It has been a long year in gaming. From the closure of beloved companies, to the debut of amazing new franchises, 2013 has been nothing but eventful and marks the beginning of the end for one of the longest console generations in gaming history. Here’s just a few things that have happened in the last 12 months:
- THQ auctioned off it’s properties, leaving some games with a new home and others with an uncertain future
- Tomb Raider received a long overdue reboot
- SimCity launched… Sort of
- Bioshock moved to a new city… Sort of
- Just when we thought we knew what to expect from Far Cry, we got Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
- Naughty Dog launched yet another blockbuster franchise in the form of The Last of Us
- Deadpool made Activision and High Moon Studios give him a game… It let you slap Wolverine
- Valve released DotA 2, which would go on to break record player numbers on Steam
- 5 years after the last full release, Grand Theft Auto returned…
- Grand Theft Auto Online soon followed… Sort of
- Pokemon finally made the shift to the 3rd dimension
- Almost every AAA franchise you can think of dropped new installments, including Call of Duty, Battlefield, Batman, and Assassin’s Creed
- and finally, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One were unleashed
As much as the lines are drawn over which console is superior, there is also indecision over what game should earn the coveted title of “Game of the Year”. While debate rages, we here at TheGamersPad decided that rather than finding one shiny gem to sit atop the rest, we’d let each writer make their own picks, and let you know why these games should be on your ‘To Play’ list.
So without further ado, let’s get on with…
Games of 2013
Agus Berry – Bioshock Infinite
The year 2013 presented some of gaming’s most emotionally engaging games and the one that really hit close to me was Bioshock Infinite. It was strange for me to play a game that emits a strong personality in it’s characters and settings. Elizabeth felt more than a mission, she almost felt human and it’s scary to even think about that.
How far have video games come when the digital character on your screen is perceived as lifelike? It’s just the ingenious work of Irrational Games research and development into making a video game that not only pushes boundaries in game play but emotions as well.
This was truly the first game that opened up my heart to the medium. Films can be touching but when interaction is involved, it just pushes that step further. Bioshock Infinite is not just the best game I’ve played this year, it’s one of the best I’ve played in a lifetime.
Special Mention: The Last of Us & Tomb Raider
Rowland Norris – Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
When the task came up of picking a game of the year, I immediately had trouble. There have been numerous amazing games throughout the year, but trying to pick one over the others was troublesome. Eventually I pulled up a list of this year’s titles and was reminded of a game which had slipped my memory after 8 months of playing through the other titles… Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.
Ni no Kuni probably isn’t going to top many Game of the Year lists, but for me personally, there’s no question that it is one of the best games I’ve played this year. It had a good story, entertaining characters and a gorgeous world to explore. RPGs haven’t been the strongest of genres lately, and eastern style RPGs even less so, but Ni no Kuni took everything that JRPG fans love and still made it accessible to newer players. Sadly, much like similar titles, it seems to have failed to find a real market in the western world, but it remains as one of the most charming and imaginative titles I’ve played.
Special Mentions: Tomb Raider & Pokemon X/Y
Ben Campbell – Gone Home
I’ve had my opinions on what the gaming industry needs to push storytelling to the next level, to be on par with cinema, while providing experiences that directors’ and the biggest budgets imaginable could not begin to replicate. This can be seen in some of 2013’s best releases like Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us. But the ability to display boundless nuance and emotion without the need for combat and traditional gameplay is exclusively reserved for Gone Home.
Against the backdrop of 1995 America, Gone Home stars Katie Greenbriar. After an overseas holiday, Katie enters her family house to discover that no one is home. From this point Katie is armed with the ability to pick up and inspect items, move around and that’s pretty much it. The basic mechanics are all about the player’s feelings and inquisitiveness, trying to make sense of the history and lives of a family that they initially have no information about. Through clues like pictures, various notes, and the house in general, it’s up to the player to shape an understanding of the world they have been thrust into.
The culmination of this player motivated world building and character development was the connection it made for me with the story; not just as a gamer, but as a person. The Fullbright Company has created real warmth here. At the very end, I was left on the verge of tears. To pull this off without standard video game entrapments is a true achievement.
Special Mention: The Last of Us & The Stanley Parable.
Jay Ballzup – Grand Theft Auto V
The best game of 2013 for me was Grand Theft Auto V. Admittedly the launch of its multiplayer component was plagued with issues and even now that it works it’s really not that great. But GTA has always been about the solo experience for me. The single player campaign is nothing short of a video gaming masterpiece.
In Los Santos there is something to see or do around every corner and having seen the majority of California first hand, the references and tributes to both the lifestyle and architecture of the area are incredible.
The story, which follows a trio of completely different characters, kept me enthralled till it’s final moments and left me immediately wanting to experience it all over again. This was of course thanks to some superb writing and direction but also the stellar performances from the actors that played Michael, Franklin and Trevor; the latter being my favorite fictional character of the past 10 years at least.
Throw in water tight controls, near flawless visuals and an unfathomable amount of content to keep you entertained and you have a title that literally every gamer must experience. Don’t let yourself be the one person at the party that hasn’t played GTAV.
Special Mention: Tomb Raider & Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Christiaan Miranda – Persona 4 Golden
Being a remake of the the game Persona 4 of the PS2, P4G does a remarkable job at re-creating the wonder and charm of the original all the while giving the title a breath of fresh air with it’s HD textures and new content.
Balancing battling deranged monsters and trying to live a normal high school life has been a long running staple of the Persona series, with P4G executing this wonderously. Living out your normal life, hanging out with friends and getting to know people (creating “Social Links”) is just as, if not more, important as fighting monsters and saving the town. However, it is also that aspect that will drive perfectionists, like myself, to complete and utter insanity. Achieving the best of the plethora of endings requires you to balance out the two parts of the game perfectly all under the game’s time limit. The amount of times I have had to reload, at times even start anew, due to a missed social link is in the field of incredulity.
Special Mention: Fire Emblem: Awakening, which only came second by a hair’s length in my books. Both games consumed hundreds of hours of what remains of my so-called life, but I can’t wear a dress and cat ears while kicking ass in Fire Emblem.
Chris Norris – Bioshock Infinite
2013 has truly been a groundbreaking year for the gaming industry. Not only has it ushered in a new and exciting chapter with the release of the next generation consoles, but it has simultaneously seen the release of some absolutely remarkable titles. Some may argue that such games come and go every year and rarely manage to conjure up so much as a measly afterthought shortly after the credits roll. However there may be only a handful of games in your life in which the very foundations and boundaries of what you believed conceivable in a video game are profoundly altered. Bioshock: Infinite is one such experience.
From title screen to credits this title truly manages to take you on such an immersive and engaging roller coaster experience which never fails to engulf the imagination of the player, as it’s unique and incredibly captivating setting paves a new benchmark for story telling across all entertainment mediums. The Bioshock franchise’s claim to fame has always been its tremendous ability to evoke such an intense and vivid sense of atmosphere and partner it with a powerful and enthralling narrative and this proven and remarkably successful formula has never been more refined and impressive then it is in Infinite. Not only does this brilliant title manage to encompass every single feeling and emotion towards why I love and will continue to love video games, but it shines a much needed light onto the sheer potential and ability video games have to be the most engaging and intuitive story telling medium.
An absolute must have in the library of every gamer, and a story of love and companionship that will be remembered and cherished for time immemorial.
Special Mentions: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag & Tomb Raider
Francis King – Tomb Raider
A reboot of a long running series that is focused mainly on a very sexualised female character that many fans have grown up with, would have a hard time trying to please die-hard fans as well as new ones. Tomb Raider was an unexpected hit even with its emotional, teeth gritting trailers that depict survival and near death situations. How it surprised a lot of players is it’s dark emotional origin story of main protagonist Lara Croft which takes players through a very violent story. It does well to leave an impression on players of the emotion and turmoil that Lara Croft suffers as you truly see what she goes through. Not only that a strong origin story was set, the gameplay was so defined with the introduction of survival in the mix and an open environment to venture around on that it was incredibly hard to put the controller down. For a reboot, Tomb Raider redefined itself as a franchise but opened the doors to how action adventure and story-telling is told through an emotional action filled piece. Many loved the new Lara Croft with her emotional outbursts and whimpering cries of pain to showing clear signs of violence and hatred against those who are kidnapping her friends. An old series redefined to suit the new age is a hard task to do with such a big profile such as Lara Croft.
Special Mentions: XCOM Enemy Within & Tales of Xillia