2013 has been an incredible year for gaming enthusiasts, perhaps too incredible for some to handle — which is understandable. After all, players have not only had to handle many incredible experiences, but also two brand-new consoles. But now that the holiday break is upon students, it’s time to list off some suggestions of games to play this season, because it really has been hard to keep up. So once the finals are done, kick back, relax and enjoy these fantastic experiences.
#5: “GRAND THEFT AUTO V”
When a game becomes the highest-selling game of all time, it has to be doing something right. And trust me, this game did a lot of things right. For one, the world is huge. It seems daunting at first, but it’s also alive and bursting with activity and things to do. Like “Skyrim,” I can’t even begin to count the days and weeks I’ve spent just doing what amounts to nothing. Even stuff like golf and skydiving works here. And I haven’t even mentioned the three-man mechanic, which adds so much nuance to the world and the missions. There’s also the heists, the rather excellent driving engine, the characters — man, there’s just too much. Even at $60, you get way more than your money’s worth, and it’s hard not to admire that.
#4: “BIOSHOCK INFINITE”
Phew … talk about a deep story. Perhaps it’s not as good as the original “BioShock,” but I don’t think it’s supposed to be. It’s not aiming to be better, just unique, and I think it succeeds in flying colors. The story? One of the best I’ve seen this year. It’s both cerebral and thought-provoking, both depressing and uplifting, both complex and easy to understand. The gameplay is a great rush, feeling more robust and exciting than your average first-person shooter, and the story actually compliments it without feeling punishing. The characters are immensely likable. I could just go on and on. Everything this game gets right, it gets so, so right. There are a few flaws here and there, but they aren’t nearly enough to tarnish an otherwise perfect experience. Play it if you haven’t already.
#3: “PAPERS, PLEASE”
Rarely have players found a game as foreboding as “Papers, Please.” It’s a depressing eastern European drama, but it’s riveting and engaging in a way that completely caught me by surprise. It’s simple and short, but those few hours are some of the most engaging of any game of the year. I was glued to the screen the whole time, as mundane as it looked to those watching me. It takes the formula of hidden objects, a formula that rarely, if ever works, and turns it on its head to both make a point and to engage, and I love it. And best of all, it uses that normally boring gameplay to tell a fantastic story, often without players realizing it. Some of the most compelling moral choices of the generation are in this game, slipped past players without them noticing. It was one of the best pleasant surprises of the year, and at just ten bucks, it’s incredibly hard to go wrong.
#2: “THE SWAPPER”
This game came out of nowhere and blew me away. Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for “Metroid”-esque exploration games and puzzle-platformers, but this is seriously an incredible experience. Actually, speaking of “Metroid,” it feels more “Metroid” than “Other M” could have ever been. The atmosphere is unbelievable here. It’s dark, tense, imaginative and above all else, hauntingly beautiful. It’s mind-blowing that a single guy with a bunch of clay figures created this, but seriously, this game sucks players in and doesn’t let go. The puzzles are great, utilizing a mechanic that has rarely been seen before. The mechanic is simple, but it’s amazing what the developer was able to pull off with it. It feels as revolutionary as “Portal” or “Braid.”
#1: “THE LAST OF US”
Yeah. Pretty expected choice. Some didn’t expect this to live up to the massive hype, but there we go. I choose this because everything the game does is perfect. The monsters are some of the scariest players have ever seen in a game. The gameplay is wonderfully flexible to meet a variety of tastes. The level design and A.I. allow for stealth, combat and even running away. They are all viable options, and they’re all engaging. The characters are fantastic and well-fleshed out. The story is incredible. It isn’t primarily about eliminating the threat of Cordyceps once and for all; it’s just about two people trying to survive. It’s a brutal story, but it’s well worth experiencing. Yes, there are cut scenes and dialogue, but so much of that story is told by the landscapes and levels themselves. It’s a bleak world, but it’s also incredibly fascinating. The game took a genre worn to death and breathed all new life into it. It’s just a perfect experience, and I hope it’s remembered for its brilliance. Hopefully that should keep students occupied during the holiday break. As we stare into the future of gaming, it helps to look back and think on the games that we’ve been left with. So here’s to 2013’s gaming lineup!