2013 was such a great year for games! Sure, there were some serious pitfalls this year (maybe more than there should have been), but what was good was great. Especially notable was the sheer variety this year; the genre spread was nice and varied, ensuring those with even the most narrow tastes had something to be excited about. Pitting these excellent games against each other in a numbered ranking seems arbitrary and unproductive, so in no specific order, here is our list of the best games of 2013.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Sometimes when you sit down to play a game, you just want to relax. Tossing your cares and worries to the wind has never been easier when playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf. The game is tailor-made to remove stress from the gaming equation in its entirety, and a breadth of customization options make this game about being the mayor of your own town as satisfyingly personal as it is relaxing.
Diablo 3 (Consoles)
Normally putting a port on a list like this is a no-no (and man, so many great games got new ports this year), but the console version of Diablo 3 has some key changes that almost feel like a different game. The infamous auction house is nowhere to be seen, and not only is the game playable offline as a result, but the balancing of the item drops has been tweaked. Now players can get a hold of great items through playing the game instead of scrounging up enough money to play the economy. The controls have been expertly mapped to pads, and the new concessions in place to make local multiplayer as smooth an experience as possible make Diablo 3 on consoles a uniquely rewarding experience compared to the PC original.
Corpse Party: Book of Shadows
This one is weird, but a must play for any horror geek looking for a grotesque fix. The first Corpse Party was a game about puzzles, and scaring the crap out of you with a blank screen, text and horrifying sound production. This pseudo-sequel brings in more of the same while playing with the overall story in interesting ways. The violent CG images serve as a sort of reward and icing on the cake, but the scenes that require you to use your imagination are some of the most harrowing experiences you can have in a horror game.
WWE fans will find a treasure trove of content in this game. The improvements this year are golden: the mechanics are more solid, the story mode is fantastic and the customization is so in-depth it's overwhelming. You can go so far as to create an entire custom wrestling promotion if you're willing to sink the time into this bad boy. If that isn't your thing, there is plenty of great content built into the game that takes the theme of Wrestlemania history and runs with it. Classic video footage, interesting gameplay changes and an enormous roster make recreating the historic moments a blast.
Super Mario 3D World
In North America, Mario fans can more or less get into every major title starring the stocky plumber and his pals. In Japan, however, there has always been a big split between fans of the classic sidescrolling gameplay and fans of the more modern, open games. This has been reflected in sales, and Nintendo has been trying for years to strike a good balance. Mario 3D World is the result of those efforts. It has the scale and mechanics of the 3D adventures combined with the simplicity and clear direction of the classically-styled titles. Mixed in is fleshed out multiplayer with character abilities from Super Mario Bros. 2, complete with Princess Peach who is playable for the first time since the oddball NES game.
Shin Megami Tensei IV
The Shin Megami Tensei series has always been a brutally difficult, cyberpunk-inspired take on the monster collection RPG genre, and the fourth game in the series is no different. However, ATLUS tried to make things a bit more accessible while still maintaining its hardcore street cred. The beginning still presents a bit of a hurdle, but a new app system lets players take control of the nuts and bolts to a degree, molding the flow of battle to their liking.
The BIT.TRIP series made waves in the indie scene, and this sequel to one of the more popular titles has been given a facelift and ambitious boost in production values that make this new title really stand on its own. The whimsical nonsense style helps it stand out among other retro-style games and the narration from Charles Martinet (the voice of Mario!) is guaranteed to keep a dumb smile on your face.
Resogun is the must-have title for the PS4 in its launch window. Like the 360's Geometry Wars, Resogun is a tightly-designed shooter with a flashy aesthetic, designed to clearly demonstrate the capabilities of the new hardware. Particle effects and polygons fly over the screen as this souped-up defender clone makes the most of your 1080p setup. It's gorgeous, and it plays super well to boot.
Rayman Origins was one of the best games of 2011, and this sequel only improves the groundwork laid by the first game. The new rock n' roll/high fantasy style goes a long way to push the UBIart framework engine to new visual heights, and a slightly more balanced difficulty level helps newer and younger players join in without too heavily compromising the challenge for veteran players. After playing Rayman Legends, you'll never look at the song Black Betty the same again.
Pokemon X & Y
A new Pokemon game is always a big deal, but the franchise's 3DS debut is a huge deal. The whole look of the game has been overhauled, finally placing the familiar world of Pokemon into the polygonal realm after years of anticipation. Every single creature has been superbly modeled and animated in full 3D, and the mechanics have been tweaked to lean the game back toward the direction of accessibility. Grinding is no longer as much of a focus, and super training offers a lower entry barrier into competitive play. Additionally, you can actually customize the look of your character, making Pokemon the personal journey it was always meant to be.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Revengeance is arguably the most balls-to-the-wall action game ever. The inhuman feats Raiden performs with his sword are uncanny, and the amount of control given to the player is unprecedented. Revengeance has no interest in playing itself via QTEs, instead using them in ways that make sense and include the player as much as possible. The base mechanics are just as fluid and organic, really letting you carve your own path through each level. The ridiculous, over-the-top storytelling also serves to entertain, and it even has its own moments of depth and humanity many of its peers are lacking.
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
This follow-up to the Gamecube's cult classic launch title goes a long way to further establish Luigi as a unique, dynamic character in that classic Nintendo fashion: this game is as hilarious as it is adorable. Each mansion is home to clever level design, fun puzzles and hidden treasure, and the bizarre multiplayer is a hoot. The Year of Luigi truly was something special.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
LEGO games have always been about shameless fun and fanservice, and Marvel Super Heroes goes as far as it can. The roster is huge; over 100 characters become available over the course of the game, each with their own set of powers and fun inside jokes. The creators of this game wear their enthusiasm on their sleeves, and the game is a charming little love letter to Marvel Comics as a result. LEGO Marvel also looks and runs great on this year's new consoles, showing that even smaller games can make productive use of new tech.
Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Zelda games have been feeling a little stale lately, but with the latest handheld entry in the series Nintendo has knocked it right back out of the park. A Link Between Worlds is a visual treat, running at a consistent 60 frames per second even with the 3D turned all the way up. It also goes to great lengths for player freedom with a new item rental system. By having access to every major item in the beginning, players can explore the world at their leisure and tackle dungeons in whichever order they choose.
Last of Us
The Last of Us is a great leap forward in video game storytelling. The medium still has a long way to go, but the experience here builds a firm bridge between cinematic and interactive narrative design. The story starts off as more of a blatant homage to Cormac McCarthy, but as it goes on it really grows into its own and even turns some tired video game cliches around in the process.
Injustice: Gods Among Us
Fighting games with high productions values are always a blast, and Injustice is no different. This is NetherRealm's second attempt at a DC Comics fighting game, and is much less of a disaster then the first attempt. The developer made great progress in trying to distance this title a bit more from Mortal Kombat, resulting in some gameplay changes that do a lot to push the Mortal Kombat style toward something much more playable and smooth. The game is also filled to the brim with DC fanservice, making it a fun way to get a group of friends together for some mindless fun, even if your group isn't so well-versed in fighters.
Gone Home is a game uses the adventure game framework to tell a story in a way you can't experience in any other medium. Through exploring the main character's childhood home you uncover a subtle, compelling story about growing up and dealing with everything that comes along with it. There is only so much to say about a game primarily driven by its story without spoiling the surprises but I can say with confidence Gone Home is a special game you don't want to miss.
Dynasty Warriors 8
Playing as deified generals from Chinese history has always been a fun ride, especially since the crux of these games is racking up body counts in the hundreds if not thousands. The latest entry pushes the last generation of hardware to the limit and does it with a degree of expertise built over years of finding ways to optimize ridiculous numbers of enemies on screen. Not only is the scale impressive as ever, but each playable character now has a unique set of animations and new modes have been introduced to help reward the player for investing their time and energy into continuously facing down hordes of faceless infantry.
A new game from WayForward is always a treat; it knows more than any developer what make the classics of our childhoods tick. Even more special is when it gets a hold of a license we hold near and dear to our hearts. With DuckTales Remastered, WayForward not only recreates and improves upon the great NES game, but also brings back the charm of the original cartoon. It feels like playing an episode of the show, even including many of the original voice actors.
Tomb Raider was one of 2013's greatest surprises. Nobody knew what to expect from this attempted revival of a floundering relic of the 90's, and Crystal Dynamics delivered in spades. Questionable marketing notwithstanding, Tomb Raider delivered an Uncharted-esque experience with damn near perfect mechanics, and a new take on Lara Croft from writer Rhianna Pratchett transforming her into one of the most badass, yet believably human characters in video game history.