The Games I Beat in 2013 and My Favorite Game of the Year

As a rather poor college student I never get to play as many games every year as I would like, particularly, new games.  Only 7 of the 23 games I beat this year were from 2013, which seems low, though there were a number of games that I just had no interest in finishing that many considered the best of the year.  I played through the first half of The Last of Us and watched a friend play the other half, and I have no overwhelming desire to finish it on my own.  I understand why it’s so popular and I appreciate that it depicts violence as sloppy and brutal, but I think its runtime isn’t dictated by the narrative but by its price tag and that hurts its overall story.  I don’t think I’ll ever play Grand Theft Auto V.  Just the thought of having to put 40 hours into it to see all of its main story bores me senseless.  If The Last of Us is pushing the current model of video game storytelling to its utmost limits without ever escaping it, then GTA V has been walking in the opposite direction for two miles before getting bored and drawing penises in the dirt and laughing to itself.  I did watch a friend play a good portion of the latter half of the game including the ending, and just from that it seems that the cutscenes, writing, and characters are all generally pretty terrible.  But enough with the negativity, here are the games I beat in 2013:

The Walking Dead (2012)

Hotline Miami (2012)

Dishonored (2012)

Braid (2009)

Bastion (2011)*

Psychonauts (2005)

Brutal Legend (2009)

BioShock Infinite (2013)

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus (2002)*

Metal Gear Solid (1998)*

Metro: Last Light (2013)

Proteus (2013)

Little Inferno (2012)

Dear Esther (2012)

Thomas Was Alone (2012)

The Swapper (2013)

Gunpoint (2013)

Tiny and Big in Grandpa’s Leftovers (2012)

To the Moon (2011)

Rochard (2011)

The Legend of Zelda (1986)

Rogue Legacy (2013)

Tearaway (2013)

The games with an asterisk(*) are games that I’ve beaten before this year.  Because of school, work, and other writing obligations, I didn’t get to play nearly as many games as I wanted to this year (the last three games on that list were the only ones I got through in the last four months of the year), so here are the games I want to play and beat from 2013 that I think would have a chance at being my favorite but, for whatever reasons, I haven’t had a chance to play yet:

Gone Home

Shelter (I own it, just haven’t gotten around to playing it.)

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (Own it, haven’t played it.)

Papers, Please

Device 6

The Novelist

Papo & Yo (The idea of a game’s world existing in a character’s head is a storytelling device in gaming that I’m very interested in.)

Shadowrun Returns (I think I’m very close to the end of this one.  I’m really liking it.  It’s like XCOM‘s combat with an adventure game and Neuromancer thrown in.)

Eldritch (Own it, but haven’t played it.)

Now for my favorite game.  By the end of the year, this game was without a doubt my personal favorite game.  I only wish it was getting more love from both gamers and critics.  Without further ado, here is my favorite game of 2013:

The Swapper Title Screen

The Swapper

Out of the 7 games from 2013 that I beat, one has stood as my definitive favorite from the second I finished it back in May.  The Swapper is hands-down my favorite game from 2013.  It’s an experience like no other that, while not perfect, demonstrates where the video game industry should head when it comes to storytelling.  I’ve written about The Swapper in bits and pieces over the year in forums and comments sections, but I want to distill the key to what makes The Swapper so brilliant as simply as I can: the themes and ideas that the narrative conveys to the player are the exact same themes and ideas that the player encounters naturally in the gameplay.  If you were to play The Swapper with the story elements removed, all the text, dialogue, and cutscenes gone, you would still end the game pondering the same ideas that you would if all those textual elements were present.  That’s how game storytelling should work.  Gameplay should be central to the story, themes, and ideas that the creators want to relate to the player, not supplementary.  Now, obviously The Swapper‘s text, dialogue, and cutscenes are all well done, but the point is that they bolster and reinforce ideas that the gameplay is relaying, they’re not the only source of those ideas.

Add to the perfect combination of gameplay and story, the absolutely gorgeous clay-modeled world, the haunting atmosphere, puzzles that stretch the way you approach problems, and an ending that will leave you staring at your screen long after the screen has faded to black, and you get a game that borders on masterpiece.  But I did say it wasn’t perfect.  Some puzzles only seem to exist to give players something to do instead of driving the story or introducing new ideas.  But its length means that this problem isn’t as excessive like with The Last of Us, though it does limit the story’s effectiveness.

The Swapper is a tonal masterpiece that knows what it wants to say, knows how to use its medium to say it, and then ends at the perfect moment without cutting itself off too soon or overstaying its welcome.  I can’t recommend this game enough.  The Swapper is a masterpiece and my favorite game of 2013.

– Cam

Check back on Tuesdays for regular posts and you can follow me on Twitter for tweets like, “Every time a bell rings, an indie dev gets their game put on Steam.”

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