It was a crap year in my own reality but in gameland I was able to solve some much bigger problems. Herniated disc? Try scavenging enough supplies from zombie hordes to keep a group of survivors together. Diverticulitis? At least you’re not battling yourself to save the daughter you kidnapped from yourself. These are my five favorite games from 2013 that helped me escape, empowered me, confused and delighted me.
5. Bioshock Infinite (PC)
Thinking back on it now I’m really not all that fond of Bioshock Infinite. It’s gameplay is simplistic, the world is narrow and the majority of its interactions play out like a carnival ride. But in the first few weeks of its release it couldn’t have been more magical. Why are these sky people in the 1900’s singing The Beach Boys? What are these “tears” that open gateways to mid-80’s France? What’s up with Elizabeth’s finger and Booker’s tattoo? I only got more invested as the story unwound and I explored the wondrous setting of Columbia.
4. The Stanley Parable (PC)
I came to The Stanley Parable pretty late in the year after more and more hype had been piled on it. I knew what was going to happen and went in not expecting much of a reaction but the thing still floored me. It’s genuinely funny, charming and twisted. Jumping through its hoops and defying the unreliable narrator led to some of the most hilarious and inventive conclusions I’ve seen in a game… and about games.
3. DmC Devil May Cry (PC)
I was never much of a fan of the original Devil May Cry games so I had no investment in this reboot. I appreciated Ninja Theory’s new direction but it wasn’t until I got to playtest the game in July of 2012 that it hooked me. I came out of the focus group grinning and dying to play more. The final product sees Ninja Theory’s most accomplished gameplay yet with intricate and interchangeable combat systems that are used for more than just fighting.
It’s light on the story compared to Enslaved but its style more than makes up for it. Seeing Dante’s reality bastardized as he’s pulled into Limbo never ceases to amaze me and most of the boss stages are unforgettable. Yup, even now I’m reliving them in my mind and — oh gross, that is one ridiculous Succubus!
2. State of Decay (Xbox 360)
State of Decay isn’t your typical, warmed over zombie slay-athon. Sure, there’s loads of them to kill and lots of ways to do it but what sets this game apart is its emphasis on survival. Like an Animal Crossing from Hell, the game progresses even when you turn it off. You may come back to find your resources dangerously low, survivors infected, a construction project on hold or someone gone missing.
I could only play for a few hours before I’d get overwhelmed by managing everything only to turn it off and stress out wondering what I’d come back to. It was a terrifyingly intense experience and a unique angle on zombie games that I won’t soon forget.
1. Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox 360)
Nowhere else in 2013 did I spend so much time, put in so much work or have so much fun as in GTAV. It was nearly 100 hours before I’d finished playing out Michael, Franklin and Trevor’s stories and exploring their world. Then Katy and I went online and found a crew of international friends to screw around with for another 250 hours. Figuring out Rockstar’s strange rules, maximizing our efficiency in missions and Survival maps, and then blowing our earnings on car parts and clothes was infectious fun.