2013 Game of the Year Awards: Aaron's Honorable Mentions

For a year that saw me get promoted at my day job, and thereby have more responsibility and less time, in theory, to play videogames, I still cut a large swathe through 2013's releases. From indie to AAA, I probably played it.

Perhaps I finally mastered the mysterious art of time management, which would explain my greater freedom to revel in videogames. And thanks to the promotion I had more disposable income for software, so those games I shelved in years past (usually to save up for three to five "big" releases) were more accessible in 2013.

This is the shortest runner-up list I've ever written for a Game of the Year feature. Why? Well for the first time in our history, the "GOTY" list we settled on actually contained a majority of my favorite titles. Not much else stacked up, and I had very few alternative games that I felt missed the top 10. There were only two games I loved just as much as our 10-best, and I talk about them below!

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Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon

March | Next Level Games | Nintendo 3DS

The original GameCube Luigi’s Mansion was an odd choice for a launch title. It was short, and it wasn’t the next Super Mario 64. It was unfair to put such lofty expectations on an unproven franchise, which probably accounts for its 12 year hiatus.

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon continues the pedigree of the first title, but Nintendo must have told developer Next Level Games to focus on adding more meat to the experience. This is not a short, easily digestible handheld title. It took me nearly 40 hours to beat the main campaign, and it was so dense that I spaced out my playthrough over several months. Even so, the charm Luigi exudes is adorable, if not outright hilarious.

It may not be game-of-the-year material, but as 2013 was the Year of Luigi, and this was hands-down the best Luigi-based game available.

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Kentucky Route Zero

January/May | Cardboard Computer | Linux, OS X, Windows

Is it possible to finish the first episode of a game, not know what the hell is going on, and still love it? Yes, it’s absolutely feasible. Kentucky Route Zero is that game.

Adventure games have benefited from a resurgence in popularity over the last five years, thanks mainly to TellTale and its myriad franchises. Kentucky Route Zero isn’t a TellTale game, which is its greatest strength. If The Walking Dead: Season 1 was a dramatic point-and-click game, Kentucky Route Zero is its abstract cousin. Odd sound cues, shifting perspectives, a dark color palette and no spoken dialogue add to the ever-present feeling of something ominous bubbling up behind-the-scenes.

Atmosphere is another term thrown around when talking about games. But if any game succeeded on selling its presentation in 2013 it was Kentucky Route Zero. Its hand-drawn aesthetic is vague in how characters are presented, but only to make characters more immediate and recognizable. The modern day setting is an unusual choice to go on an adventure, but it works. In some ways it makes all the strange events that much more believable.

The series isn’t finished yet, but I’m along for the ride.