Game of the Year 2013

Games that just missed the top ten: The Swapper; Defender's Quest: Valley of the Forgotten; and Civilization V: Brave New World

Other awards:

2013's 2012 Game of the Year: Crusader Kings II

Most Disappointing: Gone Home

Best Expansion/DLC: Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods

List items

  • It's a flawed masterpiece, sometimes stumbling over itself in its attempts to paint its world and characters, but Irrational are simply world-class world builders, and Columbia feels incredibly vivid, looks phenomenal, and watching it all crumble around you is truly satisfying. The characters are extremely memorable, and Booker DeWitt is proof that first person shooter playable characters can have real depth and personality. It's also a pretty good FPS, with solid shooting mechanics, a nice variety of weapons and abilities, and some fun (and some frustrating) combat scenarios. For all its flaws, it's still the most magical, most memorable, and most breathtaking game of 2013.

  • I have meant to play more of this game (I'm still playing a fair amount of the last Paradox grand strategy game, Crusader Kings II), but I think 100 hours of game time is good enough to render a verdict: this game is fucking awesome. It eschews the personal drama of CKII in favour of much more fleshed out mechanics, more intricate combat, and just a much larger sense of scale. Colonising the New World is just as much fun as leading an army across Europe, if not more so. It's well streamlined compared to previous games in the series, and much more approachable than it appears. The Paradox games just swallow up your free time in great big meaty chunks, and I'm very happy to just keep serving them.

  • I have plenty of misgivings about The Last of Us. The setting/scenario is tired and rote, the story is fairly predictable, the mechanics are sometimes clunky, the gameplay is sometimes frustrating, and it's ending is memorable but not entirely satisfying. So why is The Last of Us so high on this list, or on it at all? Because it's a unique and audacious achievement, a mature and meditative fiction, a tense and immersive experience, and one of the best looking games of the year. It's hard to criticise it too much when even the shortcomings of this game are things that other games are shy to attempt. There is a confidence and sincerity to The Last of Us, and that's an uncommon combination, especially on this scale.

  • I have not finished this game, but I got about 2/3rds of the way through it before hitting a wall and deciding to restart it. This was the first game that I played on my 3DS, and it's also a game in a genre that I'm fairly inexperienced with. But Fire Emblem: Awakening lives up to the hype by providing an immensely satisfying turn-based tactical gameplay experience, a compelling if slightly cheesy narrative told through impressively detailed cutscenes, and some really impressive party system design. It's a game that rewards patience and diligence, and isn't so punishing that any one mistake feels insurmountable. That's a hard balance to strike, but FE:A is effortless executed, suggesting a team that is extremely comfortable and experienced in the genre.

  • I have often been critical of games being a medium that is overly obsessed with cinematics and films, so I'd be fairly justified in being sceptical about this game, the vision of which coming as it does primarily from a Swedish filmmaker. But Brothers is such an impressive game in that it actually feels like you're playing a cinematic experience, as opposed to just watching it. It's unique controls require a certain amount of re-wiring of brain and muscle memory, but it blends exceptionally well with the narrative and themes of Brothers. It's a beautiful game, both in it's exquisitely detailed fantasy world and in it's heartfelt narrative. Brothers is a very sentimental game, and so often you could use that epithet as a criticism; with Brothers, it's high praise.

  • If nothing else, Papers, Please is impressive because it's such a singular experience based on a very specific and unique vision, both in concept and in execution. It's fiendishly difficult, almost to the point of being exhausting to play, but it's emotional and mental impact is profound and it's basic gameplay, though initially very simple, is very rewarding. Papers, Please should be experienced by everybody, because there is almost nothing else like it, and it deftly pulls off things that other games are too scared to try. This is not the first "empathy game", but it's by far the most cohesive, engaging, and devastating.

  • I am just a few hours from the end of this game, meaning it'll probably be the first Pokemon game I have finished in well over 10 years. The turn-based combat and collecting mechanic in Pokemon X/Y (I played Y) is as strong as ever, but the real stand-out achievement here is the inclusion of a robust online feature set that really adds to the experience, even if you never fight anybody online. The game is exactly what long-time fans of the series who have wavered in recent generations have been waiting for.

  • This game is so well written, such a lovingly cruel parody of modern game design, and so cleverly designed in itself that it's brevity is completely excusable because it never stops being relentlessly entertaining. It's easily the most I have laughed playing a game this year and probably in the last few years.

  • I had played previous MTG - DOTP games before, but this was the game that really hooked me, so much so that I actually went out and bought actual goddamn MTG cards. This game was the beginning of a very insidious and expensive new habit, and that is surely the very intention of its design and existence.

  • I tried and failed to get into previous games in the series, but Animal Crossing: New Leaf struck a very good balance between open-endedness and engagement; it's not aimlessly wandering around a town talking to weird animals, it has direction, and challenge, and agency, and it allows you to stamp your mark on your character, your house, and your town. It's also extremely charming and progresses at such a leisurely pace while still providing a good variety of fun little challenges and ways to earn money and interact with townspeople.