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. Killzone: Shadow Fall
(PS4, Guerrilla Games)
When diving into the next generation, I chose to go with a Playstation 4 over an Xbox One, and while the launch lineup wasn’t phenomenal, I’ve still gotten some good use of the system. The game I’ve put the most time into is definitely Killzone: Shadow Fall, and I’ve enjoyed my time with it. I’ll get this out of the way first, Shadow Fall is at best pretty good with the caveat that it’s a launch game, but that’s really all I was expecting. The series has always had a premise with amazing story potential, but has never lived up to that potential with the campaigns, and Shadow Fall is no exception.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t even finished the campaign, I got a few hours in and lost interest. No, the real reason this game makes the list is the multiplayer. I’ve always really enjoyed Killzone’s unique style of multiplayer, and Shadow Fall continues that trend. The multiplayer is a unique blend of standard modern FPS gameplay with a mix of abilities, classes, and the signature warzone mode. In contrast to something like Call of Duty, Killzone has a much more deliberate feel, with a tangible sense of weight and player health values tuned to a perfect degree so that enemies take some effort to kill, but don’t feel like bullet sponges. Also, did I mention the game is absolutely gorgeous?
If I were to tell you a modern interpretation of Defender wound up being one of my ten favorite games of the year, you might think that’s a bit absurd, but Resogun is just that good. Much like Geometry Wars was for the launch of the Xbox 360, Resogun is a fun and addictive arcade style game that gives the PS4 launch lineup some much needed variety. It’s rare that I get too invested in high score focused games like this, but with the relative lack of options available on the PS4 at this point, I got a lot of playing time out of this one. Resogun is just a brilliantly designed game, with simple to grasp gameplay that houses a ton of hidden depth. I got so into this game I actually wound up getting the platinum trophy, and was at one point in the top 100 on several different leaderboards. My position has probably dropped significantly since I last played, but really enjoyed my time score chasing while it lasted.
8. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
(Multi-platform, Platinum Games/Kojima Productions)
After years of silence, rumors of cancellation, and an eventual change of developers, Metal Gear Rising finally hit store shelves this year. I had high hopes for this game ever since it was announced that Platinum Games would be handling development, and they were certainly met. Rising is the best playing Metal Gear game in the entire series. The gameplay is fast and frantic, and bears that signature Platinum style of over the top action. The story definitely takes more of a back seat to the action than is typically expected from a Metal Gear game, but the quality of the action more than makes up for it. While most aspects of the game are great, my favorite thing about Metal Gear Rising are the boss fights. Each has its own unique wrinkle that makes you think about how to use the tools at your disposal, and these fights exhibit some of the uses of dynamic music I’ve seen in any video game.
7. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
(Multi-platform, Starbreeze Studios)
A lot of game studios have a comfort zone and don’t typically stray far from it. Even the best developers in the industry usually stick to the genre that made them famous, so it’s incredibly refreshing to see a developer take a risk on something entirely new and have it pay off big time. Starbreeze Studios has had some decent success in the past, but it was limited mostly to shooters. They were responsible for games such as The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, The Darkness, and the Syndicate reboot. However, this year they released something completely different in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and it is outstanding.
Brothers is basically a single player co-op game, as you’re tasked with controlling two characters at the same time using both of the analog sticks. The game mostly involves fairly simple puzzles and traversal, but the game’s real strength is in world design and subtle storytelling through gameplay. The game makes excellent use of its unique control scheme to get you emotionally attached to these characters. That the game is able to tell not only a coherent, but an emotionally affecting story with absolutely no dialogue is a remarkable achievement.
6. Mass Effect 3: Citadel
Last year was a rough year for Mass Effect. Mass Effect 3 may have released in 2012, but with the day 1 DLC controversy, the terrible ending and resulting outcry, the mixed reception to the revised ending, the atrocious fourth novel, and two pieces of DLC which were okay at best, Mass Effect fans seemed to never be without something to be upset about in 2012. On the other hand, 2013 was a banner year for Mass Effect. There was really only item of note this year, but when that one thing is a piece of DLC as great as Mass Effect 3: Citadel, things are looking good.
Citadel is a love letter to fans of Mass Effect, and being a huge fan myself, I absolutely adored this DLC. Consisting of both a lighthearted and self aware series of missions as well as a compilation of excellent character interactions, Citadel has everything you would want in a Mass Effect DLC. The tone is a huge departure from everything in the series up to this point, but in the right context it works brilliantly. Over the course of the 8 or so hours of content, things range from funny and self referential to solemn and emotional. With a Shepard free future for series on the horizon, Mass Effect 3: Citadel was a perfect way to say goodbye to the trilogy.
5. Tomb Raider
(Multi-platform, Crystal Dynamics)
I’ll be honest, I don’t have much of a history with the Tomb Raider franchise. I had very briefly played some of the originals on the Playstation, but I had never actually completed any games in the series until this year’s game. However, despite not being very familiar with the series, I really enjoyed the new Tomb Raider. The comparisons to Uncharted are inevitable, and while there are aspects of it that pale in comparison Naughty Dog’s series, most notably the narrative elements, I actually think Tomb Raider is better than any of the Uncharted games in terms of gameplay.
The combat in Tomb Raider is by far the game’s strongest aspect. The weapon handling feels absolutely perfect, and combining that with responsive controls, a dynamic cover system, and the best bow and arrow in video game history and you’ve got an extremely great playing game. The game also has outstanding level design, with environments that feel organic while also serving a purpose in terms of gameplay. It’s got a bit of a Metroid vibe to it, with items and upgrades unlocking new areas of the island, and overall exploration feels fun and rewarding. The story gets goofy toward the end, and every character other than Lara is poorly developed, but the game plays great and looks beautiful, and I can’t wait to see where the series goes next.
4. Gone Home
(PC, The Fullbright Company)
At the beginning of the year, Gone Home wasn’t even a blip on my radar. Before the game released, I knew nothing about it other than that it existed, but the glowing reviews it began receiving across the board once it was released was enough to grab my attention. Before playing it I had still remained mostly blind on what exactly it was, and I am really glad I did. This is the type of game that is best played with as little information as possible, and that was a contributing factor as to why I liked it so much. The game plays with your expectations about what a video game story is, and the plot unfolded in a completely different direction than I thought it would. It may not be the most epic game of the year, but the story it told was very compelling, and more importantly felt real. Gone Home is probably the finest example of a game environment that feels like an actual place. Making your way through the house and examining every nook and cranny, it feels like an actual lived in home rather than a video game level.
3. Bioshock Infinite
(Multi-platform, Irrational Games)
In the months since it’s release, Bioshock Infinite has received a significant backlash among a lot of gamers. Much of the discussion about the game has turned toward the negative aspects, and many people have been seriously soured on the game despite enjoying it at release. While I can’t say I haven’t soured on the game at all, I still count it among my favorite games of the year. Much of the negativity has centered around the combat, and having played the game a second time fairly recently, I will say the combat wore out its welcome far before I came to the end.
However, despite not loving my second playthrough nearly as much as my first, I can’t disregard my initial experience with the game. Playing it at release and being part of the zeitgeist was a great experience. Talking about the game with friends and dissecting plot points was a ton of fun, and I’ll always remember Infinite for the crazy and supremely clever way in which the story concludes. Bioshock Infinite is definitely not as good as the original Bioshock, but it’s still an outstanding game with a story you desperately want to see to conclusion.
2. Grand Theft Auto V
(Multi-platform, Rockstar Games)
Grand Theft Auto IV was one of the most highly reviewed games of all time, but the general consensus among most gamers is that the game was a disappointment. I always identified as someone that liked GTA IV, but even so it was over a year before I actually bothered to finish up the main story. Little more than a week after the release of Grand Theft Auto V I had already finished the story and clocked over 50 hours in the game. There is no doubt in my mind that GTA V is the best game Rockstar has ever made. It just takes everything that makes a Grand Theft Auto game and improves upon it.
The world of GTA V is amazing realized, and the gameplay is finally on the level you’d expect out of a AAA action game. The real standout of GTA V is the mission design, and in particular the heist missions. Past GTA missions pretty much always amounted to driving to a location and shooting a bunch a dudes, but missions in GTA V are varied and interested, which is facilitated by the multiple protagonists. Giving the player control of three different characters was a bold choice, but it paid off. Each character has their own distinct characteristics and personality, which means they each have unique types of missions that make sense for their character. None of the three characters are as likeable as Niko Bellic, but they are infinitely more interesting, and the result is a story which is far more compelling than that of GTA IV.
1. The Last of Us
(PS3, Naughty Dog)
The Last of Us is a game that will be remembered for years to come. Coming in to the year The Last of Us was my most anticipated game by a wide margin, but even I didn’t expect it to turn out as well as it did. The game does almost everything right, and is just about the best possible way to send the PS3 out with a bang. The Last of Us has the tremendous cinematics, beautiful visuals, and phenomenal writing you’d expect from Naughty Dog, but it also plays significantly better than their recent offerings, and is without a doubt the best game they have every made.
The Last of Us features an excellently realized world, but it’s the characters that are the real strength. Joel and Ellie go on a harrowing journey, and the way their relationship evolves as the game progresses feels genuine. The game also manages to meld story and gameplay in a way most action games simply can’t. The game mechanics feel entirely appropriate given the world and story of the game, and combat doesn’t feel out of place like it does in so many other games. On the topic of combat, it is intense and brutal in a way that makes the gameplay feel as high stakes as many of the more impactful story turns.
Fun isn’t exactly the first word that comes to mind when you think about The Last of Us, as the game can be emotionally draining and downright depressing, but it’s an incredibly compelling and stimulating experience. The Last of Us is hands down my favorite game of 2013, and I think there is case to be made that it is one of the best games of the past several years.