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Added by GruntLogic on 21 Nov 2013 12:51
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Best Games of 2013

A list of what I think are the best games released in 2013.

Rather necessarily, I have to have played the game for it to be included on this list.

I normally try to limit the Best of the Year lists to ten, but I really felt like there were a lot of really good games that deserve mention this year.

Alas, I only have so much time in a day to play video games these days, so there are a few games that I haven't gotten around to playing yet that might be added to this list once I'm done playing them, and they are:

The Wolf Among Us
Batman: Arkham Origins (I'm kinda playing it right now, but it isn't exactly blowing my socks off. It's good, but not GREAT like the first game was.)

Yes, I know Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is an awesome game. No, I simply do not have the time to devote to JRPG's anymore. I wish things were different. C'est la vie.

I wanted to include The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD and Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Director's Cut, but when I sat down and really thought about it, they weren't really new games, despite being released this year. Still, they are both absolutely SUPERB in their own right.

Be sure to check out the companion list!:

Gaming Disappointments of 2013
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I can think of no game that better encapsulates what is best of the 7th generation of consoles than The Last of Us.

From a gameplay and mechanics perspective, everything works flawlessly, and it is a marvel to behold. Combat is a fast, brutal affair that ends with death for you or for your enemies very quickly. The stealth sections are incredibly tense and nerve-wracking. Everything is there that needs to be there, and most importantly, it works.

Just so that it doesn't seem like I'm gushing, there are a few oddities that stood out, like the crafting system. I appreciate a good crafting system, but sometimes it seemed a bit arbitrary. When I pick up a pair of scissors, I'm pretty sure I can turn that into a shiv, actually two shivs once you separate the blades. Having some duct tape for a handle is nice, but not entirely necessary. In a game that makes resources scarce, I can understand WHY the crafting system works the way it does, it just doesn't strictly follow real-world logic. It is, however, consistent with it's own in-game logic.

Graphics-wise, this game is simply gorgeous. I did not notice any graphical oddities whatsoever in my two playthroughs. Everything about it's presentation is top-notch.

Now, as far as the story goes, it is one of my absolute favorites. I really don't want to spoil anything for any of you who might not have played it, but man, this is probably the single most emotionally draining experience I've ever had with a video game. It is just absolutely superb. And the ending... well, that's certainly an ending worth discussing. And I'd be happy to have that conversation with anyone who has finished the game. This is easily the best game released this year, and indeed, the best game ever released on the Playstation 3, and it's on a VERY short list for the best game of this entire console generation.

It's always kind of weird describing a new Mario game. I mean, you know what Mario is, right? No need to explain it, right? It's wonderful. It has everything you expect from a Mario game, perfectly constructed platforming, a gentle, but steady difficulty curve, and the whole cast of characters you know and love. What's not to like?

But above and beyond that, this game stands out because of the simply amazing and beautiful things it's throwing at you roughly every ten minutes. Now, I can't say for certain if that pace keeps up throughout the whole game, because I haven't beaten it yet, and I don't plan to any time soon. You see, I am SAVORING this game. I just don't want it to end. The sheer amount of fantastic imagination that goes into this game is really staggering when you think of it. You have to stay within the boundaries of what constitutes a Mario game, so as not to alienate the legions of gamers who know and love Mario already, but you have to keep things fresh and interesting so it's not just simply a retread of things you've already done, and the fact that this game manages to do BOTH at the same time, expanding the boundaries of what a Mario game can be, and doing it consistently, I mean... that is just truly remarkable.

Also, it is just FUN. =D

Alright, I won't lie, I'm a bit of a fanboy here. I love all of the Splinter Cell games, I even have parts of Conviction that I love, even *gasp* Double Agent. So, I was considerably apprehensive when I heard they were shaking things up a bit with this newest adventure of Sam Fisher. To me, most notably was the departure of long-time Sam Fisher voice actor, Michael Ironside. To me, that man IS the voice of Sam Fisher, period. Saying that they were replacing him was tantamount to SACRILEGE to me. Well, the man they replaced him with (Eric Johnson) has certainly put my fears to rest. He might not have the same voice that Mr. Ironside had, but he nails the tone. I was suitably impressed.

As far as the gameplay goes, they seem to have struck a balance between slower, methodical stealth-based approach that made earlier Splinter Cell games so amazing, with the faster-paced shooty-killy willy-nilly gameplay of Conviction. I feel like they really managed to pull off both at the same time. I always felt like I had a WIDE array of options available to me at any one point in time, which, when I think about it, is really kind of how it should have felt all along. So, in short, it feels just right. Graphically, it's quite pretty to look at, even if it does tend toward the darker, grayer and browner shade of the color spectrum. Still, for a game that's all about sneaking about, it is somewhat fitting, if not particularly remarkable.

And the story was definitely up to par. It ratchets up the tension very quickly, and for the most part, sustains that momentum throughout the game. It's a Splinter Cell game, so you know that it's nothing less than the highest of stakes.

I'm going to say this first and foremost: I hated Assassin's Creed III. Furthermore, I have felt that the Assassin's Creed series has been heading downhill in terms of quality ever since Assassin's Creed II. The games steadily got bigger, but less interesting.

This game halts that downward slide, and it free-runs and vaults up to take it's lofty place beside Assassin's Creed II, surveying it's commanding view over most other games.

This game has so many things going for it, it looks beautiful, it play beautiful, and it's just FUN.

The ONE SINGULAR GOOD THING about ACIII was the ship combat, which was entirely optional in that game, returns as the primary focus of this one and it returns with a vengeance. This is easily the best old-timey age-of-sail combat simulators I've ever played. It's not entirely accurate, but I can't stress this enough, if it were entirely realistic and accurate, it really wouldn't be much fun, but naval combat in this game delivers a full broadside worth of fun!

The cringe-worthy historical reenactments of ACIII have been replaced with an interpretation of a time that most people have a fuzzy understanding of, at best. As such, they are able to take liberties with historical events, and spin them into entertaining stories. It does so with truly remarkable aplomb.

I feel I should also mention that the odd segments with Desmond are finally over, for better or for worse (I feel it's better now that he's out of the way, he was always the weakest link in the AC games), instead, he has been replaced with a faceless first-person perspective character whose sections are almost entirely optional, and when they are necessary, they are mercifully brief (again, I'm not terribly fond of playing this character either, I'd rather get right back to the plunder and booty, if you please).

I'm sorry if this blurb spends a disproportionate amount of time bashing Assassin's Creed III, but I really feel like it needs to be said that this game is INFINITELY better than the last one. In fact, if you've developed sequel fatigue with this series, that would be understandable, but I truly encourage you to try out this game, you will not be disappointed.

All in all, this is an absolutely superb game.

I almost always know what to expect when I pick up a video game, especially if it's from a familiar and beloved franchise. So it's especially nice to be pleasantly surprised by what I found awaiting me in this game. I knew going in that this game was based around the same world that A Link to the Past (from the SNES era) was set in, a world that I know like the back of my hand. So every change that has been made, I noted, and I have to say, I was never disappointed by a single change they made. The inclusion of wall-walking as a painting introduced several new, very interesting takes on classic TLoZ puzzles, and I was consistently impressed with it's presentation. This is easily one of the best handheld games I've ever played. I loved every second I spent playing this game.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is to Far Cry 3 what Portal is to Half-Life 2. Like Portal, FC3: BD is based on a much larger game, and was made by a small team within that development studio. They were working with a toolset and game engine that they already were extremely proficient with, and they made an absolute gem of a game, that is absolutely a labor of love for that small development team. They were obviously given free reign to make the kind of game that they wanted to make, and in this case, it is a ridiculously over-the-top, hilarious parody/homage to the movies and video games of 80's. I feel like it's kind of redundant to describe what goes on in this game, because if you grew up in the 80's or are at least familiar with media from that era, then you kind of know what to expect. Not that it ever feels tired or worn out, it's not like they're trying to just rehash old material, it always has a feeling that is equal parts celebration and parody. It's like saying that everything about the 80's is AWESOME (with a wailing guitar in the background) while also laughing at yourself for even saying that. I swear, almost every single line that is uttered in this game is a reference to something from that time period. It is simply glorious to behold.

Okay, this is the first game that I'm not really seeing on anyone else's lists for Best Games of 2013.

It seems like smaller, indie games used to just have a flirting association with gamers a few years ago, ya know a few here, a few there. But now this year especially there seemed to be a bumper crop of quality indie games for players to choose from. This one stood out the most to me.

This is a small, simple, clever little game where you play as Richard Conway, freelance Private Investigator. The thing is, Mr Conway can be kind of an idiot, as the first few minutes of the game will show. Thanks to a pretty generous auto-save system, making mistakes is part of the fun! When you die in this game, it usually happens pretty fast, but luckily with the autosave, you can go back a few seconds and try something different. And there are a great many ways to achieve your objectives. I've gone through the game three times now, and each time I find out something I missed before.

I also found pre and post mission dialogues with your employers to be really quite charming and oftentimes very funny.

For such a small (and short) indie game, I definitely got my monies worth and then some, and I cannot recommend this game enough.

Yeah, that's right. I'm listing DLC in my list of Best Games of 2013.

And no DLC deserves it more than Enemy Within.

Some DLC's add little bells and whistles to a game, they might make it a bit more enjoyable, or give you a few more hours of life (at best) from a game, but this, this piece of Downloadable Content, has changed the game so that I simply cannot go back to playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown without it. It introduced something that I didn't even know I needed in this game. Mechs. Brilliant. If you think it's sacrilege to alter the formula of XCOM, then I invite you play the game with this DLC and tell me I'm wrong. I don't know what I'd do without Ivan "The Hammer" Kalashnikov, Mech Trooper, storming across the battlefield to deliver a Kinetic Punch to an Exalt operative. It's amazingly fun and incredibly satisfying to see the enemy go flying through a wall, destroying it in the process. All of the additions this DLC add fit seamlessly into the main campaign. Introducing the new content alongside the main story campaign is a masterstroke of genius. I cannot imagine playing the game without it, it's like it was always meant to be there.

If you play this game, you will become incredibly familiar with this scene.
"Stanley goes through the door on his left."

I really don't want to say anything else, at the risk of spoiling it for you, but... man, this game is a trip, and is also very unique. It's not exactly like this game is challenging, in the same way that games like Dear Esther or Gone Home aren't exactly challenging. These games are more about the experience. So, yeah, this is a game that you just have to experience. So... what are you waiting for?

I've always had a fondness for the Fire Emblem series, and it's tough-as-nails approach to strategic fighting, so I was curious as to how it's new additions that aim to draw in the non-hardcore crowd would go over, and it seems like it has been a smashing success. Now, when you start the game, you have an option to enable non-permanent deaths and the ability to save mid-battle. It kind of makes me wonder why they didn't have that option to begin with! I have to say between my job where I work overtime every week, having a social life, and trying to get as much gaming in as possible and still have time to watch my favorite tv shows, I appreciate when a game will allow me to make a few mistakes here and there without squashing my nuts for every single mistake I make. I only have a finite amount of time to play video games these days, and it seems like Fire Emblem: Awakening seems to appreciate that fact. So, thank you, Fire Emblem.

Having said that, the battles themselves are still quite fierce and they're always challenging, forcing you to think tactically, always considering your unit types, how far they can move, how far the enemy can move and their unit types, the terrain, the conditions for victory, and on top of that, if you want an extra layer of strategy, if you want to spread out the experience gained, you have to rotate your roster of characters, and use your underdeveloped characters, and protect them in battle, so they grow and become stronger. It's really all wonderfully engaging. And all this on a handheld. Sublime.

As fond as I am of Super Mario games in general, it's always fun to play games that center around the character of Luigi. And that's the thing, Mario really doesn't have much a character, no descriptors ever really fit. He's just... generic. Luigi, on the other hand, always seems to be brimming with personality and character. Always playing second-string to his brother Mario, he's easy to overlook. And... it's strangely refreshing to play a character who's kind of a clutz and is rather cowardly. Even the way he moves, adjusting his pack from time to time seems more human and it's just easier to relate with him more than Mario. At it's heart, this is a puzzle game, and even though most of the puzzles are really quite simple, it's always fun. I seem to be exulting in that more and more these days, games that place having fun at the front and center.

I realized that I was just talking about fun in Luigi's Mansion, when I'm about to talk about a game that is anything but fun. But... it has other qualities that make it stand out, significantly more than it's peers. This game capitalizes on tension, and whilst tension isn't what immediately springs to mind when the word "fun" is brought up, but it certainly is gratifying when you fulfill your tasks adequately, and you meet the challenges that the day may bring. And that is what you do here. You get by. Living day-to-day, trying to provide for your family. Trying not to make any mistakes that might attract the attention of Big Brother, who always seems to be watching. I can say with certainty that there isn't any other game out on the market that plays quite like this one.

I'll admit, I wasn't certain what to expect when I started playing this game. Now that I'm done playing it, I actually feel thankful for having had the opportunity to play it. It is simply beautiful. This game has more heart than most of the games I've played. It's not especially challenging, but I rapidly figured out that's not why I'm playing it.

This game is set in a world that one could mistake for Albion, of Fable fame. But this world gets really dark, really quick. A game that shows the drowning death of the characters mother and a father dying from an illness is clearly not messing around. This mythical world where there are trolls and giants is lovingly crafted and a story of emotional highs and lows is all told without saying a word. Well, no real words anyway, all of the people of this world seem to speak some dialect of Sim gibberish, but the tone always comes through loud and clear.

It is worth mentioning that this game also kind of messes with your brain by having you control both brothers simultaneously. One is mapped to the right analog stick and right trigger, and the other to the left analog stick and left trigger. And keeping the two straight can present an interesting challenge to my brain.

Okay, sadly this game may only be remembered for it's gruesome trailers, and there is a certain amount of truth in them, in this game, Lara Croft absorbs an inhuman level of punishment. There were more than a few times that I physically winced as I watched what she was subjected to. Still, I had quite a bit of fun playing a supremely capable adventuress. I loved watching her grow into a bold, confident, strong woman. It's refreshing to see a female protagonist who isn't presented as basically a man, but with boobs. She is distinctly her own character. And when she isn't being introduced to new levels of human suffering, it's incredibly satisfying to play a game in the boots of Lara Croft. THIS is how you do a reboot.

I had never heard of the original game before playing this reboot, but you know what? I don't care. I take this game on it's own terms, and it is absolutely hilarious. The one-liners fly left and right, and so do the severed arms, legs, heads and gibbed torsos. This is the kind of game where a single bullet causes a car to erupt in a massive explosion. It is unapologetic in it's over-the-top antics. The hero's name is Lo Wang. And yes, that is a dick joke. And yes, there are a lot more to follow. With a gaming market that seems to be stuffed to the gills with grim, gritty, humorless shooters, its nice to have a first person hack and slash/shooter that doesn't take itself seriously at all. Shit, man, just have fun!

When it seems like all of the world is turning to Roguelike games for a challenge, I turn to the old school arcade. This game will absolutely stomp on your nuts until you get it right. It doesn't change, it's not going to alter the level layout or the enemy placement or behavior. It's all on you, either you man up to the challenge, or you slink home in defeat. Success is rewarded, and mistakes are punished, harshly. The game becomes mildly easier as you do better, you gain access to more abilities, and when you fail, you lose access to some abilities, until you die. That's just the way it works. You try, and you try, and you try and you try again. You do it until you get it right. It's not my usual cup of tea, but when I succeed in this game, it is entirely because I mastered the challenge before me, not because of random chance.

I was surprised by just how much this game made me care about the little pikmin placed in my care. At the end of a mission, if any of them were left behind, they are gobbled up by the hostile lifeforms on the planet surface. I feel like I failed them. They trusted in me to keep them safe, and I failed. They died because of me. And I'm feeling this way about little alien plants! I was surprised by how much this game got to me. It helps that it's gorgeous to look at. I'm including this game just because I was so surprised by how much I liked this game. I just was really not expecting such a strong reaction to this game.

Alright, I'm going to be upfront about this game. I have some problems with it. First and foremost is the story. It really starts to feel more pretentious as it goes on, and if it were a person, it would be standing proudly, arms crossed over it's chest, with a smug look on it's face, because it is so satisfied with itself for being so incredibly clever. The thing is, it's not. I'm going to go ahead and say that it's pretty safe to say that time travel is involved. I mean, that was pretty clear from the first few minutes of the game, from the conversation that the people in the rowboat were having at the very start of the game, so really, it's not a spoiler. Now, I'm going to go ahead and say this. You really have two options when it comes to incorporating time-travel into a story. You either have to go the Back to the Future/Terminator (only the FIRST movies in those respective series) theory of time travel, which is to say, don't really take it seriously, and don't think about it too much. OR, you go the route of Primer. This is the trickier path, because you REALLY have to think this shit through if you're going to take it seriously. This game tries to take time-travel seriously, but obviously hasn't thought this all the way through, and it leaves plot holes that you could drive a truck through. But there the game stands, smug look and all, and really, it's not as great as it thinks it is.

My second gripe is with the weapons. They're really kind of lackluster. Nothing spectacular, nothing we haven't seen before, and usually seen and done better elsewhere. Worst of all, they introduce weapons later that are essentially just palette swaps of earlier weapons. Kind of disappointing, especially compared to the first Bioshock, which had an impressive array of weapons, many of them feeling relatively fresh.

My third gripe is with the Plasmi... er... Vigors. Yes, Vigors. They really seemed to lack the creativity of the Plasmids found in the first Bioshock. The majority of the Vigors in this game were just slight variations of the same thing. Shoot a damaging attack, or power it up and leave a trap. That's pretty much it. Much later on in the game they introduce a couple of Vigors of dubious value. Like one that rams your character into enemies for meager damage, or one that allows you to push or pull enemies. Whoopie! *dripping sarcasm*

Okay. I got all of that out of my system.

Aside from that, this game is pretty damn great. I realize that it seems odd to slam a game right away, but I really felt like I had to put that all up front.

What this game does extremely well, is setting. A city in the clouds is a fertile place for an imagination to dwell and this game gets very creative. I was also very fond of having an actual character to play as. I can say that, I liked the character of Booker DeWitt. He was a great and memorable character. Same goes for Elizabeth. It was marvelous to watch her character grow and change. And the bond that develops and changes as the story moves along is really quite captivating.
So, I guess I'd say that this game is really about two incredibly great characters in a not-as-great-as-it-thinks-it-is story, in a fantastically imaginative setting. Still, it is definitely worth playing. And I know that for better or for worse, it's going to stick in my memory for quite some time.

Just like Bioshock Infinite, I'm going to open with my gripes about this game.

First off, In My Humble Opinion, Rockstar Games is first and foremost all about the story and the characters. So I honestly kind of felt betrayed by them when the dropped the ball in that department with Grand Theft Auto V. A good character has an arc, you see. They grow, they change, or they learn a lesson or two along the way. None of the three characters in the game do anything even close to that. Instead of an arc, these characters are more of a straight line. A flatline, if you will. They are the same at the end of the game as they were at the beginning of the game. Never has describing a story as "Just a bunch of stuff happening" been more appropriate than it is here. Michael is a rich dude who is awfully whiny about how awful it is being rich, Franklin whines about wanting to leave his current lifestyle behind, but refuses to do a damn thing about it, and Trevor, well Trevor is just psychotic. And sadly, the person who comes closest to experiencing something resembling growth as a character is Trevor, but that mostly ends up being cancelled out by the inhuman atrocities he commits with apparent glee. The story that goes along with these characters ends up being so predictable that it becomes boring.

Secondly, the illusion of free will and the belief that your decisions mean something. Here's a tip, your decisions don't really mean anything. Not in any real, meaningful way. Like the highly touted heists, for example. You can go in as the character Lester says "Loud and Dumb" ie, guns blazing, or you can go in smart and quiet. The thing is, both options end up with a gunfight with the cops and hectic vehicle chases, and that's all well and good. Just good fun, right? Well, why bother with the choice thing? I mean, it's going to end up loud and dumb either way, right? Oh, also along those lines, if you want to deviate even slightly from the plan, forget it. You can't. Period. Isn't even an option. Say you see a totally sweet sports car after the heist, and you want to carjack it and escape in that, because you know motorcycles are a deathtrap in a chase, well tough shit. You're taking the motorcycle or it's mission failed. When you go to toss the knockout gas into the vent from a nearby section of roof, if you miss, you don't have to improvise, you just have to repeat that one, single action until you do what the game is telling you to do. You see? That was the glorious thing about past GTA games, you could tackle the missions in an absurd variety of ways. Hell, breaking the game in ways the developer didn't intend was half the fun! Well, it seems those days are long gone, and apparently they won't be missed by anyone but me. It seems like it's all aboard the railroad express, next stop, wherever and whatever the game tells you to do, because your decisions don't matter.

Third, yes, there are a ton of things to do. But no, most of them aren't any fun. Is anyone really going to miss playing frigging GOLF in a Grand Theft Auto game? Or Tennis? Or doing a Triathlon? Or doing some towing for chump change? Seriously?

Okay, that's enough of that. Now on to the good things, of which there are still PLENTY.

This game is gorgeous, for one. You can take a helicopter up to an absurdly high altitude and you can see just how impressive the draw distance is, then you can bail out, plummet in a free fall until you want to pop your chute, and then glide all the way to land on your house. It's crazy just how open this world is from the get go. This game really pushes 7th generation hardware to the limit, and it does so with a minimal dip in performance.

And yes, the Strangers and Freaks side quest/mission/things are insanely fun. ESPECIALLY the ones you do as Trevor. They are so completely off the wall and crazy, and just, man, THOSE are the things I'm going to remember most vividly about this game. As far as a bunch of stuff happening, that is some of the funnest stuff I've ever done in a video game.

And once you're off the beaten path, and you're doing things that have absolutely no relation to the story, that's where some truly amazing things can happen. The limit is your imagination.

Rockstar Games has crafted and incredibly impressive open sandbox style world to cause mayhem in. It's just a shame that the story and character department had to suffer to make that happen.

And yes, the heists really ARE fun to play, it's just that they'd be better served by not even pretending to give you free will. They very clearly came up with the heists first, creating truly elaborate, spectacular set-pieces, and then tried to plan out a story around them.

It just seems like a lost opportunity. Or how about this, what if they set up the heists, but don't fail me immediately when I don't stick to your plan? I mean, I don't know ANYONE who DIDN'T take the Sneaky option the first time though. Just go with that, but then take the training wheels off, let the player do whatever they want, let them cut loose and go crazy, and if they get away with the money, isn't that a sweeter success? Isn't that infinitely better than losing the cops because of a scripted event?

Speaking of which, I'm actually happy the Los Santos Police Department grew a pair. Those cops do NOT mess around. They will absolutely HOUND you. If you're going to commit a crime, be prepared to have the chase of your life.

You see, it's when they let go of the reigns that this game really shines, and that's what a Grand Theft Auto game should be all about. Freedom. Well, and Story and Character too. That'd be nice to have back again.

Alright, well, I have mixed feelings about this game. I had been looking forward to this game since it was announced, so when I dove into it on release, I have to say, I was kind of disappointed. I mean, I understand WHY they couldn't do everything that I was hoping for, but man, it still kinda stings. I'll go into more depth on my Gaming Disappointments of 2013 list.

What's good about this game is the fact that it nails the tone exactly. This game gets what Shadowrun is all about. From the character design to the (disappointingly short) story, to the level design and artwork, it gets it all right.

While the story may have been kind of a let down, the doors are wide open for the gaming public to design stories of their own, and THAT is something that I'm REALLY looking forward to. As a toolkit, that is open to anyone to use, it is very impressive, and I can't wait to see what the community has in store.

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