Hey, remember that Top Games of 2013 list we had a show about all those moons ago? Oh yeah, well here it is in all its official written glory. 2013 was a hell of a year in gaming and will probably be remembered as the last banner year for two aging consoles giving way to their shiny new successors. Whether it was a big AAA title like The Last of Us or GTAV, a little indie like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons or an artsy platformer like Rayman Legends, 2013 had something on offer for everyone.
1. The Last of Us – Arguably the most technically accomplished game of the last generation, its varied but sometimes frustrating combat links together a highly emotional and dramatic narrative. The two main characters are so well fleshed out that you can’t help but fully invest in their story. A masterclass in story-driven action games.
2. Ni No Kuni – Studio Ghibli and Level 5 have crafted a wonderful adventure which, although accessible to JRPG newcomers, has a huge amount depth and content. It’s a beautifully told story with lush cartoon visuals to match and brings some of the year’s most memorable characters. It’s tidy boyo!
3. Tomb Raider – Although it’s missing the charm and wit of the oft compared Uncharted series, Tomb Raider is a near perfect action adventure. The upgrade progression of the varied weapons and gadgets made traversing the island and killing those hundreds of bad guys just so much dang fun. I’m looking forward to playing it all over again on PS4.
4. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons – With its novel control scheme, fun puzzles and utterly captivating story, Brothers was a real surprise. It’s a bite sized gem which brought back memories of Journey and Ico. One of the most heartfelt, clever little games I’ve played in a long time.
5. Tearaway – Only possible on the Vita, the amount of innovation and fun packed into this game is astounding. The platforming is kept fresh with clever new mechanics and abilities drip-fed throughout. It’s an adventure you customise yourself in ways you have never seen before and had me grinning from ear to ear from start to finish.
Chris’s “List of Five Games I’d Have Liked On My List of Five Games If It Were A List of Ten Games”
Rayman Legends – It carries on where Origins left off and is just as fiendish and satisfying. It has that ‘just one more go’ thing down to a tee. 2D platforming perfection.
Guacamelee – Super fun and funny ‘metroidvania’ beat-em-up that will tax both dexterity and persistence. Cracking on Vita.
Dragon’s Crown – A surprisingly deep game which is half side scrolling beat-em-up and half RPG. Absolutely gorgeous and a lot of fun. (See Chris’s full Dragon’s Crown review here.)
Splinter Cell: Blacklist – A really well made stealth action game. Cool weapons, gadgets and upgrades allow you to play it your way. And there’s a load of content.
Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag – Utterly beautiful on PS4 and now that I’ve gotten past the Assassin’s Creediness, I’m having loads of fun. It’s an epic stealth pirate game with a crazy amount of content.
1. Bioshock Infinite – The game that got me excited about games again, Bioshock Infinite is an visual artistic masterpiece. From massive set pieces to intimate moments, I was awestruck by the art design from the outset to the very end. Challenging combat, a wonderfully surprising plot and great voice acting are all icing on a beautiful cake. Minor gripes aside (like overly aggressive, stupid enemies and being forced to check every trash can in the game for health) Bioshock Infinite is an incredible achievement.
2. Grand Theft Auto V – Once again Rockstar has proven that it is the king of open world games. GTAV redefined the genre with its brilliant character swapping mechanic and interweaving storyline. It’s also the best looking and most technically accomplished Grand Theft Auto yet.
3. The Banner Saga: Factions – A Kickstarter game crafted by just a few talented individuals, Factions (the early multiplayer portion of 2014’s The Banner Saga) is an incredibly well thought out and original game. It’s one of the few competitive multiplayer games that relies completely upon skill rather than luck. It’s also a joy to look at. If you have the time to dedicate (I’ve put in over 100 hours) you will be greatly rewarded as you master its surprisingly deep complexities.
4. Antichamber – A mind bending, interactive, modern art installation piece. One of a kind and highly recommended.
5. Injustice: Gods Among Us – While my preference remains with the likes of Street Fighter IV, I had a great time playing Injustice. With incredible attention to detail, a well balanced cast of comic book heroes and villains and fairly solid netcode, Injustice is NeatherRealm’s best game to date.
Zach’s Honorable Mention
Rayman Legends – One of the most beautiful and charming games I have ever played, Rayman Legends takes 2D platforming to new heights. Overflowing with creativity and style, it’s not one to be missed by anyone with a penchant for the genre.
Magic: Duels of The Planeswalkers 2014 – I put a ton of hours into Magic 2014 and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. I’m a big fan of paper magic, but I don’t have the time or money to commit to playing it ‘for real’. Not only is the digital version exceptionally affordable, it’s well balanced and fun to play. The interface could use some tweaking and there’s a bug here and there, but overall Magic 2014 is a great, casual alternative to the real deal.
Zach’s “Games That I Didn’t Play, But If I Did I Know They’d Be On There”
The Last of Us
1. Tomb Raider – Crystal Dynamics has been one of my favorite developers for a long long time, but their reinvention of a series that had become something of an afterthought (even previously, in their capable hands) is their best work to date. Its sense of adventure and ever-present peril completely hits the mark. It’s also a hallmark in video game story telling, taking a somewhat pedestrian tale and telling it so damn well it just sucks you right in anyway. I expected to like Tomb Raider. I ended up loving it.
2. Rayman Legends – Man oh man, Rayman Legends is just the goods. I honestly never saw it coming. I hadn’t previously been a Rayman fan (what’s with not having limbs?), but you can now consider me a devotee of the series and anything else Michel Ancel and his team at Ubisoft Montpellier cook up. Their UbiArt Framework engine (Child of Light, Valiant Hearts) allows a level of interactive animation never before achieved and the results are an absolute feast for the eyes. Not to mention it’s one of the most devilishly clever platformers ever crafted. It’s out on everything so get your hands on it and thank me later.
3. Grand Theft Auto V – What else is there to say about GTAV? It’s a landmark game in the way only a Grand Theft Auto game can be really. Which is to say not only that they are masters of iterative innovation, but that so damn many people play GTA that its improvements inevitably set new standards in the industry. Its multiple playable (and swappable) protagonists have set a precedent we can expect to see imitated and refined for years to come, but those open world visuals they achieved in this waning generation will certainly stand alone.
4. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons – Criminally under-appreciated, Brothers should rightfully have been 2013’s Walking Dead, an emotional tour de force that’s unlike anything else on the market both in terms of its storytelling and its single-player co-op controls (the brothers are each smoothly controlled by a separate thumbstick). Developer Starbreeze has crafted a haunting fairy tale inspired by their native Swedish folklore that is by turns desperate, grim and mournful. Ultimately though, it’s uplifting. Liberally sprinkled with humor and an unspoken empathy between the brothers, their family and the various other fantastical denizens they meet throughout their journey, Brothers is a tale like no other.
5. Bioshock Infinite – I have something of a love/hate relationship with Bioshock Infinite. To be clear: it’s great. The style of play and the constant rummaging feel at odds with the brilliant narrative though, and the constant war of attrition with all of the re-spawning gets tiresome at higher difficulties. The story really is great though, as are the acting and the lush visuals. It keeps you invested from start to finish and it’s got one of the best WTF endings in gaming history.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – It feels flat out wrong not having this in my top five. Black Flag is a hell of an entry in the Assassin’s Creed pantheon. Ed Kenway is no Ezio, but taking to the high seas in the Jackdaw is a blast and the supporting cast is perhaps the best in the series.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen – It’s really too bad Dragon’s Dogma seems to be relegated to also-ran status in the open world RPG space. Its stylistic blending of Skyrim and Dark Souls, epic creature battles and pitch perfect difficulty ramping make this an RPG worth investing in. Word to the wise though: If you’re going to dive in be sure to splurge for the Dark Arisen version. The updates, fixes and extra content markedly improve the experience.
Fuse – What to say about Fuse? Insomniac’s first foray out of the Sony fold was originally called Project Overstrike and featured a slightly cartoony team of elite mercenaries, each with their own special talents and skill sets, globetrotting their way through a tale of intrigue and ultimately saving the world. Then Insomniac starting making the very similarly titled and cartoony Sunset Overdrive, so now it’s called Fuse with a slightly less cartoony cast of mercenaries and pretty much everything else is the same. It’s actually really fun though. My brother and I played through it online and it’s one of our absolute favorite co-op games.
Remember Me – Seems like no one actually remembers Remember Me. Which is too bad. It’s got parkour similar to Assassin’s Creed and combat akin to the Arkham series, all played out in a linear tale that has you brawling and mind-hacking your way across a dystopian Paris of the future. The environments and the vistas just ooze craftsmanship and style and the musical score and ambient audio really bring it to life. With a cool female protagonist and a plot based on the theft and remixing of memories, it’s worth giving a go. If you do so, try out the French language option with subtitles. The acting is far better (and far less cheesy) and it obviously fits the locale.
Well there it is at long last. If you listened to the accompanying show you might notice our lists have shifted a bit in the interim. Hope you enjoyed it. Let us know some of your favorites of 2013 in the comments below!