The Best Video Games of 2013
With 2013 drawing to a close it's time to reflect on another year of video game releases. So here's my picks for the best five games of the year.
Some important things to note before reading. This is not a definitive list, nor does it imply that there were only five good games this year. There's been plenty of great stuff to play during the past twelve months and just because something didn't make my list doesn't mean that I thought it was awful or not worth playing through.
This leads me on to my second point: I didn't play everything. Believe me, I try to get through almost all of the major releases as well as cover plenty of indie material too. Despite this, there's so much that comes out that I simply don't have the time to check through every single game that makes its way into the hands of the frothing masses. Some things just manage to slip under my radar, unfortunately.
With all that out of the way, here's my top five video games of 2013.
5. Tomb Raider
The number five spot is always the hardest, simply because there's so much that could have gone here. I went back and forth on several choices before going with Ms. Croft. Tomb Raider gets the pick because it was a successful reboot of one of gaming's most recognisable characters. There were plenty of things that could have gone wrong, namely trying to be too much like Uncharted. Don't get me wrong, both games have a lot of similarities, but had Tomb Raider tried to be a light-hearted Indiana Jones style romp, it would likely have failed.
Instead, developer Crystal Dynamics went for a much darker tone, one that, on occasion, even verges into survival horror territory. With Neil Marshall's brilliant The Descent playing a big influence, the reboot managed to put the focus very much on survival which, in turn, allowed Lara Croft to be more like a human being. This wasn't the same character who could do multiple back flips while pumping a Bengal tiger full of lead.
A solid script by Rhianna Pratchett, and a bunch of good performances from the voice cast helped to round out the characters. It still has a few issues, namely that, despite Lara being fleshed out, the other characters are little more than stock supporting cast members. Also, the fact that "humanizing" Lara lead to her being a sobbing wreck for a good portion of the game, overdid things a little bit.
The gameplay didn't really do anything new either. Despite the dark and gritty covering, it's still a blend of Uncharted's cover-shooting and story-focused gameplay and Assassin's Creed's platforming. Still, a hodgepodge of familiar game mechanics allowed Crystal Dynamics to focus on getting the tone and origin story right, setting things up nicely for the sequel.
4. Rayman Legends
Another (kind of) reboot, that completely reinvented its lead character, albeit in a very different way. Rayman Legends is pure fun. Happiness fused straight into a disc. Rayman Origins gave us a taste of what was to come, but Legends expands on those ideas and feels like what the team over at Ubisoft were aiming for all along.
Few games have cared as much about their soundtrack either. The original "boss" levels in the game weren't powerful adversaries but musical stages that had you jumping to the beat of drums and scurrying down crumbling walkways accompanied by a guitar solo.
There aren't many games that can make you grin like an idiot, even when you've died numerous times to the same lava pit or spiky plant. Rayman, somehow, manages it; with all his goofy, limbless charm intact.
My original review can be found here: (http://hubpages.com/hub/Rayman-Legends-Review)
3. Papers, Please
At its core, Papers, Please is game of cross-referencing where you play a border official. You compare the relevant bits of data and then either let people into the country or deny them access.
Simple right? Well it is, until you start getting involved in all these people's lives. Do you let the woman reunite with her whole family despite not having the correct documents? It's your call, the game won't even comment on what you've done, at least not in a "+ 1 Evil/Good Point" kind of way.
And that's the best thing about Papers, Please, it takes a serious theme but then doesn't go and beat you over the head with it. Instead it leaves you to draw your own conclusions, as well as suffer the consequences of your actions.
(My original review can be found here: http://ludologic.hubpages.com/hub/Papers-Please-Review)
2. Gone Home
"Is it a horror game? It's a horror game", "Oh god, she butchered someone in the bath", "No wait, there's a definitely a ghost in here somewhere, I heard it.", "Maybe the dad has some kind of evil experiment going on.". "Damn it, I hope Sam's alright".
That's kind of the mental conversation I was having whilst playing Gone Home. There's not many games that are able to draw you into their world without dragging you along with a bunch of cutscenes loaded with exposition. Gone Home manages to get you invested simply by showing you a family, letting your find out about their lives, and then leaving the gears to turn in your own head.
It takes a lot of restraint for a developer to leave everything in the player's hands like this and not attempt to control them, even just a little bit. The writing and voice acting puts most other games to shame and its story and subject matter are handled with so much honesty and maturity, you just wish other games would be a little more like this.
(My original review can be found here: http://ludologic.hubpages.com/hub/Gone-Home-Review)
1. The Last of Us
Controversial pick? Hardly, but The Last of Us was that good. Uncharted may have shown that Naughty Dog were good at story driven gameplay but The Last of Us makes the case that they might well be the best at it.
Even with the great story though, it's the fact that the game doesn't just become a string of cutscenes mixed in with a few gunfights. Each section of the game reinforces the other. Sneaking through a horde of clickers is utterly nerve-racking once you realize that one hit means death. And the ambient dialogue that plays whilst you're exploring adds even more texture to Joel and Ellie's relationship.
What was most impressive for me though is that, despite taking elements from various other post-apocalypse stories, it feels unique and not just because its zombies have fungus bursting out of their heads like evil pieces of cauliflower. And boy, that ending, with that haunting final look from Ellie before the screen cuts out. Ambiguity is a wonderful thing.
(My original review can be found here: http://ludologic.hubpages.com/hub/The-Last-of-Us-Review-)
So, there it is. My picks for the best games of 2013. What were your stand out titles of the year? Let me know in the comments.
© 2013 LudoLogic