The best games of 2013
As we inch ever closer to 2014, December's light release schedule provides a perfect opportunity to reflect on all the great games that came out this year. And holy hell was 2013 an incredible year for releases, ranging from heavy hitters like BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us to peripheral surprises such as Tomb Raider and Guacamelee. Yep, 2013 will no doubt go down in history as one of the best years in gaming.
Every December, we here at GamesRadar like to kick things off with our fun but well-meaning Platinum Chalice awards before heading into our more serious Game of the Year discussions. Now, after hours of debating and numerous rounds of real-life Mortal Kombat, we've finally decided on the best of the best that 2013 had to offer. On the following pages, you'll find the games we've deemed to be the 25 absolute best of the entire year, leading up to our Game of the Year winner. So, without further delay, let's kick things off with...
25. Injustice: Gods Among Us (Best fighting game)
Superheroes are sweet. Superheroes (and supervillains) punching each other in the face with earth-cracking force is even sweeter. Injustice is one of the most accessible fighting games of recent years, finely tuned to appeal to hardcore fighter fans, diehard comic readers, and the average gamer alike. Watching someone pull a crazy grappling hook combo with Batman, or calling down the thunder as Black Adam, or pummeling someone through the entire planet twice as Doomsday is utterly thrilling, every time.
Injustice also furthers the concept put forth by the most recent Mortal Kombat: fighting games can have a great single-player story--one that doesnt rely on text-heavy exchanges between still images of your character. The plot of Superman losing his cool and going full dictator is gripping, and every hero and villain gets a chance to shine during the campaign. As we mentioned in our review, with such a strong presentation for solo players and great netcode for the online warriors, Injustice is the fighting game that DC fans deserve.
24. Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
As you've likely heard at some point, 2013 was the Year of Luigi. Nintendo celebrated the green ones 30th anniversary with a number of quality releases, and the unexpected sequel to a GameCube launch title was the best of the bunch. Luigis Mansion: Dark Moon's ghost-busting action still played great, as the search for ghosts and other secrets throughout five creeky old houses was expertly paced to work on a handheld. The stereoscopic 3D in particular gave depth and vitality to the many rooms we scoured to find some puzzle-solving doodad.
And Luigi deserves the gaming equivalent of an Oscar for how well he acts in Dark Moon. During the plumbers solitary mission, it was a delight to watch the subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways he expressed fear, happiness, and brief moments of pride. The perennial player two had to carry Dark Moon all by himself, and when the credits roll, youre easily ready for another 30 years of Luigi.
23. NBA 2K14 (Best sports game)
While the current-gen version of NBA 2K14 merely maintains the status quo as "the best sports game around," its the next-gen iteration that really impresses. All the awesome presentation and sim details are present and correct in both versions, but next-gen adds amazing player likenesses and animations to the party, really bringing the new balance between offense and defense into sharp focus. If friends ask you to show them a game that really looks and feels next-gen, show them NBA 2K14.
And while there are fewer modes on PS4 and Xbox One, the quality of series staples like My Career and My GM (former Association) has been significantly upgraded. Theres now a proper story in My Career, giving context to your achievements as you rise from rookie to Hall of Famer. The only things that prevent NBA 2K14 from being higher on this list are repeated slices of commentary, and some annoyingly last-gen features that appear as an inevitable consequence of developer Visual Concepts being forced to create a cross-gen game. Look forward to improvement in 2015.
22. DmC: Devil May Cry (Best action game)
Reboots--or "reimaginings" in the case of DmC: Devil May Cry--are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they offer the chance to breathe some life into an aging franchise. On the other, they risk pissing off the invested fanbase. DmC managed to do both. Say what you will about the new Dante, but the gameplay here speaks for itself.
DmC is 2013's best action game. It's easy to get lost in the rhythmic flow of combo-chaining and demon-juggling, especially with so many weapons at your disposal. Best of all, it's incredibly easy to swap between all of them, combining their attacks and unique combos to unleash the ultimate beatdown on the evils inhabiting Limbo City. And let's not forget: the living, shifting nature of the demonic setting is awesome, as is the accompanying soundtrack, which together make DmC an audio-visual treat.
21. Saints Row IV
Youd be hard-pressed to think of a year that was more replete with wonderfully artistic, experimental, boundary-pushing games than 2013. Saints Row IV is not one of those games. In fact, its the apex of whats starting to feel like old-school game design, as it throws pretense by the wayside in favor of being a god damn video game. There are no ambiguous moral choices to be found here. No revelatory interweaving of mechanics and story-telling. No probing meta-narrative. Just you, Keith David, and your Dubstep Gun. And probes. Oh, and youre the President of the United States of America. And you have super powers. That you use against aliens.
Saints Row IV is genuinely hilarious thanks to its sharp writing and voice-over performances. But its not just in the writing; the game lets you participate in some insane, unbelievable set-piece moments, like gunning down a fleet of alien ships from a POTUS-themed AA canon. And as silly as the game sounds on the surface, the humor is often incredibly subtle and restrained. That its a competent and addictive action game is almost a bonus.
20. Gran Turismo 6 (Best racing game)
When the whole "accurately mapped constellations" feature was announced for Gran Turismo 6, it seemed to be the last thing the development team should be focusing on. So much other work was needed before spending time on such cosmetic luxuries. GT5 had proven the series was so stuck in its ways, oblivious (or stubbornly ignorant) to the progress being made by other racing games, it looked like GTs heyday was a fading memory.
But then Gran Turismo 6 arrived in the office. We reviewed it, and found the game had been turned into something pretty near perfect after all. GT6 takes the wealth of content in GT5, polishes it up, dresses it in new clothes, adds some guitar harmonies and victory sparkles, and delivers the most exhaustive, feature-rich racer available on modern consoles. But the undeniably best part is the driving itself: It has never, ever felt so good. Congratulations to Yamauchi and the Polyphony team. We now cant wait for GT on PS4.
Tearaway is undeniably charming. Its a delightful story of a papercraft messenger called Iota, who is tasked with delivering a letter to you: the actual player of the game. Playing it feels about in line with getting a massive hug from a friend.
But its whimsy would be nothing without substance, and Tearaway delivers compelling gameplay in spades. It makes clever use of every single Vita input to keep each area of the game feeling fresh. Whats more, it asks you to get creative by making in-game items via the touch-screen, and taking photos of yourself to blur the line between player and game. There really is nothing like Tearaway, and although games like LittleBigPlanet and Minecraft do customisation better, neither do so with such adorable charm.
18. Animal Crossing: New Leaf
You're the mayor in the adorable Animal Crossing: New Leaf, a game that's impossible to describe to people without them rolling their eyes. Seriously, we can't do it. Whenever we try people think we're insane. What is it that makes the series so good? Is it the cute, kind townspeople? The living world? The ability to upgrade your town? Or is it something else? Something that can't be described?
No, wait, it's all of those things and more. It's also the dog that DJs in Club LOL, and the boar that visits every weekend to sell turnips. It's also about fishing tournaments and catching bugs for your neighbors. We've logged a few hundred hours of New Leaf as an office, and plan on continuing to play for the coming months.
17. Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn
When Final Fantasy 14 launched back in 2010, it was a broken mess. A questionable fatigue system reduced your experience rewards the longer you played; an impossibly complex interface made playing it a nightmare; and even if you were willing to look past these horrible flaws, countless bugs and glitches made it all but unplayable. Fast forward three years, and 14 has been rebuilt from the ground up in the form of Version 2.0: A Realm Reborn. And it's excellent.
Gone are the horrible systems and bugs that plagued the original launch. In their stead you'll find an awesome main quest line, terrific public quests called FATEs, a slew of great instanced dungeons, and a bewildering amount of Final Fantasy fan service. All of this is layered upon a traditional yet polished MMO foundation of go-there-do-this quests and hotbar-driven combat. It may not be revolutionary, but Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn more than makes good on Square Enix's promise to provide its fanbase with a FF MMO that's worth their time and money.