The Top Ten Games of 2013

First, because there were too many games to cover here, here’s a supercut I put together of some of the best games of 2013.

I feel that everyone putting together a best of 2013 list that truly cares about gaming only does so after slamming a recently emptied bottle of whiskey down on their desk and sighing deeply.

2013 was one of the most packed years in gaming history. From every available outlet poured titles that are without comparison, even when weighed against the entirety of gaming history. Sure, there was the usual flood of crap and frustration, but it seemed that bi-weekly we were getting one of those games that you just had to play. Of course, that’s because we were.

Even if you don’t take into account the launch of two next-gen systems and all the other major industry occurrences and just focus on the quality of the games themselves, you’d be hard-pressed to name to many other years ahead of 2013.

A lot of hard decisions had to be made when putting together this list, but I feel that this is as comfortable with the honors as I’m ever going to be. Just note that if you don’t see your favorite game, it’s either because I didn’t play it, painfully had to cut it, or just didn’t like it. The curious can ask in the comments below.

Without further ado, here are the best games of 2013.

10. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

ACIV

Let me get “Assassin’s Creed IV’s” biggest problem out of the way first. It’s still an “Assassin’s Creed” game. Therefore, it carries all of the faults of that series, including a far too simplified combat system, some seriously uneven mission quality and obligatory futuristic plot elements that are getting more and more superfluous.

But, sweet Jesus, this game is just pure fun. A lot of that fun derives from the perfect implementation of its pirate elements. “AC:IV” is the absolute greatest pirate game ever made. It gives you nearly everything you could ever want from the romanticized pirate experience many of us are familiar with, and does it with sheer glee. It certainly doesn’t hurt that this is also one of the best written and best acted games I’ve played in some time.

Were this game developed from the ground up as an entirely new series called “Black Flag,” it may be even higher on this list. As it is, though, there are few games more entertaining than “AC:IV” regardless of your feelings towards the series up until this point, or any specific video gaming turn-ons and peeves you may have.

9. Outlast

Outlast

The age of the true survival horror game seems to be coming to a close as a growing number of developers pussy out and implement more and more action elements into the genre in order to make it more appealing to a larger crowd.

That’s a true shame, as a game like “Outlast” shows the tremendous amount of life left in the traditional horror style. This is quite simply one of the most terrifying games ever released, and at no point does it give a damn if you are enjoying yourself while playing it or whether or not you feel safe. It’s an uncompromising realization of the potential gaming has in terms of conveying pure horror, and you’ll love every minute you hate playing it.

I’m so very thankful the new generation of YouTube players have spread the gossip of “Outlast” and all its terrible wonders and helped let the people know that for all the waves of shitty action games with occasional jump scares that dare label themselves horror, there are still some games that do it right.

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An Entirely New Way to Enjoy “Bioshock Infinite”

Can’t get enough “Bioshock Infinite?” It’s hard to blame you really, as along with being one of the most stylistically complex and intellectually rewarding games of all time, it’s also somewhat short.

Though the game’s developers are promising a bountiful amount of DLC add-ons for the title, if you really need your “Infinite” fix in the meantime, you may want to consider the somewhat intriguing upcoming board game version.

In production by board game creator PlaidHat Games, “Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia” will share the rough timeline of the video game, as players choose between warring factions and vie for control of the floating city of Columbia, all while rouge elements Booker and Elizabeth carry out their own adventure, and possibly disrupt or aid yours.

Details concerning the game’s rules are still coming, but it’s meant for 2-4 players, contains 52 impressively detailed miniatures, and sounds like a mix of “Risk,” “Monopoly,” and, thanks to the skyhook system of rails, even “Chutes and Ladders” (yeah I haven’t played a board game in a while…). On an aesthetic level, everything from the board and pieces, to the cards and papers are incredibly well designed and capture the creative spirit of the source material perfectly. Also given the amount of pieces shown so far, and the company’s usual style, it’s likely this will be a pretty in-depth and complex board game that should provide the same level of outside the box thinking fans have come to expect from this series.

While a board game version of a video game may seem like a step back technologically, this is actually a smart complement to “Infinite.” The revolution was one of the game’s biggest themes and plot points, and getting to explore it further (along with everything else about the world of “Infinite”) through an active means like a board game is an enticing proposition. Also considering it is so hard to incorporate multiplayer into the “Bioshock” video game world without it coming across as cheap (see “Bioshock 2”), this may be the perfect alternative.

Available at a pre-order discount price of $59.95, there is no firm release date for the set as of yet, but given the level of care that has seemingly been put into it, this looks to be the furthest thing from a cash-in attempt, and may be worth any serious “Bioshock” fan’s attention.

  

“Bioshock Infinite”…and 8 Other Games Well Worth the Wait

I hereby denounce any public or private doubts I had about “Bioshock Infinite.”

The game really is just that good, as you’ve probably gathered from nearly every review and impression.

It’s hard to not have had doubts at some point about the title though, considering the substantial development time and departures of major developers during which. There is, however, precedent for games surviving that type of ordeal, as an elite group of titles managed to survive long delays, and massive amounts of hype and expectations, to emerge as great games. I can think of 8 in particular that were well worth the wait.

 

Honorable Mention – “Fallout 3” – A definite candidate, but “Fallout 3” gets a lot of love on this site, so just once I wanted to give some other titles their dues.

8. Mother 3

I remember seeing the first blurry and ugly screens of the “EarthBound 64” project in Nintendo Power, and being ecstatic about the prospect to a sequel about my favorite game ever.

As time went on screenshots and other news releases became fewer and fewer, until many started to believe the whole thing may have been an elaborate hoax. Then around 2004-2005, word got out that a third entrant in the cult hit “Mother” series would finally see release…in Japan. Not content with letting the land of the rising sun have all the fun, a dedicated group of American fans released an incredible and thorough translation of the title, so almost everyone could finally play the long awaited sequel.

While admittedly not the best game on this list, the “abandon all hope” mentality was strong regarding this one, and the dedicated translation efforts go to show that you can’t get in the way between fans and the games they really want.

7. LA Noire

Not all long awaited game are continuations or sequels.

The only original property on this list, there were rumblings of a 1940’s noire style video game dating back to 2003 when developer Team Bondi was formed. Originally set to be published exclusively by Sony, as the years wore on the game would switch publishers to Take Two, and seemingly grew in ambition as the release date kept slipping and slipping. Until the game graced the cover of a 2010 Game Informer, many even believed it to be quietly axed.

While reception to “L.A. Noire” was somewhat mixed due to its polarizing gameplay style, there is no denying the technical marvel of the graphics, or the pitch perfect execution of its retro style. The first video game to ever be accepted as an entrant to the Tribeca Film Festival, “L.A. Noire” emerged from an endless development cycle quite possibly something greater than it was originally conceived as.

6. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

The only reason this one isn’t higher, is because it was somewhat inevitable.

Still it was 1991 when “A Link to the Past” had Nintendo fans the world over gushing over the series’ brilliance, and outside of “Link’s Awakening” for the Game Boy, it would be 1998 before the true follow up to the series would see release. In the middle was a whole lot of nothing, as Nintendo remained mum about their most anticipated theoretical title, only casually referencing it, and often speaking of only delays.

Of course you probably know how this one turned out, as “Ocarina of Time” is widely regarded as one of the best games ever, and shows anticipation is a benefit if you can capitalize off of it.

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What is “Infinite” Minus Two?

News is slowly pouring in today that two of the biggest developers on “Bioshock: Infinite” are leaving Irrational Games.

Director of product development Tim Gerritsen and art director (and designer of the series’ iconic Big Daddies) Nate Wells have both updated their LinkedIn profiles to indicate that their employment with Irrational Games is now done. While no further official announcement has been made, Nate Wells also made a Twitter post earlier that read “New Job…Details to follow.” That tweet has since been removed. For those who don’t remember, “Bioshock: Infinite” was also delayed earlier this year until 2013, in order to give it “specific tweaks and improvements” that would make the game “into something even more extraordinary,” according to lead designer and Irrational founding member Ken Levine.

Now some sites are already panicking about this pretty hard. I’m not quite there yet myself. For one thing, it’s a sad but true fact that developers at all levels will often leave a studio before a project is completed. Moves of this nature traditionally have no bearing on the quality of the final product on any consistent level.

No the real news here is that there is no real news. Ever since the delay of “Bioshock: Infinite” was announced, updates on on the game have gone ice cold. This is okay if you’re a title like “Grand Theft Auto V” (another Take-Two production). It’s “GTA”, and everyone knows there’s going to be a lot of secrecy involved leading up to the release. But “Bioshock: Infinite” didn’t even bother to poke its head in at E3 this year. Plus, even though “Bioshock” was possibly the game of the decade, the fact that the only news on its true successor in the last year has been a delay and the departure of your manager of content creators (Gerritsen) and a 13-year veteran of your studio (Wells), makes even the most level headed gamer start to wonder what’s really going on at Irrational.

Ultimately, “Bioshock: Infinite” will still sell millions, and I don’t believe that its overall quality will have anything to do with these departures. However, I’m curious how Irrational addresses this news. Do they remain silent and let speculation rule, or do they make a move as bold and innovative as “Bioshock” itself and actually shed some light on this situation, beyond the typical PR release?

Simply put, if there’s no fire to report, then why fan the flames?

  

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