Looking back at the games we’ve played in 2013, it proved to be an amazing year. Some of the biggest heavy hitters of all-time landed within the calendar year, making the final lone year of the 7th generation of video games one of the most memorable. It was the year that indies truly came to the party and offered experiences as worthy as any AAA title to be considered for end of year lists. It was also the year the gaming industry took a giant leap forward with game narratives rivaling the very best TV and movies have to offer. It truly was an amazing year for games and we think our list not only shows that, but covers a wide spectrum in terms of variety and tastes, much like that of the Gamer Horizon staff.
A lot of games came out this year across all of the platforms, so narrowing it down to 10 was no easy feat. Obviously everyone’s list is going to be different so in the interest of transparency, we decided to let you all in on how we came to our 10. First, this list is not based on objectivity. Every single game on our list has also appeared somewhere on our individual Top Ten Games of the Year 2013 lists. From there a scoring system was implemented based on list position. For example, a number 1 game earned 10 points, the number 2 position earned 9 points and so on. From there if two games tied for a position, the game that appeared on more lists had more weight and would earn the spot, bumping the other game down a spot. In the event that games appeared on 1 list and were tied with another singular nomination, the 5 of us voted on which game we wanted to see in the next spot. The winner of that vote stayed in the next position and the erm, non-winner, bumped to the lower spot. This continued until we had our list of 10.
So without further ado, Gamer Horizon presents to you, The Top Ten Games of the Year 2013!
10. Fire Emblem Awakening
While not incredibly original or groundbreaking by any stretch of the imagination, Fire Emblem: Awakening still proves that sometimes all you have to do is stick to the recipe—assuming you use the right ingredients, anyway. In this case, solid strategy RPG gameplay is combined with an excellent and varied cast of characters, and enhanced by a system that provides different layers of character development according to choices made throughout the game. This in turn adds a surprising amount of replay value to a game that belongs to a genre that typically does not offer many good reasons to play a game twice (Nippon Ichi titles notwithstanding).
But for Fire Emblem: Awakening, the characters are so likable that after beating the game, you can’t help but to wonder what might have happened if you made a few different decisions. After all, the player can play matchmaker, which determines which characters form relationships and whether or not they become romantic. A pair of lovers in one game could be simple acquaintances the next, and the unlikeliest of matchups can become reality, often with hilarious or unexpected results. In any case, the game in a ton of fun, both for its classic strategy RPG gameplay and its enjoyable approach to character development.
“Fire Emblem: Awakening is one of the best strategy RPGs I’ve played in a long time, and it belongs in your 3DS library if you are a fan of the genre.” -Ari Margo
9. Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus
Ratchet and Clank is really one of the last great classic-feeling platformer action games. If you don’t own a Nintendo system, you don’t really see a lot of these, if any. Ratchet and Clank has always stayed true to itself, with smooth 60 frames per second action and over-the-top weapons. Into the Nexus was the most recent traditional Ratchet and Clank adventure, and while it’s only a few hours long, it’s appropriately priced at $29.99.
“The game only has four worlds to visit and the final stage begins rather quickly when the last planet is reached but it was a fun journey getting there.” -Chris Barnes
8. The Stanley Parable
This game has ended up on quite a few people’s GotY lists. Probably because they didn’t know what to make of it, including Ted, who put it very high on his list. However, it stands to reason that experiences like this need to exist to broaden the conversation about video games and interactive media. This is a title that can be held up to the mainstream, to show that video games are a mature medium, and the phrase “interactive media” has never been more accurate than with The Stanley Parable.
“It subverts everything I know about how a video game works, knows how to play my expectations against themselves.” -Ted Polak
7. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Say what you will about Ubisoft, but one thing that is for certain is that they are not adverse to taking risks. Instead of selling DLC for their criminally underrated gem, Far Cry 3, they allowed the team to use the assets and make this equal parts love letter and skewer of 80’s aesthetics and action movies. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon contains the addictive gameplay of Far Cry 3 and slaps an insane neon coat of paint on it. Nothing is sacred as the Ubisoft team pokes fun at video game and action movie tropes alike, with references out the wazoo. There is plenty like and admire here and an easy choice for one of the Top Ten Games of the Year.
“The stand alone game built from the same engine is at all times a satire of 80’s action films, both high and low budget, ridiculously over the top in humor and has its tongue planted so firmly in its cheek that I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if it wound up puncturing through.” -Sean Mesler
“I have to say, I really like the idea of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon taking all the assets from one game and creating another in half the time, and making it just as good is amazing.” -Chris Barnes
6. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
If you were going to tell me that an Assassin’s Creed game was going to be in our Top 10 Game of the Year list of 2013 after the travesty that was Assassin’s Creed III, I would’ve totally laughed in your face. But here it is, and it’s so much more than Assassin’s Creed III ever was. While it ain’t Grand Theft Auto in terms of its detail, what Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag delivers on is the sheer number of activities you can do that are unique to this game, as well as the impression that you’re able to explore a massive world with islands the size of some of the cities in previous games. Aside from the ship battles, which were introduced in the prior game, you had treasure hunts that took you to different islands, collectibles that enhanced your experience with sailing across the map, and gameplay that was so much improved over the original titles that it would make you wonder why they only recently thought of removing those annoying beggars that plagued the previous games.
“The surprising thing about Assassin’s Creed IV is that while it is a bigger game than Assassin’s Creed III, it is a far more enjoyable of an experience jumping onto your ship, doing ship to ship battles, boarding other ships, and finding hidden treasure than most of what Assassin’s Creed III had to offer.” -Alex Inigo
“A gorgeous, fun, expansive game that takes the very best from past Assassin’s Creed games as well as Far Cry 3, and makes it easily the best Assassin’s Creed game I’ve ever played, and I still have tons to do.” -Sean Mesler
5. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
When it comes to video game design, “more of the same” usually leads to redundancy, monotony and an overall lack of the “wow” factor we look for in new products. It seems the exception is when you wait 22 years before producing a direct sequel to a fantastic game, as Nintendo has done with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. It is the follow-up to the iconic Super Nintendo game, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which was released in 1991; a game which can commonly be found towards the top of favorites lists of SNES games and/or Zelda games all over the internet.
A Link Between worlds reuses almost every mechanic from A Link to the Past, and yet it does so while adding a few new layers, such as item renting and the ability for Link to “merge into and out of walls,” that was so predominantly featured in previews and on the back of the game box itself. But what’s great is that the features from A Link to the Past were so entertaining and so much fun that for once, it was completely okay for Nintendo to reuse them, albeit with a few new twists. The end result provided plenty of nostalgia to gamers that have been with Nintendo since the 90s or 80s, but also tons of addicting new gameplay for everyone. A Link Between Worlds is one of the best Zelda games in recent memory, and a must have title on the 3DS.
“I went into this expecting the original game and was pleasantly surprised to find new gameplay mechanics, new weapons, and a new storyline.” -Chris Barnes
“This was one case where looking to the past for inspiration was a great idea.” -Ari Margo
4. Grand Theft Auto V
Few games hung over the entirety of 2013 like Grand Theft Auto V, both before its release and after. What many feel is an improvement over Grand Theft Auto IV in nearly every conceivable way, Grand Theft Auto V is one of the most robust, deep and rewarding games of any year, let alone 2013. Rockstar manages to take all of their hallmarks, driving, shooting, crude humor, scathing satire and insane characters and refines it all to a near perfect sheen. The world of Los Santos is arguably Rockstar’s greatest creation to date – expansive and full of things to do that can keep gamers busy for months. Add in an incredibly addictive multiplayer and those months can easily turn into years.
“It’s still GTA, so if the formula doesn’t work for you, then you probably won’t find much here to enjoy, but for those that have been with the series since the beginning like I have, Grand Theft Auto V is the next great game in a consistently great game series.” -Sean Mesler
“Grand Theft Auto V continues the trend of improvement with one of the most detailed worlds I’ve ever had the pleasure of exploring. Just writing this is tempting me to jump right back in to Los Santos.” -Ari Margo
3. Bioshock Infinite
The acclaim that Irrational Games received when they released Bioshock many years ago afforded them the opportunity to create a game that was a product of an almost unlimited budget and a ridiculously long development cycle. What was the result of this? An incredibly immersive experience, with lots of details thrown about, a fantastic musical score partly comprised of remixed contemporary songs, and a storyline that rivals some of the best science fiction stories of our time. And unlike Bioshock’s Rapture, Columbia is one of those places that we will cherish being in, despite seeing some of the harshness of some of its citizens, if not only because of the wondrous things we saw. In a way, the beginning of the game echoes the feeling we had while exploring all of Columbia: It’s like going to a carnival, seeing the circus freaks, the fire breathers, and the performers and trying to see what everyone is going to attempt to do only to be surprised at the end as to what was to happen.
“It’s not often that I play a game where I actually care about the NPCs who are tagging along with me, and Elizabeth was certainly a character that I had completely identified with and really wanted to rescue.” -Alex Inigo
“Bioshock Infinite is easily one of the best games of the year, and any fan of single-player first-person shooters should have it in their library.” -Ari Margo
“I like Bioshock Infinite. The game does a good job of placing real world issues that are still plaguing the world into a mainstream video game and making them work.” -Chris Barnes
“Yes, I have some issues with the story and some of the mechanics, but I can’t take anything away from Bioshock Infinite’s ambition. I wholly appreciate that Ken Levine has used this series to offer commentary on video games by using the very tropes he’s calling attention to.” -Sean Mesler
“Bioshock Infinite has two major things going for it that push it beyond the average into the sublime. It has a narrative that is slightly self aware and knows there was a previous Bioshock game, and it knows you know this too. It also has an AI companion who is less scripted than anything I’ve seen before.” -Ted Polak
2. Tomb Raider
Crystal Dynamics’ reboot (or is it retelling?) of the Tomb Raider franchise may have caused some eyebrow raising over the past year or so, what with the media’s hyper focus on how Lara Croft violently dies (thanks a lot, Conan), but one thing is absolutely certain: It is by far the best Tomb Raider game in existence, with fantastic storytelling, collectibles that gave you more context of the world around you, and fantastic set pieces that would make you want to explore the island of Yamatai over and over again from the very beginning. The skill progression system they introduced really helped sell the idea that Lara was growing up throughout her time there, and regardless of the lack of single player DLC, we never felt gipped when playing through the single player. Indeed, while others promise many more experiences beyond what was in their $60 packaged, Tomb Raider’s promise delivered true: An adventure so unique, and so unlike anything we’ve played before that it deserves the series’ name. And we have a feeling that some of our crew’s bound to double dip on that next-generation port of the game as well. Believe us when we say that the game is indeed THAT good.
“Tomb Raider became one of my most anticipated games when they announced the game’s existence so many E3′s ago, and its inclusion as the top game on this list is a testament of the hard work and dedication the team at Crystal Dynamics have put into the game since the series was given a second lease in life.” -Alex Inigo
“Everything is fully realized, from the subtleties in the visuals and character animation to the action itself. Tomb Raider plays like a dream, while telling a great story and delivering top quality gameplay.” -Ari Margo
“With everything Tomb Raider offers in the way of exploration, adventuring, puzzle solving, and action, the game carves out its own path, rivaling the Uncharted franchise.” -Chris Barnes
“Yes, the supporting characters are weak and thin, and there is a multiplayer suite that can be completely ignored, however, neither of those things can trump the flawless controls, stunning and expansive vista and excellent character development for Lara. Truly a triumph in gaming and easily my game of the year.” -Sean Mesler
1. The Last of Us
Pretty much all of us here at Gamer Horizon agreed that The Last of Us was not a perfect game, yet it still made all five of our Top Ten Games of the Year lists. In Sean’s review, he highlighted his frustration with the default difficulty setting and how despite the scarcity of resources that the game world advertised, he always knew there would be more ammo around the bend—a problem that was resolved by the harder difficulty unlocked after beating the game. Ari wasn’t as impressed with the gameplay as the others, though he still had a very positive opinion of the game overall.
Though our criticisms differed, there was one great aspect of the game we all agreed upon: the storytelling. From the incredible intro that blew us all away to the remarkable depth of the characters and performances by the actors and artists, to the ending that had us discussing it for days, The Last of Us told one of the greatest and most emotionally deep stories in the history of our industry. It raised the bar for storytelling in video games as a whole, and will not soon be forgotten.
“Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us left an indelible mark this year in me that I can only describe as one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had all year.” -Alex Inigo
“You know one interesting thing about The Last of Us? There aren’t that many trophies, and the trophies aren’t exactly easy to get. It’s clearly a design decision. Don’t try to metagame this one, they say. Take your time; enjoy it. We have something we want to show you.” -Ted Polak
“The Last of Us told its tale brilliantly from start to finish.” -Ari Margo
“There hasn’t been a good survival horror game out in a long time. Fortunately, The Last of Us fills that void by creating one of the best story driven games around.” -Chris Barnes
“The story stands head and shoulders above all other games this year.” -Sean Mesler