Gamasutra's Best of 2013: Mike Rose's Top 5 Video Games
Gamasutra editor Mike Rose (@RaveofRavendale) continues our end-of-the-year series by sharing his picks for the best games of 2013.
When Gamasutra EIC Kris Graft and I were discussing our favorite games of 2013, one common thought kept springing to mind: 2013 was a bloody incredible year for video games.
I mean, without even taking into account the launch of two flashy consoles from Microsoft and Sony, and disregarding all the announcements about Steam Machines and the like -- the games of 2013 on their own were plenty exciting.
What was also so glorious about 2013 was that the line between "indie," "triple-A," console, PC, mobile, and all the other terms we throw about the place began to really merge and prop each other up.
Indie games are regularly discussed in the same breath as big budget titles now, while being into indie games isn't seen by more traditional gamers as this "hipster," "against the grain" avenue as much anymore. We can finally focus on what really matters -- the best video games, for all the best reasons.
I've put together my own personal games of the year, which you can find below. As hinted at above, it's a sweet mixture of indie, triple-A, shooter, platformer, RPG, PC, handheld, console, mobile, and generally all things wonderful.
It's also worth noting that I had a huge struggle of a time putting this list together, due to the aforementioned influx of great games in 2013. Even partway through writing this list, I changed my mind about one of the entries and swapped it out. I'll probably have changed my mind again tomorrow too! But anyway, here's what I've settled on, in no particular order:
Let's get the obvious pick out of the way first. When a reviewer uses the word "unique" to describe a game, they might mean that some common gameplay elements have been altered to give a new take on a tired old genre -- or perhaps they might be referring to how a game manages to give off a different aura than anything else they've played before.
When The Stanley Parable
launched in October, it essentially made the word "unique" obsolete when describing any other video game.
From its general premise, to its pitch-perfect narration, to all of the little ways you can attempt to break the game, only to find that every intricate input and outcome has been considered, there's so much to adore about this sprawling, first-person brain-bender.
I'm fairly certain I haven't said the words "holy crap" so many times while playing a video game (or doing pretty much anything) ever. At one point I walked into a broom closet and stayed in there for more than 10 minutes -- and the game narrated the entire ordeal. I then left the broom cupboard and went back in -- only for the narration to continue.
If you've not played the game, you will no doubt have zero clue what the heck I just described -- but for anyone who has played it, you'll either be nodding in appreciation, or booting up the game post-haste to check it out for yourself. It's the sort of experience that you spend half an hour rabbiting about to your friends down the pub on a Friday night, and they consequentially go home and stay up till the crack of dawn playing it.
Dungelot by Red Winter Software
I don't play a lot of mobile games. It's not out of choice, nor do I hate mobile in particular -- rather, I just find that the vast majority of "great" mobiles are described as "great for a mobile game," a phrase that I have a giggle about on what feels like a weekly basis.
But I do have my go-to mobile games, like Triple Town
-- and in 2013, I added Dungelot
to the list of games which have earned a place on my smartphone home screen. This seemingly simplistic dungeon crawler slash puzzler offers a six by five grid, and asks you to poke the spaces in a bid to uncover the exit. Of course, there are other bits and bobs to find hidden underneath these squares, including enemies, treasures, equipment, spells and secrets.
The first few times, you'll feel a little like there isn't much to it. Then you begin to pick up on vague tactics here and there, which help you reach the lower dungeons. And two-dozen hours in, you realize that you'll probably play this game for the rest of your life, and you'll actually totally OK with that. Imagine Desktop Dungeons
for a more casual audience, but with the depth to keep hardcore players hooked, and you're in the right ballpark.
I just find the experience rolling over me each time I play, its waves of bite-size bliss eating away my commutes, my downtime, my few minutes before crashing, while my hero's health is slowly but surely picketed away as I take calculated risks. It's the perfect mobile game, in my eyes, and it'll be a while before another mobile game takes its throne.
Anyone who follows me on Twitter will already be well aware of my love for SteamWorld Dig
. Previously the best Nintendo 3DS you can buy, and now also one of the best PC games of 2013, this is a game that bottles up a little bit of Terraria
, a dash of Metroid
, and throws a lovely steampunk aesthetic over the top.
It's the flow of the game that really sets it apart. You dig deep, you find gems, you bring them back to the surface, you repeat. But the path that you create through this randomly-generated world remains in place, meaning that backtracking is regularly entertaining. As you begin to pick up special abilities (this is where the Metroid
but comes into play), you'll be able to dig deeper and reach further. It's pretty remarkable how fantastic the level design is, given that 90 percent of the experience takes place amidst randomly-generated squares.
It's the intrigue, too, that makes SteamWorld Dig
such a memorable four or so hours. As you dig, you don't just encounter different colored crusts, or special blocks to dig -- there's an underlying story that revolves around why there are no humans around anymore that genuinely ties the experience together, and made me want to bang it all out in a single playthrough. Honestly, you just really need to play this without question.
I fell out with Pokemon
several years back. I'm not sure exactly when it was, but it must have been around the time that you could take screenshots from two different Pokemon
generations, and have no clue which game each screenshot came from (see also: Call of Duty, FIFA
But I always knew that I'd be back, because I knew that Game Freak would eventually deliver the Pokemon
game I had been waiting for. Pokemon X & Y
was this huge leap forward that I had in my head for the decade or so, and it once again ignited the part of my brain that had laid dormant for so long, filled with effectivity charts, move lists and general pocket monster tactics. Gone are the seriously outdated visuals and multiplayer capabilities -- in their place stands a glorious 3D Pokemon
world, filled to the brim with places to visit and sights to see, and streamlined online components, wrapping up the most social Pokemon
title to date.
It was this realization of my own Pokemon
dream -- a dream that has been swirling around in my brain for a rather long time -- which truly put a smile on my face. The fact that the game is exactly what I was hoping for is just the icing on the cake.
SpeedRunners by Double Dutch Games and tinyBuild Games
Am I allowed to include a Steam Early Access game? I don't care either way, because SpeedRunners
has been my go-to multiplayer of 2013 by a long shot. The game started life as a local multiplayer Xbox Live Indie Game, and made its way to PC this year after numerous requests for an online multiplayer version.
So what is it? Imagine the classic Micro Machines
but in platforming form, and you're on the right track. Four players rush around a loop, leaping and bounding over and under obstacles, and using special abilities to knock each other off course. It's so simple, yet just so right
, to the point where you can play the very same level over and over again for three hours straight, and never get bored.
It's been fantastic following along with development of the game too. New levels, power-ups and ideas are thrown into the mix each week, while "themed weeks" pop up every now and again to shake the foundations of play. If you can find a bunch of friends to play with, it really is essential that you pick this up -- it's the best game of 2013 that you didn't play.
Runners-up: Tomb Raider, The Last of Us
and GTA V
were all games that I really enjoyed -- loved, even -- but felt like they could have each benefitted from cutting out a good portion of the content. GTA V
in particular had so many dull, run-of-the-mill hours of gameplay to balance out the utterly fantastic stuff.
very nearly made it into my top five (I just wish it was a tad longer!), while Luigi's Mansion 2
is quite possibly one of the most underrated games of the year. Then there's Brothers
, which had plenty of moments of glory, and Rayman Legends
, which had me smiling like a crazy person throughout (and includes the greatest level in any video game ever, 'Castle Rock'.)
Check back for more of Gamasutra's staff picks over the course of the week! Read EIC Kris Graft's top 5 right here, blog director Christian Nutt's list here, and contributing editor Kris Ligman's list here.