Thoughts on Games of 2013

1. The Last of Us - Though there are things I liked better in some of the other games below, this game brought together a lot of interesting ideas into a gorgeous, compelling story that managed to stand out from the pack (no small feat considering it is a zombie game, a genre that to my mind has worn out its welcome). I can't wait to see what the Naughty Dog folks pull off on the PS4.

2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds - I don't know what to say about this other than to say it is the finest Zelda game in 20 years and - unless it finishes very badly - will likely end up in my top 2-3 Zelda games ever. A nice blend of nostalgia and innovation that offers challenge if you want it (mostly through some of the collecting tasks) and accessibility if you need it. I If you own a 3DS and have any love of 2D Zelda, you need to check this out.

3. Bioshock: Infinite - Like with "The Last of Us" there is plenty to quibble with in terms of some of the mechanics for this entry in the Shock series, but like with my #1 pick it bears inclusion here for me because of its gripping story and its fully realized artistic design. Levine's universe is a fun one in which to romp around and blow shit up, and the shifting motivations and considerations while doing both kept me coming back.

4. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag - I don't generally like open world games and I don't have any real affection for this series (I'd played only 1 and some of 2), but this one has surprised me and been a ton of fun. The world seems gigantic, the ship battles are appropriately daunting and frantic, and the story moves along briskly, mostly unencumbered by the series "lore" stuff as you go (you can enjoy it completely without having played the earlier games). All the gameplay elements seem perfectly honed and the game simply "feels" like it should as you move through lots of different kinds of experiences. This must be the best the series has had.

5. Gone Home - This one gets the last slot on the list of five as it provided what was one of the more interesting examples this year of the kinds of storytelling and kinds of stories that can take place in games. I'd compare it favorably to something like Dear Esther, but with more traditional gameplay elements (basic puzzle solving, picking up and looking at objects, finding hidden routes, etc.).

---Honorable Mentions---

Killzone: Mercenary was probably the best game I played on the Vita (though Tearaway may take its spot before the year's out), The Stanley Parable almost knocked Gone Home out of #5, and Device 6 was the best iOS game I played in 2013.