Time marches on. A tide sweeping over us in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years. Orchestrating the rise and fall of civilizations. Establishing cities of elaborate wonder before reducing them to dust and ashes. The cruel mistress to which we must all one day succumb. Inescapable. Inexorable. Mortality.
Which means it’s time to tell everyone about the videogames I really liked in 2013!
That’s right! December is “Best Of” season, the magical part of the year when we attempt to capture the essence of the last 365 days by crowning something “Best Cooperative Multiplayer SRPG FPS 3D Soundtrack.” Because how else are we to define the intangible human experience if not by the pop culture we enjoyed? You can’t make a year-end list of the “10 Best Infant’s Smiles” or “Top 20 Sweet Nothings Whispered in the Early Dawn After an Evening of Lovemaking in Which You and Your Lover’s Souls Were One.” I mean, you can try, but unless you spice that dish up with some Nene Leakes GIFs a la BuzzFeed, ain’t nobody clicking.
Thus your good pal UsurpMyProse is here to offer up his own list of favorites, so that you may look upon them and be satisfied in the knowledge that a no-name blogger’s adoration of Grand Theft Auto V has heralded another step closer to your grave.
So without further ado, I give you...
USURPMYPROSE’S BIG, STUPID, HONKING LIST OF 2013’S BEST VIDEOGAME... THINGS
Best Game I Watched a Complete Stranger Play - The Last of Us
Lacking the bags of Sony bribe money that come with being a “real” videogame journalist, I do not own a PS3, and thus had to resort to experiencing Naughty Dogs’ tragic tale of spores and survival through 15-minute chunks of low quality video. Which was fine, considering The Last of Us is as close to a cinematic experience as a videogame can get, albeit one where a considerable portion of the running time is devoted to watching people scrounge for gauze and rubbing alcohol.
The hours I spent squinting at the trials of Joel and Ellie were worth it, however, as The Last of Us is a beautifully bold spin on the “bleak and unforgiving apocalypse” genre, with the kind of potent moral ambiguity usually reserved for cable network dramas.
Runner-Up:Dota 2: Alliance vs. Na’Vi Championship Game – I don’t understand a single thing about Dota 2, but that didn’t stop me from watching three-plus hours of The International finals for no other reason than the infectious enthusiasm of announcers David “LD” Gorman and David “Luminous” Zhang. The dynamite duo combine the amateur earnestness of college radio DJs with the hyped-up jargon of WWE commentators.
Best Game I Paid to Not Play in 2013 – Armikrog
I arrived a year late to the crowd funding party, as Kickstarter rose to prominence in 2012 when Double Fine raised approximately enough money to secede from the US and start their own secret psychic summer camp (which, by the sound of Broken Age’s development issues, is probably what really happened).
But 2013 saw even more big name Kickstarters, and I was no longer able to resist the allure of playing pretend Shark Tank by having developers vie for my pledge money. I helped fund six projects this year, chief among them Armikrog, the spiritual successor to claymation cult hit The Neverhood. While I’ve expressed some concerns about the involvement of Doug “Icky Homophobic Elf” TenNapel, ultimately my inflated sense of social justice is trumped by my love of talking alien dogs voiced by Yakko Warner.
I mean, come on, we’re getting a pseudo-sequel to The Neverhood. In 2013. Because of the internet. Barring the sudden invention of cancer-curing hoverboards, that’s the best damn proof we’re living in the future that we’re going to get.
Runner-Up: Torment: Tides of Numenera, Mighty No. 9, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, Hyper Light Drifter, Paradise Lost: First Contact – Officially making 2013 the best year for games from 2014!
Best Non-2013 Game I Played in 2013 - Final Fantasy IX
2013 was a big year for many of my friends and family. I watched as loved ones got engaged, announced pregnancies, were hired for dream jobs, and just generally developed as people. But more importantly, I finally got around to playing the best JRPG of 2000!
I’ve seen many people claim that Final Fantasy IX is their favorite of the series, and it’s easy to see why. The game captures the simple magic of SNES-era Final Fantasys, while benefiting from the striking pre-rendered backgrounds of the PS1-era. Plus, as the last entry before the franchise began to look more and more like a J-pop music video with every new Roman numeral, I can see why FFIX might have a special place in the adolescent memories of some gamers.
Though I did have a few quibbles. Namely, the standard Final Fantasy plot that doesn’t make a lick of sense, the cartoonish one-dimensionality of a few members of the cast, the urge to set fire to my brain every time Zorn and Thorn popped up. But FFIX’s zealous charm covers for any shortcomings, and Vivi’s struggle with identity was the rare instance of me emotionally investing in a Final Fantasy character, easily making it the best JRPG I played all year.
Runner-Up: Dead Rising 2: Off the Record – On a scale from one to seeing Blue is the Warmest Color with my parents, how uncomfortable were the Psychopaths in Dead Rising 2 supposed to make me?
Best Game I’m Going to be Defending in a Comments Section in Five Years – Grand Theft Auto V
I’ve noticed a troubling trend with modern blockbuster releases. These days, big titles will be released with a tremendous deal of fanfare, all the reviewers will whip out their highest grades and their “Masterpiece!” superlatives, and the game in question will have seemingly cemented its coveted spot in the greater videogame canon.
Fast forward a few years, and an inexplicable backlash has festered in the community. Any mention of the game will prompt cries of “Overrated!”, and an unspoken consensus has been reached that the critical darling was actually a towering monument of suck the whole time. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, try striking up a conversation about Skyward Sword, or Skyrim, or the original “next-gen Grand Theft Auto,” GTA IV, and see how quickly you get shouted down by naysayers.
So to the inevitable future detractors I say this: Grand Theft Auto V is an amazing game. Yes, the game has its issues: a writing team apparently comprised of porn-addled fourteen year olds, a plot that’s more wacky caper than thrilling crime epic, and satire that’s as subtle as a Kanye West track. But the sheer scope and the, I don’t know, that thing, that magic of Los Santos cannot be understated. Rockstar crafted one of the most compelling and absurdly detailed videogame worlds in recent memory, and the unpretentious joy of terrorizing a herd of helpless cows with a forklift was unmatched by anything else I played this year. And in Trevor, the GTA series finally gave us an honest-to-god protagonist, a messy, complicated, whirling dervish of chaos and sadness.
Maybe I’m not exactly bold for defending the game when it’s about to be drowned in an avalanche of “Best of the Year” awards, but I assure you I’ll be a hero when the time comes for “Best of the ‘10s” deliberations.
Runner-Up:The Last of Us – Okay, hypothetical future tough guy, you can pretend like those opening ten minutes didn’t make you bawl your eyes out all you want, but that would make you a filthy liar.
Best Insta-Death That Still Haunts Me in Waking Nightmares –Tomb Raider’s Quick Time Tracheotomy
JESUS MOTHER OF GOD DID YOU JUST SEE THAT?! HOLY CHRIST THAT THING JUST TORE THROUGH HER THROAT LIKE WET TISSUE PAPER. OH MY FUCK SHE’S STILL MOVING HOW IS SHE STILL MOVING OH JESUS I CAN HEAR HER CHOKING ON HER OWN BLOOD WHY DIDN’T I MOVE THE JOYSTICK LEFT FAST ENOUGH WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS MAKE IT STOP PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF HUMAN DECENY I JUST WANTED TO RAID SOME TOMBS WHAT THE FUCK
Runner-Up:Spelunky – I’ll just gently ease myself off this cliff edge here aaaaaand an arrow ricocheted by body into a bed of spikes again ffffffffff-
Best New Pokémon - Dark Lord Klefki, Devourer of Souls
Allow me to direct your attention to a little article that was published on this very website shortly before the release of Pokémon X & Y. In this article the reveal of Klefki, one of the new Generation VI Pokémon, was met with disbelief and derision. Many, myself included, wrote off the sentient key ring as definitive proof that Game Freak was scraping the bottom of the monster design barrel. We all laughed Klefki off. Because we didn’t know any better. We didn’t know.
Now, anyone who has faced this eight inch behemoth in battle can tell you that it’s evil incarnate. It is steel forged in hatred. Its keys unlock nothing but madness.
For those of you who are not Pokémon masters, allow me to explain. Klefki is equipped with the Prankster ability, which gives priority to all status moves. Klefki can potentially paralyze and confuse an entire team before they’re able to land a single hit. This turns the finely-tuned chess match of Pokémon battling into a miserable game of luck. Twitching, crippled opponents struggle to attack while Klefki gorges itself on Leftovers and pops off Substitutes like a mogwai after a spritz.
Klefki is basically Rage Quit: the Pokémon.
Some people will tell you that Klefki is just an irritating gimmick that can easily be countered. Those people are hiding the deep scars this malicious, jangly bastard has inflicted on them. When Generation VII rolls around and the series inevitably turns another useless inanimate object into a Pokémon, we should all be prepared for that thing to be Satan made manifest.
Runner-Up: Hawlucha – It’s a luchador bird. Why would I even need to explain the appeal of a luchador bird to you?
Best Blatant GLaDOS Ripoff - The Stanley Parable’s Narrator
If there’s one emerging videogame trend I love even more than cramming Ellen Page or Ellen Page approximations into every major release, it is the inevitable spawning of countless GLaDOS clones. The sardonic narrator is a rich tradition that dates all the way back to the very dawn of time. Or at least, dates back to Monty Python and the Holy Grai. Which, if we’re being honest, is when time only just started to get interesting.
GLaDOS was a legendary addition to the pantheon – half omnipresent color commentator, half classic villain. The droll Brit serving as The Stanley Parable’s Narrator is a worthy successor, and with Portal references sprinkled liberally throughout the game, there’s an explicit acknowledgment that he’s a shameless parody of everyone’s favorite homicidal AI.
What puts The Stanley Parable’s Narrator over the top is how he operates as GLaDOS in his own uniquely meta way. He’s an antagonistic force running the player through obstacles like a rat in a maze, yes, but his primary purpose is to highlight the game’s greater points about narrative limitations. The Narrator’s most chilling moment isn’t when he’s mocking your futile attempts to stop a doomsday countdown. It’s when he’s pleading for you to get back on the one “true” path, showing the seams in The Stanley Parable’s grand design, and revealing that even the gentlemanly voice dictating your every action with effacing British wit is a prisoner to the shackles of story and structure.
Best Ending I Needed a Diagram to Understand - Bioshock Infinite
I’m an intelligent guy. That is to say, I ain’t no dummy. I enjoy the occasional cerebral stimulation, the occasional hoity-toity foreign film, the occasional rumination on the day’s sociopolitical events over a glass of cognac and a pipe packed with flavored tobacco.
But even I – esteemed paragon of sophistication and culture that I am – needed a godforsaken map to navigate the choppy waters that were Bioshock Infinite’s metaphysical mind fuck of an ending. Now, the particulars of the game’s closing minutes weren’t necessarily difficult to discern. Alternate dimensions, yadda yadda yadda, murder myself so I can be murdered by my daughter, blah blah blah, who are we but carbon copies carrying out our predetermined fates across infinite parallel universes, something something ragtime R.E.M.
It was the motivations of the whole sordid affair that eluded me, particularly those of aloof brother and sister comedy duo the Lutece twins. I felt as if I had missed a voxophone or twelve that explained why the cosmic pranksters were setting the whole doomed rescue mission in motion when they, y’know, were mostly responsible for Elizabeth’s role in the “drowning in fire the mountains of man” business in the first place.
Someone eventually explained to me that it was partly because Comstock had the Lutece twins killed, but finding that out just made me want to curl up and watch Duck Dynasty until I fell into a coma.
Runner-Up: The Swapper – So... hive-minded space rocks and disembodied talking brains try to make me have an identity crisis. No thanks, guys, that’s what high school was for.
Best Game I Should Have Played More and Will Probably Lie to People About Finishing to Sound Like More of a Discerning Gamer Than I Really Am - Monaco
Fantastic co-op games are the bane of my existence. It’s not like I don’t have friends. I have plenty of friends. I have more friends than you! But what I don’t have are friends who salivate over the idea of cooperative heists staged in a glorious orgy of color and 2D pixels. I know, I know – any friends who can’t appreciate Pac-Man as filtered through a cool French heist flick aren’t really your friends. But the two-bit boosters I played with in random online games weren’t my friends either, which took some of the excitement out of Monaco’s madcap thievery.
Going it alone was certainly a viable option, as Monaco’s addictively simple mechanics and gorgeous visuals are more than enough to buoy a single-player campaign. But a one-man job almost always ends in disaster. Rather than an intricate clockwork of color-coded archetypes executing a perfect plan, you’re usually reduced to a panicked, painfully unhip dash through multiple tripped alarms and tenacious guard dogs. It’s less The Italian Job and more The Thomas Crown Affair. The lame Pierce Brosnan one.
I’ll still tell everyone I beat the game, and that I didn’t just drop it after the first few levels, because not playing Monaco is a bigger crime than... whatever it is the characters do in Monaco. I don’t know, I didn’t really get that far.
Runner-Up:Don’t Starve – As someone who bursts into apocalyptic hysterics when the Wi-Fi is particularly slow at a Starbucks, the survival genre is a little too stressful for me.
Best Game That Consumed Hours of My Life I Could Have Better Devoted to Literally Anything Else - Cookie Clicker
Cookie Clicker isn’t a game; it’s a state of depression. The amusing thrill of establishing a confectionery empire draws you in, but the novelty lasts for all of five seconds before giving way to an endless slog of gradually rising digits. And just like depression, you find yourself unable to claw your way out of the misery, sinking deeper with each passing second into a morass of numbing banality and unlockable antimatter condensers.
You can interpret Cookie Clicker as a clever deconstruction of the meaningless number games that power most videogames, but to do so is to admit defeat. The compulsive click-a-thon actively mocks the “bigger numbers are better than smaller numbers!” principle that governs our lives as gamers, revealing that the hours you’ve whittled away plumbing for cookie dough in other dimensions is nothing compared to the lifetime you’ve wasted on electronic entertainment. Sure, we connect to the stories and characters and fantastical settings, but Cookie Clicker strips all of that away to reveal the cold, merciless engine running beneath.
“You feel like making cookies. But nobody wants to eat your cookies,” the game tells you before you make your first click, as fitting a tagline for the unfillable void in our lives as any in all of literature.
Runner-Up:Surgeon Simulator 2013 – Time I spent learning how to tear out a man’s kidneys with my bare hands is time I could have spent learning how to better communicate in a relationship.
Best Game I Want to Buy Based Entirely on Hearing 60 Seconds of the Soundtrack - Super Mario World 3D
It is the year 2013. An antiquated Italian stereotype should not still have the power to move consoles. And yet every single second I’ve seen of Super Mario World 3D has made me want to run out and buy a Wii U, a system I spent a solid year thinking was some kind of Sega CD-esque add-on for the original Wii.
I’m not likely to follow through on my impulse anytime soon, but Super Mario World 3D has guaranteed that I will pick up the console at some point, and that every second until that point will be spent in agonizing anticipation. The game just looks fun. Pure, unadulterated, Nintendo-brand fun. The catsuits! The Saturday morning cartoon visuals! A whole gaggle of Marios! (Flock of Marios? Herd of Marios? Murder of Marios? Whatever.)
The game’s aural prowess shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering this is the series that gave us “Swing! Your! Arms! From side to side!” But seeing the old plumber rock a horn section like that is still nothing short of amazing.
Best Decision I Made - Writing More Blogs on Destructoid
2013 marked the first time I had a blog post promoted to Destructoid’s front page, a validating achievement that I’ve been trying to recapture ever since. It’s like seeing your work put up on the refrigerators of hundreds of anonymous strangers. Only the refrigerators are computer screens, and all the anonymous strangers call you an idiot for saying Gaping Dragon was a difficult Dark Souls boss.
My first promoted post motivated me to write even more blogs. Some were also promoted, and some weren’t. The important thing is that I wrote them, putting forth the time and effort to bring my opinions squalling into existence in the bright, beautiful ether of the web. And I hope to do even more of that in 2014! Which certainly beats the plan I originally had before getting my first blog post promoted: wandering into the sea never to be seen again.
But I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank the community for providing a word of encouragement here, or some thought-provoking words there, and paying even a modicum of attention to my dumb thoughts. The reason I consider Destructoid to be the best gaming news thing out of all the other gaming news things is due in no small part to all you magnificent bastards who call this place home. You people are the real heroes.
I’m just grateful to play some small part in the madness, and hope to do so until this website is nothing but a shambling shell of its former self, overrun by spyware bots advertising cheap PC parts, eventually returning to the loam as we all one day must. Which, by my calculations, will probably happen sometime... March-ish?
Runner-Up: Seeing 12 Years A Slave – What are you doing reading another useless "Best Of" list? Go see 12 Years A Slave and do something important with your life!