While the whole editorial staff contributed to our 2013 awards, we wanted to allow everybody the opportunity to publicly name their personal top 10 games of the year. While many did play the majority of releases in 2013, please remember that unlike our main awards, the editors are not naming the *best* games, but their personal favorites out of the selection they played.
10. Tomb Raider
(Multi-Platform, Crystal Dynamics)
It’s a reboot. It’s an entry in a series that hasn’t had much luck in recent years. Lara Croft just hasn’t been herself lately, and its reflected in the sales of any game featuring her likeness. Thankfully, Crystal Dynamics didn’t give up after the less-than-stellar Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, and instead decided to push for something that fans have been desiring for years: an origin story. Tomb Raider is the first entry in the series to feel fresh in years, despite being somewhat of a Uncharted clone (which isn’t a bad thing, mind you). It’s a story that isn’t as touching as it could have been, with gameplay that isn’t as refined as it should have been, but together that forms an experience worth experiencing.
9. Pokemon X/Y
(Nintendo 3DS, Game Freak)
Pokemon X/Y doesn’t do too many new things. It’s still a go here and do that type of adventure, and you’ll still be spending most of it battling increasingly unattractive pocket monsters. But what truly makes this entry special is its switch to 3D. I know that aesthetics shouldn’t be as important as story, gameplay, functionality and so forth, but it’s hard to deny that awesomeness of being able to pet, train and battle with a creature that doesn’t look like a sprite made in MS Paint. Sure, there’s an amusing tale of good versus evil, some cool-looking Pokemon to collect, online-battles to participate in and the occasional chuckle-worthy moment, but few innovations are as substantial as the switch to 3D. It’s the first Pokemon in years that’s been worth jumping back into after any hiatus, and one that should be enjoyed by both fans and newcomers.
8. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
(PS3, Level-5 and Studio Ghibli)
When I was a kid, I wanted to live inside a cartoon. Hell, who am I kidding? I want to do that now. Unfortunately, this isn’t Looney Tunes: Back in Action and I’m not Brendan Fraser. It’s fortunate, then, that much of Ni No Kuni looks like a gorgeously detailed, wonderfully animated cartoon. Tack on heaps of collectable monsters, classic JRPG battles infused with some real-time goodness, a beautiful world to explore and a sweet story fit for children and adults alike, you have a game worth playing.
7. Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness
(PS3, Nippon Ichi Software)
Humor isn’t something you normally associate with strategy. It’s hard to picture Napoleon, one of the greatest military strategists in history, giggling at ridiculous jokes while invading a country. However, there’s one series that has always managed to inject comedy into deep, engaging strategy: Disgaea. And Disgaea D2 is arguably the best entry in the series in terms of funniness. Of course, potential laughter can’t compensate for content or depth, so it’s astounding that Disgaea manages to pack so much into its 30+ hour story, and amp up the already elaborate systems with more depth than the Gouffre Mirolda.
6. Beyond: Two Souls
(PS3, Quantic Dream)
From start to finish, it’s clear that Beyond: Two Souls is the game David Cage has always wanted to make. Whether it’s because he’s a disgruntled wannabe film director, or simply a cinematic kind-of-guy, Beyond: Two Souls feels like a culmination of his vision throughout the games hes released, and it’s a beautifully — albeit confusingly — told story with enough heart and adventure to make up for some of its sillier concepts. Many people didn’t enjoy its method of storytelling, or its basic, prompt-based gameplay. Hell, it could have done with a bit more gaminess, but the fact is: it isn’t and was never meant to be a traditional video game. It’s a story that you play through rather than read, and it’s a damn good one.
5. Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag
(Multi-Platform, Ubisoft Montreal)
Freedom and a sense of adventure. Couple that with rum and you have yourself a pirates dream-life, or Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, a game that, despite carrying the Assassin’s Creed title, feels much more like a pirate simulator at times. There’s a ship, a sea, dozens of islands littered with treasure and a sense of wonder not outside of classes with afternoon nap-times. I can’t explain — without embarrassing myself — how many hours I’ve poured into the world of Black Flag. There’s an overwhelming amount of content, and almost all of it fun.
4. GTA V
(Multi-Platform, Rockstar North)
Grand Theft Auto has always been known for its open world, violence fueled mayhem and cheeky social commentary. It’s one of those games that doesn’t need a great story, or even any enthralling characters because it’s create-your-own-story mode is available once its city loads on your TV. It’s amazing, then, that GTA V manages to deliver upon every insane concept it attempts. There are well-crafted jokes, hilarious characters, insane missions with unexpected twists and enough chaotic violence to drive Jack Thompson to suicide. It’s a living, breathing world with more to do and see than any game of its kind; a genre that it managed to entirely overshadow with a single release.
3. The Stanley Parable
(PC, Davey Wreden)
There’s a narrative. Or maybe it’s not a narrative. Well, it could be a narrative about how there’s no narrative, that way it’s still technically a narrative. There are also choices. But they’re not really choices. Well, they are choices but they follow strict paths that occasionally present other choices that are still only half-choices. It’s a game about all of those game-like qualities. Only it’s not exactly a game. It’s more of an interactive story that allows you to alter its ending. Or something like that. The Stanley Parable is one of those games that absolutely must be played. It’s short, yes, but also extremely long. You do a lot, but also very little, and there’s a lot to see as well as nothing to see at all. It’s strange, but it does so with hilarious dry-wit and fantastic narration.
2. Bioshock Infinite
(Multi-Platform, Irrational Games)
There’s an engaging story, plenty of symbolism, a twisted concept and what is likely the greatest conclusion in video game history. It doesn’t matter that innovation was too far down the list at Irrational Games, because it’s easy to forgive mediocrity when it’s packaged with such blissful escapism. Bioshock Infinite so effortlessly expressed its living world; its concept of perfection painted with such batty ideology, reflecting the colorful inner-workings of its jaded society through music, art and intelligent design. Its imperfections are common video game missteps, but because it focuses so heavily on its strengths, it’s hard to notice; or care, for that matter.
1. The Last of Us
(PS3, Naughty Dog)
An apocalyptic world is far from a new idea. As a matter of fact, it’s become somewhat of a trend these past few years. It’s good, then, that The Last of Us doesn’t overemphasize the concept, instead allowing the resulting chaos to pour from its breaches. It’s less about the world, and more about the struggle. It’s less about facing the world alone, and more about the emerging relationship between two unlikely people. There have been more than a few games that explored the concept of an apocalypse, but none of which as emotionally or profoundly as The Last of Us.