And here it is. The big one. And the winners are...
The Last of Us The popular choice. Obviously! But a very good one. Might end up being one of the defining moments of this generation, and of gaming in general.
2nd Place: Grand Theft Auto V 3rd Place: BioShock Infinite
Luigi's Mansion 2 A lot of 'big' 'important' video games were released this year. Gone Home proved games can tackle difficult subjects with subtlety and create a real harmony between play and narrative. The Last of Us proved that great writing can co-exist with big budget titles and take creative risks. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag proved (again) that pirates are awesome.
Grand Theft Auto V was Rockstar firing on all cylinders, pushing the boundaries of its own technology and its unparalleled world building skills. Super Mario 3D World was as inventive and bold. Papers Please was stark, brutal and unforgiving. BioShock Infinite was disappointing.
A Link Between World was the best Zelda game in a decade.
But for me, 2013 truly was the year of Luigi.
In a year full of important games, Luigi's Mansion 2 seems like a strange choice for Game of the Year but for me, personally, choosing any other game would feel dishonest. It is, simply put, the game I enjoyed playing most in 2013.
No game in 2013 placed a higher premium on detail. No game felt more tactile and malleable. No game felt more polished. Luigi's Mansion 2 was a masterclass in simple thing done correctly; in difficult things made simple. Moving around and existing in Luigi's Mansion 2 was an experience. Every curtain fluttered, every piece of furniture rattled and — at the centre of it all — the Poltergust, a brilliant designed weapon that allowed you to interact with almost every item in that world. There was a real sense of internal logic in Luigi's Mansion 2 and it was good to the last pixel.
I loved the combat. Ghost Busters + Disney on Ice + The Three Stooges. Like everything else in this perfect little game, the details were right and it felt gloriously tactile.
I loved the sense of exploration. I loved the backtracking. In video game design backtracking is consistently maligned, but in Luigi's Mansion 2 it gives players the opportunity to uncover every nook and cranny of the game's gorgeous, spooky interiors; to fall in love with those details. You don't rush through Luigi's Mansion 2. The environments don't flutter past in a trivial blur of textures, they become unforgettable as you slowly plod through the world, one weighty step at a time.
For me, Luigi's Mansion 2 was a reminder of what's good about video games, what's good about video game design. More importantly, it was engaging. It was — to use that tired, dead, shitty old word — fun. It was fun in the very best sense of that word.
Runners up: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, A Link Between Worlds, Gone Home