At the beginning of each year, Kotaku's Stephen Totilo compiles a list of the games he personally played over the last 12 months. Stephen is a smart guy and he has a lot of good ideas. I'm going to steal this one, because I think it's something every player should do from time to time. It's a neat little exercise in taking a personal inventory. The list serves as a bit insight into preferences you might not recognize yourself. It also let's you see which games stand up to the test of time. Generally speaking, you remember the games you liked and forget the ones you didn't.
Before I even put my list together, 2013 had felt like a pretty weak year of video game-playing by my own personal standard. The number of games isn't the problem: I don't have the numbers, but I think I may have played more games this year than I did in 2012.
I didn't feel that I had the kind of "complete" experience I'd had in past year, though. The word "complete" is a relative term: It isn't a secret, but there's a common misconception that games journalists play every notable game, year-in and year-out. Nobody has the time or the energy to play everything, not even game journalists.
Now, it's time to set up the rules: I started playing each of the games on my list for the first time and spent at least an hour on them. It does not include games I consumed at professional events, where they may not have been finished. It does not include games I own, but have not played yet. The games are separated by console, each of those sub-lists are roughly chronological, but the numbers do not signify the order that I played them, or indicate any kind personal ranking.
Since I didn't complete every game I played, I highlighted the games I finished in bold. The word "finished" is tricky, because it isn't always an intuitive or even quantifiable. It's pretty self-explanatory for games that have a single-player campaign with a clear start, middle and end, but some games are purely score-based so the rules are not so clear. Ultimately that's just going to be a judgement call on my part, if I played most of the modes and spent enough time with a game that I know what is and what it offers before putting it down, I'm going to say I "finished" it.
This is my 2013 in video games:
1. Halo 4
2. Ratchet and Clank Collection+
3. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of The White Witch
4. Tomb Raider
5. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
6. Bioshock Infinite
7. Injustice: Gods Among Us
8. Dead Space 3
9. Hitman: Absolution
10. God of War: Reckoning
11. Crysis 3
12. The Last of Us
13. DmC: Devil May Cry
14. Dust 514
15. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
16. Need for Speed: Most Wanted+
17. Remember Me
18. Ducktales Remastered
19. Metro: Last Light
20. Call of Duty: Black Ops II+
21. The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
22. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
23. Grand Theft Auto V*
25. Rayman Legends
27. Fire Emblem: Awakening
28. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate
29. Paper Mario: Sticker Star+
30. The World Ends With You+
31. Final Fantasy Tactics A2+
32. Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
33. Shin Megami Tensei IV
34. Mario and Luigi: Dream Team
35. Batman Origins: Blackgate
36. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds*
37. Killer Instinct
38. Peggle 2
39. Dead Rising 3*
40. Call of Duty: Ghosts*
41. Hotline Miami+
42. Shadowrun Returns
43. Rogue Legacy
44. The Wolf Among Us
45. Gone Home
46. Ridiculous Fishing
47. Plants Vs Zombies 2
48. Tiny Trains
49. Pill Popper
50. Nimble Quest
* = Completed in 2014.
+ = Released before 2013.
Whew, that's a lot of games. As I suspected, the list actually revealed a lot of stuff about my gaming habits and about the games that came out in 2013. Here were some of the biggest ones:
2013 was a PS3 year:
As you can see, I spent a lot more time with the PS3 and the Xbox 360 this year. That doesn't have anything to do with preferring one console over the other: After my third Xbox of the generation kicked the bucket, I decided against getting another one. I had to forego playing a few games I received codes for, but I didn't miss it for the most part. Plus, looking the few exclusives that came out this year, PS3 was definitely the better console to have.
I spent a lot of time shooting stuff:
I don't really think of myself as a "shooter" guy. When asked, I generally tell people that, given the opportunity, I'll play anything that's "good." Based on this list, though, that doesn't seem completely accurate: First and Third-person shooters made up just over a quarter - 13 out of 50 - of what I played.
I tried to get back into RPGs, but it didn't take:
When I was young, I used to love RPGs - I was raised on the genre's renaissance on PlayStation, so it was hard not to - but it's largely a genre that's been left behind. A few games I played at the beginning of the year, last year's Persona 4: Golden, Ni No Kuni and Fire Emblem Awakening, showed a glimpse of the twisting plots and clever systems that I once drew me to the genre's unique brand of interactive longform storytelling.
Over the rest of the year, I tried to find that next new RPG to prove those games were more than a flash in the pan, that there were talented designers working to make the RPG relevant again. Time and time again, I was disappointed.
Still, 2013 was a great year for storytelling in video games:
Narrative has always been a sticking point for me, as a player and a critic. That love of storytelling in games specifically comes, in part, from the my growing up with RPGs. Despite the fact that the RPGs kind of let me down this year, there were a lot of interesting stories told in games last year.
Two of the year's best — Gone Home and The Last of Us — were primarily driven by story, and in many ways they raised bar of we can and should expect from a game's story. Both games had stories with intellectual meat on them; that expected players to think about situations rather than merely breathe them in. Most importantly, both reached for emotional climaxes instead of explosive ones, leading to genuinely interesting endings, an incredibly rare feat.
I spent more time playing games on platforms I normally ignore (PC/3DS)
I spent a lot of time on trains this year, so it makes sense that my 3DS might got more attention than it was used to. That said, the 3DS also had a strong lineup this year. I don't know that I would've played any other these games if it hadn't been for Fire Emblem: Awakening, which got the console off of my desk, and into my bag.
Playing more games on computer is a bit more of an enigma. I've never owned a Windows PC, so I have never had the chance to get brainwashed by the "Master Race" PC Gamers. AAA games often look better on PC now, but that means very little to me.
No, the reason I played more games on my laptop because there were more and more indies that seemed like fascinating, must-play experiences, and more of those games happened to be releasing on Mac, but not consoles. With next-gen consoles courting indies more aggressively, my PC gaming phase may only be temporary, though. I like my consoles and I have no intention of giving them up.