games that you either like or you hate. I just know that after a long day beating the ever loving shit out of an army while wielding a giant paintbrush and amassing a 4500 hit combo just feels damned good.
4: Injustice: Gods Among Us
I didn’t think there would ever be a time where someone would go “A Mortal Kombat-style fighting game with DC characters is going to be one of the best games of the year.” That shit sounds like a straight up disaster waiting to happen, yet somehow Netherealm Studios pulled it off. Injustice had a lot stacked against it from the jump but ended up being one the more surprising games I played this year. A fighting system that actually works and is fairly tight, the idea that in a 2D fighting game that state selection actually matters and is an integral part of the gameplay, and in what is becoming a much needed trend for NRS and fighting games in general an actual story mode.
I’m not even the biggest fan of DC Comics but I was into the story and the characters in this game and they managed to pack the roster with enough well knowns and unknowns to make the game approachable to fans with any passing knowledge. With fighting games back in the spotlight again it’s good to see that someone is taking advantage of it and bringing some new systems to the play and more importantly making them WORK.
3: State of Decay
State of Decay was the zombie survival game I had been waiting for. A game that was exactly what it said on the tin. It was a ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GAME. You weren’t some guy lugging around pistols akimbo and lighting up hordes of zombies in a dark room. You weren’t duct taping together a chainsaw and a whiffle bat and just cleaving a bloody swath through the streets. Hell, in most cases you weren’t even using a weapon at all. You were simply SURVIVING. State of Decay felt like an actual experience rather than a ‘Zombie Killin’ simulator.
You would spend hours on end going from house to house and scavenging for food and supplies, if you did manage to see a zombie it was more worth your while to try to take it out as silently as possible or just avoid the fight altogether. While that might sound like an exercise in boredom for most people I found myself dumping 3 to 4 hour chunks into this game. The idea that in a gaming sphere where Zombies have become nothing more than a trope to be used at whim that there is a zombie game that actual treats them as a threat and not just fodder was great to have. The fact that the world was persistent and your characters could die in your time away and if a character dead they were gone forever was even better. The game is about survival, and sometimes survival doesn’t see everyone make it out alive.
2: X-COM: Enemy Within
Enemy Unknown was a great experience and a great turn-based strategy game in its own right. It was hard to think of how to improve it, but Enemy Within does it with relative ease. By giving you new units, new story threads, new enemy types, and more missions that show just how dire the situation is on Earth you get a better idea of how bit the scale in this game can get. Firaxis also fixed the one glaring issue that always hurt Enemy Unknown; pacing.
With the addition of MELD into the battle you are now forced to make risky decisions with your soldiers live instead of playing it slow and steady. It brings a whole new level to the battle and allows you to experience more of a commander role instead of a bureaucratic one. Although some might simply call this an expansion pack for a game that came out last year, I think it still says something that an expansion pack can do so much for the game that it still ends up at the 2nd best thing I’ve played this year.
1: Saints Row IV
While I don’t think it’s better than Saints Row The Third, I do think that Saints Row IV is probably the most fun I’ve had with an open world game this year and more importantly marks what I think should be the next evolution of open world games in general. Everything in Saints Row IV felt organic and felt like it was working with itself instead of against it. The side quests and mission structure was made in such a way that you could start (and complete) most of the optional content without feeling like you were being held off and actively distracted from the story and when you did get an actual story mission they were all varied and not just a retread of “Drive here, Kill the people, watch the cutscene.”
And even when you take the gameplay out of the equation Saints Row IV just felt like a satisfying experience. It’s another one of those franchises that was born and (as of right now) died in one generation and the scope and scale of the game felt like a nice final chapter to a game that started out as an unapologetic Grand Theft Auto Clone. It’s a great feeling to look at what Saints Row was and what it has become and how in the process it changed how people can approach Open World games. It’s okay to be silly, funny, and over the top. It’s even better if you can get your gameplay and writing to keep pace with it as well.