There are a lot of websites that will write up a Game of the Year list, and they’ll give out awards and they will definitively say what the best game of this year is. We’re not doing that here. Everyone has a different gaming background and everyone has different preferences in gaming. That’s why I told everyone that writes for the site to write what they want to write. If it’s a top ten list or a few highlights, whatever. Let’s just talk about the games that we played and the games that we loved. We can’t all afford every game nor do we have time to play them all, so out of what I’ve played, here are my favorite for the year.
Drinkbox Studios surprised me in 2012 with their Vita launch title Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack. It was the right price, and perfect for Vita. When I heard that they were going to be making a Metroidvania game set in a Mexican landscape I was immediately on board. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has been my favorite video game since I was a young lad, and any entry in the genre always piques my interest. What Drinkbox was able to do with Guacamelee this year easily puts the title on my favorite games list. Fighting through challenging enemies and acquiring new abilities from straight up Metroid Chozo statues was super fun and rewarding. The platforming sections, specifically the saw blades in the forest had me ready to throw my Vita across the room yet always gave me enough reward to keep trudging forward. This is a title that should not be ignored and the Cross-Buy feature between PS3 and Vita makes the purchase worth your while.
10. Tomb Raider
We first heard lingering rumor of a new Tomb Raider reboot several years ago, and were finally shown some footage a few E3’s back. At first sight, the game looked beautiful, even if it was on significantly old technology. When the game was delayed my heart was broken, but fortunately it came out earlier this year in time to make it onto my favorite games list. While the story for me was pretty cut and dry, and very predictable, I loved every moment of gameplay. Climbing, shooting, murdering, hunting: that is what makes this game spectacular. There’s not much more to say other than this game feels really, really good while you play it. Navigating the island and exploring spider web-riddled tombs will stick with me forever and I am eager to see what the team does with their next iteration on a new generation of console hardware.
9. Pokémon X
When Nintendo revealed footage of their first foray into 3D for the Pokémon franchise, I was less than excited. I thought that the game looked like garbage and there was a lot of aliasing in those models. As they slowly pulled back the metaphorical curtain on the game, Mega Evolutions and rollerblades just didn’t cut it either. Just a month or so before release, Nintendo let loose the fact that in addition to the choosing one of three new Kalos starters, you could also obtain one of the three original Kanto starters in Pokémon X and Y. I went out that day and bought a 3DS XL. I waited for weeks, soaking up any information that I could on the title and trying to learn everything that I could. I went at midnight that Friday into Saturday to pick up my copy and I didn’t put it down for weeks. Game Freak injected so much nostalgia into this game; it felt like a return to the beginning for the series while still inventing new ideas and mechanics. The Global Trading System is a blessing, and one that I used frequently when trying to fill out my Pokedex. My friends and I all became obsessed with the game and it was like we were still kids at the playground wiring up link cables to trade and battle. Any game that makes me feel like a kid again is surely going to become a favorite of the year.
8. Velocity Ultra
Futurlab might not be a household name but they should be if your house is filled with games. Seriously, this developer is so ahead of the curve it’s incredible. Their original Velocity, released as a PSmini, brings back the solid arcade gaming of our childhoods while taking advantage of modern design enhancements. I was ecstatic when they announced that they were retooling the game for Vita with all new art assets and a full trophy list. As I mentioned in my review for thegamefart, it is the ultimate “just one more” kind of game. There is always a better time to achieve on a level and Futurlab has created medals for each stage that make you want to go back and get all golds. I am still playing this game on my Vita and it’s almost six months post release. It’s just that good, and so is this team. The music is incredibly engaging and it creates the perfect tension for the atmosphere the game sets up. I cannot recommend this enough and I cannot wait until Velocity 2X is released on PS4. Don’t read the rest of this article. Just go buy this game.
7. Injustice: Gods Among Us
Batman is the best comic book character ever. Unbeatable. Well, unless I’m playing as Nightwing. Or The Flash. NetherRealm’s Injustice is that opportunity to beat the shit out of your favorite superheroes with your other favorite superheroes. Hands down it is simply fun, but digging deeper it is a fighting game that was able to make me a fighting game fan. I’ve never been great at combos and I don’t know most basic fighting game commands. However, I learned those in Injustice. I bought a fight stick for Injustice. I love Injustice. I held tournaments at my apartment for this game, where myself and a litter of friends sat around and screamed at one another as members of the Justice League ripped each other apart on the screen. This game is so much fun, and along with it came a great story. It’s always cool to read those Elseworlds tales in comic books and Injustice has one of the best. What if Superman went bad? It’s an awesome concept that was explored really well- if you haven’t played through it yet, do yourself a favor and get to it. Just writing about the game makes me want to throw the computer down and grab my fight stick.
6. GTA V
Oh Rockstar… Have you ever done anything terrible? Oh, yeah State of Emergency. But that wasn’t GTA V, no, not at all. GTA V is where every open world game should be looking if they want to survive. You could live a simulation life within this game, playing golf and buying houses, without ever touching the story. There is so much packed into the world of Los Santos that you could probably play it every day for a year and still find something new. The attention to detail that Rockstar has is admirable and should be stolen and put into every video game going forward. Just driving around town and reporting back to my friends with interactions, and having them all be surprised and then share something that the rest of us haven’t seen or experienced- that’s rich. When you do finally touch the story, oh boy does this game reach a new level. For the first time in the franchise’s history, you play through as three main protagonists. When they first announced that, I had no idea how it would work. It turns out: perfectly. Never was there a time where I felt more attached nor disconnected to one of the three characters. They each had their own story that I wanted to hear and Rockstar was very delicate in balancing how I would hear and experience each one. I wanted Franklin to be okay, and Michael to straighten out his home life. And Trevor, well I just wanted him to be Trevor, but as his story unfolded I cared for him too! He ended up being such a tragic character that I attached to him more closely. GTA V is the biggest video game and deservedly so. It’s one of those pinnacle moments in game making and I’d be a fool not to include it here.
5. Bioshock Infinite
How do you follow up a masterpiece? Seriously, when you have made something that is held in so high regard and the expectation from you is so incredibly elevated, how do you even go on? I guess you make Bioshock Infinite. I will not say that Infinite exceeds its predecessor, because it doesn’t. The original 2007 title introduced us to the world of Rapture and the craziness that lies within. It showed us a new way to tell stories in video games and a new way to play those games. Infinite takes what the original did and builds upon it in a new way. Honestly, the shooting mechanics and the search for every audio log became tired in Infinite, but the new travel mechanics and Vigors introduced kept the game exciting. Let’s not forget the story along with it. It was hard not to fall in love with Elizabeth, as she is led through this world by a man that we didn’t really understand. Her addition to the game was refreshing, and it was comforting to know that someone was there with you. The times where she was taken from you really hurt. I felt sick when she wasn’t close by and I had to quickly play through to catch back up with her. The relationship that Irrational was able to create between Booker and Elizabeth while still creating one between the player and Elizabeth was astounding. The two characters grow together as Booker slowly learns who and what he really is, and the whole time you build a connection with them and their world. Their world certainly was not Rapture and I wasn’t as enamored with every step that I took, but the way that the story converged by the end and really gave meaning to the title of the game just took every dissatisfaction I might have had out of the picture. I think that the core title, combined with the interesting Rapture DLC are a nice coda to the Bioshock franchise and as a whole I will be able to look back on this game for years and still get exciting goose bumps over the possibilities.
4. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
I’ve been that “oh hey, I’m back” kind of friend with the Zelda franchise. I don’t have a triforce tattoo, and I don’t play every single title and obsess over every last heart piece, but I do enjoy the series and was very intrigued by what this title was setting out to do. It’s been roughly twenty years since the original A Link to the Past and now their going to do a sequel? Good luck… Turns out that luck was in their favor because this game is outstanding. I mean truly outstanding, not just in the way that that word like so many have become overused and tired. A Link Between Worlds takes what made the original so fun and special and it adds in so much to make things just as fun and special while still being refreshing and rewarding. The story was a little predictable for me but there were still some surprises tucked away throughout. What makes this game outstanding for me is the return to nonlinearity for the series. I’ve talked to several people who have played this and I don’t think any of us have followed the same path. We all have different favorite sections and deservedly so. Each dungeon in the game presents itself uniquely from the last and the puzzles that you have to solve in each are all equally challenging and complex. The game plays really well and running around between Hyrule and Lorule never got old. I skipped out on proper sleep for a few nights just to play more of this game. I wanted to see what trouble lied ahead in the next dungeon. I wanted to see what new puzzle I would have to solve. I just wanted more and more and more. Now that I’ve finished I want to go play through Hero mode and challenge myself even more. I’m so happy that I decided to come back and visit my friend The Legend of Zelda this time around because A Link Between Worlds is an outstanding achievement and just another reason to own a 3DS.
I think a common thread throughout this list has been that these are all games that will stick with me for a while, if not forever. While Tearaway might not be in my top spot, it very well might be the one that lasts the longest in my heart. We have seen a dramatic change in the way video games are played and the stories that are told within them. In recent years, I have felt betrayal, anger, depression, and satisfaction while playing games. I’ve cried, I’ve screamed, I’ve complained. Not until Tearaway have I laughed and smiled. That might be slightly hyperbolic but I don’t think I’ve really laughed or smiled while playing a game the way that I did in Tearaway. Seeing my face in the Sun, looking down on Iota just had me smile down at him and make silly faces like I was in the trailer for some indie love movie. Holding that world in my hands and feeling directly how my actions impacted that world just changed the way that I play games. No game has really ever tackled the relationship between the player and the game and the world and the character. Having that idea explored amidst this beautiful landscape of papercraft was truly special. Tearaway is that feeling of safety when you’re curled up in bed with cartoons and snacks and you know that mom is just down the hall if you need her. It’s a feeling that we lose as we grow up and move out and move on and stop playing hide and seek in that field just out back of the house. The fact that Tearaway can relay so many emotions and feelings and take me back to a place where I never thought I would go again just makes me happy. I am so grateful that a game like this exists and that I got to experience it.
Spelunky is the girl that you were warned about. The one who will lure you in because she is cute and looks like fun but she is also the one that will hurt you over and over and over and over and over and over and over. She might feel bad for you after a bit or maybe you’ll just get to know how to work her and you can find reward in staying around her. That reward is just enough to make you push through the pain and suffering and keep looking for more. I spent the first month with Spelunky on the very first section. I didn’t know there was anything outside of the Caves. I just kept dying but I kept going back. Then one day I saw the Jungle! It was beautiful and filled with creatures and new friends to make. The music was different, there was water, and there was a Tiki Man. Hey Tiki Man, are we friends? Oh, dead again. Back to the Caves. And so continues my tale of Spelunky. I still haven’t seen everything that this game has to offer but I still keep going. It’s very much a game about learning and about caution. The more careful you are, the further you will go, but without the knowledge and experience that you earn through time and mistakes, you can never make it out of the Caves let alone see what Hell looks like… Spelunky has made me late for so many appointments because I don’t want to stop when I’m on a roll. Even if I’m doing fantastic and then I die, I just want to restart because I know I can get past where I just was. I know it! On top of the addictive nature that the game has, this would not be a proper acknowledgement if I didn’t mention the music. Similar to that of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, I have found myself just humming tunes or having one play out in my brain for a day or two and realize that it’s music from Spelunky. These tracks sound like unreleased Michael Jackson songs. They go in every direction and much like the game; I want to follow along in every direction with them. Everything about Spelunky is catchy and addictive, and I just want more more more.
1. The Last of Us
The Last of Us is my favorite game of this year. Unlike a lot of games on this list, where replayability and the lasting appeal of game mechanics that keeps me returning to the titles, The Last of Us is one that I have only played through one time. I keep toying with the idea of going back and playing through a second or third time, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I spent the hours I spent with Joel and Ellie in constant fear of what would happen next. I turned every corner with precision and I awaited every story beat with an eagerness that is irreplaceable. I was never let down, not once. Every moment in the game was so well crafted and it paid off for the struggles I endured, even though things just kept getting worse the further I explored. I became Joel, and I fell in love with Ellie. I just wanted the best for her no matter the cost. At the end of the game, I felt no different and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything other than what happened. For a game and a setting that is outside of my own, it all felt real. For weeks after, I felt like I lived through that, and I really experienced what Joel and Ellie experienced. Here I am, half a year after playing through that and I still remember every moment, every step, every word. I don’t plan on having children, and I don’t think I’ll know the true feeling of being a father but I think I felt it when I played through this game. There are parents out there reading this and laughing but Naughty Dog created a world and a setting where I completely lost myself and discovered things about my nature that I never would have otherwise.
Looking at it purely from a video game mind, The Last of Us is a new height. The performance capture is something that is unrivaled on the PS3. The characters, while computer generated, are incredibly lifelike. The environments are immersive and they drown you in their beauty. Seeing city blocks overrun with foliage is this astonishing sight that displays our humanity. That world shows how fragile we are, and it shows that we are nothing in the larger picture. There was life before us and there will be life after us. What I’m writing, what you’re reading, what we are all doing will end one day and bit by bit it will all be covered up and forgotten. That’s a dark, philosophical idea that the creative team was able to deliver to me simply through the environment design of their game. I love that we are in an era where video games can reach this level of achievement.
I called this game the best game of the generation when I reviewed it, and six months later I still feel the same. 2013 was one of the best years for video games and we are all in a better place because The Last of Us was made this year.
My Favorite 2012 Game That I Played in 2013
Just like the list you read above, there are always games that I won’t be able to play right away. We’ve hit a point where great games come out almost every week and I, nor anyone, do not have the time or money to play and buy all of these. That’s why I like this section because I can highlight something fantastic from a previous year that I didn’t have the chance to play. That game this year is Sleeping Dogs. Sleeping Dogs has a wild development history that you can go read about, but knowing all of that I wasn’t keen on picking it up. When something has gone through that much nonsense during development, it usually isn’t a good sign (See: Duke Nukem Forever). Yet Sleeping Dogs turned out to be one of the exceptions to the rule. I played the game to full completion, soaking up every moment of it. It had Arkham Asylum’s combat mixed with Need for Speed’s driving, all set in a very GTA Hong Kong. It tells the story of Wei Chen, an undercover cop who is working within the Triad and trying to bust down on the underworld. The story had incredibly tense moments sewn in between real human moments. You’re a cop and you’re supposed to stop anything illegal from happening yet you start to feel sympathy for the people you are working with. United Front Games put me in the position of Wei Chen and I felt some of the anguish that he felt while he watched this criminal underworld crumble beneath his power. I loved the combat in the game, and the driving was superb. Being able to leap from a moving car and onto another is a mechanic I missed when playing this year’s GTA V. I painstakingly searched every inch of Hong Kong to complete this game but had fun racing and murdering along the way. This game definitely caught me by surprise but I am so glad that I got the chance to play it. Hopefully soon we can get some details on a sequel because I surely won’t wait a year to play through it.
That’s it! It’s been a great year for video games and a great year to cover them. I’ve had a lot of fun playing and writing about games, from the announcement to the launch of new consoles and all of the spectacular games in between. Thank you for reading thefreecheesedotcom, we will have so much more coming in the next year. Remember, we’re just getting started, but we’re happy you’ve all been here so far. Let me know your favorite games from this year below and we can talk about them. Have a great end of your year and go play some games!