Look, I’m a poor college student. I didn’t get to play very many games this year, but I know what its like to be a gamer around the holidays. It’s hard to get things for the gamer in your life. We’re a bunch that know exactly what we want. We learned early on that hanging our memory cards from the mantle next to our stockings would not be magically filled with XP and cheat codes when we woke up on that wondrous morning, so we narrowed down the specifics. But it’s always a pleasant surprise to be gifted a game that we didn’t ask for and it ends up being surprisingly good! Believe it or not, great games do not need to be a full $60 a piece. Here’s some suggestions, and lets consider this, *Ahem*, “Evan’s Top 5 Video Games of 2013”
#5 Battleblock Theater
From the Behemoth that brought us Castle Crashers what seems like ages ago, a new game was released on Xbox Live Arcade and it is sadistically fun. Its rare to have the ability to enjoy local cooperative play in video games in this world of frag grenades and children screaming through headsets. [internally screaming] Battleblock Theater has a unique twisted charm about it and encourages players to work together one second, and turn on each other for extra points the next. Not to mention, if you die in the middle of a puzzle, the audience of big talking cats make hysterical outbursts. Also, you can customize your head shape and put on silly hats!!
The game is only available to download on the Xbox Marketplace, but for a steal of a price at $15 dollars.
#4 Injustice: God Among Us
This is an incredibly nichy, but astounding game. You have to at least love comic book heroes, or playing Mortal Kombat (as it runs on the same fighting engine). Not to mention the plot can easily lose you if you’re not familiar with half of the characters, but this is one of the best fighters in years, possibly even a step up from the recent Mortal Kombat remake. That being said, the plot is as amazingly elaborate as any entry in the DC home animation library, and while this year’s film “Man of Steel” has seemed to desensitize us in terms of thinking that Superman isn’t a murderer, there is still some shocking moments in this bizarre alternate timeline in which Superman is a dictator. So, if you want to beat some friends up and feel like a modern god uppercutting from the panels of the page while doing it, you can pick up the ultimate edition will all fighters and stages today.
#3 Grand Theft Auto V
Here we go, another Grand Theft Auto game. These games may be cursed forever to be the subject of blaming violence in the real world. Needless to say, these games remain generally the same as the years go on, but in a prettier, more coherent package. However, Grand Theft Auto V, as the most expensive video game ever produced at 250 Million dollars in budget, has set a bar for the attention of detail that can, and really should be, put into the next generation of gaming. The city of Los Santos is always providing content for a player, even more so offline then there is online (the online play has had some major issues). The story has taken an even larger role, as the series now is able to convey itself as 100% satire of the Los Angeles culture, and if players are attentive enough, they’ll catch it. Say what you will about the subject material, but Rockstar give people a choice. If you don’t want to but the game because of it’s graphic content for a child, don’t but the game. If you don’t want to run around robbing convenience stores, you don’t have to. In the 20 measly hours in comparison to the scale of this game, I did not once feel compelled to step into one of the strip clubs, but decided to play a round of 9 hole golf. Just beware of Trevor. Dude’s bad news if he’s the sickest person to ever be presented in a video game and makes you laugh while he does it.
#2 Super Hexagon
My god, this game made my head spin. Available for a mere 3 whole dollars on Steam to play on PC, and now available as a mobile game on Android, Super Hexagon harkens back to the early days of gaming before I was even born. A lost time before the conception of “Pre Ordering” games, when you only had so many to play, and the goals were simple, getting there was frustrating, and you loved spending hours on end to reach its finish line, or better your own score. This is so far back that the Commodore 64 and Atari’s dominated the market, mind you. Super Hexagon puts you in control of a tiny triangle that moves 360 degrees right or left. It has to dodge walls coming from almost every direction around, and they get faster by the second. This game kills you more than Dark Souls, and you die in the blink of an eye if you’re not careful. Hell, you could die in 2 seconds even when you ARE careful. Not to mention there is some incredibly catchy 8-bit music to grove along to while you play.
*Note* as seen in this trailer, theres a lot of brightly flashing and fast moving colorful lights. It looks really cool, unless you’re prone to epilepsy, in which case, I would avoid this game! Just as a word of caution.
#1 Bioshock Infinite
I’m jumping on the bandwagon. Irrational Games (I’m proud to say they’re Boston native), developed one of the most astounding turning points of video games as a medium in 2007 with the first Bioshock. Never before was such an unsettling tone established in just the creation of the environment, that even the fact that it was a basic First Person Shooter in mechanics could be overlooked, granted, it’s the genre playing at it’s best. But then, there was a sudden twist in the middle of the game that made players question their own existence. It transcended the screen, and even through simple audio logs to move the story along, dragged us into the underwater dystopia of Rapture along with it. Irrational Games knew they had to make Bioshock Infinite better than the original game, and after 4 years of development, and multiple changes in production, they delivered. My God, did they deliver.
Bioshock Infinite has a similar structure to its original counterpart. There’s an evil guy oppressing people in his failing utopia put in a ridiculous setting apart from the rest of the world, a girl that helps you, and a giant menacing beast to evade. Bioshock Infinite puts you in control of a private investigator with a troubled, unknown past, and plays about the same as the first Bioshock, except refined with better weapons and more fun fantastical powers channeling through your left hand, now known as Vigors, as opposed to Plasmids. So what sets this game apart from its original counterpart? Three things.
1: The setting. There’s a lot of shooting and burning people alive and such going on like any other rated M video game, but if you don’t stop when you have the chance to explore the vast floating city of Colombia, and learn more about the lore and appreciate the detail put into it, you will not get the experience out of this game that was intended. It is a 12 hour game, but I feel as though I need to play it through again so I can explore places I never got around to and fine every audio log in the game.
2: The Twist. Fans expected a twist because of the shocking, yet subtly revealed turning point in the first Bioshock. If the first game’s industrial tycoon, Andrew Ryan, made us question ourselves, then it can easily be said this game’s ending made us question our own reality. When I finished it, I thought about the ending, and what it meant for the lore of the game for literally days.
3: Elizabeth. The game focuses around, mostly, a single thing: the girl locked in the tower. The self proclaimed prophet of the floating city Colombia has a daughter he’s locked away and protected her with a monstrous beast for incredibly convoluted reasons I won’t get into, but the point being, she has a super power to open what she calls “tears” in reality. Small doors into alternate dimensions to either change fate, or to give you more bullets and health in combat. It goes either way. But it’s not her ability that makes Elizabeth my favorite single thing in video games this year, its the fact that she FEELS like a human being. Elizabeth Comstock is the most realistic character I’ve ever interacted with in a video game. She’s smart, has dreams and hopes and conflicts, and the technology used to animate her channels the smallest of details in her expressions. In a cutscene an emotion is clear in the raising of an eyebrow. If you’re hunting for items, she’ll lean back against a wall, or toy with an item while you slug along. Not to mention she’s one of the most HELPFUL allies ever put in combat with you in a video game.
I cannot praise this game enough. I haven’t felt so compelled to point to a game and call it “Art” since Shadow of the Colossus on the Playstation 2. (A Masterpiece. Not a 2013 game, but you should pick it up if you’ve never played it)
I hope this list gave you some good gift ideas!
Stay safe, avoid Wal-Mart, and have a happy and enjoyable Holiday Season!