6. Battlefield 4 (Best shooter)
Maybe you're in a helicopter flying towards a building when a rocket hits the rotor, sending the aircraft spinning out of control. Maybe you jump out at the last second and land on a rooftop as the chopper explodes on impact, only to hear the building's supports start to creak and groan. Maybe you jump off just as it falls apart, deploy a parachute, and land in time to pull out your upgraded PKP Pecheneg light machine gun and fire shots into the back of an unsuspecting enemy. Maybe this all happened over the course of ten seconds and was one of the most thrilling moments of your gaming career. Maybe this sort of thing happens all the time in Battlefield 4.
Battlefield 4 was advertised on its "only in Battlefield moments," and that phrase turned out to be more than mindless marketing speak. Every match you play has the potential to be a thrilling, dynamic, cinematic orgy of explosions, making for memorable encounters that no other game could hope to deliver. It's entrancing, and everything you'd want from the best shooter of 2013. Though the single-player leaves much to be desired, you'll hardly have time to complain as you spend dozens (hundreds?) of hours on the multiplayer battlefield.
5. Super Mario 3D World (Best platformer)
Some fans were scared that Super Mario 3D World would take the celebrated, genre-defining gameplay of the past 3D Mario platformers and transform it into an oversimplified title for the multiplayer-loving masses. And those fears were ultimately realized--in the best possible way. 3D World takes the colorful, fun, and astoundingly creative game design of previous entries even further into the mainstream, while still being the best platformer we played all year (solo and with three friends).
Engrossing platforming action was perfected long ago in previous Mario games, but its 3D Worlds seemingly boundless creativity that makes it truly unforgettable. The stages are peppered with great one-off ideas--like the Mario-cloning Double Cherry or wearable cannons--that other developers wouldve based entire games on. And the soundtrack is similarly standout; just try getting the main theme out of your head after humming it. This all makes 3D World impossible to put down, even in the later, more challenging stages that say to players, Oh, you thought this was easy? Try collecting all the Green Stars in this one, smart guy.
4. Grand Theft Auto 5 (Best open-world game)
As an open-world game, GTA 5 is without equal: San Andreas feels like a living, working island thanks to both incredible scale and impressive attention to details. Combining these two is an amazing feat on current-gen hardware, especially as the game looks so handsome and plays so smoothly. And it really is a game for everyone, giving players the option to cause havoc with a chopper, or just spend a leisurely afternoon playing golf. And when you want to be guided through a compelling story or two--without the tedium of repeated tropes--GTA 5s fantastic script and fresh mission design makes it so.
However, its the characters that really make the game special. Although all three protagonists are pretty reprehensible human beings, you desperately want them to succeed as they go through the games highs and lows. Its the characters that push you through the lengthy story to the end credits; a motivation that has really been lacking since Vice City. Its all rounded off by a thrilling, yet fitting, ending that leaves you with enough virtual cash to make San Andreas your playground. This game is easily the best GTA of this generation, and a fine example of what can be achieved when technical prowess is married to smart game design.
3. BioShock Infinite
Like Rapture before it, Columbia is a theme park that makes you think. In one moment, you're staring in awe at the majestic beauty of your surroundings: man-made beaches floating in the sky, or towering high-rises that loom over industrial districts. In the next, you're shaken by reprehensible acts of racism, or mystified by the implications of a single coin flip. Booker and Elizabeth's adventure through a city in the clouds may play like a shooter, but it feels like an astonishing voyage into a self-contained world.
This is no mere escort mission, either--Elizabeth is a companion with an air of independence, totally capable of fending for herself during firefights. When you're not in the heat of a shootout against John Wilkes Booth worshippers or animatronic presidents with Gatling guns, Elizabeth's eager optimism serves as the perfect foil to Booker's world-weary grit. And the concepts posited by the finale will stay with you for weeks, prompting the kinds of giddy, mind-bending conversations you haven't had since you and your friends watched Inception. That contemplation alone makes BioShock Infinite well worth playing, and one of 2013's strongest releases.
2. Tomb Raider
Who would've thought a Tomb Raider reboot would've damn near taken our 2013 Game of the Year award? Lara's latest outing is far and away one of the best action adventure games in recent memory, featuring fantastic platforming, puzzle-solving, and genuinely enjoyable firefights. And her new origin story, coupled with a great performance by voice actress Camilla Luddington, makes Lara a much more believable character, even if she does murder by the hundreds like her treasure-seeking contemporaries.
Tomb Raider's stellar gameplay is complemented in equal measure by its immaculate pacing. Intense battles give way to 30 minutes or more of exploration, giving you plenty of time to take in the sights and uncover the hidden secrets of the ominous island setting. Nearly everything the game has to offer is of astounding quality, making this one of 2013's biggest surprises--one that handedly won runner-up to GamesRadar's Game of the Year.
1. The Last of Us (Game of the Year) (Best action-adventure game)
The Last of Us isn't simply the best game of 2013; it's the culmination of what games have been attempting to achieve throughout the entire 7th console generation. Exemplifying and improving upon everything that games have evolved into over the last eight years, its a masterpiece of mature, gameplay-driven narrative, stunningly well-realised world-building, and uncompromising but intelligent systemic game design.
The tension created by the fight-for-your-life gameplay works hand in hand with the edge-of-your-seat story, and while The Last of Us is often a stressful game to play, it's also an immensely rewarding one. The narrative constantly thrusts players into dire situations that perfectly illustrate the ugliness of a mankind warped by apocalyptic circumstances. The whole experience is uncomfortably dark, save for the touching bond that forms between Joel and Ellie, two of 2013's most profoundly believable characters. The final product is complete, cohesive, and affecting--it's the pinnacle of intelligent, powerful, artistically-minded gaming in the triple-A sphere. And for these reasons, The Last of Us is GamesRadar's Game of the Year for 2013.
What do YOU think is 2013's game of the year?
Now that we've stated our case for our Game of the Year winner, we want to hear from you: Which game do you think most deserves that honor? Did any of the year's releases surprise you? Did any that you thought would be amazing let you down? Let us know in the comments below.