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2013 Aggie Award Nominees

Okay, so 2013 didn't quite turn into the "Year of the Kickstarter" we once imagined, as many high-profile releases were knocked back to 2014. That didn't mean a shortage of quality titles, however, each equally deserving of our attention. But which ones are deserving of the year's Aggie Award hardware? That is the question.

We don't have an answer for you just yet (or rather, we do, but we want to drag out the suspense a while longer), but we are willing to narrow down the pool to our top five finalists in their respective categories.

Speaking of Kickstarter, noticeable by their absence will be the two "broken" games. We're talking about Broken Age and Broken Sword, of course. Both of them arrived with a bang, but having been split into two, they remain unfinished to date. As impressed as we were by the games so far, it's not fair to judge them on the merits of only half a game. Ditto for The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead: Season Two, which have only teased us with promising first episodes so far.

Conspicuous by their presence this year is an abundance of non-traditional adventure games. As developers continue to push the conventional envelope, we're being treated to an unprecedented level of new and creative ways of melding story, exploration, and puzzles (often in varying degrees). For every diehard adventurer whose head this causes to explode, there are many others re-embracing a genre that's daring to break out of the limited formats of yesteryear. There are still lots of classic-style releases contending as well, obviously. Just like the genre itself, there's room for both old- and new-school in our Aggie Award consideration.

No matter what you think of our choices, you'll soon have the chance to vote on your own faves in our upcoming reader poll. The final Aggie Awards presentation will run from Wednesday to Friday, February 19-21, so don't wander off if you want to know which of the following games (listed in alphabetical order) are destined for bloated acceptance speeches.
 



Best Story

One of the core components of any adventure, the game’s narrative must engage the player’s interest and imagination. Entertaining in its own right, a good story also immerses the player in a believable game world and serves as motivation to overcome the challenges presented. While often accompanied by quality writing, the plot is a distinct feature that may or may not be ably supported by the actual dialogue.

BEYOND: Two Souls
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Gone Home
Lost Echo
The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief

 

Best Writing – Comedy

Arguably the hardest genre to write well, comedy done right has the ability both to amuse and uplift, finding humour in the ordinary and laughter in the unexpected. Often dismissed for not being “serious writing” (oh, the irony!), comedy has long been a beloved adventure staple and deserves appropriate recognition.

Astroloco: Worst Contact
The Cave
Fester Mudd: Curse of the Gold – Episode 1: A Fistful of Pocket Lint
Goodbye Deponia
The Night of the Rabbit

 

Best Writing – Drama

If comedy lifts the soul, then drama explores and challenges it. Though sometimes misrepresented as dry and boring or overly theatrical, a gripping drama simply engages players on a deeper emotional level. Quality writing is essential in maintaining the player’s connection to the characters, game world, and the story unfolding.

BEYOND: Two Souls
Gone Home
Kentucky Route Zero: Acts 1 and 2
Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies
The Walking Dead: 400 Days

 

Best Character

Gabriel Knight... Tex Murphy... April Ryan... Guybrush Threepwood. These names roll off the tongue of any adventure gamer as a testament to the importance of compelling protagonists in an adventure. But just as important are the villains, sidekicks, and significant supporting characters, which are often the juiciest parts. This category recognizes those who have made the most memorable contribution, regardless of role.

Jodie Holmes (BEYOND: Two Souls)
The Cave (The Cave)
Sam (Gone Home)
Jerry Hazelnut (The Night of the Rabbit)
Constable Zellner (The Raven)

 

Best Gameplay

Puzzles are an integral aspect of adventure gameplay, but not the only one. Good pacing, rich exploration, and variety of activities are all factors in player enjoyment as well, all suitably integrated into the storyline. The best games seek the right balance of these elements for the most rewarding gameplay experience.

BEYOND: Two Souls
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episodes 2-4
Papers, Please
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy

 

Best Concept

A somewhat ambiguous category meant to highlight any unusual, distinctive element. A creative concept can run the gamut from story premise to game mechanics, from stylistic choice to technical innovation. It doesn’t even need to have been successfully implemented, as it’s the idea itself that deserves the acknowledgement in a genre renowned for its conservative approach. 

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
DEVICE 6
Gone Home
Kentucky Route Zero: Acts1 and 2
Papers, Please

 

Best Setting

Adventures can transport us to memorable places we’ve never been before, including those we never even imagined. Or perhaps to locales we’ve visited already, but never quite like this, making them feel fresh and new and awe-inspiring all over again. This category can refer to an overall game world or even a single environment in a given game so long as it’s a relevant location.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Gone Home
Goodbye Deponia
Kentucky Route Zero: Acts 1 and 2
Lilly Looking Through

 

Best Graphic Design

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this category speaks volumes. Regardless of style, this award recognizes games that are not only visually attractive but stylistically distinctive. One look at a screenshot should elicit a “Wow!” followed by “Hey, that’s from…!” Includes both game world and character design, but not cinematics.

BEYOND: Two Souls
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Kentucky Route Zero: Acts 1 and 2
Lilly Looking Through
Memoria

 

Best Animation

From “bustling” city streets that look deserted to clouds that never move, animation is rarely a genre strong suit, often the victim of budget constraints. But richly animated adventures add so much to player immersion that any game that goes the extra mile in this area is deserving of appreciation. This category includes in-game character and ambient animations, plus cinematic cutscenes.

BEYOND: Two Souls
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Goodbye Deponia
Lilly Looking Through
The Walking Dead: 400 Days

 

Best Music

As a complementary element playing in the background, often a game’s soundtrack is noticeable only when it becomes intrusive, but a strong score and attention to pacing can add so much to a game’s ambience. A catchy theme song can likewise make game music memorable, and an in-game musical number even more so. Whatever its particular strengths, the rare game that excels musically deserves its accolades.

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
BEYOND: Two Souls
Gone Home
Lilly Looking Through
The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief

 

Best Voice Acting

Often under-valued by publishers but never by gamers, quality voice acting can enhance a player’s investment in characters as surely as poor acting can ruin it. With so much international localization, voiceovers can be difficult to skillfully oversee, but any game benefits greatly from proper direction and believable acting. This category refers to the overall quality of vocal roles in a game, not to individual characters.

BEYOND: Two Souls
The Cave
Gone Home
The Night of the Rabbit
The Walking Dead: 400 Days

 

Best Sound Effects

As with music, sound effects are frequently given short shrift in adventures, but effective use of audio adds a vital layer of moody ambience. You may not be able to put your finger on the reason, but some games make you feel like you’re really there, and often the atmospheric sounds have drawn you in subconsciously.

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
ASA: A Space Adventure
BEYOND: Two Souls
Kentucky Route Zero: Acts 1 and 2
Papers, Please

 

Best Independent Adventure

Some independent studios release their games commercially, but with no external publisher backing or secure distribution channels (at least at first). These self-published titles rarely get the attention (or sales) they often deserve, and the best of them merit a closer look from anyone who’s overlooked them to date. This list does not include games from companies fully established as publishers, even if they develop games internally.

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Gone Home
Kentucky Route Zero: Acts 1 and 2
Lilly Looking Through
Papers, Please

 

Best Console/Handheld Adventure (Exclusive)

The home console and handheld platforms haven’t quite championed a genre resurgence like we once hoped they might, but there were still several quality titles released in the past year. To avoid duplication, the following includes only those games exclusive to non-PC platforms. Ports are not deemed to be original releases, and are therefore ineligible.

BEYOND: Two Souls
Lost Echo
Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies
rain
Year Walk

 

Best Non-Traditional Adventure

For a genre that’s remained largely unchanged for decades, it’s actually got a rich history of experimental titles that push the creative envelope in unique, memorable ways. They don’t “evolve” or “redefine” adventures, but rather expand our understanding of what an adventure can we with their bold vision. Purists may resist, but this award honours those games that stretch beyond traditional genre conventions to offer something completely new, or at least present the familiar in imaginative new ways.

BEYOND: Two Souls
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Gone Home
Kentucky Route Zero: Acts 1 and 2
Lilly Looking Through

 

Best Traditional Adventure

Why mess with a good thing? While innovative adventures provide a welcome breath of fresh air, the lifeblood of the genre continues to be the many games that closely adhere to the comfortable, tried-and-true design formulas. Full of inventory and logic puzzles, memorable character dialogue, epic storylines and immersive exploration controlled with an intuitive point-and-click interface, they may not have changed much since Monkey Island and Myst, but they’re no less enjoyable when done well.

Goodbye Deponia
Lost Echo
Memoria
The Night of the Rabbit
The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief

 

Best Adventure of 2013

No sneak peeks! A winner has already been decided, but we're not tipping our hand. Join us February 19-21 to find out!

Continued on the next page...



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Comments

CroGamer CroGamer
Feb 7, 2014

Can somone tell me how do you vote?! I’m new to the forums.

Manuel Manuel
Feb 7, 2014

If I remember correctly when the AG staff finishes their voting then we the readers will have a chance to vote for every category.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 7, 2014

Readers don’t vote on these. These picks are just our own finalists.

The upcoming reader poll (next week) will let you vote for any game you want in each category.

Iznogood Iznogood
Feb 7, 2014

Pretty much the same 5 games nominated in all the categories?
That is very… disappointing!

I’m not necessarily saying it is the wrong nominees, just that I would have expected a much greater variation between the different categories.

2013 might not have been the best year in the history of adventure games, but there were still plenty of good solid and for that matter unusual games, and I would have expected to see many of these at least as nominees in one or two category, like Oknytt for best setting just to give one example.

Instead it seem like the Aggies are going to be divided between very few games, perhaps with one taking the vast majority, which as I see it isn’t a fair representation of the AG scene of 2013.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 7, 2014

I believe there are 24 games here. How many exactly were you expecting? (Rhetorical question.)

We’re not going to punish the genre’s best games just for the sake of token representation of a few more.

Within Within
Feb 7, 2014

I’m glad to see a strong presence from Daedalic. The three games the studio released this year were of very high quality. Good representation from indie titles and great selections in the writing categories as well. I’m very interested in seeing who wins what!

Beyond: Two Souls seems like a stellar contender in many areas. I don’t own a PS3 though so I can’t agree nor disagree on its plethora of nominations.

Also, thank you for considering The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead: Season Two non-eligible this year. I’ve seem them pop up on some magazine’s awards (although I can’t remember which one) but they are hardly complete games at this point. You deserve a beer for this policy alone.

rottford
Feb 7, 2014

Surprised “Face Noir” isn’t a nominee anywhere. I particularly think it deserves a nomination under “Best Soundtrack”—the jazzy, noir-influenced music is excellent.

Strav
Feb 7, 2014

To me, 2013 marks the beginning of an era where game critics have finally reached their literary colleagues in that they are beginning to praise an art not for it’s sheer enjoyment but according to some convolved theory about what it should be. Just go at metacritic and take look at the difference between the “official critics” and the general public ratings for games such as Gone Home, Stanley’s Parable and Dear Esther. In the general public ratings, you’ll find some very low scores, (non-existent amongst the official critiques). If you take a moment to read those low-score reviews, you’ll find that, surprise! most of them recognized that those were original games, had a somewhat good concept but they were just bland, boring and mostly pompous. I have this awful feeling that the current nominees selection will make it so that Gone Home will get another game of the year award (why else include such a forgettable game in nearly each possible category?).  Let it be said: Gone Home is no more than a cheap teen novel with oh so “shocking” and “provocative” undertones and marital ambiguity using a bland video game as it’s medium.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 8, 2014

Why else? Is that a trick question? Because a bunch of people on staff liked the game and strongly disagree with you. No need to fabricate imaginary reasons for why others don’t share your equally subjective opinion.

Strav
Feb 8, 2014

Jackal: Agreed, my “why else” comment was a bit out of line. But what it implied is this feeling that the current list appears strongly biased towards Gone Home, as in: when we like something, let be careful not to give it undue credit just because it has our favour.

Having that said, I also must concur that 2013 hasn’t been a great year for adventure games. I personally would have included Antichamber and The Swapper in the nominees but I guess the story telling of those games might be a little thin to meet the “adventure game” criteria.

Rolandesch Rolandesch
Feb 8, 2014

Haven’t played Gone Home yet, seen some gameplay footage but I am interested why The Stanley Parable wasn’t nominated since it seems to me that both games rely on storytelling and exploration and not gameplay mechanics and puzzles?
For me Stanley was one of the better adventure games this year but it is not recognized as such.
Interested in knowing the reasons.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 8, 2014

A lot of us really liked The Stanley Parable, but there just really isn’t enough gameplay or player agency to warrant calling it an adventure. In Gone Home, at least you’re consciously trying to unravel a mystery through your actions (rummage through drawers, access cryptically-clued hidden passageways, etc.). Stanley Parable is more like a rat maze that you’re trying to find your way out of, full of narrator-guided amusing dead ends that send you back to the beginning. All you really do is choose which direction to go and then see what happens. Even the Stanley developer openly questions whether it’s actually a game. That’s part of its unique charm. But also why it’s not eligible for the Aggies.

MurrayL MurrayL
Feb 8, 2014

Thanks for the nomination! Just being in the same category as a game by Ron Gilbert is amazing.

Antrax
Feb 9, 2014

So why didn’t Heroine’s Quest qualify?

subbi subbi
Feb 9, 2014

It is rather odd that the AG review summary of Beyond says ‘....look past constraint and awkward gameplay’ and that the game is still nominated fir ‘best gameplay award’.

I have not played it myself sofar, so I can’t really comment on this, but does that mean that 2013 was not a very rich year gameplay wise and that there simply wasn’t a better game on thus aspect?

Simon_ASA Simon_ASA
Feb 9, 2014

Thanks a lot for the nomination of ASA, it really is a pleasure and a good surprise. It would be fun to discuss of your reasons of putting ASA in the Sound Effects category.
I personally understand it that way : you liked the game and wanted it to be nominated somewhere, but it didn’t fit in any category because there were many other games much better in graphics, music, gameplay, etc. And more famous also. But because you liked the atmosphere and experience of the game, the Sound Effects category wrapped well the idea of immersion and was the best place for this game. So we need to understand Sound Effects as Immersion. Did you think like that ? I’m curious Smile

Jackal Jackal
Feb 9, 2014

Antrax, Aggies are for commercial games only. As great as some freeware games are, there’s no way we could possibly play enough of them to be sure we were doing justice to them all. So no picking favourites, it has to be all or nothing.

Subbi, if nothing else, it’s a reminder that a review is only one person’s opinion, while the Aggies represent us all.

Simon, there’s no master plan for distributing nominations. ASA made the cut in the sound effects category and not in the others, simple as that. Smile

subbi subbi
Feb 9, 2014

Ok, clear. I mistakenly assumed that also the reviews were checked by writer peers and editorial staff, making it a result of a much broader consensus.

Advie Advie
Feb 9, 2014

Lilly Looking Through is a great game of course ,but did this game really have ‘Soundtracks’ , .. uh, I mean Music !? .Anyhow, who I am I to complain .
Its still sad how you couldn’t distinguish the differences between both; Soundtracks and Music.

Where is Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards: Reloaded on the nominee eligibility list?

rtrooney rtrooney
Feb 9, 2014

While I understand Broken Age and Broken Sword not being included because they are not completed, I wonder how Fester Mudd is included. The problems at Replay certainly played a role, but the developers still only delivered one (great) episode of a three-part opus.

Shouldn’t Fester be held to the same standards as the Brokens were?

Karlok Karlok
Feb 9, 2014

I don’t understand why Papers Please is considered an adventure when The Stanley Parable is not. (I love both games, but that’s beside the point.) Papers Please has no exploration, no story to speak of, and no puzzles. The gameplay is of the kind you find in simulation games. Checking, comparing, deciding whether to let somebody enter the country or not. Could you please explain what made you decide Papers Please qualifies as an adventure?

zane
Feb 9, 2014

The stanley parable and gone home are both visual novels where you move around with minimal interaction and each lasted me almost exactly 2 hours.
Eh, maybe this just wasnt a very good year for adventures. Oh well.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 9, 2014

AGF, we don’t consider ports or remakes for awards.

rtrooney, Fester Mudd is sold as a standalone game (even if it’s meant to be episodic); the others are not.

Karlok, I haven’t played Papers, Please, so my personal knowledge is limited, but by staff accounts, the entire game is based on puzzle-solving (or at least problem-solving) within a narrative framework, so it qualifies. There’s certainly far more player agency involved than in Stanley. I’m not about to start getting into debates on what constitutes a puzzle or a story. The endless “what is an adventure?” foolishness (in general, not from you) is tiresome enough.

A.A
Feb 11, 2014

Stick it to the Man was the most fun I had with an adventure I reckon this year. Thought it would have got a look-in; it was every bit as adventure-gamey as the Telltale stuff. I thought Leisure Suit Larry was also very funny, but that comedy thing really is subjective I guess. 

Contrast too felt adventure-y enough to get a look-in.

Anyway, it is what it is.

Skywalker333 Skywalker333
Feb 12, 2014

Very little cognition (which was amazing) and very much Raven (which started great and then collapsed into a pile of garbage)

PadanFain
Feb 13, 2014

So how come Memoria hasn’t made the best story category? Apart from Beyond (which I haven’t played… yet), Memoria has far and wide the better story of all the other games listed.

xxax
Feb 13, 2014

Beyond: Two souls best gameplay? Is this some kind of joke?

DarkEye DarkEye
Feb 14, 2014

That makes me laugh so hard! I’m sorry is there any gameplay in Beyond: Two souls at all?. Why so many wierd games lately with such a hype like
The wolf among us? Are gamers to lazy to even play games or what…

shiajun
Feb 14, 2014

I’m surprised at the absence of Antichamber, not only on the list, but on the site in general. If Portal can be featured on the site, so should Antichamber, as it’s basically Portal’s LSD addicted kid. It’s the game that had me bending my neurons the most impressive ways last year, to get through all its room-riddles. Plus, it has no death or pressure to solve it. Granted, story is non-existent, aside from whatever you project unto the game. As an indie addition to the non-traditional adventure games, that one should take the cake

Jackal Jackal
Feb 14, 2014

We covered Antichamber. And calling it Portal without the story explains why we consider one an adventure and the other not.

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