Eurogamer's 2013 alternative awards

From best u-turns to snootiest elephants.

We're trailing towards the end of the year, so it's a time of excess, tubby tummies and endless top ten lists. Except this year counting to ten seemed like far too much effort, so instead we decided to compile a list of some of our personal favourite - or, perhaps, most noteworthy - moments in gaming this year. I hope you enjoy it, and please let us know some of your own suggestions.

Jeffrey's Awards

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Jeffrey doesn't look quite like this, but with a little augmentation I reckon he'd be much more handy in a fight.

Most rewarding finishing move: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance's Zandatsu kills. You'd think that performing the same handful of multi-second animations would get old after a few hours, but even after five playthroughs I never tired of watching Raiden triumphantly refill his health by squishing cyborg spines. Video games, don't ever change.

Most novel use of a touchscreen: Device 6. Simogo's unique hybrid of digital comic-book and video game is unlike anything out there. Scrolling through its geography-based text layouts while its haunting music and sound effects kick in at exactly the right times remains among the most elegant, inventive blends of form and function I've seen employed on a touch screen.

Best closing moment: The Last of Us' cut to black. I'd say more, but I don't want to spoil it for y'all, okay?

Best use of pop music: Saints Row 4's Paula Abdul sing-a-long. I've already written about this here, and apparently a similar trick was pulled in the not-yet-played-by-me Saints Row: The Third, but so what? No one else has ripped it off yet and it remains the most disarmingly human moment in an otherwise goofy game I've seen.

Best environmental detail used for character development: Sam's homework assignment in Gone Home. A clever, hilarious take on a real public school sex education assignment that tells us so much about this character through her response to the most mundane of documents. Finding your character's version of the same worksheet is a nice twist.

Game that makes you feel like the biggest dick: Papers, Please. "What's that, lady? You can't see your husband again? Well too bad. I've got a quota to meet!" God, I'm such a c***.

Martin's Awards

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Martin, however, looks exactly like this.

Snootiest elephant of the year: Animal Crossing's Opal. Sent me on a wild goose chase in pursuit of some cherries, only to be rewarded with a pithy putdown.

Most immoral feat in a video game: Making sure Opal didn't have a shovel, waiting 'til she was asleep and then digging holes around her garden so she couldn't escape. I haven't yet bothered to check how she's doing in there.

Most touching control scheme: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. I won't ruin it by saying how or why, but... yeah.

Unexpectedly emotional moment of the year: Gran Turismo's v1.01 patch. I was already floored by being able to take to Brands Hatch in an approximation of my dad's S1 Elise, but the new intro delivered the final punch, starting off with a montage of Viviane Senna at a Brazilian school before climaxing with a shot of Ayrton lowering himself into a Lotus 97T. Right in the feels, Kaz.

Best food in a video game: The portrayal of Pikmin 3's kiwi was bordering on the pornographic. So juicy. We've come a long way from Streets of Rage's pixel turkeys.

Best stand-up routine: Smiley and Surly's genuinely side-splitting turn in Level 5's exceptional Ni No Kuni, which is more worthy of a DVD tie-in than any risible Michael McIntyre nonsense. Proper tidy.

Most popular mountain: Bathurst's Mount Panorama. After an extended hiatus, it cropped up in pretty much every driving game in 2013: iRacing, Forza, Grid and Gran Turismo all introduced it throughout the year. I'm half expecting it to crop up in Mario Kart 8 next year as well. 

Tom B's Awards

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Tom and Don - BFFs.

Best U-turn: Microsoft's decision to abandon universal digital licensing on Xbox One. It's nice to buy a game and feel like it's up to you whether you can still play it in 10 years' time.

Dumbest next-gen feature: Changing the names of the function buttons on the controllers. The PS4's are now Share and Options and I don't even know what the hell the Xbox One buttons are supposed to be now. Sony's decision to make Share an OS function also means that there's no skip music button in FIFA 14 now, which is far more likely to drive me to playing it on Xbox One than those elusive Ultimate Team Legends.

Most overblown platform exclusive: Speaking of which, I hope people aren't taken in by the Legends. Astonishingly rare and expensive, even by the standards of other Ultimate Team super-cards like Messi and Ronaldo, they are worn on the front of the Xbox 360 and Xbox One packaging like a badge of honour. Virtually nobody who buys the game will ever see them, no matter how many premium gold packs they buy with FIFA Points (which cost extra), and buying in-game coins on the black market to pay for them (which technically breaks EA's T&Cs) would cost hundreds of pounds.

The 'Kameo is still bobbins' memorial award for rubbish next-gen launch title: Mark Cerny's Knack. At least it doesn't seem to have distracted him from making an excellent console.

Best run of game releases: Nintendo. Fire Emblem Awakening! Animal Crossing: New Leaf! Pokemon X and Y! Super Mario 3D World! How fitting that it should be so in this, the year of Luigi.

Best next-gen game: Super Mario 3D World. It still counts, right?

Chris's Awards

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Chris has a real cat who, he assures me, he doesn't send onto battlefields.

Deadest pets: Both my cats were tooled up as Mech Troopers in XCOM: Enemy Within. Both met swift - and expensive - ends, too. Dolly was particularly useless as she kept getting herself stuck to the wrong side of cover.

Best space cathedrals: For a game without much obvious substance, MirrorMoon EP's cathedrals built of light and colour can be pretty devastating to explore. If you've yet to pick this weird, rich exploration game up, it's crazily cheap and as far as architecture's concerned it's way better than a trip to mainland Europe.

Crunchiest skulls: Skulls of the Shogun encourages you to eat the skulls of your enemies in order to level up your abilities. In reality, though, you'll want to do it because the sound effects offer such a crispy, sugary pleasure.

Fondest farewells: Kenji Eno died far too young this year, leaving behind millions of pixels squished in One-Dot Enemies. Elsewhere, Arkedo Studio closed its doors with the gloriously manic Poof Vs the Cursed Kitty. I am drinking Kahlua in both your honours.

Tom P's Awards

5

Tom's perhaps the only person in the world who understands what's going on in the convoluted worlds of both Assassin's Creed and BioShock.

Most unlikely musical success: Who'd have thought that the bloodthirsty blokes you hire to join your Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag crew would all be such wonderful baritones? All together now: "Windy weather and stormy weather..."

Most aggressive vegetable-based economy: For several weeks over the height of this summer, the first words between Animal Crossing: New Leaf players in the Eurogamer office each morning were a hopeful, breathless "Checked your turnip prices yet?" Never have the hopes and dreams of so many rested on the daily sale price of a root vegetable.

The Ken Levine award for most confusing time travel/multiverse/alternate reality plotline: BioShock Infinite's story was as confuddling as it was brilliant - attempting to explain the mechanics of the series' latest DLC to us, Levine had to reference theories by Einstein and Heisenberg to try and make everything clear.

Oli's Awards

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Oli shortly after learning he'd just got beta access to Reaper of Souls.

Unlikeliest Source of Great Game Design: iRacing's safety ratings. This hardcore motorsport simulator has a clever progression system that's not based on wins or grinding but reliable, incident-free racing over time. It penalises anyone involved in a crash, spin or sortie off the racetrack without apportioning blame. It's intended to create an online environment of skilful, respectful racing, and it does, but it also raises the moment-to-moment stakes so far that my first steps in iRacing became the most tense and exciting gaming experience of the year for me. It goes such a long way towards simulating the threat and fear of real motorsport. In my first online practice session, I got so freaked out by a faster car coming up behind me that I span out all on my own. Terrifying, thrilling stuff.

The Brief Encounter Award: Plants vs Zombies 2. I was obsessed with this game to the exclusion of all else for exactly 48 hours. Then I never looked at it again. Is it possible for a game to be too slick?

Best Derailment of an Important Work Meeting: when I received my unexpected beta invite for Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls while we were trying to schedule all the Xbox One launch coverage. Cue much excitement and jealousy and one very frustrated editor. Who needs next-gen?

Best New Console: 500GB super-slim PS3, bundled with GT6 and The Last of Us. Throw in a PlayStation Plus sub and you're golden. Yes, I followed through on my decision - PS4 and Xbox One were just passing through, and my brand new Gran Turismo player is installed on my desk in front of me. We're very happy together.

Best Actor: Charles Martinet, for the way Luigi hums nervously along with the theme tune in the delightful Luigi's Mansion 2. Sorry, Ellen.

Most Weirdly Compelling Alternate Existence: that of a bored and stressed high-schooler in rural Japan, so touchingly evoked by the brilliant Persona 4 Golden. Don't be fooled by the weird dungeon crawling or the murder mystery plotline. This for me was a more humane, compassionate and grounded real-world drama than anything the experimental indie scene (or David Cage) came up with this year, and I sure as hell cared about the characters more. Comedy, companionship, satire, sex and identity issues are all encompassed in this most intimate of epics, and lent real poignancy by the passing of the seasons of its strict one-year calendar. How many games engage with the idea that, however dire the drama, life just goes on? Persona 4 does.

Most Horrifying Stat Screen: this year, I have played 872 games of Solitaire (draw three, Vegas scoring) on my phone, adding up to a total playtime of 55 hours and 34 minutes.

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