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GOTY 2013 (Adjusted)

Same deal as the 2015 GOTY (Adjusted) list (and also the others, found here (2014), here (2016) and here (2017). The idea is to build GOTY lists that are constantly in flux, ever adapting themselves to a new year's worth of catch-up gaming. Like the Borg, but for video game lists. With enough time I should be able to play through every 2013 game that piqued my interest and construct a list that ideally represents what that year meant to me in terms of games, but that wasn't going to happen on the year in question: too many full-price new releases, too little time.

Looking back on 2013 specifically, I feel it was a mostly mixed year with a few highlights but nothing too remarkable. The Xbox One and PS4 launched in the November of that year, but neither really came out swinging with their launch libraries. Equally the Wii U, despite this being its first full year of release, was still struggling to fill out a slate of bangers outside of a handful of first-party games. Still, it's well within the current era where we are positively inundated with games from every tier of game development, from the $10 digital Indies to the "AAA" blockbusters, with more than enough to please everyone however specific their tastes may be. That there's almost 50 games on this list (as of 2016) with a few wishlist items still left to check out is a testament to just how packed 2013 was.

My original 2013 list is here.

(Extra note: This list is gigantic, so I'm only including appraisals for the first twenty. I've written about every other game on here somewhere on the site, though.)

List items

  • 2013 Rank: 1

    2014 Rank: 1

    2015 Rank: 1

    2016 Rank: 1

    Zelda doesn't dive into nostalgia too often. That isn't to say that it's constantly evolving and never looking back, because that's simply not the case, just that the Zelda games kind of exist independently from one another with only the occasional hint of interconnectivity - Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, for example, or Wind Waker and its DS "sequels". A Link Between Worlds is deliberately meant to hearken back to A Link to the Past, the best Zelda game depending on who you ask, and uses a near-identical map and its angled top-down perspective. It rocks the boat with its openness though, allowing the player to rent dungeoneering equipment instead of finding them in the dungeons they pertain to and exploring the world in any direction they choose. If that's not enough innovation, the amount of mileage they find out of the "2D" wall painting traversal is nothing short of outstanding. Even with the high bar that the Zelda games set, A Link Between Worlds is something special.

  • 2013 Rank: N/A

    2014 Rank: N/A

    2015 Rank: N/A

    2016 Rank: 2

    I've long adored Bandai Namco's prolific RPG series, and Tales of Xillia nails the aspects about Tales I love most: a fun cast of characters; a colorful and upbeat world still marked with the occasional tragedy and downer moment; a combat system that balances real-time chaos with strategic situational awareness and retains that visceral fighter game satisfaction of pulling off combos, cancels and air juggles; and an open world of non-random encounters that's fun to explore when you're in the mood and easy enough to speed through when you're already sufficiently leveled and/or pressed for time. Xillia's two big innovations are setting its characters into teams of the player's choosing that support each other in combat and have special two-person artes, and the expansion of its world to more closely resemble something like Xenoblade or Final Fantasy XII where every region is logically interconnected in a big web and there's no pointless empty overworld to worry about. Unless you're playing on a high difficulty level, Tales is fairly undemanding and I always enjoy taking a month or so around the summertime to luxuriate in its uncomplicated pleasures.

  • 2013 Rank: 2

    2014 Rank: 2

    2015 Rank: 2

    2016 Rank: 3

    It's been interesting to watch the Saints Row series evolve because each sequel focuses on what people liked most about the previous game, and each time it's been something different. With SR2, we saw a massive expansion in the amount of side-content, or "activities", the player could partake in, to the extent that the game made these ostensibly optional activities required to stockpile enough "respect" currency to proceed with the main plot. With the third game, they doubled down on how often SR2 could be silly and violent - usually in those same activities like Fuzz and Septic Avenger, since the main plot was still waist-deep in GTA gangsta posturing - and built a stripped down open-world that folded those moments into the main progression rather than risking people missing out on them as incidental side-content. With Saints Row 4, they took the one part of SR3 I really liked - the way you could keep improving your main character until they were superhuman avatars of destruction - and built a game set in a virtual reality world where you could do practically anything once you figured out how to break its rules. Its sense of fun was still front and center, even if it had even less variation in its content than SR3 did, and it could get spectacularly goofy at times. Sometimes all you really need from an open-world game is for it to provide ample opportunities to find your own fun at your own pace, and that's what this series excels in delivering.

  • 2013 Rank: 3

    2014 Rank: 3

    2015 Rank: 3

    2016 Rank: 4

    There's been something of a Raynaissance of late, as Ubisoft's platforming hero returned to the 2D worlds of its originator in these gloriously rendered hand-drawn worlds full of whimsy and humor. The stages have been repurposed to be more speedrun-friendly, as you're often obligated to move quickly to collect the golden "lum" collectibles in specific chains and through tough timing-based bonus levels like the chest chases, or one imaginative level where the platforms are sinking into the sand. Legends collects the baton from the fantastic effort Origins made, expanding on its ideas and including a lot of Origins's content to expand its own runtime. From its presentation down to the challenging levels and well-hidden collectibles, these last two Rayman games have been nothing short of revelations for someone like me who missed out on the little guy during his salad days.

  • 2013 Rank: 4

    2014 Rank: 4

    2015 Rank: 4

    2016 Rank: 5

    Combining a roguelike with a platformer had been done before, most notably with Mossmouth's Spelunky, but Rogue Legacy goes one further in making that merger more explicit with some RPG development that becomes the sole thing to carry over from session to session. As you explore an ever-changing castle full of enemies and traps, you earn money and find blueprints which serve to assist your descendants, making their sortie into the castle slightly more likely to succeed than your own. This is what makes Rogue Legacy's ludicrous difficulty bearable, as your list of initial boons and equipment grows longer while your own personal skills and experience in handling what the castle has to throw at you continues to increase. I liken the difficulty curve to climbing a mountain, where every step forward is both painstaking and meaningful. It's definitely the kind of game that hates you and mercilessly kills you over and over, but one where every hard-earned accomplishment and defeated boss is that much more satisfying. It all comes down to whether or not you have the patience for its vicious cycle, so it helps that I can be profoundly obstinate.

  • 2013 Rank: 5

    2014 Rank: 5

    2015 Rank: 5

    2016 Rank: 6

    The Tomb Raider reboot made some decisions I didn't much care for, like its insistence on throwing tons of human enemies at you to gun down rather than the occasional gorilla or tiger while exploring (though, yeah, I can see how shooting endangered animals was something that might've had to change). This Tomb Raider is far closer to the Uncharted games, creating a feedback loop of influence, but in its favor is absolutely as competent and attractive as Naughty Dog's spiritual sister franchise. Best of all, the game is even more collectible-friendly than its forebears were, with many open areas of the game abundant in relics and journals and USB sticks and all sorts of glowing junk. The plot's fine if a little uneven in its progression and sudden introduction of samurai zombies, and I still maintain that Lara Croft - like Samus Aran - is at her best in situations where she's alone and has to rely on her self-sufficiency and wits to survive a hostile environment, rather than leaning on others for moral support. That's just me though, and I'm sure a lot of people might prefer the more vulnerable and insecure collegiate Lara than the hyper competent and self-assured adventuress of the earlier games.

  • 2013 Rank: N/A

    2014 Rank: 6

    2015 Rank: 6

    2016 Rank: 7

    Ever since playing Sega's Bonanza Bros for the first time several decades ago, I've always wondered why there weren't more 2D games that relied on stealth and the environmental awareness that comes with it. I have trouble with the stealth genre, partly due to my impatience, so when you have fewer dimensions to worry about those games become that much more enticing. Gunpoint's wonderful because it lays all its cards out on the table as each level begins, letting you soak in the entire breadth of an environment filled with guards and turrets and laser traps so you can mentally map out the optimal path at your own leisure. It feels more like a puzzle game than an action game at times, and the way you can spring across impossible distances to get the drop on people, or send them flying out of windows, is never not entertaining. It's a reminder that the proverbial goldmine that is 2D gaming will never run dry as long as we keep finding new veins to extract.

  • 2013 Rank: N/A

    2014 Rank: 7

    2015 Rank: 7

    2016 Rank: 8

    In some ways Pikmin 3 was a disappointment. In others, I'm happy it exists at all, as one of the smaller Miyamoto properties that tends to be unfairly overlooked. There's a definite sense to its reduced scale that the high-ups at Nintendo weren't sure that Pikmin had the tiny carrot legs to persist like a Mario or a Zelda, but Pikmin 3 still exhibits a lot of what I enjoyed about the first two games, and the way it builds on that RTS staple of exploring, sussing out and eventually conquering a map based on accruing resources and determining where best to deploy your units. Collecting fruit was far less fun than the junk of Pikmin 2, each accompanied with the musings from Hocotate's finest minds about what they might be for, but it served its job well enough. I just hope Pikmin 3 did enough to prove the franchise's worth, and that Pikmin 4 is just as big and feature-rich as 2 was when it eventually shows up (though given Hey! Pikmin's middling reviews, that might be a forlorn hope).

  • 2013 Rank: N/A

    2014 Rank: N/A

    2015 Rank: 8

    2016 Rank: 9

    The appeal of The Swapper, I think, lies in its narrative trajectory about what an innocuous video game mechanic might mean in the grander scheme of the world it presents. It's the classic sci-fi hook; a self-reflective study on the inhumane nature of a fantastical technology or cultural push that we may one day have to seriously consider, so what's the harm in considering it seriously now? In The Swapper, your astronaut hero finds themselves trapped on an alien planet but is given a lifeline in an experimental weapon that creates clones of the user. These clones can be controlled and given tasks to perform, from standing on switches to creating additional clones of their own, and they are regularly destroyed when their purpose has been fulfilled. It's never clear if they each contain their own consciousness or if the player character's consciousness is passing between them, or if consciousness is all that vital to our identity in the first place. The creation of a second human with the same body, mind and memories of our own is indistinguishable, so the endless procession of creating and killing ourselves is both horrific and a simple matter of survival, similar to how and why a great many species on this planet propagate. It's a great 2D puzzle-platformer in its own right too, of course, with a slightly disquieting understated claymation look that lends its world a certain tangibility, but the questions it asks and steadfastly refuses to answer are the draw here.

  • 2013 Rank: N/A

    2014 Rank: 8

    2015 Rank: 9

    2016 Rank: 10

    DONTNOD has proven it can play around with the audience's emotions with the weepy Life is Strange, but even their previous game Remember Me was an early sign that they were peddling more than picturesque sci-fi stories with resourceful female leads. Remember Me posits a world where memories are commodities which can be traded, edited and remixed by anyone with the technology to do so, and an escaped revolutionary with most of her memory wiped has to survive the oppressive government forces on her tail and fulfil her mission to foil a conspiracy she can barely recall, all the while trapped in a bleak version of Paris wracked by a series of global calamities that resulted from runaway climate change. It's some good cyberpunk, backed with a versatile combat system that lets the player modify their "X, X, Y"-style attack combinations to produce different results like stuns or healing the protagonist, and a whole lot of incidental world-building that helps sell this foreign country of a future to us (which just so happens to also be set in a foreign country). It has its myriad problems too unfortunately, mostly of the technical variety, but it's an impressive first effort that demonstrated a lot of promise in DONTNOD's ability to craft a compelling yarn.

  • 2013 Rank: 6

    2014 Rank: 9

    2015 Rank: 10

    2016 Rank: 11

    This surprising return of an 80s cyberpunk-fantasy table-top to the world of video games was a little inadequate in areas but an otherwise confident reboot of a universe full of possibilities. I particularly liked that it took the right elements from XCOM and Baldur's Gate to properly convey a tactical battle system that had to incorporate magic spells, guns, robots, dragons, and a virtual reality-based cyberspace. The included campaign was sort of threadbare, but the potential was there for later sequels to build on.

  • 2013 Rank: 7

    2014 Rank: 10

    2015 Rank: 11

    2016 Rank: 12

    Blizzard didn't skip a beat when they returned to their grim fantasy world of Diablo, resuming where Diablo 2 left off with elaborate systems of looting and skill trees with a set of semi-randomized locations and hordes of enemies to mow down. Something I've always respected about the Diablo series (even if there's something a little sinister about how easily it gets its hooks into you) is that they're designed to be played forever, with many heroes to choose from and many difficulty levels for successive NG+ runs, giving you all the hacking and looting you could possibly want.

  • 2013 Rank: 8

    2014 Rank: 11

    2015 Rank: 12

    2016 Rank: 13

    Sanzaru made a noble effort to replicate Sucker Punch's cartoonish world of anthromorphic animals performing daring heists, retaining the open-world approach introduced in the second game and giving players lots of incidental theft targets with which to build their cash reserves for handy upgrades and the like. It doesn't quite have the soul or originality of the previous games, but a lesser Sly Cooper is better than none.

  • 2013 Rank: N/A

    2014 Rank: N/A

    2015 Rank: N/A

    2016 Rank: 14

    It took a while to come around to this dungeon crawler, which takes elements from old top-down shooters like Gauntlet and Robotron to create scenarios where your ability to control huge crowds of enemies is paramount to the player character's survival. It's also a dungeon-crawler in the traditional respect, with lots of treasure to find, secret rooms to uncover and level-up boosts and abilities to add to your arsenal. The super zoomed-out aesthetic, necessary for the aforementioned crowd control, also gives the game a pleasingly intricate look. It's when you get a little further in and the crowds of enemies on your tail are enormous that it really comes together. Like a Where's Waldo picture, almost, except everything's trying to kill Waldo.

  • 2013 Rank: 9

    2014 Rank: 12

    2015 Rank: 13

    2016 Rank: 15

    New Super Mario U was exactly what you expect it to be: a perfectly satisfactory if not particularly ground-breaking revisit to Mario's SMB3 and SMW 2D heyday. These are games intended for Nintendo's large base of nostalgia-happy fans who'd rather relax with the classic, simple Mario games of their youth than try to master the complex controls of the more recent 3D games like Galaxy or Sunshine. New Super Luigi U, however, turned New Super Mario U on its head by remixing the levels and enforcing a strict time limit, transforming them into these short and difficult challenges that relied partially but not wholly on your experience with the original game. By trying to do something unusual and off-kilter, befitting the odder Mario brother, Nintendo created something far more distinctive and cool than yet another "New Super Mario".

  • 2013 Rank: 10

    2014 Rank: 13

    2015 Rank: 14

    2016 Rank: 16

    Gone Home helped establish what are pejoratively referred to as walking simulators: narrative-heavy and puzzle-light adventure games that have the player wandering around locations in first-person, investigating points of interest and being largely passive observers in the story being told. It's ironic that the type of gamer fan decrying these things on Steam are also the types to have a dozen visual novels in their library, which are very much Japan's equivalent to this type of adventure game, but I digress. Gone Home has some great writing and the palatial Greenbriar estate is a wonderful place to explore consequence-free. There's something fascinating and slightly voyeuristic about a well lived-in home that you can investigate top to bottom, picking up and examining bits and pieces of a family's history for the context required to solve the game's many mysteries.

  • 2013 Rank: N/A

    2014 Rank: 14

    2015 Rank: 15

    2016 Rank: 17

    Ni no Kuni falls square within Level-5's "bloated phase". The company is sort of like Elvis in that respect. In this phase, Level-5 continues to put out RPGs that have all the side content of their PS2 masterpieces but it's all this generic busywork of little value repeated endlessly. There is a slight distinct possibility that their RPGs have always been thus and I was just a little more patient back in the PS2 era, but after White Knight Chronicles and Fantasy Life I suspect they're just getting more grindy and dull. Ni no Kuni straddles the line between being far too padded for its own good and offering an adventure that's about as long as it needs to be, enhanced a great deal by the visuals of Best Animation Studio In The World, Studio Ghibli. It's definitely the first monster-raising RPG I've liked in a while.

  • 2013 Rank: N/A

    2014 Rank: N/A

    2015 Rank: 16

    2016 Rank: 18

    Nexus isn't the best Ratchet & Clank game, with its uneven plot and somewhat shorter than average size, but it's still Ratchet & Clank and worthy of commendation. The franchise's mix of chaotic strafing gun combat and a cartoon universe full of silly gags is still as prevalent here as it's ever been, and I'm happy this series continues to experiment with new ideas for traversal and set-pieces, like the zero-G misadventures that open the game.

  • 2013 Rank: N/A

    2014 Rank: 15

    2015 Rank: 17

    2016 Rank: 19

    I wasn't as enamored with 3D World as others seem to be, and I think that can be credited to how much the game cribs from 3D Land. The two of them can sometimes feel like a step back from the Galaxy games, maintaining their new approach to having every star involve its own separate linear course (as opposed to Sunshine and 64, which had large persistent levels that only changed slightly to accommodate whichever star you were pursuing) while removing all the extraordinary gravity manipulation. If anything, they feel like a hybrid of where 3D Mario left off and the many generic "New" 2D Mario games to follow. There's no getting past 3D World's especially playful personality, especially with its fascination in turning Mario characters into cats, but I still regard it the same way as all the other recent Mario games that refused to push the envelope and simply spun its wheels instead.

  • 2013 Rank: N/A

    2014 Rank: 16

    2015 Rank: 18

    2016 Rank: 20

    I love that the "digging for minerals, use those minerals to upgrade your digger so you can get more minerals" genre is taking off, starting with the likes of Super Motherload and supported by the tangentially related Minecraft. SteamWorld Dig's probably the most recognizable game of this format, with your little robotic cowboy digging through many layers of soil and rock for the mineral wealth to be found. It's a great looking game with a compelling hook that lasts just about as long as you'd want.

  • 2013 Rank: N/A

    2014 Rank: 17

    2015 Rank: 19

    2016 Rank: 21

    I've found at least 20 games from 2013 I liked more than Brothers, but that doesn't mean its co-operative puzzle-solving or somber story are worth overlooking. A mostly wordless tale, Brothers has its titular siblings passing through various landscapes, avoiding dangers and supporting each other, until it starts getting really raw towards the end. I'm glad its developers are continuing to evolve its ideas for a two-person puzzle game with their next project, A Way Out.

  • 2013 Rank: 11

    2014 Rank: 18

    2015 Rank: 20

    2016 Rank: 22

  • 2013 Rank: 12

    2014 Rank: 19

    2015 Rank: 21

    2016 Rank: 23

  • 2013 Rank: N/A

    2014 Rank: N/A

    2015 Rank: 22

    2016 Rank: 24

  • 2013 Rank: 13

    2014 Rank: 20

    2015 Rank: 23

    2016 Rank: 25

  • 2013 Rank: 14

    2014 Rank: 21

    2015 Rank: 24

    2016 Rank: 26

  • 2013 Rank: N/A

    2014 Rank: N/A

    2015 Rank: 25

    2016 Rank: 27

  • 2013 Rank: 15

    2014 Rank: 22

    2015 Rank: 26

    2016 Rank: 28

  • (VideoHeroeS)

    2013 Rank: 16

    2014 Rank: 23

    2015 Rank: 27

    2016 Rank: 29

  • 2013 Rank: 17

    2014 Rank: 24

    2015 Rank: 28

    2016 Rank: 30

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    2014 Rank: 25

    2015 Rank: 29

    2016 Rank: 31

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    2015 Rank: 30

    2016 Rank: 32

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    2016 Rank: 33

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    2016 Rank: 34

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    2014 Rank: 26

    2015 Rank: 32

    2016 Rank: 35

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    2014 Rank: 27

    2015 Rank: 33

    2016 Rank: 36

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    2014 Rank: 28

    2015 Rank: 34

    2016 Rank: 37

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    2015 Rank: 35

    2016 Rank: 38

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    2016 Rank: 39

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    2014 Rank: 29

    2015 Rank: 36

    2016 Rank: 40

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    2014 Rank: 30

    2015 Rank: 37

    2016 Rank: 41

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    2014 Rank: 31

    2015 Rank: 38

    2016 Rank: 42

  • 2013 Rank: 18

    2014 Rank: 32

    2015 Rank: 39

    2016 Rank: 43

  • 2013 Rank: 20

    2014 Rank: 33

    2015 Rank: 40

    2016 Rank: 44

  • 2013 Rank: N/A

    2014 Rank: 34

    2015 Rank: 41

    2016 Rank: 45

  • 2013 Rank: 19

    2014 Rank: 35

    2015 Rank: 42

    2016 Rank: 46

  • 2013 Rank: 21

    2014 Rank: 36

    2015 Rank: 43

    2016 Rank: 47

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    2014 Rank: 37

    2015 Rank: 44

    2016 Rank: 48

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    2015 Rank: 45

    2016 Rank: 49