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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Aggie Arcade

Best of 2013

This is the final edition of the Aggie Arcade for 2013, which means it’s time to go back and look at the year’s best games. Although the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One dominated headlines in November, the whole year was successful thanks to these top-notch games.

5) Tearaway

The PlayStation Vita has a solid lineup of games a year after its initial release, but only a few have actually used the portable’s technology in meaningful ways. Media Molecule’s Tearaway stands out as the best example, with its extensive use of touch controls and the Vita’s integrated camera in order to combine the actual player with the in-game world. The storybook narrative and paper-crafted art style exude charm and warmth, but the way in which the game creates a connection between the player and the visual world ends up being the game’s greatest strength.

4) The Stanley Parable

Earlier this year I came across a forum post in which a user described The Stanley Parable as an “interactive essay.” The classification makes quite a bit of sense when one considers how the game explores deep and complex topics like the idea of player choice and authoritative control. The actual mechanics simply involve walking around and making choices, but the way in which the wonderfully-voiced narrator adapts to those choices highlights a fantastic narrative that addresses the very nature of video games and the effect they can have on both players and creators. It makes for the most fascinating game of the year.

3) Rogue Legacy

Every year an indie release comes out of nowhere and ends up on my best of the year list. This time it’s Rogue Legacy, a downloadable game for the PC. Players explore a treacherous castle in an effort to earn gold and kill dangerous foes, but the game uses a rogue-like template in which players must start from scratch after each death. Whereas most games like this leave the player with no reward after death, Rogue Legacy does include player persistence. So after each death players still level up and use gold to unlock new abilities, which results in one of the year’s most addicting experiences.

2) BioShock Infinite

The main reason that I loved 2007’s BioShock was its introduction of Rapture, a fascinating underwater city that crumbled under a faulty utopian vision. Exploring that virtual world for the first time was incredible, and somehow BioShock Infinite replicates that feeling with Columbia, a gorgeous city in the sky. But uncovering the darkness beneath the beautiful landscape reveals yet another failed utopia, one in which issues of race, class, and social conventions divide the people. All of it adds up to a wonderfully unique narrative; it also helps that Infinite contains perhaps the most mind-blowing ending I’ve ever encountered in a video game.

1) The Last of Us

I went back and forth between my #1 and #2 picks throughout the year, but a second playthrough of The Last of Us solidified my top choice. Its emphasis on complex and dynamic characters makes for an emotionally resonating story, despite the familiar “infectious outbreak” storyline that has dominated all media in the past few years. And though I wouldn’t classify the game as “fun” thanks to the level of tension it maintains throughout the campaign, I did enjoy its healthy mix of combat, stealth and crafting. No other game in 2013 executed on both gameplay and narrative at the level of The Last of Us, and that makes it my game of the year.


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