I think 2013 was a pretty huge year for games. I followed some GOTY blogs here and there, and there have been many great discussions on games like Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, Device 6, the new Professor Layton game, Forza 5, Grand Theft Auto V, Battlefield 4, Assassin’s Creed IV, Gone Home, and so many other games that deserve to be the talk of the industry.
I can’t really speak much about games of 2013 though. That’s because while I know of all the games I mentioned there (and Bioshock Infinite I watched an entire Let’s Play of it), I admit I haven’t played any of them myself. I’m usually a late adopter so actually, this year I’ve hardly played any game that was released in 2013. I think the only 2013 games. I played this year were Tomb a Raider and X-Com: Enemy Within. As such, if you ask me to make a “Best of” lists for games of 2013, I’ll just flat out tell you that I’m not qualified to do so.
I would like to instead make a list that just consists of the games I got to play this year and point out which ones were my favorites. I think though that to many gaming enthusaists, my list would be quite pitiful. My PS3 was in a broken state for most of the year and I didn’t have much money or time to spend on gaming this year so ultimately what happened was that I ended up gaming a lot on my iPhone and on my iPad. Somehow, most of the games I played in 2013 happen to be mobile games – yes, games like Real Racing 3, Temple Run 2, Badland, Pitfall and such. I also played a good deal of mobile ports. I’m not qualified enough to say whether these iOS ports are better than or even just live up to their console or handheld counterparts, but I quite enjoyed the Walking Dead (Season 1) on my iPhone 4. Well, that game I did play the first two episodes of it on my PS3 last year and while performance and controls were smoother with my Dualshock 3, still it’s on my iOS devices that I played The Walking Dead on. The iOS port of the 500 Days DLC was released later on the App Store than on PSN or On Steam, but nonetheless I got it for my iPhone when that came out. Other mobile ports I played in 2013 are- Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective; Ace Attorney: Pheonix Wright HD; Max Payne; Grand Theft Auto: Vice City; Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1; and Bastion.
I think I definitely would have preferred to play some of those ports with a controller or with a mouse and keyboard. The iPhone version of Max Payne for instance I can’t play it on any of the higher difficulty settings. The touch controls work well enough but when I crank up the difficulty I have to play it like a twitch shooter and that’s pretty much impossible with touch controls. GTA Vice City and Sonic 4 I would say were less hindered by touch controls but I’m definitely a sticks and buttons type of gamer so I think I would have preferred to play them using a controller. Still, Sonic 4 on the App Store when I bought it was $2.99, as opposed to its $14.99 price tag on other digital stores. The tighter controls of a Dualshock 3 or even the Wii Remote Controller just doesn’t warrant the price hike for me.
For games like Ghost Trick and Bastion, I would actually like to argue that the touch controls are the optimal way of experiencing these games. I’ve actually played Ace Attorney: Pheonix Wright: Justice for All on my Nintendo DS before, and after re-experiencing it on my iPad, I’ll choose to cherish more the iOS version. On the iPad it’s prettier, smoother, and just more comfortable overall. Bastion has some performance issues on my iPad 2 bite aside from that, its auto targeting system makes the iPad version fairly enjoyable to play with touch interface.
Most of the games I played this year were just time wasters. There’s really no story to be engrossed in with titles like Jetpack Joyride or Sonic Dash. The mobile space definitely is flooded with endless runners (often dubbed “Temple Run knockoffs”), Infinity Blade clones, and FarmVille/Mafia-esque games. For the immersive cinematic gameplay experiences and for classic Nintendo experiences like Super Mario 3D World, I would agree that for the most part, these mobile devices are sorely lacking. Still, I like to think of myself as much of a serious and hardcore gamer as anyone else.
In 2013, I played non-mobile games as well. I revisited the first Splinter Cell game on my laptop and spent over ten hours on it, again. I checked out the awesome Half-Life 2 mod Black Mesa, and finally experienced for myself the military strategy game World in Conflict. Once I got my PS3 fixed, I played a lot of Hitman: Absolution and X-Com Enemy Within and Call of Duty: Black Ops II. I played some Wii games and 3DS games as well. Console and PC games still hold my interest. There’s still nothing quite like those experiences.
But somehow, this year I just kept coming back to my iPhone and my iPad for gaming. It largely had to with my lack of money and time, more so than before I started being a graduate student. That, and many mobile games these days aren’t just anything to scoff at either.
Badland really is a unique experience that I think is best enjoyed on a smart phone or a tablet. I consider Ridiculous Fishing: A Tale of Redemption to be an indie masterpiece. Jetpack Joyride is free to play on phones and tablets, and it’s so awesome that gladly paid for it’s reasonably priced in-app-purchase items. Perhaps Rayman: Fiesta Runa is a bit too much like its prequel but that doesn’t deny that it’s probably the most enjoyment and fun I had with a game this year. Out of all the games I played this year, Rayman: Fiesta Run would probably be my favorite game, along with Ghost Trick and X-Com Enemy Within.
I think in 2014 I will play more console games and PC games. I’ll still most likely be a very late adopter. But I am always impressed by the mobile gaming space. I am not ashamed at all that most of the games I played in 2013 were mobile games. Sure, none of them will probably be as deep, tight experiences as anything like The Last of Us or Forza 5, and a lot of these apps are tied down by time gates and other evils of micro-transactions, but I think it’s beyond time they be recognized as games worthy of their own merits. Most of the games I played in 2013 were indeed mobile games, and I had quite awesome times playing them.