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Giant Bomb's 2013 Game of the Year Awards: Day One

So it begins.

2013 was a weird year for a great many reasons. Big life events. The launch of new consoles. But this year, like the year before it, has come to an end, which means we needed to lock ourselves in a room for way too long, eat some questionable Subway sandwiches, and makes some hard choices about the year's games. Some were good, some were bad, and some of them weren't even released this year.

This is just the beginning. Over the course of the week, we'll be sharing a whole bunch of articles and videos celebrating the year that was 2013, starting with a game that's probably familiar to most of you...

2013’s Old Game of the Year

Windjammers

"Why limit yourself to just one year of video games?" That was probably some of the thinking that went into Giant Bomb's decision to create a category to honor games released during the previous year. But this year we thought "well, why limit ourselves at all?" That brings us to "Old Game of the Year," a category designed to honor a game that didn't come out in 2013, but mattered a whole lot to us in 2013.

The selection is obvious. The 1994 Neo Geo classic, Windjammers, came back onto the scene in a big way for us in 2013, and sitting here writing about the majesty and pageantry of Windjammers only serves to make us stop writing this article and go play some damned Windjammers. It satisfies all of the "easy to learn, enough depth to keep surprising you" and "solid local multiplayer" requirements that today's crop of indie multiplayer hits seem to be striving to attain. On that note, we're just going to keep talking about Windjammers until someone decides to track down the rights to this Data East classic (it seems that a company called Paon Corporation may own those rights today) and make a new one.

We hope to be looking down our nose at a Windjammers reboot and proclaiming it to be "crappy when compared to the original" sometime in 2014.

Runners-up: Dark Souls, BioForge

URL of the Year

Candy Box

WHAT DOES IT MEAN

Flash games. Browser games. Those terms once sounded almost like dirty words, evoking a video game ghetto of five-minute trifles that most people barely considered the same type of entertainment as "real" games, the ones you pay money for. As this is the second year we've felt good about a category recognizing the best of these unique free experiences, that time seems to be behind us. These days, a URL can pop up and utterly dominate the moment, making its way around social media and inspiring thousands (millions?) of people to click and play.

While the complexity of games that run in your browser keeps increasing, thanks to developments in things like HTML5 and the Unity plug-in, by far our favorite web game this year was built out of simple ASCII text on a white background. Candy Box starts so simply. You have 1 candy! You have 2 candies! The mystique is undeniable. Should I eat all the candies? Throw 10 of them on the ground? After a little experimentation, you're soon farming hundreds of lollipops per second, embarking on a series of challenging quests, brewing potions with a shockingly detailed crafting system, and puzzling through the riddles of an omniscient talking frog.

It's the joy of discovery, and the marvelously surreal absurdity of it all, that made Candy Box so much fun to poke around in. Figuring out all of its quirks with everyone else who was playing it at the same time made it that much more communally satisfying. And we think it's great that we still have no idea where this bizarre game came from, almost like it just materialized fully formed in some strange unknown corner of the Internet.

Runners-up: Super Hot, Bubsy 3D

Best Surprise

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

For many, Assassin's Creed III was a low point for the series. The story may have jumped the proverbial shark long before the introduction of George Washington into the world of Templars and Assassins, but exploring and scampering around environments foreign to games was a huge part of the appeal. In Assassin’s Creed III, it just didn’t click, and it seemed like Ubisoft's desire to annualize the once limitless franchise was going to kill it off. But like Call of Duty, it was still hugely popular. It wasn't going anywhere.

Enter Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. Like the Call of Duty games, the Assassin’s Creed games are made by different teams, so maybe we’re entering a period where every year holds a new surprise for the franchise. But Black Flag is the closest the series has come to hitting the highs of Assassin's Creed II and Brotherhood in years, combining a likeable, interesting protagonist (one who doesn’t really care about the plight of the Assassins or Templars) with a world that demands exploring. The promising ship combat from Assassin’s Creed III has been beautifully refined, suddenly making fast travel a less appealing option.

Who wouldn’t want to listen to a few more sea shantys?

Runners-up: Devil May Cry, Killer Instinct

Best-Looking Game

The Last of Us

It says a lot about The Last of Us' singular visual accomplishment that we'd call it the best-looking game in a year that saw the launch of two new consoles. Whizbang GPUs and higher resolutions couldn't trump Naughty Dog's restrained attention to detail in creating one of the most believable zombified landscapes we've seen to date. Joel and Ellie's journey across much of the United States sees you visiting so many different areas that the game affords Naughty Dog's artists the chance to apply an apocalyptic touch to a great variety of everyday locations. From a high school gym to a college campus, a museum to an old hospital, the slums of Boston to a small-town Main Street, every inch of The Last of Us feels solidly rooted in a realistic aesthetic, with 20 years' worth of the end of civilization subtly layered on top.

It's not just the believability of the world that makes us like the looks of The Last of Us. This more than most games is a story that revolves around its characters, and the quality of the performances Naughty Dog got out of its actors--and the elegant transfer of those performances to the in-game models--ensured that each story beat carried the proper weight, each facial expression conveyed the intended nuance.

If all that weren't enough, The Last of Us once again gave Naughty Dog's immensely talented engineers their fourth opportunity to wring every last bit of performance out of the PlayStation 3. Nobody made that machine work harder or deliver more impressive visuals, and as a final outing before moving on to the next console, The Last of Us represents their finest work to date. It's a visual masterwork on every level.

Runners-up: Battlefield 4, Proteus

111 Comments
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Edited by carlfoster91

sick. loved the last of us.

Edited by knives3057

yay

Edited by Malphye

Drop a bomb on it!

Posted by rmanthorp

HERE WEE GOOOOO!!

Moderator
Edited by DonChipotle

Of course Windjammers.

Edited by gbrading

Best Looking Game I'd give to Metro: Last Light, but I can see why The Last of Us could get it.

Posted by Noblenerf

Proteus?

Posted by forteexe21

SUPER HOT SUPER HOT SUPER HOT SUPER HOT SUPER HOT SUPER HOT SUPER HOT SUPER HOT

Great start so far!

Posted by vikingdeath1

Videogames?!?! Dammit giantbomb, you done it again.

Edited by Fattony12000

SUPER

HOT

Edited by jrl5k

F5 never let me down, thank you GB!

Posted by jimmyfenix

Hell yeah.

Posted by dr_mantas

Man. Proteus. Did that look all that great? Not sure...

Antichamber would be a better choice for the artsy fartsy category.

Posted by AaronChance

@gbrading said:

Best Looking Game I'd give to Metro: Last Light, but I can see why The Last of Us could get it.

Considering only Patrick played it, I'd be surprised if the game is ever mentioned at all.

Edited by StillAThreat

Nice start, gents! Now, please shut up about Windjammers so the prices on Ebay can come back down :).

Posted by BeachThunder

Interesting, I never really picked The Last of us as something that people would consider particularly good looking. From my limited exposure to the game (QL, screenshots), it doesn't seem bad looking, but nor does it seem especially good...

Posted by GValo

Should have been Earthbound.

Posted by SomeDeliCook

Is Best-Looking game talking about graphic wise or style wise? I think Last of Us looked great, but there were more artistically better looking games.

Edited by BeachThunder

Interesting, I never really picked The Last of us as something that people would consider particularly good looking. From my limited exposure to the game (QL, screenshots), it doesn't seem bad looking, but nor does it seem especially good...

BTW, here's some Proteus screens:

Posted by Nicked

Not meaning to be a jerk, but I don't think "This more than most games is a story" is grammatically sound. Also "The Last of Us once again gave Naughty Dog's immensely talented engineers their fourth opportunity" means this was their second fourth opportunity.

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Posted by Krabonq

The last of us is kinda debatable, but Prometeus as runner-up ?

That's a joke... it just looks like cheap garbage. A sorry excuse for having actual style that, unfortunately, has become rather common with some indie games.

Posted by mrfluke

Happy to see Assassins Creed 4 getting some props. it really is fantastic and heartening that they were able to bring back assassins creed.to glory and that they didnt dig themselves further into a hole

Edited by Vuud

WIIIIIIINJAAAAAAAMMMMEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRSSSS!

Point #1: Never question a Subway sandwich.

Point #2: I have a bone to pick with the Last of Us choice, I for one think Metro was better looking. You wanna talk post-apocalyptic landscapes, that swamp level, holy shit that swamp level. In fact, Metro will probably be overlooked mostly, unless there's some "Best Foreign Game" category whatever that means.

Posted by ripelivejam

@krabonq said:

The last of us is kinda debatable, but Prometeus as runner-up ?

That's a joke... it just looks like cheap garbage. A sorry excuse for having actual style that, unfortunately, has become rather common with some indie games.

i'm assuming they reason their choice on the podcast better than some knee-jerk statement like "cheap garbage"

but if we're talking aesthetics and limiting ourselves to garbage horrible indie game trash i'd put Year Walk above Proteus (as much as i like Proteus' style)

Online
Posted by Colourful_Hippie

Last of Us looks great but that game never quickly came to my mind when I think about good looking games that came out this year

Posted by megalowho

I did take an awful lot of screenshots in Proteus, that was probably my favorite part about the game. It's a pretty cool place for sightseeing. More for the thread!

Edited by BoZZ0

Yes windjammers ! its the game of all years.. and i totally agree with Last of us the amount of details in that game is amazing.

Posted by mewstu

wow. not even a mention of Dead Rising 3 for best surprise.

Edited by nyv

Speaking consoles only, GTA V definitely better looking and with more attention to detail (those flip flops, that propagating water) than The Last of Us, which just had those few scenes. But sure why not.

Edited by alwaysbebombing

Hell yes. Windjammers won an award.

Edited by dr_mantas

You know what's a great looking game that got forgotten by everyone?

Remember Me.

Here:

Both stylistically and graphically. At least for me.

Posted by Slaegar

I'm gonna join the bandwagon and give some sass for Last of Us being the best looking game. Heck in the short clip they showed of the game there was a very bad looking blue car and some eye searing alias shimmer. They get away by having somewhat over saturated environments and high res faces in cut scenes, but the ground textures and set pieces look like they come out of Call of Duty 2. Naughty Dog loves their bullshots as well. Google image the Last of Us screenshots and its basically a page of concept art.

Keep in mind Crysis 3 and Metro Last Light came out this year.

Oh well. I guess its a nice way to send off some very old consoles.

Posted by dsi1

Oh my god Bubsy3D how did I miss this shit.

Edited by LarryDavis

Hahah really? I thought TLOU looked way worse than Uncharted 2. Rest of these picks are great, though.

I am starting to worry TLOU will run away with an undeserved GOTY based on hype and the bombcrew only finishing it recently. Whatever. Awards don't mean anything.

@slaegar: Yeah, I'd have to go with Metro, but I think Patrick's the only one who played it. And he played it on Xbox.

Posted by JJBSterling

Yeah I dunno.

I really don't understand the Proteus love, it was fine but hearing how Patrick and Brad were "moved" by it really had me scratching my head.

Posted by TheMasterDS

I would've preferred Bioshock over Battlefield or Proteus. Otherwise solid lists. Should've considered Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon even though I don't think it would ultimately hang with TLOU and the runners up.

Edited by darkest4

Windjammers, Dark Souls, Bioforge, hot damn that old goty category is stacked. Great year for video games and even the old games GB played were great. Personally think Tomb Raider PC deserves to be on that best looking list but o well.

Posted by Shortbreadtom

Last of Us deserved that award

Posted by crithon

Start of with a bang WINDJAMMERS!!! I feel so proud

Edited by dawnclover

Woo! It's this time of the year again!

By the way:

"[...] eat some questionable Subway sandwiches, and makes some hard choices about the year's games. [...]"

I believe there's an extra "s" in "make" there.

Good read.

Posted by AlexanderSheen

In the video, while Bioshock Infinite was on:

Brad: "Is it best looking game today? It is, right?"

Jeff: "I don't remember anything about what categories it won."

Brad: "I'm pretty sure it is. But, well, maybe not."

It's not even a runner-up. I find this very funny.

Online
Edited by christopherson329

BRADLEY SHOEMAKER FOR SHAME FOR NOT EVEN MENTIONING NI NO KUNI IN THE BEST LOOKING GAME CATEGORY FOR SHAME SIR FOR SHAME!

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

BRADLEY SHOEMAKER FOR SHAME FOR NOT EVEN MENTIONING NI NO KUNI IN THE BEST LOOKING GAME CATEGORY FOR SHAME SIR FOR SHAME!

Posted by Castiel

It just occured to me that GTA V wasn't even mentioned in the podcast for best looking game. That's actually kinda crazy, since that's probably the technically most impressive game coming out this year. The amount of stuff Rockstar was able to do on such old consoles is pretty crazy.

Posted by BaconHound
@nyv said:

Speaking consoles only, GTA V definitely better looking and with more attention to detail (those flip flops, that propagating water) than The Last of Us, which just had those few scenes. But sure why not.

I'm kind of amazed that GTA V didn't even get a mention for best looking game. And Proteus? Huh. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Posted by jayjonesjunior

Edited by Pirateogta

GTA V without a doubt wins best-looking game for me.

When I played The Last of Us, I was blown away by the level of detail and unique art in the world. I remember walking into a tiny little bathroom in some random building and just marveling at the amount of detail that had gone into creating something most players would never even see, and even fewer would appreciate. Random objects strewn across the floor, decaying mold-covered tiles peeling off the wall, torn posters, rubble spilling out of a hole in the wall, moss creeping in through the open window... Just awe-inspiring. And this same level of detail is consistently seen throughout the whole adventure. TLOU easily would have won the award for me had GTA V not been released.

But GTA V was released, and the world Rockstar created is nothing short of mindblowing to me. The level of detail in the world outpaces even The Last of Us, and this is a massive open world with no loading times versus a strictly linear adventure game. I have no idea how Rockstar was able to pull off what they did. Every single building is unique and intricately handcrafted. The hyper detail extends across the whole game world, from the back alleys of Los Santos that few players will ever visit, to the peaks of the tallest mountains. The quality is consistent across every inch of Los Santos and its surroundings. I have never before felt so immersed in a game world.

The superb lighting also helps to make the world feel so natural. In some cases, when it is just the right time of day and the weather conditions are perfect, the game can look nearly photo-realistic. The way the light naturally reflects off of different surfaces is very impressive. This is an open world I can just leisurely drive around for hours, simply soaking in my surroundings. Hell, I don't even need missions or a storyline. GTA V's open world is the greatest technical marvel of the past generation. No game demands more of the 360 and PS3. It squeezes every last drop of power out of those aging consoles and it is the greatest sendoff the generation could have.

It's something I fear the majority of gamers will fail to appreciate and I am deeply disappointed that it was not even mentioned by the Giant Bomb crew in their deliberations for best-looking game.

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