Top 10 Video Games of 2013

Number 10.  –  Killer Instinct

You’d have to have an awfully foggy memory of the mid-’90s to be the sort of person who was clamoring for a new Killer Instinct game. The old fighting game always felt like an also-ran, combining muddy, pre-rendered graphics with a ridiculous combo system and a set of finishing moves that made the whole thing feel like it was occasionally biting from Mortal Kombat. It was flashy and had a weird sense of style, but I always thought it was a terrible game, and the sequel was only marginally better. So when word started swirling around last year that Microsoft was finally going to dig into more of the Rare back-catalog and produce a new Killer Instinct game, I wasn’t exactly jumping out of my seat. But the team behind this new KI reboot has kept the charming things about the franchise intact and placed them into a better, more modern-feeling fighting game. It’s still ridiculous, the announcer still screams his head off, and the combos are wild… but actually executing KI’s combos is a good time, too, making this download-only fighting game an exciting turnaround for the series.

Number 9.  –  Injustice: Gods Among Us

Mortal Kombat studio NetherRealm has attempted to right the wrongs of the modern fighting genre by providing in-depth mechanics without compromising storyline, and it has been largely successful in achieving this goal. Injustice: Gods Among Us plays not unlike an evolved version of the Mortal Kombat reboot. Battles no longer pan out across the traditional two rounds, with combatants sporting dual health bars instead.  Players retain what was remaining on their initial gauge when their opponent has been worn down to their back-up health bar, and the result of this is fairer fights, with the overall winner being the combatant who was more consistent throughout the bout. The exclusion of a dedicated block button is another deviation from the established formula. Players must now press backwards or down to ward off blows in what feels like a nod to the Street Fighter series. This adds an additional layer of strategy, since players must anticipate which direction their opponent is striking from and react accordingly. There’s plenty to love about Injustice: Gods Among Us, especially if you are a comic book fan. The game combines a compelling story with polished fighting mechanics and some genuine innovation. While there are better options out there for online play, NetherRealm’s effective use of the licence at its disposal will help it attract a huge fanbase.

Number 8.  –  Metro: Last Light

I could have shot the neo-Nazi (he probably deserved it), but there were worse things lurking in the reclaimed subway tunnels of the Russian Metro (and not just the communists). Besides, bullets were currency, and you never knew when you’d need to upgrade your equipment—or, more importantly, buy additional air filters for your gas mask. Hours later, as a winged beast ripped me across a rooftop, I was glad for the extra ammunition, though my thoughts were more immediately occupied with strafing into cover in order to recharge my hand-pumped electrical generator. Later, I’d chance it, running blindly through swamps toward what my compass and the faint hint of torches promised was a human settlement, my Geiger counter pounding like my heart. Perhaps I’m a masochist, but the less ideal my in-game circumstances became, the better Metro: Last Light seemed. Has desperation ever been so perfectly programmed?

Number 7.  –  The Legend of Zelda:
A Link Between Worlds

A Link Between Worlds has everything that longtime fans will love, from callbacks to previous games (Dampe the Gravekeeper makes another appearance), to the familiar layout of the land. But newcomers will also find that the game facilitates their needs and is a great introduction to the famed series. Not only is the gameplay silky smooth and accessible for newbies, but a hint system has been put in place for anyone who gets stuck. And the best part is that the hints don’t outright solve puzzles for you, so the challenge is still there. Simply put, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is one of the best experiences one can have on the 3DS, or on any platform, for that matter. This is the kind of title that can sell systems and only comes along every once in a while, so make sure you secure your copy now, because you’ve got two whole worlds to explore!

Number 6.  –  The Last of Us

Naughty Dog has managed to create a beautiful story within something as dark as a zombie apocalypse with The Last of Us. The game has you coming to terms with your own mortality and makes you second-guess the people you would trust your own life with during such a bleak time. In preparing for such a catastrophic event, you would need to make sure you have enough resources, learn how to protect what you have and of course employ ways to prevent getting bitten. But the most important aspect of survival would center around those people you would trust and this is the key competent of The Last of Us.  In the end, The Last of Us is an overall enjoyable gameplay experience. The Last of Us suffered from a few flaws due to the unrealism of combat, the unbalanced AI and the lack of freedom as a whole. But in the end, The Last of Us delivered on the hype surrounding it and offered up an intriguing storyline smothered in realistic and intricate detail.

Number 5.  –  Grand Theft Auto V

Though this game will never be better than San Andreas in my eyes, it’s a solid title.  It’s kind of unbelievable that the developers pulled this off on a current-gen system. The art direction makes the world pop. It’s bright and colorful and feels like Southern California without the nitty-gritty realism that left GTA 4 feeling rather gray. There is pop-in and poor texturing in places, but it’s tough to notice when you’re driving at 100 mph while trying to escape the police. The moments where you can get a plane or helicopter and fly above the city are breathtaking. I should warn that there are reports that the digital download version has some pretty serious pop-in and loading problems that don’t appear to be on the Blu-Ray disc version. If you want to get Grand Theft Auto V, the disc version is the way to go. As with all GTA games, GTA 5‘s soundtrack is top-notch. From a gameplay perspective, Grand Theft Auto V may be the best GTA yet. It stands head and shoulders above GTA 4 and offers one of the most impressive video game worlds. It isn’t a game for everyone due to some brutal and psychopathic characters, even by GTA standards, but the game is so well-crafted that it’s possible for almost anyone to find something to do, even if it’s just playing tennis and golf all day. There’s so much to do in the game that it’s almost overwhelming. Rockstar put tons of time and effort into polishing its winning formula. It isn’t a dramatic change for the series, but it’s a more polished, and very enjoyable, addition to the franchise.

Number 4.  –  Bioshock Infinite

And we all just thought that Bioshock was just a game about blowing shit up in a city underwater and Bioshock Infinite was the same game over again, but this time up in the air in Columbia. I am mixed with some of the gameplay that this game offers, however I am completely satisfied with the game’s plot where no one could ever see it coming.  I haven’t been so fascinated with a plot this complex since Watchmen and Metal Gear Solid because it’s something that I have discussed and (probably) argued with fans’ theory of the game’s plot because it left a lot of mysteries and we’re still waiting for a huge DLC to give us a clearer story. I’m also wishing that a DLC could actually add a lot more than just explaining the plot because there are a lot of miss opportunities to make it a brilliant game (gameplay-wise). If only they didn’t downgrade most of the best things from the past two Bioshock games, I could easily say that this is the best Bioshock game of the series, but still the original Bioshock (and System Shock 2) still holds as dominate installment of the Shock series (Both Bioshock and System Shock). But that doesn’t mean the gameplay is at all bad, it’s just because Bioshock 1 & 2 did is so much better that I wish that it was implemented better. Let’s not forget that Bioshock Infinite has given us the pleasure of railing on rails and have nonstop shooting and the ability to make holographic objects to be physical with Elizabeth’s ability to “tear” them into our dimension. And this is a game that focused heavily on the adventure and the plot that goes along with it, unlike Bioshock 2 that had miss opportunities and focus of a multiplayer which is unnecessary. These are all the things that we’ve never done in video games before and I’m happy that the Bioshock series still does bring brand new things to a genre that I mostly hate for its lack of creativity. In fact, I can go as far as to say that Bioshock is the only series that’s actually giving life to FPS. The series gave us an amazing plot, phenomenal and original gameplay, and a breath taking experience.

Number 3.  –  Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

This really is the best sandbox game of 2013… even better than Grand Theft Auto 5. Ubisoft outdid themselves by releasing the best game of the series since the second game.  As an overall package, Assassin’s Creed IV is the best in the series for how nearly everything has been tweaked, overhauled, and completely rethought. With one exception: the melee. In the day of Batman, Bayonetta, and a rebooted Devil May Cry, there’s no excuse for this uninteresting combat. It’s simplistic, unruly, and never takes more than the same recurring two-button combo. It works, but that’s simply not enough compared to the attention lavished on everything else. Wonky combat aside, Assassin’s Creed IV is a hell of a game. Instead of building giant cities separated by little patches of open land, you have here a massive ocean peppered with islands that include small to mid-sized cities, forming a Carribben setting that oozes character. Never has a game delivered on the promise of living the life of a pirate as well as Black Flag with its awesome production values, refined game design, and lively oceangoing hijinx.

Number 2.  –  Pokemon X & Y

It has been over a decade that we wanted a 3D Pokemon adventure that isn’t a spin-off or any gimmick; just your traditional Pokemon game into 3D. We were teased with the technology of Pokemon with Stadium 1 & 2 but no Pokemon 3D adventure. That is until we waited for X & Y to finally arrive and took the world by storm. In all honesty, Pokemon X and Y are two of the best games in the series. While there are a couple of things I’m on the fence about, there are a lot of new features to check out and enjoy both during and after the main game. As mentioned earlier, the Friend Safari is a definite improvement over the old Safari Zones and is useful for catching Pokemon not found in the normal course of the game, including the Stage 2 versions of the Kanto starters (Ivysaur, Wartortle, and Charmeleon). While I don’t use the Pokemon-Amie and Super Training on the touch screen, I’ve began to get into the random battles and trading on the PSS. You can also use the GTS to see where various Pokemon are to catch in case you don’t want to wander around forever looking for your favorite Pokemon. Whether you’re a new trainer setting out on their very first Pokemon journey or a seasoned Pokemon Master, Pokemon X and Y are definitely worth picking up and playing.

Number 1.  –  Rayman Legends

For a long while, Rayman Origins has been not only the best Rayman game but also the best 2D Platformer. Of course the sequel was going to dominate the original and create a gaming sensation. And in case you like Rayman Legends enough to play it like a completionist, there’s no shortage of carrots to keep you moving forward. You unlock playable characters and alternate skins (you never have to actually play as Rayman if you don’t want to). You level up based on the awards you win from gathering fairies on levels, winning rewards, and playing the online challenges. Win sets of uniquely named collectible creatures that live in a menagerie you can visit for extra loot. Some levels unlock brutally difficult timed challenges that you will love to hate. But the most ubiquitous measure of your progress is how many of the 700 captured teensies you’ve rescued. The little guys are everywhere, waiting to thank, cheer, celebrate, and kiss you. For the sake of the freedom of these 700 teensies; for all the content; for the sheer amount of joy and enthusiasm and butt poking; for the sea and sky and swamps and castles; for how well these worlds and their levels are imagined, adorned, and realized, this may very well be the last platformer you ever need.