You wait seven to eight years for a next-gen console and suddenly two come along at once. 2013 marked Microsoft and Sony’s foray into the eighth generation — with the latter drawing first blood in February — thereby instilling industry events such as E3, Gamescom and TGS with that extra layer of excitement. Arguably, these last twelve months have pulled the medium back into the mainstream, with major media outlets covering the console launches throughout November.
If there’s one thing we can take away from 2013, then, it’s that the dedicated gaming console is very much alive and well — mobile platform and industry analysts be damned. Mind you, this year hasn’t all been about hardware; developers such as Naughty Dog and Irrational Games have proved that there’s still plenty of life in your Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 with phenomenal narratives and stunning visuals — despite their ageing architecture.
With new iterations in Grand Theft Auto, Pokémon and a rebooted Tomb Raider cramming up the figurative calendar, 2013 could well stand alongside 2007 as one of the most fruitful and indeed successful years in gaming history. What’s more, it will also go down as the year of Microsoft’s bold and abrupt u-turn back in June, which saw the company reverse all DRM facets of the Xbox One — including the mandatory Internet connection and game sharing — in the wake of a passionate backlash from the community.
Nevertheless, there were still a slew of fantastic titles vying for our attention amidst the cacophony surrounding the next-gen consoles. So, before we delve into Watch Dogs’ Orwellian dystopia and traverse Bungie’s sci-fi epic, Destiny, let’s cast our minds back to gaming’s greatest hits of 2013.
And with that, here are We Got This Covered’s top 10 video games of 2013.Next
10) The Stanley Parable
Truth be told, we’ve never seen anything remotely close to The Stanley Parable, to the point where it’s pretty hard to even accurately talk about it without spoiling everything that makes it fantastic. There is literally nothing we can say about the game that won’t ruin parts of what makes it magnificent, and we couldn’t even agree on which parts to talk about without running the risk of spoiling the moments which make it one of the standouts of the year. We’re imploring you to simply skip over this entry and instead buy the game and check it out on your own.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
The Stanley Parable is an absolute thing of beauty. The linear (but not really) first-person title finally understands that even in a video game where you’re simply supposed to follow the path, the player may have wildly different ideas than the developer on how to proceed. Here, you’re told what is expected of you, but the door has (literally) been opened for you to simply go the other way and watch as the game tries to adapt.
This is all brilliantly tied together by the quasi-omnipotent narrator, who is attempting to tell a story while we continually muck up his instructions. His jovial tone gradually turns to frustration, and then outright defeat. He’s really the star of this game, and may very well be the best NPC we’ve encountered since Portal‘s GlaDOS.
If you’re still reading this, we feel the need to point out that you’re absolutely horrid at following very simple directions, and that’s probably held you back in life. However, that same refusal to complete simple tasks when asked by someone you have no real accountability to means you are the perfect candidate to play The Stanley Parable. It may be a one trick pony, but when that one trick is performed perfectly, it demands to be seen.Previous Next
9) Papers, Please
Seeing as how my laptop runs on steam power and a couple of hamsters on a wheel, my experience with computer exclusives is lacking. Luckily, one of this year’s finest titles is minimalist enough to work on construction paper while still telling a more compelling story than most of its peers. Although it sounds boring in concept, Papers, Please is an utterly fantastic game that uses a simple idea to allow players to live out their own stories.
Standing in as one of Arstotzka’s immigration officers, you are tasked with deciding whether or not to allow immigrants into the nation. The catch is that you are faced with fines, bombings, or the death of one of your family members if you make a bad decision. If you take a bribe you can feed your family for a day, but your neighbors will report your sudden wealth and put you in deeper trouble. Let someone through with an obviously fake passport so they can see their family, and the fine you face might mean living in the cold for another night, potentially making your family sick.
There are predetermined stories told through the course of Papers, Please, but the most memorable are those in which you have a personal stake. A paperwork simulator has no right to be this compelling, but once you start playing, you’ll have an incredibly difficult time trying to stop.Previous Next
8) Fire Emblem Awakening
It’s amazing what a developer can accomplish when placed under do-or-die circumstances. Though Intelligent Systems was never in danger of being disbanded, something arguably as important was: the Fire Emblem brand. Prior to the development of Fire Emblem Awakening, members of Nintendo’s longtime second-party partners were informed that if it didn’t outperform the more recent entries in the series — which had been met with progressively declining sales — it could mean the end of the long-running tactical RPG franchise. Not to be outdone by the myriad heroes of Fire Emblem lore, Intelligent Systems rose to the occasion and the result is far and away the greatest series entry in years — and arguably one of the best strategy RPGs of all time.
It’s hard to single out any one thing that Awakening excels at, due mainly to the fact that it accomplishes almost everything it sets out to do with the utmost precision and panache. To start, the game’s visuals are sublime. Not only do they showcase some of the best stereoscopic 3D in the 3DS’ repository, but they manage to deliver high-end visuals without sacrificing classic aesthetic staples of the series’ handheld past. 2D sprites navigate rolling terrain and clouds that pop like a cut-out picture book, whereas battles themselves are full-on polygonal smackdowns the likes of which the series has never before touched — not even with console releases like Path of Radiance.
The core of the experience is, of course, the extensive depth of Fire Emblem’s stat-building gameplay. The multitude of ways to configure various classes, skills, and weapons to meet your team’s needs is nothing short of staggering. Beyond that, Awakening once again brings back the ever-looming devil permadeath, waiting to snatch your brothers in arms from waking life the moment they fall in battle. As with past games in the franchise, characters can build relationships by conversing with both each other and with the player, and you soon realize just how heart-wrenching it can be to lose a unit who’s not only a powerhouse on the battlefield, but also a loving wife and mother of your first-born child. This child, of course, will now be raised by a full-time tactician with little room in his schedule for parenting. Sound real enough for you?
That just scratches the surface, as Fire Emblem Awakening is jam packed with content, brimming with emotion, and represents the finest hour for what could have been the last game in a storied franchise. Luckily, thanks to better-than-expected sales, it appears that Fire Emblem will be sticking around a bit longer after all.Previous Next
7) DMC: Devil May Cry
The original Devil May Cry series stands as one of the most beloved and creative franchises of the PS2 generation, and protagonist Dante took up the mantle of one of gaming’s coolest leads with ease. Fights were brutal and spectacles to watch, and combat was a flowing test of skill that took more than restless button mashing to master. But when a reboot, DMC: Devil May Cry, featuring a young Dante (sans white hair) was announced, fans (as always) immediately freaked out and dismissed the game before giving it a go.
It’s their loss, though, as those ignorant enough to let a change of hair color affect their decisions missed one of the most entertaining games of the year. Dante’s younger self truly embodies the Devil May Cry attitude, injecting DMC with tons of humor and personality. The level designs were also absolutely brilliant and combat remained as stylish and challenging as always, making finishing off hordes of demons with a flourish more fun than ever.
Even if you cried foul at the first sign of a change to the series, give DMC: Devil May Cry a chance just to witness the insane environments and flowing combat. The first time a wall of buildings smashes together in an effort to destroy Dante, you’ll swear that DMC is hands down one of the coolest games of the year.Previous Next
6) Tomb Raider
Through the release of its raw and emotional Tomb Raider reboot – which re-established Lara Croft’s tale by harkening back to her heroic origins story – Crystal Dynamics proved that there’s still a lot of gas left in the long-running action/adventure series’ proverbial tank. This was accomplished through intelligent brainstorming and lots of dedication, both of which led to a spectacular and unforgettable final product, which mixed great gameplay with an incredibly rich narrative experience. Thankfully, gamers noticed and gave praise where it was due, as the game received critical acclaim and topped numerous regional sales charts.
The truth is that few of 2013’s digital and interactive experiences stood out more than Tomb Raider did. All of the game’s (campaign-based) mechanics clicked and worked extremely well, and the strong and unforgiving narrative allowed us to bear witness to the making of a gaming legend. Lara Croft is punched, kicked and knocked down regularly, but she always manages to get up and fight back, delivering a strong-willed heroine for the ages.Previous Next
5) Super Mario 3D World
Few characters have enjoyed as much pop culture-based success as Mario, Nintendo’s red and blue clad Italian plumber. In fact, one could say that the grandfather of platforming gaming stands alone as the de facto mascot of this very industry, which is a statement that would be nearly impossible to argue with.
This fall, Nintendo once again proved its mastery of accessible, family friendly platforming with its Wii U exclusive, Super Mario 3D World. The four-player title, which mixed the familiarity of Mario’s traditional left-to-right side-scrolling with the more open environments of three-dimensional titles like Super Mario 64, delivered a masterful campaign that was nothing short of magical. In truth, it’s the perfect game for the holiday season, and exists as a nearly flawless system seller.
Although Mario has been around for decades, Super Mario 3D World has proven that the protagonist is still as timeless and endearing as ever. Sure, there are a lot of familiar elements to be found within the game – something we highlighted in our review – but it’s tough to truly fault the overall experience, which stands as one of the best platformers of all time.Previous Next
4) The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Comparing Zelda games can be a bit like trying to rank high-end audio equipment from memory. Sure, it’s fun and makes for great conversation, but odds are that personal bias, nostalgia, or even justification of one’s purchase will get in the way far before useful conclusions are reached. Of course, in audio the solution is A/B testing. Given that it would be rather tedious to compare each Zelda dungeon one by one, or have test subjects witness each game’s story and measure how many milliliters of pure saline water are expelled for each end-sequence, it’s nice to know Nintendo can pump out a Zelda that is lean, compact, and unequivocally exceptional in all important areas. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is that Zelda game.
The main gameplay trope at hand this time around is Link’s ability to merge with walls as a painting, and it turns out that what initially seems like just another gimmick is one of the more game-changing implements in recent Zelda memory. Additionally, Link Between Worlds is the polar opposite of Skyward Sword when it comes to linearity. Not only does the game feature a sizeable (and more importantly, content-rich) overworld, it actually lets you tackle dungeons in any order you so desire after a certain point in the story. This is accomplished via a quirky, chinchilla-like fellow named Ravio, though you can read our review for more details about all of that.
Though Link Between Worlds’ new features garnered the most attention from the gaming press, its true feat is its ability to harness the best things about the franchise, and compile each and every one of them into a single game. Open world? Check. Excellent dungeons? Yup. Non-linear progression, stellar boss fights, and tear-jerking narrative delivery? Yes, yes, and yes again. Though it may not be a technical marvel or a heavy-hitting console blockbuster, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds achieves what has evaded nearly every Zelda — in some capacity — since A Link to the Past itself. Throw in some modern sensibility, and the result is a truly exquisite specimen of action adventure, and an excellent Zelda by every quantifiable gaming meter.Previous Next
3) Grand Theft Auto V
Tethered with a massive development budget, Grand Theft Auto V released back in September to seemingly unanimous approval. Having experienced a four month delay earlier in 2013, the fifth numerical entry in Rockstar’s crime opus was a long time coming. Even still, there are few, if any, franchises in the video games industry that elicit a hype on par with GTA, and the criminal trifecta of Michael, Trevor and Franklin took the controversial series to dizzying new heights.
Purely on a design level, Grand Theft Auto V is awe-inspiring. Los Santos and its surrounding areas feel alive and buzzing with interactive NPCs and a plethora of random events — from impromptu robberies to drunk drivers, the game is brimming with spontaneity. With a powerful narrative at its core and excellent voice acting to match — Steven Ogg’s Trevor in particular — Rockstar’s latest balances bombastic style and true, engaging substance rather masterfully.
Releasing off the back of a four-year development process, GTA V undeniably pushed the current, eight year-old hardware to the brink, and represented a philosophy that encompasses the studio’s prestigious track record; particularly Max Payne 3 and Red Dead Redemption.
Rockstar’s own billion dollar baby will resonate in the hearts and minds of gamers for a long time to come. 2013 didn’t just deliver the fifth numerical iteration of Grand Theft Auto, it gave us Rockstar’s magnum opus of the last console generation.Previous Next
2) BioShock: Infinite
“There’s always a lighthouse, there’s always a man, there’s always a city.”
Nobody doubted for a second that this true sequel to BioShock would be anything less than amazing, but the fact that it stands on its own as one of the best games of the generation (if not of all time) is worthy of praise. BioShock Infinite‘s story of Booker DeWitt’s search for a young girl in the floating city of Columbia is a modern classic, seamlessly blending visceral gunplay with a beautifully told and timeless story.
Whether you’re in it for the tight gameplay, the fascinating plot, or the truly realized characters, BioShock Infinite is a gamer’s dream. The violent core of the gameplay works to expose Columbia’s seedy underbelly, laying bare the darkness of the city while shining a ray of hope into the world through Elizabeth, one of the medium’s best characters to date.
Just like its predecessor, BioShock Infinite will go down in history as an example of video games as art, and not in the plodding way that Quantic Dream’s games have. It’s incredibly fun to play, the characters and Columbia will stick with you long after the credits roll, and the ending is absolute perfection, hitting emotional highs that few games have the power to. BioShock Infinite showcases video games in their finest form, elevating the craft to a whole new level that makes the upcoming generation full of possibility.Previous Next
1) The Last of Us
Prior to its release, those of us who’d followed The Last of Us’ development knew that it would end up being great. However, the game exceeded those lofty expectations by delivering what was perhaps the greatest experience of its generation.
What sets The Last of Us apart from its peers is its gripping and emotional campaign, which features polished gameplay as well as an unprecedented amount of realism within its protagonists’ friendship. Even, now, months after the game’s release, we’ve yet to experience anything like it within the industry. As such, Joel and Ellie still stand as the greatest example of how far video games have come with regards to storytelling, emotion and relationship-building.
Looking back, it’s tough to think of another game that set the bar as high as The Last of Us did with Naughty Dog at its helm. As an interactive experience, it continues to rival Hollywood, which is a promising thing when it comes to the future of gaming.
As a result of the above, those who’ve yet to play The Last of Us should try to do so as soon as possible. Missing out on such a genre and industry-defining game such as this would be a mistake.
Individual Author Lists
1. The Last of Us
2. Grand Theft Auto V
3. Tomb Raider
4. Super Mario 3D World
5. BioShock Infinite
6. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
7. Dead Rising 3
8. Animal Crossing: New Leaf
9. NHL 14
10. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
1. The Last of Us
2. BioShock Infinite
3. Tomb Raider
4. NBA 2K14 (Next-Gen)
5. Super Mario 3D World
6. StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm
7. Grand Theft Auto V
8. Hotline Miami
9. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
10. Killzone: Shadow Fall
1. The Last of Us
2. BioShock Infinite
3. Saints Row 4
4. Tomb Raider
5. Hotline Miami
6. DMC: Devil May Cry
7. GTA V
8. Papers, Please
9. God of War: Ascension
10. Dead Space 3
1) The Last of Us
2) DMC: Devil May Cry
3) Grand Theft Auto V
4) Tomb Raider
5) Gone Home
6) Rogue Legacy
8) BioShock Infinite
10) Dragon’s Crown
1) Fire Emblem Awakening
2) Rune Factory 4
3) The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
4) Super Mario 3D World
5) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
6) Grand Theft Auto V
7) Dragon’s Crown
8) BioShock Infinite
9) Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
10) Rayman Legends
1) BioShock Infinite
2) The Last Of Us
3) The Legend Of Zelda – A Link Between Worlds
4) MLB 13: The Show
5) Kentucky Route Zero
6) Papers, Please
7) Metal Gear Rising
8) Metro: Last Light
9) Tomb Raider
1) The Stanley Parable
2) The Last of Us
3) GTA V
4) Assassin’s Creed IV
5) Super Mario 3D World
6) BioShock Infinite
7) Fire Emblem: Awakening
8) Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
9) Papers, Please