The Ten Best Games of 2013

The Ten Best Games of 2013

2013 was a decent year for video games. We saw the likes of the 360 and PS3 host titles that made the most of their hardware. We saw the PS4 and Xbox One unleashed onto the market. There were a number of fantastic games across all systems (we can all agree on that), and this is a list of my personal favourites. The are some glaring emissions, most of them indie titles, but that’s mostly down to the fact I played fewer games this year due to enjoying other activities in life.

Without further ado, whether it be from the realms of PC or the handheld joys of the Vita, and even the misunderstood world of the Wii U, these are my ten best games of 2013.

 

The Last Of Us (PS3)

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I’ve always been a fan of Naughty Dog, especially the Uncharted franchise, so it didn’t surprise me when The Last of Us turned out to be good. What did surprise me, however, was why it was so good. Harsh, unrelenting, and human were all traits The Last of Us carried, and those traits are what made the game so memorable. I’ve never been so affected by a game’s story in such a way as I was by The Last of Us’ in the last six or seven years. I became invested in the characters, I bought into the story, and I came away with my mind blown but also wondering if things could possibly get better. Subsequently, The Last of Us is the game I will point to whenever someone asks me if games can affect people.

To put that point into context, I played The Last of Us in the living room with my parents simultaneously watching. Surprisingly, it was the first time in over twenty years that they have both wanted to see the conclusion to the story. They sat back and watched me play and were still able to invest into the game just as much as I did. When all was said and done, my mother turned around and said she would miss Ellie.

The Last of Us feels like a rarity  that only comes around every so often, and I’m glad I was there to experience it. The gameplay and A.I may have been a bit clunky at times, but the game will remain with me for as long as I possess a healthy brain. That’s why it was my game of 2013.

 

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

264898-linkbetweenworlds_linkThe 3DS ended 2013 with a bang. A Link Between Worlds was Legend of Zelda in its purest form. There were no gimmicks or side characters, just sheer enjoyment and dungeon crawling. The way in which the game was designed inspired such a giddy feeling that it’s hard not to have a fun time playing. At no point did I find myself not caring about the game or its mechanics; instead, I would nod my head out of respect and admiration.

Everything tied together in such a perfect package that it’s difficult to truly criticize the game. The gameplay, the visuals, the audio, heck even the story are all top notch. A Link Between Worlds is simply a must-buy for any 3DS enthusiast, and a more than valid reason for non-3DS owners to pick up the system. If there are any complaints about the game, it would be that it was perhaps a little too easy and on the short side. But outside of any potential issues, A Link Between Worlds was a truly fantastic creation that reminded me of exactly why I fell in love with the franchise to begin with.

 

Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate (Wii U)

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Yes, it was a port of an already existing Wii game. But I really don’t care because Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate was ridiculously fun. The online multiplayer, for a start, was fantastic and a real credit to the improvement Nintendo has made to the way they handle online games with the Wii U. There was no greater thrill than joining a lobby, chatting for a while, then setting out to take on a towering monster. The thrill of battling tooth and nail to take down increasingly bigger monsters was enthralling, and seeing how players worked together to achieve the same goal was beautiful.

Funnily enough, the game’s community was one of its best features. I put in over fifty hours of gameplay yet not once did I meet a player who was anything but helpful, welcoming, and just simply nice. I have still yet to find anyone different in the time I’ve spent on the game since. Quite simply, the amount of help I received from veterans of the franchise in the early days of Ultimate blew me away. The players want the community to grow and are more than willing to help everyone, new player or otherwise.

Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate is a must-buy for any Wii U owner, and also just happens to be one of the best games I played last year.

 

DOTA2 (PC)

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IT’S FINALLY OUT OF BETA!!! YEAH!!

This was MOBA gameplay in its finest form. There was a layer of depth to DOTA2 that kept the game feeling fresh and alluring, one of which was its lack of hand-holding. If you died it was your own fault, not that of some overpowered hero or item, and that’s one of the reasons why DOTA2 worked so well. There was a sense of pure balance to the game that other MOBAs seem to lack. Some may say the game had a rather steep learning curve, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as people made it out to be.

Also, the player base was–and still is–generally more welcoming than the likes of League of Legends, which automatically made DOTA2 a far easier game to enjoy. Each session rarely played out the same, and each team battle was just as intense as the last. DOTA2 was, quite simply, sheer brilliance–and it was free, as well, so there was no paying to win.

Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)

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My god was this one of the most in-depth, intense, and just straight-up brilliant games I have ever played. There was a sense of craft that oozed from each and every corner of Awakening that put most triple-A console games to shame. The gameplay was easy to pick up and compelling to master, with so many levels of rewarding game mechanics that gave the player an unencumbered sense of satisfaction. Not to mention the fact that the RTS features flowed perfectly with the RPG elements, resulting in sheer bliss.

Fire Emblem: Awakening hits its prime with the permanent death option turned on. Characters (including the player-created protagonist) interacted and grew together, developing friendships and relationships along the way. Said relationships could result in marriage and child birth, ensuring the game had a genuine sense of life and progression. With permanent death enabled, any character who fell in battle was dead forever–and honestly, it was depressing when it happened. You saw the characters grow, you saw them interact, live, fight, marry, love, and die. It was massively impressive.

Fire Emblem: Awakening was RTS/RPG action at its finest, and a fantastic example of a heartily polished and fully developed game.

 

DMC: Devil May Cry (360/PS3/PC)

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Apart from the stupid name and juvenile nature of Dante, the reboot to the long-in-the-tooth hack-’n'-slash was strangely good. I was shocked at how good it was. If I’m utterly honest, I expected something resembling a mess. But I got the opposite. The core gameplay was easy to pick up and play and offered enough depth to keep me hooked, while the overall style and sound of the game was interesting, even if the idea of consumerism and hidden messages was straight out of They Live. There were a number of levels, particularly that of the nightclub, that made me sit back and admire what was on display. There was a decent amount of creativity and heart in DMC. The problem, unfortunately, was it was too often broken up by a somewhat meh story.

The backlash towards the character change made it hard for DMC to really jump out at people, which is a shame because it was a well-made, fun, and at times creative game that started off 2013 extremely well.

Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

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It’s Mario….really really good Mario. Super Mario 3D World was Nintendo doing what they do best: innocent fun for all the family. The visuals jumped off the screen and makde decent use of the Wii U’s power, while the gameplay was exactly what you’d expect: tight, responsive, and undeniably enjoyable. It may not have been as good as either of the Galaxy games, but 3D World was still a fantastic entry in the franchise and a must-own for any Wii U player.

 

Persona 4: Golden (Vita)

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(This didn’t come out in Europe until 2013, so it counts!)

Persona 4 was charming yet oddly mature. The game surprised me with its superb handling of the extremely taboo topic of confused sexuality with a story that was both gripping and quirky with welcoming and likeable characters. The core gameplay was hugely engrossing, especially collecting various Personas and combining them to create more powerful ones. There was a lot of game to get through and the level of quality never dropped. The combat worked wonderfully, the friendship system added an odd layer of unexpected strategy. Basically, it was a complete package–a compelling, thrilling, and beautiful experience.

I’ve dabbled in past entries in this franchise before but never committed myself to it until I played this game.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (PS4/X1/360/PS3/PC)

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By the time Assassin’s Creed Revelations came out, I was utterly done with the franchise. The third installment bored me to tears, and the franchise felt like it was running out of gas and creativity. Then Black Flag happened. I admit that I mocked the game when it was first announced and dismissed it as a last-ditch attempt to appeal to the masses that were threatening to migrate. I’m sorry Ubisoft, I really am, because Black Flag was fantastic and made me enjoy the franchise once again. The general pacing, environments, and characters all felt like an improvement on what the last three games did wrong. (This doesn’t include the Vita spin-off Liberation).

Where Black Flag shone was in its realization of what people wanted in a pirate game, namely big boats and raiding other sea dwellers. One of the single, most enjoyable videogame experiences I had in 2013 was swinging onto an enemy ship–in the middle of a thunderstorm–to raid them for their wares.

Sailing the seas had a strange relaxing feel to it, similar to that in Wind Waker. Take away the boats and the booty and Black Flag still had a ton of content to offer. It was certainly not a perfect game, but it was stupidly fun and, at times, stunning. I’m thankful this was forced into my PS4 bundle otherwise I would’ve skipped the game entirely.

Addendum: Dear Ubisoft, please don’t milk the heck out of Black Flag like you did with AC2 and Ezio. Sincerely, me.

 

Metro: Last Light (PC/PS3/360)

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I’m admittedly a sucker for post-apocalyptic settings, but Last Light did something different to other games that share similar backdrops: it didn’t just give the player a setting to play through but a setting to experience. There were a number of subtle moments that gave the game a unique sense of life–perhaps even tragedy–that allowed Last Light to stand out. The plot wasn’t afraid to treat its players like an adult, or even like a villain. There was so much to admire that it’s hard to keep it all condensed into one short paragraph. In that regard, my expanded thoughts on the game can be found in an earlier piece found here.

Last Light was one of those rare modern first-person shooters that I can truly say made the most of modern technology to tell a story and tell it well. There were no pointless action scenes shoe-horned in to impress the player, just sheer story-driven enjoyment that carried a dark undertone. You should definitely not miss out on Last Light.

 

Honorable mentions:

 

Bioshock: Infinite (360/PS3/PC)

Bioshock Infinite gets a mention here simply because the introduction to Columbia was nothing short of stunning. There was a sense of heart and true creativity gushing from within the game during its opening hours. My issues, unfortunately, were with a rather lackluster middle section ,some rather dull abilities and weapons, and monotonous gameplay. As a result, I left it off my main list, though as mentioned, the opening hours were incredible and deserve recognition.

 

Grand Theft Auto 5 (PS3/360)

While it was nice to see the fun come back to GTA, the sheer amount of driving was not. I quickly grew sick of driving from A to B in most of the missions. Also, the characters were decebt but felt a little too familiar. Trevor felt like Walter White’s Hesinberg, Michael felt like, well, almost every Rockstar character, and Franklin came straight out of The Wire. GTA 5 wasnt a bad game, hence its mention here, and I enjoyed it for the most part, but it just felt a bit long-in-the-tooth. The online was also a major disappointment but that’s for another day.

 

Tomb Raider (PC/360/PS3)

A fantastic reboot/prequel that made Tomb Raider relevant again. I enjoyed the Metroid-like approach to the world, as well as the exploration and the production values. I liked the fact it felt like a game that was made with the best intentions in mind rather than an easy cash-in as a lot of reboots unfortunately tend to be. It was, in all, a great game. So why did I not feature it in my top ten, you may ask. Well, the paranormal elements to the game felt thrown in, as well the few times in which the set pieces either went on for too long or just got in the way, breaking up the game’s pace. The promise of ‘understanding how Lara Croft came to be’ didn’t feel fulfilled, either. She experienced things, yes, but there was rarely a time the game stopped to allow her to reflect on them and to allow me as a player to understand how these events had changed her. And on top of that, it was odd to see her go from an average–by ‘average’, I mean that she still looked like somebody’s idea of a perfect woman, just minus the hot pants and enlarged breasts–young lady to a stone-cold callous killer in such a short time.

 

Call of Jaurez: Gunslinger (PC/360/PS3)

The franchise was well and truly messed up by The Cartel. Fortunately Gunslinger went back to the wild west and was simply glorious as a result. The game mixed fast-paced arcade-y shooting with tight controls and a fantastic art style, with a character that radiated thanks to a hilarious script and story-telling. It was quick, cheap, and a lot of fun.

 

Blood Dragon (PC/360/PS3)

Another downloadable game that did its own thing in terms of tone and style. This was THE game to dive into head-first if you were still in love with ’80s/’90s cheap action films on the VHS format. It was crude, rude, and mind-blowing fun. The visuals and audio style alone made it worth experiencing, never mind the solid experience on offer. More of this please, Ubisoft.

Pokemon X/Y (3DS)

It was Pokemon in 3D and packed with some nifty features. I would write more but the chances are–if you like Pokemon, that is–you bought it and bred the gooey bits out of poor Ditto already, so little remains to be said.

 

Wind Waker HD (Wii U)

My final honourable mention goes to one of the best looking games of its generation. The Wii U remake of Wind Waker was STUNNING. Fro, the moment it appeared on the screen, it grabbed your attention and did sweet things with your eyes. It retained all the charm and fondly remembered inventiveness from the first time you played it, only it had the brilliant Wii U pad at its disposal. The only reason it didn’t make my list was because it was a remake that added very little and was also outclassed by A Link Between Worlds.

 

 

 

Sean Halliday


4 Comments

  1. Daniel
    January 7, 2014, 1:37 am

    Nice list. You have similar taste to mine. Persona 4: Golden definitely counts! It’s on my list too.

  2. Bob Kenlar
    January 7, 2014, 9:40 am

    No tearaway?

    • Sean Halliday
      January 8, 2014, 12:11 am

      I did not play it. It came out when i had a bunch of stuff to play through so i just never got around to it!

  3. Justin Ross
    January 8, 2014, 1:11 am

    No Farm Simulator? I’m disappointed in you Sean

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