Our fair readers, another year in gaming has come and gone. 2013 was a brilliant year, full of brilliant, well-made games for players of every type. However, for every single passionately made, emotionally charged and intellectually involved experience released this year, there were also idiotically made pieces of dross to match. This was the year that gave us the likes of The Last of Us and Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds, only to be balanced by Aliens: Colonial Marines and Ride to Hell: Retribution.
But, we are in luck. The good of this year vastly outweighed the bad. This is why, after much discussion and debate among our dedicated staff, we have done our best to give you our academic and trustworthy All Age Gaming Game of the Year Awards.
First and foremost, every single one of the games mentioned here are all great in their own right. When you have to leave expertly designed experiences like Fire Emblem: Awakening or Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag off the list for the sake of length, you know you’ve had a good year.
So, without further ado, let’s get to some games that were really good, but just not good enough for the prize.
All Age Gaming’s Game of the Year 2013 Honorable Mentions!
Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)
Mario is back, again, and this time in probably his best game to date. Super Mario 3D World is simply the best Mario game I have ever played and probably the best platformer I have ever played. I applaud Nintendo for finally releasing a game on the Wii U that if people take notice of, is THE reason to pick up the Nintendo Wii U.
To a lot of Nintendo and Mario lovers out there, I apologize as to be brutally honest, no other Mario game has interested me enough to warrant me completing it. I tend to get bored of them quite quickly. However, Super Mario 3D World managed to hook me in and didn’t let go. It is just a joy to play and whilst I think the Cat suit is a bit overused in the game, the puzzles, the graphics and the fun factor this game has puts it up with the best games of 2013 without a shadow of a doubt!
Pokemon X and Y (3DS)
Oh Pokemon, the one constant in gaming for me since the release of Red and Blue back in my school days. Every generation of the game has found its way into my collection and every generation has wound up finished with a full Pokedex. While I’ve yet to finish Pokemon X due to having kids who play the 3DS as much as I do, I found the changes in X and Y to be enough to give me the feeling of nostalgia when I first discovered these lovable creatures. The jump to 3D models was definitely enough to freshen up the series and also has me wishing, almost praying, for Nintendo to just give me that 3D Skyrim-style Pokemon game on Wii U.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)
There is no denying that The Legend of Zelda franchise has grown to be one of the biggest and respected since its humble beginnings on the NES. Needless to say Nintendo didn’t just deliver, they exceeded all expectations with A Link Between Worlds. They didn’t just re-release a timeless classic, but have created a new experience set in the same universe. The classic formula has been recreated to perfection, and the addition of new characters, weapons, puzzles, 3D elements and the ability to traverse walls and cliffs as a picture is incredible. I have not had such a brilliant experience with a Zelda game of this caliber in a long time. This isn’t to the discredit of other awesome Zelda titles, they are all excellent, but A Link Between Worlds just does it that certain level better in many ways.
Bioshock Infinite (360 and PS3)
Bioshock Infinite feels a lot like a blockbuster film along the lines of Inception. It’s an experience that has received great critical acclaim and is hailed as a new cerebral standard for the medium. Then a backlash occurs by the popular consensus, articulated in one phrase, “it’s a bit overrated.” Which is maddening, because it does a disservice to the craft of Bioshock Infinite. How else can a story that deals in bending reality and parallel worlds still remain coherent and enthralling? What other video game narrative has an ending that has garnered so much discussion and debate on its merits as opposed to the final piece of gameplay leading to the end? What other interactive experience has the courage to mix high-paced action with biting political commentary? Not many I’ll wager.
All great experiences that should not be missed. However, there can only be one silver and gold medal. These two games have managed to get us to talk, to laugh, to rage, to cry, and show the strength of the interactive nature that is central to video games. These were not easy choices, not by a long shot. So read ahead and blaze Facebook with your eloquent disagreements at your own peril. First up…
AAG’s 2013 Game of the Year Runner-Up
The Last of Us (PS3)
The Last of Us was another survival horror game done right, and with Naughty Dog at the helm you can be sure it’s a ride you won’t forget. Games that can draw you into a world, captivate you and make an emotional bond with the characters is no easy task. You become invested in Joel, Ellie and others along your journey. In this and many respects, Naughty Dog has delivered a true masterpiece.
Everything about The Last of Us screams polish and quality. It ticks every box imaginable, which is something not many games have done this year, and it is a title very deserving of the title of one of the best games of not only this year, but of this generation.
Despite the oversaturation of the zombie apocalypse – there are too many to list so just put “Dead” in front of another word and chances are there’s a game out there called that – The Last of Us breathes life back into the human struggle of the genre. Taking hints from the vibrant colors of Uncharted, the drab bleakness of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and an exaggerated interpretation of an otherwise innocuous little spore, The Last of Us is a tour de force of interactive fiction. The gameplay, a mixture of a conventional third-person shooter, a modern brawler, and old school survival horror, blends perfectly to suit the tone of each and every situation the game presents, or even the agency of the player. Whether it is making the last round in your revolver count, skillfully bypassing an improvised trap, or avoiding a bandit encounter by moving like a shadow, the gameplay blends seamlessly together into the narrative to make a truly gripping experience.
And now, who is the winner, the gold trophy recipient, which game gets the giant shiny medal and the diamond-encrusted chocolate sundae of champions????????????????????
AAG’s 2013 Game of the Year!
Tomb Raider (360, PS3)
Tomb Raider, in my mind was the stand-out gaming experience of 2013. Although we saw the new generation of gaming launched in November, which was brilliant, when I cast my mind over the first 10 months of the year there was a clear cut GOTY winner in my mind.
Although it was a reboot of a once successful franchise and it didn’t really bring anything new to the genre, playing through Tomb Raider’s single-player story mode had me engrossed from start to finish. It felt very much like when I played Uncharted 2. The graphics were outstanding and the gameplay was very Uncharted 2 like with its mix of puzzle and action. I loved the use of the Bow and Arrow to silently take out enemies and its usefulness to get to difficult areas of the game.
Also, having a female character that starts out all innocent and as the game goes on turns into a killing machine had me hooked. Tomb Raider is back to its very best, and a very worthy Game of The Year award recipient.
Very few games had me hooked this year like Tomb Raider. Gameplay and storywise, it was a game I couldn’t put down until I finished it. Even then I kept picking up the controller and replaying areas over and over again, looking to finish missing achievements. It wasn’t just the single-player that had me either. While most slammed Tomb Raider for its multiplayer offering, I put in just as many hours into it as I did other big online games in 2013. Tomb Raider did everything I wanted in a game and more, to the point where I’ll be playing it all over again in 2014 on next-gen consoles.
Back in the 90s, Lara Croft was gaming’s first femme fatale. A daring, aggressive, no nonsense, fearless adventurer who just happened to be a woman. The 2000s were less kind. As the game industry kept trying to become respectable purveyors of mature and emotional experiences, Tomb Raider was seen as sexist and juvenile. The series kept getting changed in an attempt to stop Lara Croft from feeling like a female lead in an exploitation movie. It got to the point where when I heard Tomb Raider was getting a reboot, my first thought was “another one? Can’t wait to not play it.” Then, something strange happened; Crystal Dynamics got it right.
They made an experience that told the story of a bright and innocent young archaeologist stranded on a mysterious island with supernatural power swarming with an evil cult. How this young inexperienced person must bite down, fight through the pain, and become stronger. Embracing a darker and more savage side all for the sake of protecting and saving those the person holds dear. Then, they made that person Lara Croft. It is an experience that is disturbing, uplifting, brutal, intimate, and for all of the claims of violence towards the protagonist being misogynistic, is a testament to the indomitable human spirit. All of this combined with the most polished third-person action, smart enemy AI, and a Metroidvania esque level design, makes Tomb Raider 2013 a game that has to be played to be believed.
Here’s to greater games in 2014 and in years to come. Thanks for reading, and thank you for your support!