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Drew Scanlon's Top 10 Games of 2013

High-resolution textures! Kinetic energy recovery! Communism!

For me, playing games toward the end of the year always ends up like that first turn in racing games; all the games I haven't played yet slam into each other as they vie for the top positions. Some get left behind, a few spin out and crash, others lose their front wing after attempting too close a pass on a straightaway, and... I've lost the metaphor. Anyway, here are this year's top finishers!

10. F1 2013

Codemasters has an incredible track record (see what I did there?) of making racing games that you can feel. In no other games do I have a keener sense of how much traction my tires are getting, where the momentum of my car is going, or that sense of speed that feels fast but still realistic. F1 2013 is no exception. Compound that with my newly-found fandom of actual Formula 1 racing, and this one is a shoe-in.

9. Gunpoint

Lots of games claim to allow you to improvise your own solution to a problem. Too often I find this means you are given tons of useless weapons and gadgets in an effort to encourage "emergent gameplay," or that there is a "right answer" that you either find or bypass with brute force. Not so with Gunpoint. Not only did I feel like I was making my own solution to a problem, I also felt it was a valid solution. Plus, there's nothing quite like tackling a guy through a window.

8. The Stanley Parable

We here at Giant Bomb appreciate going to great lengths in service of a dumb joke, so it's no wonder The Stanley Parable struck a chord. The game does a masterful job of toying with your expectations as a player, and best of all, it's just plain funny. The less I say about The Stanley Parable, the better. It's best to just experience it.

7. Beyond: Two Souls

I liked Heavy Rain, and wasn't expecting much from Quantic Dream's next game besides "Heavy Rain with Ellen Page." I think that's why I liked Beyond as much as I did: low expectations. As a game that tries to merge cinematic sensibilities with interactive elements, Beyond is in my opinion much more successful than its predecessor. It's just smoother. Sure, the button prompts to open drawers are still there, but you're not twisting the controller around all the time or holding down four different buttons every time you want to see what's in the fridge. Additionally, the focus on one central character really plays to the game's strengths. Throughout the game, I didn't feel like I was playing an already established character so much as I was defining a character with every dialog choice. And HO BOY does that story go in some crazy directions!

6. Papers, Please

Who would have thought that a 2D game where you play as an immigration inspector would be so engaging? I hesitate to call the game "fun" since it's hard to have fun while acting as the strong arm of a totalitarian regime, but the way the gameplay ties into the themes of the game is simply masterful. Your family needs your support to stay alive in a bleak, Soviet Union-inspired nation, but for them to prosper requires you to break the rules of your job or your own morality, like taking bribes or needlessly detaining people. What Diner Dash did for restaurants, Papers, Please does for communist bureaucracy. The game gets lots of mileage from its sparse elements (the "next please" loudspeaker sound effect alone will make you feel like you're waiting in a bread line), and immediately pulls you into its dystopian setting from the moment the title card marches onto the screen.

5. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Confession time: beyond poking around the original NES version as sort of an archaeological experiment, I've never really played a Zelda game. I have instead absorbed the majority of my knowledge about the series through osmosis. As a result, I don't really have any of the nostalgic reverence for it that most players do. So it's with some surprise that I found A Link Between Worlds to be such a fantastic game in its own right. It is technically sound, with solid controls and a beautifully executed art style; it is wonderfully designed, with inventive puzzles and tight pacing; and to top it all off, it's just plain fun to play. This is a game that, despite being a part of a series that's older than I am, feels fresh and enjoyable, and can stand on its own without that nostalgic crutch.

4. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

I love surprises. When I first saw Brothers, I thought it was just a cute little puzzle game, with its quirky one-character-to-a-joystick controls and storybook setting. The puzzles weren't that challenging, but were fun enough if only to serve as a way to pull me through the game's gorgeous environments. But then the game turns. Before you know it, Brothers ceases being a fairy tale and starts becoming one of those dark stories that Germans wrote in the Middle Ages before they got turned into Disney movies. For a game without any understandable dialog (the characters speak a made-up language), the game manages to evoke a wide range of emotions. I commend it for delivering an emotional punch to the gut that I didn't know I needed.

3. Gone Home

I'm not a "collect all the collectables" kind of guy, but I scoured every inch of Gone Home's environment looking for more clues to unraveling its many intriguing story threads. I enjoy playing first-person shooters, but it's always nice to see something completely different being done in the first-person medium. The fact that Gone Home strays so far into experimental territory and comes out successful is really what impresses me, and it gives me hope that game developers are still willing to go out on a limb and try something new.

2. The Last of Us

I'm a sucker for a good story, and Naughty Dog is among the best in the business at crafting video game tales. The characters of Ellie and Joel are believable and interesting, thanks to some fantastic voice work and writing. I never really got comfortable with the combat, but liked that I could tailor it to how I wanted to play (set to easy, sneak until caught, then light everybody up). The world of The Last of Us is not a place I would ever want to live, but man do I enjoy visiting it.

1. BioShock: Infinite

Irrational's ability to conjure up fantastical video game settings that are not only beautiful but also believable is, in my opinion, unmatched. I still got the same sense of wonder from Columbia that I got from Rapture way back in 2007. The wonderful historical touches and trademark Irrational twist to everything, from the floating cities to the giant murals of John Wilkes Booth, made me want to explore and see as much of it as I could. I didn't stray too far from the one-two punch of fireball and machine gun in the combat, but admired the fact that everyone I talked to seemed to play it a different way. And MAN is it fun to zip around on those sky-lines! The ending went way over my head, but I didn't care; I was too busy lamenting the fact that it was already over.

Drew Scanlon on Google+
115 Comments
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Edited by Hassun

DROP A BOMB ON IT

I would like to take this moment to thank @drewbert and @vinny and everyone else on the video team extensively for all their hard work.

Posted by bennym6

oh

Posted by JJBSterling

Yeah Bioshock, Drew knows what's up.

Posted by RonGalaxy

No video list? Bummer

Posted by PurpleSpandex

Drew has good taste!

Edited by KanyeEast

Will the circle be unbroken?

Posted by Morningstar

Good list.

Edited by internetpizza

An article written by Drew!? NICE!

Posted by jrl5k

thank you Drew and Vinny

Posted by HammondofTexas

I love Drew. Seriously how could you not?!

Online
Posted by WalkmanBoy

The sleeper agent reveals all!

Posted by kerse

Nice list.

Edited by JamesJeux007

The only Top 10 that matters.

Posted by mrangryface

DREW ROX

Posted by cooljammer00

I can imagine them reading this in a video. But this is also good.

Posted by brownsfantb

Glad that not everybody was soured on Bioshock because of all of the hate it got throughout the year. Great list Drew!

Posted by rmanthorp

Fantastic list Drew. Apart from Bioshock but that's just my personal distaste for that game... Blergh.

Moderator
Posted by sub_o

Solid list! Drew makes me wanna play Beyond.

Edited by dr_mantas

Good list. At least the games I played in it. Still can't figure out that Gone Home love, however.

Love that Beyond is on it, though.

Posted by Matterless

Excellent to see Bioshock at the top of the list, Drew. It took more than its fair share of crap this year.

Posted by doomsder

I like drew. I don't know why, but he is just a straight up cool dude. Rock on drewd (see what I did there :D? I combined Drew and dude! I know Im awesome...!)

Edited by scrappypixels

Good choices Drew, enjoyed reading this a lot!

Posted by Atwa

No video? :(

I respect the list even though I do not agree with it.

Edited by BeachThunder

Good Ol' Christmas Duck ^__^

Posted by Elod

@atwa said:

No video? :(

I respect the list even though I do not agree with it.

The video is at the end of the day 1 recap

Edited by financingisfree

good list, drew. thanks for reminding me i need to force my old college buddies to have a "book club" style re-reading of Bioshock's plot. i friggin loved it when i originally played at release, and havent gone back to think about it since.

EQUALLY IMPORTANT: good on all of you giant bomb duders for not having a single shitty comment on the front page. every single one is either all love for drew/drew's list, or super courteous disagreement ("i don't get this one choice, but i like the article"). hell yeah for that.

Posted by slowbird

CHRISTMAS DUCK!!!!! :D :D :D :D

Also, Drew rules.

Edited by Krabonq

Noooo Drew, you can't do this to me...

I am kinda disappointed with this list, especially seeing gone hobo on it.

Edited by whatisdelicious

Excellent to see Bioshock at the top of the list, Drew. It took more than its fair share of crap this year.

Yeah, I was just thinking the same. It wouldn't make the top of mine, but it'd be close. Honestly, for all its flaws, I'd probably give it to Battlefield 4 right now. Yes, sometimes it's buggy and broken and crashes and it's dumb that you can't even change your loadout unless you're in a match or using the Battlelog app on your phone, and it's taken its fair share of well-deserved crap for all of that, but still, none of that changes the incredible moments I've had playing that game.

Posted by jiggajoe14

Love it Drewbro!

Posted by jimmyfenix

@krabonq said:

Noooo Drew, you can't do this to me...

I am kinda disappointed with this list, especially seeing gone hobo on it.

Oh please.

Posted by Skoshuke

drew's list is only nine games long. drew's list is only nine games long. drew's list is only nine games long.

Posted by CByrne

This list suprised me a little. I guess I need to play bioshock and beyond. but I can't justify full msrp on beyond.

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Edited by Abendlaender

Interesting list. I don't get what people see in Gone Home but whatever, I also don't get why people watch F1 :D
But I'm always amused when people say, that they are "disappointed". I'm so disappointed that you liked a game I didn't, what a bummer...

Also: Two lists in and as of yet nobody dared to name 10 games better than Brothers. Just sayin

Edited by J23

I'm kind of surprised Drew didn't have ArmA III on his list, but I guess not all of the content for that game is even out yet anyways so maybe it's too soon to talk about it.

Posted by ZombieClem

Bioshock Infinite! Hell yeah!

Good list, Drew. Keep being awesome in 2014!

Posted by AMyggen

@krabonq: Are you a real human being, a parody account or a bot?

Anyways, good list!

Posted by Fleck0

Shocked Arma 3 didn't make the cut, or anything involving flying machines.

Posted by jkz

You know this is totally not what I expected but that also is awesome, because Drew justified each choice really well. And fuck yeah F1 2013. I don't care about F1 at all (I watched it for like a year at the age of 11?) but that game just feels so good

Edited by Mercury45

One of the things I like best about Drew is that, even when I don't necessarily agree with his opinions, he puts them in such a reasonable way that I can't help seeing where he comes from and going "yeah, I get how you could come to that conclusion."

Thanks for the list, Drew! Looking forward to seeing what you and the rest have in store for us this week.

Posted by LiK

This list is awesome. SUCK IT HATERS!

Posted by EuanDewar

<3 u Drew

Posted by alwaysbebombing

Hell yes! This list brings me joy.

Posted by Lanceuppercut

Great list Drew!!

Posted by criacow

Great list, Drew!

I love how I'm going "yeah. yeah! YEAH!" all the way along and then hit the number 1 and it's like a record scratch noise sounds. Whaaat? Noooooooo. :(

But even disagreeing there, yay Drew. <3

Posted by san_salvador

Good list, looks a lot like mine.

Posted by extragingerbrew

Compelling descriptions sir! Wishing you a great 2014 filled with adventures Drew.

Posted by Winternet

Poor Kerbal guy is going to be extra sad now for not having a place in the list.

Good list, though.

Posted by rabbithearted

"Before you know it, Brothers ceases being a fairy tale and starts becoming one of those dark stories that Germans wrote in the Middle Ages before they got turned into Disney movies."

As someone with dismal German relatives who grew up with those dark German stories, this is the first review that has ever sold me on Brothers. I'm buying it.

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