The past year was a big one in the world of video games, packed with the high-profile launches of two new consoles: Microsoft's Xbox One and the Sony PlayStation 4.
Yet many of the year's best games were smaller independent titles, released for the PC.
Here, TurlockCityNews.com reporter Noel Daniel's selects her top five games of 2013.
Number 5: “The Stanley Parable”
Release Date: Oct. 17, 2013
At number five on the list is the charming and somewhat depressing adventure “The Stanley Parable,” developed and published by Galactic Cafe.
“The Stanley Parable” aptly begins with a man named Stanley, whose sole function is to push buttons. It’s stated that he’s rather happy with this set-up, and would be happy to continue doing this for the duration of his mediocre life. However, one day Stanley notices the curious lack of people in his office. It is here that Stanley’s branch of choices truly begins.
On one hand, you can choose the predestined path that the dry and witty narrator gladly points out to you. On the other, you can choose to defy the narrator as much as you possibly can. You even have the choice to wait in a janitor’s closet while the narrator harangues you.
“The Stanley Parable” is almost like an experiment. Those who loved the chemistry between Chell and GLaDOS in the “Portal” games will be delighted to know that this feels very similar. It’s a game of choices, however, and not so much a test. It’s up to you to decide Stanley’s fate, and unweave Stanley’s story – what will you choose?
“The Stanley Parable” is available on Steam for Windows only.
Number 4: “Wolf Among Us”
Release Date: Oct 11, 2013
As a fan of both the graphic novel “Fables” and a good mystery, “Wolf Among Us” delivered just what I’d expected it to. Telltale Games developed and published yet another fast-paced thriller, set in the “Fables” universe, with heartbreaking decisions that never feel like the right answer.
You play as Bigby Wolf, an investigator of sorts who cracks down on the Fable community and ensures that no breaches are made to the public. Notorious for your bad attitude, you prowl through Fabletown to enforce the rules of deputy mayor Ichabod Crane.
My favorite part about “Wolf Among Us” is the mystery aspect. Much like Bigby, you have no idea where to turn next. With no clue about what the right answer is, or even who your allies are, the game becomes a non-stop adventure that’s nearly impossible to stop playing.
“Wolf Among Us” is available for Windows, Mac, Sony PlayStation 3, and Microsoft Xbox 360.
Number 3: “Gone Home”
Release Date: Aug. 15, 2013
At the start of “Gone Home,” a smaller game developed and published by The Fullbright Company, you’re dropped on the porch of the strangely empty Greenbriar Manor.
After coming back from a trip abroad, Kaitlin Greenbriar – the protagonist – finds the family manor to be curiously vacant. Just exploring the dark and empty halls is eerie. When you add to that the fact that there are occult rumors circulating about the house, the entire atmosphere makes you uneasy.
You travel room-to-room, turning on lights and uncovering more and more of the story. The house looks genuinely lived-in, or like it had been at one point, and is littered with mementos like tickets to movies and concerts or cassettes that play indie rock. Finding these mementos unravels a touching 1995 Pacific Northwest adventure that’s bound to tug on the heartstrings of those who play it.
“Gone Home” is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Number 2: “The Last of Us”
Release Date: Jun. 14, 2013
I have never played a post-apocalyptic zombie game that hit quite so close to home. “The Last of Us,” developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, was a heartbreaking game with a powerful narrative, flawless gameplay and beautiful graphics. Although Telltale Games’ “Walking Dead” adaptation was poignant and above par, “The Last of Us” was truly groundbreaking.
Because zombies aren’t so novel anymore, they aren’t nearly the main character of “The Last of Us.” They serve as a mechanic with which to tell a story. The plot is very intricate, and can’t be summed up very well without revealing spoilers. In short, you play “Joel,” a time-tempered yet paternal survivor in the wasteland that’s become of our society.
Resources are limited and attacks are sudden. “The Last of Us” handles tension with an effortless mastery, combining the sheer beauty and depth of its world and characters with an expansive and immersive plot that doesn’t fall short in any respect.
“The Last of Us” is available on the PlayStation 3.
Number 1: “Papers, Please”
Release Date: August 8, 2013
In a time where graphics are considered one of the more important qualities of a game, “Papers, Please” – a game developed and published by Lucas Pope – takes the winning spot with only rudimentary drawings. Although this puzzler-esque masterpiece may not seem like much at face value, it manages to be more immersive than any of the other games I’ve played this year.
As the main character of “Papers, Please,” you’ve been selected by a labor lottery to man a checkpoint in the fictitious and totalitarian state of Arstotzka. You have a family to feed and keep warm in the bitter cold of the season, so you accept the ruthless position of gatekeeper. It’s your job to go through various paperwork in order to process the entry of numerous immigrants into your state. However, there are many hidden discrepancies.
Do you choose to turn away the wife of the man who just went through, simply because her passport is expired? Will you face the citations imposed by your government, just to save the life of a woman who would die if she doesn’t get through the checkpoint – even if it means deducting from your own family’s livelihood?
It’s up to you to keep Arstotzka safe from murderers and terrorists, but at what cost? In “Papers, Please,” there is no right answer, and it’s hard to say what winning really means. Regardless, it’s undoubtedly worth a play. Glory to Arstotzka.
“Papers, Please” is available on Steam for both Windows and Mac OS.