Wow. What a phenomenal year of gaming! In fact, 2013 is arguably one of the best runs we’ve had in quite a few years. Sure, we’ve still had all of our typical gods, gears and crysis’, but more importantly, we’ve seen the introduction of promising new IP such as The Last of Us, and strong sequels in the way of Bioshock Infinite and Grand Theft Auto V. We’ve experienced the launch of two new consoles, and we’ve also seen the indie genre thrive more than it’s ever done in the past, birthing life to an array of completely new genres. So, with so much happening, it begs the question: how can we at GameCloud tell you, our readers, what games deserve your time?
At the time of writing, it’s the week before Christmas, and as such, you’re likely to see a lot of “Game of The Year Awards” flying around the internet soon. And while that’s all well and good, we anticipate a trend that will ultimately begin to become repetitive. While we certainly appreciate those games that have achieved technical excellence, you can find all our highest rated games of 2013 on the front page. However, sometimes it’s not that caliber of game that sticks with us the longest. In fact, it could be a game that simply had a unique concept, or perhaps an idea that meant something to us personally. It could even be a bad game that we enjoyed playing so much because we shared the experience with our friends.
In our opinion, the personal enjoyment of each game is entirely subjective to the individual tastes and personality of each player, and as such, our awards this year will be presented a little differently. It’s these personal moments we want to talk about, and an insight we want to share with you, our readers, which could possibly encourage you to try some games you may not have even considered.
These were our “Best Gaming Moments in 2013,” one written by each of our writing staff, and presented in no particular order. We hope you enjoy!
I can’t praise the narrative structure in Gone Home enough. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s one of the greatest examples of environmental narrative I’ve experienced in a game to date. The house that is featured in the game is truly one the most lived-in virtual spaces I’ve ever explored, and it’s amazing just how much you can learn about the people living there without a single line of dialogue ever being spoken. Naturally, I could recant basic information about them, such as their names or what they do for work, but, more importantly, I could also tell you about their passions, their struggles, and, ultimately, what makes them vulnerable. What makes them human. This is the reward of environmental narrative done well, and why I believe this game is so important for the industry.
It’s incredible the way that storytelling can capture our deepest emotions, and sometimes, even affect us in the most unexpected ways. For me personally, there was just something about Sam’s experiences that brought me back to a different point in my life, and while I often thought the character’s logic was that of an inexperienced teenager, it was so unnervingly relatable for someone such as myself who likely would have been that passionate when I was younger. In saying that, Gone Home approaches subjects that once would have never made sense to explore in a video game, and as such, it’s unlike any story I’ve experienced. However, the biggest thing about it is the fact that I don’t think it would have worked as well with any other medium, and this is an incredible achievement that deserves recognition. For this reason, it has captured my greatest moment in gaming for 2013.
2013. A year of many great games, some thought provoking, some emotionally involved, even still were some that were just mindlessly fun; whatever your poison there was something that catered for everyone. So as this year draws to a close and excitement reaches a fever pitch, GOTY commendations are being flung about the gaming industry like so many poops in a monkey cage. However, when I think back to my favorite moment of the year, it’s not without overwhelming irony that I’ve settled upon a title that scraped the very bottom of the gaming creativity barrel and hold Dead Island: Riptide aloft as the best part of my year in gaming.
I need to make it clear that I don’t harbor any kind of secret affection for this awful, awful game, but rather what it meant to me then, and now, as something more symbolic. It was the first game I ever reviewed, and for me, it was the first time that I felt I had actually contributed something credible to the industry. The story was uninspired, the mechanics clunky, its concept over-used, and the voice acting so terrible that I bled from the ears. Though, as much as I disliked the game itself, reviewing it meant that I wasn’t just playing an awful game, I was also lambasting it in a manner that I had hoped to achieve since I was just a highschool hopeful writer.
So 2013, you can take back your sensible plots, well rounded character-development, and gameplay that doesn’t make you want to claw at your eyes in frustration. For me, this year was all about wading through mediocre zombie-killing action, from a sequel that probably shouldn’t have ever “been”, and making fun of it.
With a constant stream of amazing games being released, I can safely say 2013 has been favourite year to be a gamer. However, there was still one game which stood out as evolutionary. The Last of Us pushed storytelling in video games to a point far beyond anything I’ve ever seen. Not only is the game comparable to a film, but in my opinion, better. Superb acting, exceptional cinematography, believable character development, and plenty of emotion resulted in this title impressing me more than any other construction of narrative I’ve ever experienced. Though the quality was consistently high throughout, the opening sequence in particular blew me away.
Having established a beautiful relationship between two characters at the start, I was immediately invested in the characters. This meant that the proliferation of the cordyceps fungus and practical destruction of society was not just scary, but emotionally terrifying. Hearing the sirens outside and peeking out the window, searching the rooms with lights on for a character, and checking their phone for clues to where they might have been made this segment one of the most immersive things I’ve ever played. This was all due to the fact that the game never prompted me to take part in these activities, but provided a completely believable world to take part in it however I wished. The excellent design fed my curiosity, and kept me acting naturally as opposed to racing to my next objective. By the time this sequence concluded, I knew The Last of Us was going to tell me a dark, heavy story.
2013 was such a wild year for gaming; at its closure, we sit at the dawn of the ‘next gen’ systems, and while the big publishers still thrive, the playing field has been opened up even further to smaller Indie developers, the ‘little guys’. The best moment of gaming in 2013 hasn’t come from the dawn of the new age, it’s come from something that hearkens back to the dawn of gamers’ time itself- The Angry Videogame Nerd Adventures, based off the popular web critic video series ‘The Angry Videogame Nerd’. For those unfamiliar, the web series (created by James Rolfe) involves him as his ‘AVGN’ alter ego, playing through many old and obscure Nintendo NES games from his childhood, complete with excessively profane commentary relating to the unreasonably difficult and nonsensical nature of the games (retroactively titled ‘Nintendo hard’).
So, how do you make a game about a foul-mouthed guy who plays Nintendo games? Roll ALL the poor design choices, the shoddy presentations, the unholy difficulty, the broken English, ALL shreds of gaming scum, and combine them into a single, sacrilegious platform game, where you play as the titular Nerd and his friends through a tacky excuse of a plot befitting of the very tackiness of the source material it mocks. This has made my best gaming moment, not because it’s an amazing experience, but because of what it represents. AVGN Adventures is a celebration, it’s a wonderful homage to where console gaming began, and how far it’s come. It transcends the decades, traces our roots as gamers, and it celebrates all the screw-ups, all the inadequacies and the completely unreasonable, tear-your-hair-out difficulty that were just considered the norm in 8-bit gaming.
Easily my best gaming moment for 2013 hailed from one of the greatest adventure-action games ever created; the successful reboot of ‘Tomb Raider’ by Crystal Dynamics. Having always been a fanatic since the Sega Saturn release, I was excited to hear the reinvention of the popular series. The game begins from Lara Crofts early career as an eager archaeologist, her and the exploration team set out on an expedition but fatefully get shipwrecked on an unknown mysterious island. What lies ahead of her is a dangerous and gritty adventure having to face one distressing situation to the other, getting separated from her group and caught by the evil islanders.
What made this game so memorable for me was how human and likable the Lara character was portrayed. Witnessing her act vulnerable and naïve facing terrifying situations influenced me to be cautious in guiding her throughout the game as I cared for her well-being. It’s unlike any gaming emotion I have ever experienced, and I was literally on the edge of my seat with every heart-pumping moment. Tomb Raider is an action-packed and drama filled game I will never forget, and in my opinion, there is no other engaging gaming experience like it.
My best gaming moments begins at RFLAN#45, the first RFLAN I had been to as a player instead of staff. I was waiting for World of Tanks to finish patching when my friend next to me burst into hysterical laughter. He laughed as he told me, “You just got eaten by rabid squirrels after eating their bear friend”. Once he was done mocking my lack of animal ken, one of my other friends gifted the game to me. Never have I laughed so hard at 4am.
It’s about air striking deer from a triceratops after abandoning your gangrenous buddies for a magical sword that summons imps. It’s stupid, silly, scrupulous, serendipitous, stupendous, silly, and so, so stupid. Sure, The Stanley Parable and Bioshock Infinite are shining examples of the rich complexity and detail gaming can offer, but Super Amazing Wagon Adventure lets you jump your caravan into space and battle Russian satellites with a bazooka. No other game this year let me explore a tale so blatantly idiotic, nor could any other game capture my sense of child-like awe quite like SAWA, and all while providing some of the most solid side-scrolling I’ve ever played.
The best gaming moment of 2013 for me was in “Remember Me”, you are thrown into this fantastic futuristic world and just as you are coming to grips with the story and Nilins combat powers, BAM you are introduced to the best ability of all, the power to remix and changes people’s memories to your own design. The way that this was made especially awesome was because the first time you have to remix Olga’s memory is when you are being held at knife point and that in itself had already a sense of danger. But then you are presented with Olga’s memory and you are given free rein to change it and shape it into a new reality that fundamentally changes her whole psyche. It is that power that leaves you awestruck and even though you do it several times throughout the game it still leaves me with just pure bliss and awe. Combine that one moment with fantastic visual effects and a awesome soundtrack and as such for me it was the best moment of gaming that I have had for 2013.
Picking a GOTY is hard enough most years, but being asked to pick a MOMENT of the gaming year? Well I’ve changed my mind; can I just pick a game, please?! At first thought, the moment was undoubtedly going to Lara Croft in her latest epic, or it was until Link between Worlds came along. Being a lifelong sucker for all things Zelda was not enough for it to pinch top spot alone, I wasn’t on my own in expecting great things from this small-screened stunner and refused to worship it until seeing proof it deserved my ongoing veneration.
I can’t even describe the relief I felt when it became clear I had been right to put my faith in Nintendo again, I tried not to be biased, but the evidence was undeniable. LBW offered fun new weapons, endearing cameos, smooth mechanics and some of the best features of their most beloved titles. So, how does one whittle everything down to one moment- A stand-alone instant that defines the best of gaming this year for me, a single eye-widening, mouth agape once-in-365-days kinda moment?
Roughly 3 hours into LBW with no breaks, when I should have been well, and truly asleep, it happened. I was greedily ransacking an exciting dungeon when it suddenly seemed as if I’d opened a game changing chest; it felt like everything was aglow with the twinkle of treasure and my ears rang with the triumphant opening fanfare DA NUN NUN DAAA! Abruptly it hit me, and I knew this was MY moment: it wasn’t a clever plot twist or cut scene I’ll never forget, it was a simple realization: I wasn’t going to have to defend the latest Zelda title at all! Infinite fangirldom could reign supreme without contestation! Well until the next release, naturally.
While this year has shown us many story contenders in amazing writing and gameplay, I can’t help but be selfish in my choice for the best moments of gaming. That is Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and the hunt of Jhen Mohran. If you have not played Monster Hunter, I feel sorry for you but urge you to pick it up. It’s a strong and solid title that the Wii U desperately needed. To bring you up to speed, Monster Hunter is a single-player to 4 player action game with RPG elements. You hunt monsters and make stronger equipment to fight even stronger monsters.
The battle with the Jhen Mohran is an optional hunt and is unlike any fight I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of. The Jhen is what I’d describe as the whale of the desert. He’s the largest monster in the game and no previous battle will have you prepared for the war you’ve just enlisted for. Riding ship, jumping on and off Jhen. To the final showdown when your ship gets wrecked. The battle usually lasts 30 minutes but can go longer. But at the end of it you have a rush that few games have ever given me. Thank you Capcom, for Jhen. He was a worthy adversary!
You may have heard about Fez. It is the brainchild of the infamous Indie developer Phil Fish of Polytron Corporation. If you’ve seen “Indie Game: The Movie” then you are familiar with Phil Fish. He was very candid in his interviews in the documentary and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. He divided opinions and in fact people can simultaneously feel both admiration and less flattering emotions for the flawed genius behind this great game. But it is Phil Fish’s flawed character that arguably made Fez the game it is.
I loved the gorgeous and bright 8-bit graphics. Each level is very detailed with much attention given to the layout and the little things that add character and sparkle. There’s so much more going on in each level than first meets the eye. Each new level becomes increasingly complex in its layout, requiring you to think in 2D/3D space, translating on the fly in your mind. The atmospheric music was masterfully crafted by talented composer “Disasterpeace” (Rich Vreeland). It’s surprising how atmospheric “chip tune” music can be, and the soundtrack really adds to the experience in Fez and matches the game’s character perfectly.
At first glance, Fez is just a cute platformer. But the more you play, the deeper the game gets. The game becomes more mysterious the longer you play and you find yourself drawn into the mystery. There are puzzles to solve that require a fair amount of grey matter, and the answers don’t come easily. Real effort went into making this game, and you can see the artist has poured a lot of his soul into this game. The blood, sweat and tears that has gone into every aspect of the design and execution of this game, as well as the way it reveals itself progressively, is what makes it my “Best Gaming Moment in 2013”.
The Last of Us is one of the few games to have left a lasting impression on me long after I put the controller down. The games which have stuck with me most over the past few years are those with the most visceral experiences. Dark Souls left me on the edge of my seat with its intense do-or-die gameplay, and Telltale’s The Walking Dead similarly made me a clenched up ball of anxiety with its gripping story. Those games created that tactile feeling through player agency: The Walking Dead’s compelling story forces the player to make hard choices quickly; Dark Souls challenges the player’s skill with tight mechanics and unforgiving – yet rarely unfair – gameplay.
I go on about these games rather than the game in question, The Last of Us, as so much of what I want to say about it is tied up in spoiler territory, but shares a common element in its edge-of-your-seat story. Naughty Dog present a linear, tightly directed storyline with zero deviations (no choices for the player to make), but the sheer strength of writing and acting presented throughout culminated into an intense experience.
It’s hard to pick a specific moment out of a game full of memorable moments: the giraffe scene is sublime, as is the introduction of the Winter chapter, but it’s the ambiguous ending and Ellie’s speech that kept ringing in my ears. The direction of the final scene is perfect as you’re left weighing up Joel’s decision and wondering if his new found happiness and what he sees as redemption for his soul was ultimately worth their harrowing journey. Other scenes in the game have a more shocking impact (that opening scene, holy crap), but the low-key, abrupt ending as Ellie says “Okay” was a bold, powerful closure to an incredible experience.