Game of the Year 2013: 10-6
We continue our look back at 2013 with our second of three Game of the Year articles. Agree or disagree with our rankings? Sound off in the comments.
10th. The Stanley Parable
The Stanley Parable is a rare videogame. Not only is it remarkably funny and celebratory, but it offers a scathing look at the medium it inhabits. It explores the illusion of choice and the uneasy relationship between designer and player, adopting a satirical tone to subvert expectations and betray almost everything we’ve come to know from this interactive medium.
With a quick witted narrator at the helm it talks to the player directly, reacting to your decisions and questioning why videogames are the way they are; why do we even bother with them to begin with? In lesser hands it wouldn’t work, yet we remain firmly on board for the duration, seeking answers amidst a tangled narrative bursting with inventiveness, consistent laughs and unexpected outcomes. The definition of a game made for gamers. It almost makes you proud.
9th. Super Mario 3D World
Few games brought as much unadulterated joy to 2013 as Super Mario 3D World. From the delightfully catchy music and burst of colour in almost every single level, to the fantastic new cat suit and pretty much everything else in between. EAD Tokyo somehow continue to reinvent a series decades old, all without hopping aboard the well-worn nostalgia train. The simultaneous multiplayer can get a little too hectic at times but the levels are so well designed for both single and multiplayer situations that it maintains its superb quality no matter how many people are involved. Just when you think it has nothing left to give it finds new ways to inject that special, tingly feeling right into the pleasure centre of your brain. The little plumber has still got it.
8th. Papers, Please
An elderly woman stands at your desk, shaded pixels tracing the lines of her wrinkled, worried face as she tells you that her husband is waiting for her on the other side of your border control office. But there’s a problem. She’s from Republia, and your Arstortzkian overseers have just that morning decreed that no Republians are to be allowed across the border due to a terrorist threat. She looks perfectly innocent, all her documentation is in order and she sounds sincere, so what do you do? Green stamp or red stamp?
Nothing else in the landscape of 2013 videogame releases posed quite so many thought-provoking moral quandaries as Papers, Please did. But what’s perhaps most distinctive about Lucas Pope’s work is that it comments on a distinctly human situation through the way that you interact with it, not in spite of your interaction.
7th. Tomb Raider
Crystal Dynamics’ energetic reboot of the aging, stuttering Tomb Raider series was one of the great suprises of 2013. With Rhianna Pratchett on writing duties, Lara Croft was transformed from a fantasy love doll with two beachballs glued to the front into a grounded and believable character whose ingenuity, bravery and toughness slowly blossomed over the course of the game. That bit near the end when Lara cuts loose with her signature dual weapons? Badass moment of the year.
It’s not perfect; too often the more restrained story being told clashes with the increasingly ludicrous action set-pieces, and if I never see another quick-time event again it will be too soon, but overall Tomb Raider was gorgeous to look at and a total blast to play. A smart, heartfelt and exciting reboot of a seemingly obsolete franchise. Roll on the sequel.
6th. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Look past the peculiar oddness of how it functions and Brothers presents something special. A sibling story with an economy of content, that makes better use of only a couple hours than any game of this year. It’s an emotive and artful experience that breaks convention to try something different and to give us a unique story. For this, it stands out as a refined downloadable game with significant weight and a clarity that’s carried through until the emotionally charged end. A fine piece of work that earns its placing with every minute of the content.