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. Tales of Xillia
(PS3, Namco Bandai / Tales Team)
To be honest, while Xillia is a solid JRPG, I don’t think it’s all that great of a Tales game. It’s a slow burn for the first ten or so hours and some of the advancements made in past installments are stripped out. With that said, it still is an entertaining game from start to finish with an interesting story that has a focus on spirits and war. It improved over the linearity of Graces F by offering significantly more open areas, and the cast of characters are far more compelling and well developed. While it comes nowhere near topping Tales of Destiny II (Eternia) and Tales of Vesperia, Xillia still holds its own in one of the busiest years ever for gaming.
9. Splinter Cell: Blacklist
(PS3 / Xbox 360 / PC / Wii U, Ubisoft)
Splinter Cell: Conviction received a bad rap for focusing on fast paced action rather methodical and thoughtful stealth. Fortunately, Ubisoft heard the cries of their fans and have combined the best of both worlds in Blacklist, offering the option of speedy gunplay and the ability to hide in the shadows. As someone who’s a huge stealth fan, and who always tries to accomplish the pacifist route, this is easily one of my favorite games of the year. Calculating the paths of enemies and finding the right route to accomplish a task is just so satisfying, and the way Blacklist handles it is perfect. Even without Ironside, Ubisoft has shown they still know how to create proper stealth games while appealing to everyone.
8. Tomb Raider
(PS3 / Xbox 360 / PC, Square Enix / Crystal Dynamics)
I’ve never really been a big Tomb Raider guy. Back in the mid-90s I was much more into Japanese RPGs and would play games such as Final Fantasy and Breath of Fire for hours for on end. It was all thanks to Uncharted and Gears of War that I began to appreciate the mechanics of western developed shooters. Tomb Raider comes at the end of a generation but it showed that Lara still can make her mark in the gaming community. She’s not just some big breasted badass anymore; she has been broken and hardened into a strong character with depth. It certainly helped that the open areas were vast and the story was fairly lengthy, at least as far as a third-person shooter goes. Congrats Eidos, you have my attention. Now hopefully you’ll do something with the Fear Effect franchise next.
7. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
(PS3 / PS4 / Xbox 360 / Xbox One / PC / Wii U, Ubisoft)
There was a split in opinion on Assassin’s Creed III amongst the community, and unfortunately I was on the negative end. It left a bad taste in my mouth with a stale protagonist and a seemingly rushed story. Coming into the fourth installment, I didn’t know what to expect but Ubisoft absolutely blew me away. They took the best part of three (naval travel and combat) and improved upon it greatly, creating a vast ocean to explore. While the main story missions are still a little lackluster and mainly involves trailing someone else, it’s the rest of the world and activities that shine the brightest. I’m curious what will come next as there seems to be infinite possibilities, but I seriously hope there are redesigns in the mission structures, otherwise the series will be run into the ground.
6. Pokemon X/Y
(3DS, Nintendo / Game Freak)
I sunk in an ungodly number of hours into Pokemon Red back in the day, and it’s something I blame for my absence with sports, but never really got into anything past that. Pokemon X/Y is where that changes as it feels like the proper reboot we’ve all been waiting for, finally transitioning from a sprite-based world to fully 3D visuals. It also retains the essence of what makes the series great: catching every single Pokemon. The mega evolutions are also an interesting concept, and while there are some confusing design choices, it remains one of the best games not only in 2012, but on the 3DS, as well. Whether you’re a child or a full grown adult, Pokemon X/Y is just pure addiction that will help bring back memories of old.
5. Bioshock Infinite
(PS3 / Xbox 360 / PC, 2K Games / Irrational Games)
The first Bioshock was one of the best games in the last ten years, so it was absolutely devastating that the second installment was unable to live up to its predecessor. Now that Ken Levine and the team at Irrational is back on the case, we have something just flowing with creativity. The gunplay is a lot more varied than modern shooters, but it still wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before. Thankfully, it’s the incredible story that picks up its slack by offering something that will have you scratching your head in the end. It certainly helps that the soundtrack and overall performances by Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper are absolutely fantastic, but Bioshock Infinite is just an overall experience beyond words.
4. Grand Theft Auto V
(PS3 / Xbox 360, Rockstar)
I went into Grand Theft Auto V not all that hyped, so it was to my surprise just how significant the game really is. There’s just so much to do in the world, and with three intriguing main characters, you can’t go wrong. While the online portion is a complete mess and poorly designed, the main campaign is definitely something most people (over 17) should play. Whether it’s yoga, dirt bike riding or hijacking a plane and flying it across the world, there’s something here for everyone. It certainly helps that the story, while a little all over the place, is well written and uses all three protagonists to its full advantage. If for some reason you haven’t delved into Los Santos just yet, you don’t know what you’re missing.
3. Fire Emblem Awakening
(3DS, Nintendo / Intelligent Systems)
Fire Emblem is not a series I had put a lot of time into in the past. The GameCube release, Path of Radiance, piqued my interest, but that was during a time when I didn’t have a lot of hours to commit. As a huge strategy-RPG fan, Fire Emblem: Awakening easily attracted me with its classic permadeath feature, along with its rather intriguing, yet somewhat basic anime-inspired tale. Awakening also shares a similar feature with my favorite game Valkyrie Profile in that you can recruit a massive army of your choosing. Mix that with the secret matchmaker feature and you have a game that left with a profound sense of satisfaction.
2. The Last of Us
(PS3, SCEA / Naughty Dog)
It was an incredibly difficult choice to place The Last of Us only second because this is a game that is just an experience like no other. Storytelling, writing, vocal/mocap performances, gameplay and so much more topped almost everything this year. Just when you think Naughty Dog ran out of ideas when they released Uncharted 3, here they come back with quite possibly one of the best games ever created. Maybe it’s too early to declare it to be in the running for such prestigious title as that, but it’s certainly something people won’t soon forget. You know Naughty Dog and Sony will try and capitalize on its success, but I almost feel as if this should just a one off experience rather than the next huge franchise that has two sequels within the next five years.
1. Shin Megami Tensei IV
If there’s one franchise I just adore over anything else, it’s Shin Megami Tensei. Whether it’s the main series or the spinoffs (such as Persona and Devil Summoner), this dreary and depressing universe is nothing short of amazing. It feels odd having a handheld game ahead of both The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto, but I don’t think I’ve sunk as many hours as I did into anything else. Pokemon has nothing on Shin Megami Tensei IV as you collect creatures of legend and use them in battle while uncovering a dark truth about the world. It’s also probably one of the most hardcore RPGs on the market as one slip up, one misstep and it’s your ass. Throw in an absolutely compelling story and a solid translation and you have my personal Game of the Year for 2013.