For a long time, the top spot for the year belonged to Grand Theft Auto V without giving things much thought. It was a game that was ambitious in scope and design, with an intricate attention to detail unmatched by any other game. The world was saturated with life, with vast locales to explore, gameplay that was much improved over its predecessor and was overall a very ambitious project.
But as I moved away from the moment and allowed the experience to settle in, what I discovered was a game that was all of the things that made it great, with tremendous holes preventing it from separating itself from a surprisingly strong pack. Mission structures that were incredible at the highs, but downright boring during the lows. A story that was fully fleshed out across multiple protagonists but left ultimately wanting with a whimper of a finale. And that doesn’t even encroach on the near disaster that GTA Online was. Grand Theft Auto V was an incredible game this year, but was it the best? I needed to compare it.
The game that surprisingly jockeyed for the top with GTAV the most was a game I did not expect to be as enjoyable as it was. Super Mario 3D World was possibly the most I’ve had gaming all year. It was bright and sprightly, with Nintendo finally realizing Mario’s potential in glorious HD. The platforming and control were tight and concise, the new power-ups gloriously fun and the chaotic New Super Mario Bros. styled multiplayer was a blast competing for that glorious crown. Super Mario 3D World was the absolute antithesis to GTAV.
But again, something didn’t sit right with crowning Mario and his (many) cat suits as the best of the year. While the game was a ton of fun to fly through and play, collecting stamps and green stars, I noticed something a week after playing it. It was forgettable. Sure the first time using the cat suit or the double cherry were classic Mario moments, but the stages and levels were largely unmemorable. For a Mario game, this is practically a cardinal sin. Everybody always remembers World 1-1 and 1-2 from the original Super Mario Bros. The ice level in Super Mario 64. Even the planets of Super Mario Galaxy. Super Mario 3D World, despite being the most entertaining Mario game in some time, lacked that signature aesthetic to set it apart.
So I wrestled back and forth between Super Mario 3D World and Grand Theft Auto V. Two stellar but flawed games. And the more I thought about it, the more I pondered about what else could compare this year. And one name always came up: Bioshock Infinite. You see, Bioshock Infinite may not have ventured off the beaten path and been a gameplay giant like Super Mario 3D World or had the vast open world to explore that GTAV had. But what it did have was offer a concise, memorable experience, filled with jaw dropping moments, incredible characters and set pieces, which all rounded out into a game that I consider to be the best this year has to offer.
The story of Booker, Elizabeth and Comstock is a story told a thousand times before and will be told a thousand times more after, but it managed to make itself stand out with incredible pacing, characters that leap off the screen, and a tried and true gameplay style that only Bioshock could execute efficiently.
Sure, the game came under fire for its convoluted ending and its seemingly endless waves of baddies, but to me the game never stopped being fun. I never lost the desire to grip tight to my controller and press forward. It is a game that I find to be absolutely unmatched in its tone and setting and possesses franchise unique gameplay that can be tailored to an individual’s playstyle. Bioshock Infinte had a goal in its story to tell, and did so with conviction and purpose.
It is a game from start to finish, propelled me forward, always wanting to know what mysteries lie in the utopian society of Columbia. An experience that is not easily forgotten.
Game of the Year 2013 – Bioshock Infinite