2013 is in the books, and it was a banner year for video games. We saw amazing indie games, AAA blockbusters, and all new console launch; all helping to revitalize the industry. I’ve decided to put together a Top 10 list, but before I start on it I want to put out a few disclaimers. 1. If you disagree, that’s fine. These are just my opinions after all, and I’m always up for discussion on them. 2. If my list is missing a major game that many other lists have (i.e. Gone Home, Papers Please, Fire Emblem: Awakening, XCOM: Enemy Within) I’ve likely just not yet played it, or finished it in the case of Fire Emblem and Tomb Raider. 3. These will be in alphabetical order, except for my top game of the year. I don’t want to get caught up on why one game would get #2 compared to #3, so I’ll just name nine top games, and one Game of the Year. So, now that we have all that out of the way, let’s get started!
Top 10 Games of 2013
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
When Black Flag was announced in Spring I was incredibly skeptical. It seemed to be abandoning the Assassin’s Creed formula that I loved, and replacing it with the hip fad that is pirates. Heck, Assassin’s Creed itself seemed to be faltering after last year’s Assassin’s Creed 3. Thankfully, Ubisoft used the piracy setting and gave the franchise the shot in the arm it needed.
Playing as Edward Kenway you can still do all the classic Assassin’s Creed things like stealth kills and the still great parkour and deepened the naval combat added in the AC3. Honestly, the naval combat was easily my favorite part about AC4. The massive open world was filled to the brim with things to do, including capturing forts, harpooning, diving into underwater shipwrecks, and exploring basically every island. One of my favorite things to do is see a small island in the middle of the ocean, dive off the Jackdaw, and explore it just because I can. Tie all of this fun off with a very well done story and better characters, and you have easily the best Assassin’s Creed game yet.
Taking players away from the ocean and putting them into the floating city of Columbia was a bold move by Ken Levine and the team at Irrational, but a bold move that crafted one of the best worlds in a game since, well, Rapture in Bioshock. Casting players into the role of an outsider allowed us to see both the majesty and horrors of Columbia first-hand, which each piece of the city feeling meticulously crafted and detail orientated. It was the quiet moments that shined brightest for Columbia, where you could do things as simple as watch a barbershop quartet, or play carnival games, you see how great the city could be. Then, you see it fall from that grace.
Players are tasked with finding Elizabeth, the venerable Princess in the tower, to erase a debt they had accumulated. I won’t go on to spoil the story, but it certainly grows from that simple premise to one of the best in both gaming or any other medium. Irrational creates such a connection between you and Elizabeth, that you will want to go through hell and high water to help her. I’ve gone through all of this without even speaking of the expertly crafted combat, with each fight offering a massive amount of potential ways to play it. The new Virgos and skyrails make the already stellar combat even better. Jumping onto skyrails and firing a rocket launcher down onto a motorized patriot is an exhilarating experience, and never feels stale. Simply put, Bioshock Infinite is a tremendous experience.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
After releasing one of the best games of last year with Far Cry 3, many assumed we would just get more serious expansions to continue the experience. Ubisoft said F- that, and gave us Blood Dragon. Called “The Miami Connection of video games”, it proved to be one of the most fun games I’ve ever played.
We are dropped into the role of Rex Power Colt, a cybrog badass who has to stopped an evil general from destroying the world, after the apocalypse has had an apocalypse. Everything is plays out in such a tongue-in-cheek manner that I immediately found myself laughing as I fought off cyborgs and Blood Dragons. The dialogue is perfect, the combat is ripped directly from Far Cry 3 (so it continues to work great), and we are given a great new open world to explore. If you want to have fun playing a game, there is no where better to look this year then Blood Dragon. Plus, it’s a damn steal at $14.99.
Metroid-vania has becomes a genre of it’s own, and no game better showcases how an indie team can craft a great game, and arguably top, big publishers like Guacamelee. Drinkbox studios released a stylized romp through the Mexican Luchador culture, mixed with a supernatural flare. As you can see in the screenshot above, the game is just plain beautiful to look at, and plays just as well. I can’t honestly get past just how good this game looks though, and it proves that you don’t need billions of pixels and lens flare to make a beautiful game.
Guacamelee is another tongue-in-cheek title this year, making fun of both gamer’s perceptions and parodying other games. For example, slight spoiler, you gain powers by smashing the statues of an old master, and he gets rather angry at you each time Spoilers over. While it’s not the longest game, as you can finish it in about 7 or so hours, it showed me that an indie game can do just as well, if not better, then an official Metroid or Castlevania game at the genre they pioneered.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes
If three years ago, you told me the best Marvel game during the next three year span would be a Lego game, I would have laughed you out of the room. I like Lego games as much as the next guy, but I was not expecting to have as much fun with Marvel Super Heroes as I did. It brings together pretty much every Marvel hero and villain, and I mean nearly every character, and drops you into an open world with a ton to do, and great story missions that the whole family can enjoy.
This game feels like a labor of love for Traveller’s Tales, as each character plays unique, and retains all the characteristics they are well known for. The voice acting is top notch as well, bringing in many of the character’s animated series actors, as well as some from the cinematic universe like Clark Greg. If you love Marvel, this is the game for you.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve been legitimately excited to play a Pokemon game. Heck, I hadn’t finished a Pokemon game since Sapphire. X/Y brought the franchise back to life for me, and showed the world of Pokemon as I’ve always wanted to see it: in three dimensions. The Kalos region looks just plain astounding for a handheld, and actually had me jaw dropped in awe on multiple occasions.
Game Freak tweaked the classic Pokemon formula just enough to make it all feel fresh, but still familiar. Giving players a new starter, as well as one of the three original Pokemon, made creating your team that much easier. Giving an XP share that gives XP to your entire team also removes the grind that I hated in prior Pokemon games. If you have ever liked Pokemon, then play X or Y. It will astound you.
Saints Row IV
Saints Row IV should not be as good as it is. It was originally going to be an expansion of sorts for Saints Row 3 called Enter the Dominatrix, but after it’s sale during the THQ bankruptcy it was turned into a full game. Volition could have used this as an excuse to make a poor game, but instead made arguably the single funniest game ever created.
The game sets players as the President of the United States as they face off against an alien invasion. Top the wackiness off with superpowers and you have a tremendously fun game to play. Volition makes fun of everything and anything in this game, and had me keeling over in laughter more then a few times. It’s use of licensed music was also brilliant, and continued the amazing parody work. Comedy is incredibly hard to do well in video games, and Saints Row IV does it in a way that makes it seem easy.
The Last of Us
If there is one developer whose name is synonymous with excellence, it is Naughty Dog. From Crash Bandicoot, to Uncharted they have never disappointed, and they somehow managed to top themselves with The Last of Us. Unlike many games on this list, The Last of Us is not a happy or funny game. It’s the story of two people trying to survive during a zombie-esc apocalypse, in a world with really no fun at all.
Pulling no punches, Naughty Dog delivers a tremendously written and acted experience. Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson give the performances of a lifetime, and made me feel more for video game characters then I ever thought possible. The gameplay itself stays with the survival tone, forcing you to play stealthy and conserve any weapons you are lucky enough to find. Missing one shot feels like a nightmare, and each encounter will have you on the edge of your seat. The Last of Us is far from a happy game, but one that everyone should play.
The Stanley Parable
“You will play as Stanley, and you will not play as Stanley. You will follow a story, you will not follow a story. You will have a choice, you will have no choice. The game will end, the game will never end.” That is the only description given for The Stanley Parable, and it somehow explains the game a whole hell of a lot better then I possible could.
There is no real gameplay for The Stanley Parable besides walking and pushing buttons, but the narrative on display is just plain incredible. The only real voice in the game, your British narrator, is played perfectly by Kevan Brighting. I don’t really know how to explain this game anymore besides saying that you need to play it. It won it’s spot on this list after only 30 minutes of play, and it had me playing for hours on end following.
And my Game of the Year is……
Grand Theft Auto V
There have been two games that I completed and immediately restarted again: Ratchet and Clank and Grand Theft Auto V. Rockstar created a life-like city with Los Santos, and populated it with one of the most diverse and well written cast of characters that gaming has ever seen. The bold experiment of having three protagonists paid off, as each felt unique and was brilliantly written. Steven Ogg, Shawn Fonteno, and Ned Luke gave some of the best performances of the year, and made you care for these pretty awful people.
The narrative is the best for any Grand Theft Auto title, and rivals Red Dead Redemption for the best that Rockstar has ever created. Having our protagonist battle with the government, the Chinese, Meth cooking good old boys, gangbangers, their own pasts gives GTA V so many exciting and exhilarating moments. The heists during the campaign create some of the most tense missions in gaming history, with you worrying that at any moment the police may catch on, or escaping the cops only to find your path is blocked and you must go into the sewers to try to escape.
The story of GTA V isn’t really what’s most important to gamers though. Most people go into GTA to have a great time goofing around and being a crook, and GTA V unlocks the entire map from the get-go, and lets you do whatever you want. Adding in all new activities like triathlons on top of series standards like races gives you so much to do it can be overwhelming. Combine all of this with the stellar GTA Online, and you get my Game of the Year for 2013.
What do you think of the list? Agree or disagree? What was your Game of the Year? Let me know in the comments below!
by, Bobby Marquardt