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Brad Shoemaker's Top 10 Games of 2013

HEY DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE TEN GAMES BETTER THAN OH GOD JUST READ THE LIST

Well, this was a hell of a weird year, wasn't it? For a long list of reasons, I'm very ready to get some serious time off and come back when the calendar says 2014.

But this year wasn't all bad. For instance, these 10 games were pretty great! Let's reflect.

10. Dead Rising 3

What Dead Rising lost in weird restrictive time constraints (and I'm still not convinced it was a huge loss), it more than made up for with good old-fashioned open-world nonsense. This is the most fun I've had with a Dead Rising game so far, what with the amped-up absurdity of the combo weapons and vehicles, and the staggering number of on-screen zombies to tear through them with. The story ends up being pretty damn fun, the way it ties into the previous games, and just moving around in that big, detailed city, looking for weapon blueprints and Frank West statues was really enjoyable.

9. DmC: Devil May Cry

I don't even like character action games! And given all the hubbub around the development of this game, I seem to remember audibly groaning when Jeff asked me to review it. But I hadn't even gotten through the entirety of the first level, with all its spectacle and attitude, before I decided there was something pretty great here. Flipping back and forth between different weapon types mid-combo gave the fighting some nice, dynamic fluidity, but really I just couldn't get enough of the wildly imaginative visual and level designs from level to level. And the story, silly and over-the-top as it is, is executed pretty damn well. A great effort from Ninja Theory.

8. BioShock Infinite

BioShock Infinite wasn't perfect--the shooting sort of wore out its welcome before the end, and parts of the story don't feel like they hold up to scrutiny--but the game just drew me in with its unique world design and singular sense of atmosphere and mystery. Plunging headlong into Columbia, I felt propelled by some unseen force to keep plowing ahead and trying to unravel the secrets of what exactly was going on in that bizarre flying city. Around the time I rode up that cable car to the final area of the game, with the Lutece twins on either side, dropping vague hints about the truth of everything in the game, it became clear there was no way I could stop playing the game till I'd seen it to the end. And I didn't.

7. Saints Row IV

This game is the logical culmination of the nonsense Volition has been spinning since, what, the second one? They finally took all the shackles off and said "Screw it, do whatever you want," and one of the most entertaining open-world games I've ever played around in was the result. I do wish it felt a little less like a (really robust) expansion pack for Saints Row The Third, but the superpowers were so super, and the writing was mostly funny enough, that if it had taken place in a totally new city, it'd be near the top of this list. I have literally no idea what they will or even should do with Saints Row after this, but I can't wait to find out.

6. Gone Home

What a wonderful little game with a focus on an intimate, personal story about real people going through basic, everyday things. The little bit of haunted-house bait-and-switching the Fullbright Company did here and there was amusing, but I'm glad this game ended up not actually having any real supernatural elements in play. The story meant a lot more since it really could have happened. And how good were all the '90s period trappings? From 'zines and riot-grrl punk to X-Files VHS tapes, walking around that house and finding all the things you could pick up and examine was a pure nostalgic joy. There's one thing about Gone Home I'm certain of, and it's that we need more games like this.

5. Rogue Legacy

This game plays like a dream. The tightest and most immediate controls in a 2D game since, what, Super Meat Boy? It just felt great to play, but the gameplay loop (or whatever you want to call it) is what kept me coming back to it. Randomized level layouts and an element of randomness to the character generation, which often resulted in some really goofy combinations of traits, made every run through the castle feel unique. Sure, the persistent unlocks defy the all-or-nothing spirit of real Rogue-likes, but earning enough money to buy the best new character classes and upgrades was so satisfying. No better indie action game out there this year. Step to my near-sighted flatulent barbarian king, I dare you.

4. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Whaddaya know, I was right!

3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Hell, this game should have probably come up in our "Biggest Surprise" category, because when it was announced I saw it as the laziest play for its fanbase's nostalgia Nintendo could possibly make. A sequel to A Link to the Past? It sounds so horribly pandering. Instead, the final game felt more like a love letter to arguably the best Zelda ever made, a reimagined version of that seminal SNES adventure that bears the same overall structure but tweaks some things and flips others right upside down, enough that it feels sturdy and engrossing in its own right. And after the last couple of console Zeldas have gotten ponderously overwrought, you have to give credit to this game for just getting the party started right out of the gate with hardly any intro cutscenes, and then giving you all the items right away. This game gives me hope for Zelda.

2. The Last of Us

Boy, am I glad I finally came back around to finishing this game. Yeah, it starts slow, and the gameplay doesn't really pick up until you get out of Boston, but once this game clicked for me, it clicked in a major way. After I hit Bill's town, I played through the entire rest of the game in a weekend (on hard, no less), which I pretty much never do if I'm not on a review deadline. The story is so intrinsically tied to the superb characterizations of its heroes that I just had to see what awful situation they'd be subjected to next. I also like how well the game handles the passage of time, with all the most dramatic moments unapologetically hard-cutting to a point in time several months later. And that ending is pitch-perfect, and totally faithful to the spirit and tone of the rest of the game. Naughty Dog might be the best big-budgeted developer of story-driven action games working right now.

1. Dota 2

C'mon, don't tell me you're surprised. Given the hundreds of hours and matches I played of Dota 2 this year (coming up on the 500-match mark at the time of this writing), I think it was required by law that I name this my favorite game of 2013. But the truth is, it's rapidly approaching a spot on my short list of favorite games ever. It's such an endlessly deep and varied experience, due in one part to the almost limitless combinations of 10 heroes you end up with on the field. But even setting aside the fighting-game-style matchup stuff, simply getting a handle on the flow of a match--when to push and when to pull back, when it's appropriate to gank or stack creep camps or any of the other endless minutiae of actually playing Dota--is immensely gratifying. It's one of the hardest games out there to get a handle on, but (perhaps as a result) it's also one of the most rewarding.

Dota 2 also completely revitalized my interest in playing games online with other people, since it's an inherently better experience when you play the game with people you know. I've unexpectedly made friends with people from all over the place that I never would have even met if I hadn't started playing this game. Joking and bullshitting with friends has also made it a lot more fun to engage with the seemingly endless peripheral features Valve keeps rolling into this game. Seamless tournament spectating, coaching, item crafting and socketing--there are so many good ideas in here it's hard to keep track of them all. It's the best-implemented free-to-play game on the market, bar none.

There's so much to learn and master in Dota 2 that you could play it for years and never come close to absorbing it all, and at the rate I'm going, I'll still be in there mixing it up for years to come.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
79 Comments
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Posted by Flacracker

Dota 2

Posted by narujoe93

The Last of Us is going to win GOTY

Edited by Perkunas

Surprised Brothers isn't at least 2. But that said,

Dota 2

Posted by zEyePawdz

VIDEO GAMES.

DOTA really shouldn't count, but what do I know?

Posted by Vuud

Bradley is bad at video games.

Posted by jimmyfenix

I was right!!!!

Edited by Droop

Dota as excepted. Really awesome to see The Last of Us that high on the list. Some good picks. Rouge Legacy, yay! I wonder if I should check out Dota 2. I think I'll vow to play all the games on the site top 10.

Edited by Party

@naru_joe93: Man, I hope so. Seeing TLOU consistently up high on GOTY lists is great... But it's always at number 2 or 3....

Posted by SharkMan

I'm surprised brothers isn't higher on the list, also i bet brothers was more relatable to people who actually had brothers.

Edited by beard_of_zeus

I hadn't previously considered Zelda for a nod in Best Surprise, but Brad's argument makes a lot of sense.

...I really need to play Rogue Legacy, it keeps coming up in lists. Hurry up and get this on the Vita, please :)

Posted by Rayeth

Fuck yes. Dota 2 claims another victim.

Posted by Lyisa

I feel like this is very surprising and unexpected. I didn't even know Brad played Dota 2, let alone thought it was the best game released this year.

Posted by buemba

VIDEO GAMES.

DOTA really shouldn't count, but what do I know?

Why not?

Edited by ArjanN

Nice list, boourns at no Volgarr though.

Edited by R3DT1D3

DOTA 2, rocking that 100% 1st spot rate (Kasavin, Muir, Shoemaker). Dota 2 is a jealous girlfriend that takes all your time and doesn't let you think of anyone else.

Posted by BenRoyTurner

Collectively everyone on and off staff have ranked The Last of Us highly in their lists.

So this must either mean it will be Game of the year or HALF LIFE 3!

But really The Last of Us is amazing.

Edited by BigSocrates

Brad should have not included Brothers just for the sake if lighting the comments section on fire.

Posted by Davin

At this point I'll be shocked if The Last of Us isn't the GB game of the year. Every day it gets easier to see that.

Edited by Mezmero

Awesome list Bradwell. Everything looks great except Dota 2. A multiplayer only free-to-play game for GOTY? I do believe that's a first for any Giant Bomb editor ever. I feel like that game is not nearly as good without the graphical horsepower to back it up on your PC. Thanks for everything you do on the site including anime editor-ing.

Posted by Mycroft_Ampersand

@party said:

@naru_joe93: Man, I hope so. Seeing TLOU consistently up high on GOTY lists is great... But it's always at number 2 or 3....

That's exactly why it probably will get GOTY. No one will be able to agree with the others' picks for the number one spot and if you can't have your number 1, then 2 or 3 is a good compromise (as most wouldn't want another person's number 1 pick unless they have that game high themselves).

At least that's how I have usually seen these types of group picks work out.

Posted by Abendlaender

I'm genuinly surprised by the love for Zelda. Not that it doesn't deserve it but nobody seemed that excited on the bombcast when talking about it.

Brad should have not included Brothers just for the sake if lighting the comments section on fire.

Man, that would have been FANTASTIC

Posted by HerbieBug

There seems to be a mistake here, Brad. You put greatest game of the forever in #4 spot.... :/

Posted by xXHesekielXx

haha dota 2 as nr1! I ain't surprised sir... Nice list in general and thx for all the content 2k13.

Posted by gbrading

Not surprising pick in Dota, but Brad was right; not five games better than Brothers... according to Brad. :P

Posted by EternalHaV0C

DOTA woo

Posted by Cerevisiae

1. Dota 2

2. Dota 2 hats

3. Dota 2 hat styles

Edited by altairre

Seeing Dota take GotY on Brad's list really isn't a surprise but it's nice that he managed to play Last of Us and enjoyed it as much as he did. Maybe he should always pick one game that he won't play until GotY time (like ME3 last year) because it worked out so far for him.

@naru_joe93 said:

The Last of Us is going to win GOTY

I sure hope so. It'll be a fight between Infinite and Last of Us and while I really like both of those games, The Last of Us really surprised me. Wasn't expecting it to be as good as it ended up being.

Posted by Microshock

Fucking DOTA 2/LoL disease keeps spreading. Stop!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Edited by csl316

Brad's lists are always the most hyped and exciting to read. Last year it was Mass Effect suspense, and this year I was somehow surprised by #1. Plus bros.

Interesting how me and Brad were huge on Starcraft II, but neither of us included HotS this time around.

Posted by Triumvir

So there are only 3 games better than Brothers this year? THIS LIST IS FULL OF FILTHY LIES.

Uh, yeah, and... um, good one, Brad.

Posted by chocolaterhinovampire

I want to play me some got dang Brothers

Posted by Turambar

I'm not surprised Brad. Just disappointed.

Edited by Nadril

Ye buddy. Dota 2 taking over.

I'm still not sure if I like playing Dota 2 or reading angry comments from people who hate Dota 2 better though.

Edited by Deranged

Glad to see some love for DmC. Such a great game.

Posted by AlexanderSheen

Dota 2?! That came out of nowhere!

Posted by Redhorn

Brad, I love your Dota writeup. "you could play it for years and never come close to absorbing it all." This is funny to me because I HAVE been playing it for years, and I still don't know shit!

Look at the arcane bullshit everywhere in this game like, for example, how Juggernaut's autoattacks behave during Blade Fury. What the hell? But knowing how to use that stuff in a game gives a player an edge, and it gives them the edge because they put the effort into getting it. If it was easy it wouldn't be rewarding.

Posted by paulunga

I'm noticing a trend: people who aren't into character action games really liking DmC. I personally though it was kind of a bad game that I still finished because I had fun seeing the different levels and where the story goes.

Posted by oobs

I am surprised brothers got on the list..

Posted by NinetySevenA

I really need to play The last of us. I bought it and haven't played it at all yet.

Posted by Gruff182

Frog Fractions... WTF

Posted by HellknightLeon

Awesome freaking list. Super strong all the way... NOW to watch you play some freaking DOTA!

Posted by AlexGBRO

no sc2 men a 5 star game from brad does not get a mention wow??!!

Edited by BaconGames

THERE ARE FIVE RAY SIPE DOTA 2 MASTERPIECES. Here's two to snack on.

Edited by Yesiamaduck

So the were 3 games better than Brothers this year

Edited by SherdRed

I kinda wish Brad did something like that one guy's list but with Brothers instead of Papers, Please.

@bacongames said:

THERE ARE FIVE RAY SIPE DOTA 2 MASTERPIECES. Here's two to snack on.

This is amazing.

Posted by NissanSkyline

Hopeless

Posted by ChunkyGerbil

Giant Bomb: Gone Home and Brothers

Posted by radioactivez0r

I like Rogue Legacy a lot, but I didn't find the controls to be as tight as they should be; far too often I will push the jump button and nothing happens, as if I waited too long once I hit the edge of a platform. I hate that shit.

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