Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Top 10 Best Games of 2013

As 2013 draws to a close, it's time we evaluate the gaming landscape as it's changed in the last 12 months. The next generation went from rumor and speculation to in our homes, Early Access became more popular than ever, and the games were fantastic. These are my personal choices for top 10 games of 2013.

10: The Stanley Parable - PC

The Stanley Parable plays with the idea of choice, acting as a critique of both closed and open ended game design and narrative structure. An interactive story that acts as an in depth analysis on game design with a fantastic sense of humor, an awesome narrator, and moments of genuine awe. This game is truly something that needs to be played to appreciate. It's not The Last of Us where you can marvel at the visuals. You need to experience this. There is a free demo available on Steam right now for you to play at no charge. It has little to do with the main game, but it gets the idea across flawlessly. It's not action packed, it's not fast paced, and it's not a graphical titan, but it's definitely one of the most unique games to come out this year, and I'd even say the last 10 years. 

9: State of Decay - Xbox 360, PC

Originally designed to be a multiplayer online zombie title, State of Decay was reduced in size and scope and released as an Xbox Live arcade title. Since it was originally planned to be much bigger than it turned out, the game was surprisingly ripe with detail and genuinely awesome moments. This game is a story about you. How will you survive the zombie apocalypse? How will you manage your resources, conserve your ammo, scavenge? How will you survive. It's fun, immersive, and simple and complex in all the right places. Though the story is lackluster and the gameplay can be clunky at times, the level of detail within it astounds and for the price of an arcade title, you can't go wrong. Don't expect a vibrant story. Expect a great survival game.

8: Battlefield 4 - Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC

Let me preface this by laying out a few facts. Battlefield 4 has one of the most uninteresting single player campaigns to ever exist in the FPS genre. Battlefield 4 has several bugs and glitches. Battlefield 4 is very much 'just another shooter.' All that aside, when Battlefield 4 is fun, it's really fun. The maps are nice, the gameplay is ridiculously fluid, and the little nuances in combat are satisfying. There were many times when I was playing that I thought "This is awesome." Nothing says "FUN" like ejecting from a jet onto a rooftop and shoving a knife in the back of an unsuspecting player immediately upon landing, only to continue to dive off the building and parachute through a skylight with a grenade launcher to decimate the enemy team from above. It's a satisfying game, and that's really all it is, and all it needs to be. The single player sucks, and the multiplayer needs work, but when it works, it's the best MMS around.  

7: Metro: Last Light - Xbox 360, PS3, PC

It's a post apocalyptic FPS set in the universe of a series of Russian novels, blending horror, action, and stealth into a great game with the best graphics I've seen this generation (especially on PC.) If you appreciate solid gameplay, sweet art design, and some powerful and emotionally charged scenes, you should play this. It's an under-appreciated series and one that is deserving of your play time.

6: Tomb Raider - Xbox 360, PS3, PC

This was a surprise to everyone. Given just how far Lara (not Laura dammit) Croft has fallen from grace, it was a miracle that this reboot turned out pretty great. Tomb Raider turned out to be a fantastic take on the established franchise. Offering a great story, some satisfying gameplay, and some seriously gritty moments that I felt genuinely uncomfortable watching. It pushed the boundaries of what a great Tomb Raider game can be. Though the game isn't perfect, it sure is a promising start to the next generation of Tomb Raider.

5: Gone Home - PC

This is a wild card. It's not technically a game, but I rather enjoyed it from a narrative perspective. Traditionally, this is one none of you will like. I happened to enjoy it because it was different, but really that's why I enjoyed it.

4: Grand Theft Auto V - Xbox 360, PS3

This game is awesome. The world of Los Santos is fun to explore, the characters are all well written, the story is well constructed, the acting is fantastic, the gameplay is satisfying, the world has variety in characters, locations, vehicles, scenarios, and missions. You can engage in heists and you can take your blood thirst into multiplayer. This game has so much in it that it would have been my number one game. The only reason it isn't is because of the multiplayer mode: GTA Online. It's broken, unstable, unbalanced, poorly maintained, and it really is just a mess. When it's fun, it's really fun, but when it's not fun, it's really not fun. It's the opposite of Battlefield 4. The single player here is much better that the multiplayer, but the multiplayer has the most replay value. Aside from the online, it's a fantastic game that simply needs work. Still, a great game if I ever played one.

3: Gunpoint - PC

Combine a pleasing art style with deep gameplay, multiplied by a wonderful sense of humor and satisfying controls and you have Gunpoint. The game is short and it won't be winning any 'Best Graphics' awards, but I love it. It's one of those games you don't need to be in the mood to play to enjoy it. It's equal parts satisfying and fun. 

2: The Last of Us - PS3

I've written a few articles on why I loved The Last of Us already so let's break it down. The Last of Us takes a genre that has been done to death and breathes new life into it. A unique take on zombies, a stellar crafting system, gameplay that reflects the tone, and a fantastic locale and even more impressive voice talent and presentation. The game is an amazing experience and though the multiplayer is lackluster and very unnecessary, the game is a masterpiece. If you own a PS3, there's no reason for you not to play this. 

1: BioShock Infinite - Xbox 360, PS3, PC

What can I say about this game that I haven't already said? The story is remarkable, the acting is amazing, the music is outstanding, the world and the lore are immersive, the gameplay is fresh yet familiar, the combat is varied, the characters are great, everything is just 100% solid. This is my game of the year. BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us are the games I point to when I point to examples of video games as art and they are without a doubt the games that defined 2013. For a more in depth reason for BioShock Infinite being my personal game of the year click here and here.

Amazing to think that with the next gen already taking the spotlight it's the last gen games that remain more impressive. This proves that gameplay and story are more important than graphical fidelity. A good story, a compelling narrative, great gameplay, nuanced mechanics, and a great presentation. All of these games had one, a few, or all of these things and they are all worthy of your time. 

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