And here we are, finally. Down to a head. 2013 was a brilliant year for games and we’re only looking forward to more excellence in the medium with such hopefuls as Watch_Dogs, Alien: Isolation, Dark Souls II, Metal Gear Solid V, and more that the incredible companies of the world have to offer. For now, please sit back and enjoy what we thought were the true stars of 2013.
The Last of Us
The Last of Us is something of an astonishing masterpiece. Though not a technical marvel, likely hampered by the age of the PlayStation 3, Naughty Dog have infused what could have been a flat title with something gaming as a medium often lacks—gravitas. Few games cause you to grip your controller and sweat nervously as tenseness overtakes your body, but The Last of Us manages to do exactly that. Whether you’re avoiding the horrid infected or humans just desperate enough to do anything to survive, Naughty Dog’s magnum opus does not disappoint. Coupled with one of the most beautiful backing scores available in a game, and with characters that actually feel like people (in most cases), The Last of Us easily belongs among the greats in gaming history. [Review]
Grand Theft Auto V
There’s more to Rockstar’s latest open world crime opus then merely eye-rolling satire or chasing/killing the red dot. It’s about bike riding, it’s about skydiving, it’s about triathlons, it’s about customisable heists, it’s about leading a fantastical surrogate life and more importantly, it’s about fun. Rich, boundless fun, in a world whose mini-games are robust enough to outshine full-price genre entries and whose characters take you on an endlessly entertaining whistle-stop tour of debauchery, black comedy and nihilism. It’s also about Grand Theft Auto Online, one of the most complete and content-stuffed multiplayer offerings a videogame console has ever offered. Breathless in scope and unparalleled in execution, Grand Theft Auto V is the apex of videogaming for me in 2013. [Review]
The Tomb Raider series has seen many ups and downs since its inception, with many, many more lows in recent history. Likewise we’ve seen a good handful of series get the reboot treatment as of late, to plenty of mixed reviews. None have been able to come close to being as masterful or successful (link to TR review) as Tomb Raider. Crystal Dynamics were able to take a formerly successful series that had long since been run into the ground and made it fresh, relevant and fun again. The story is deep and engaging, the characters meaningful, and the world an absolute beauty to behold. There are plenty of hidden goodies to search for which help unravel the mystery of the island, as well as numerous bonus upgrades to work toward, none of which ever held the tedium of grinding in RPGs. Lara Croft has been properly reinvented, and reborn a survivor. I can only wait with eager anticipation for the sequel to see this now battle-hardened young woman handles her sophomore venture. [Review]
Saints Row IV
What? Not Grand Theft Auto V? That’s right, I’m with the Saints Crew. GTA was bigger with more to do, but Saints Row IV kept things shorter and sweeter. Incredibly fun, over-the-top action, a legitimately hilarious script, and motherfucking Keith David as Vice President Keith David made this a blast to play. Between the side activities I couldn’t stop playing more of, the collectibles I spent hours straight hunting, and a special tribute to They Live, there is no doubt in my mind that this is my Game of the Year. Oh. And I’ll never look at Opposites Attract the same way again. Or Biz Markie… [Review]
Persona 4 Golden
In the race for the most characterised, human and relatable plot in games, it’s a fantasy game that originally came out five years ago that feels the most resonant. Every character you meet in Persona 4 feels real because they are expanded upon and have their own stories that are laid out in real ways, with the only brutal “truth and love” monologues coming at the end of the game. The thematic ties of the world and characters, too numerous to list here, also give off a very believable feel. Yes, in a game about jumping into a TV to solve supernatural murders. But these parts are also brilliantly realised, with an effective Persona switching motif employed throughout to create a battle system that’s strategic in both the long and short terms. But best of all, it too has believable ties to the plot, creating a sense of cohesion and unification even in a game about expression of individuality. And jumping into a TV. It’s the single most memorable game I’ve played in 2013, and that’s why it’s my pick for game of the year. [Review]
The Wonderful 101
Well, Hideki Kamiya has done it. The Wonderful 101 is the perfect character action game. The combat is the deepest in any such game I’ve played, the art style is instantly recognizable, the writing is clever, the gameplay is extremely varied, the music is amazing… What more can one want? The coordination and planning required to master the combat of this game is near the same level of technical skill required for playing fighting games competitively. To top that, the game constantly throws curveballs at you with genre shifts during levels, and they’re all awesome moments. In essence, TW101 is awesomeness personified. An extremely deep game with a lot of replay value, satisfying gameplay and hilariously awesome characters. This is a game that transcended being a GOTY and became an all-time favorite for me.
The Wonderful 101
When Platinum Games and Hideki Kamiya announced that the Wii U would be their system of choice to develop games for, many were skeptical. An underwhelming, some would say floundering, piece of hardware, and the developers of the deepest action games on the market didn’t seem like a match made in heaven at first. The announcement of The Wonderful 101 made people even more skeptical. They weren’t sure what this game was, and for good reason. It’s hard to describe The Wonderful 101 to someone. It’s something you need to play for yourself. Incredibly deep, insanely addictive and devilishly hard, this is exactly what you’d expect from Platinum. With 100 different superheroes to find and add to your team, each with a different power or ability, The Wonderful 101 boasts replay value in spades. Good luck getting all those platinum medals. You’ll need it.
If I had to pick one game for Game of the Year, this would have to be it. Amazing story, tight gameplay, bits of item collecting and sidequesting so it doesn’t feel so linear. Despite Square Enix taking a huge misstep pumping more money into the game for a multiplayer mode no one wanted to play, it doesn’t take away from the fact that you are in for a big adventure when you pop this game in. [Review]
Resident Evil 6
Yes, Resident Evil 6. The same Resident Evil 6 that was eviscerated by the media and buried by the fans, and that was supposedly the death of the series. THAT Resident Evil 6. There was no better game this year. The great strength of Resident Evil 6 is in the core combat system, placing emphasis on mobility and fluidity through a number of new techniques that allow for the type of quick repositioning everyone has been clamoring for since RE4’s over-the-shoulder tank controls went out of vogue. Dodge-rolling and sliding assume defensive and offensive roles, respectively, giving the player a wide array of options for any given encounter. Close-quarters combat benefits the most, where attack avoidance and punishment takes on a Devil May Cry or Dark Souls level of satisfaction, but even the much-derided firefights can shine when the level layouts allow (for example, Chris Chapter 4). To push the comparison, Resident Evil 6 played properly more closely resembles a character action game than a cover-based shooter. Don’t listen to the critics; don’t listen to the fans. Listen to me. Learn the controls, learn how the game is meant to be played, use cover sparingly, and you’ll discover the same pleasant surprise that I did after a half-hearted Steam sale purchase: Resident Evil 6 is the best third-person shooter since Resident Evil 4, and it is my 2013 Game of the Year.
NOTE: This choice is based on the 2013 PC release of Resident Evil 6.
Tomb Raider was a revelation. While not paying much attention until about a month before release, the end product was simply a testament to quality and gaming perfection. Highly enjoyable firefights, platforming and puzzle solving elements combined with a fantastic performance from actress Camilla Luddington, Tomb Raider gives a more believable and realistic look at Lara Croft’s characterisation. Cinematic gameplay with a breath-taking score, well-paced progression and astounding graphical quality; Tomb Raider presents an adventure that satisfies. [Review]
This felt like the new departure it was touted to be. Stunning vistas and visceral combat made a believable experience which enraptured, while Lara Croft was a strong and emotional character with strengths and newly found vulnerabilities, providing a breath of fresh of air for new and old players alike. With a gripping story tying these ingredients together we had a recipe for not only rebooting the heralded franchise, but also for giving us one of the finest action adventure experiences of the year. [Review]
Thank you so much for sticking with us this week and counting down the best games of 2013! If you missed any of the previous posts, feel free to click on the following numbers. With that, on to the great titles 2014 will bring!