2013 looks like it’s going to be massive year for video games. Hundreds of promising games, both big and small, are set to be released; new market trends are ready to emerge; and new consoles are going to be popping up all over the place.
Lots of things are going to be happening. It’ll be busy, but if there’s one thing that’ll always remain most important in this industry, it’s the games. To that end, TechnologyGuide is launching the following top five list for the best games released this year.
The game launches are going to be coming fast and furious over the next few months, so consider this a rolling article. Opinions are going to change over time, so TG will update and amend this list as newer and better games make our office squeal with nerdy joy.
There’re only a couple conditions for games to be included on this list. For one, they have to be released in the 2013 calendar year – sorry, Dishonored and The Walking Dead, TG loves you, but it’s time to move on.
So with those disclaimers out of the way, let’s get to the games. Here are TechnologyGuide’s top five games of 2013 as of August 2013.
1. The Last of Us
The Last of Us is a bummer. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic future where humanity has either been turned to monsters or savages, it’s a bleak, depressing story of survival. There are no good guys or bad guys in its infected city streets, just people who are forced to exhibit their best and worst qualities just to get by. They kill. They steal. They die.
And it’s great. The Last of Us is a supremely well-crafted experience, one with some of the best writing and most thoughtful direction put in a triple-A game this year. But while much of its best qualities are tied to its narrative and (especially) its characters, The Last of Us wouldn’t work as well as it does without its difficult mix of action, stealth and survival gameplay elements. It’s an anti-fun game in many ways, but its pervading sense of anxious horror fits exactly as it should in this world.
When combined, the gameplay, atmosphere and writing of The Last of Us make it a wonderful swan song for the PlayStation 3. It isn’t perfect — the multiplayer is serviceable but tacked-on, and sometimes controlling protagonist Joel feels more annoying than tense — but The Last of Us is one of the better examples of a big-budget game that puts its warchest to good use and has plenty of soul.
Read the The Last of Us review.
2. Saints Row IV
Saints Row IV is interactive comedy. It’s the most excessive and purely enjoyable power fantasy out there, but it’s also one of the smartest and most sharply written parodies of other, less self-aware power fantasies at the same time. Let’s put it this way: this is a game where beating up an evil toilet with a lightsaber alongside the cast of They Live while dressed as an anthropomorphic tomcat is maybe the 30th most ridiculous thing you can do.
It’s comically absurd, but knowingly so, because developer Volition realizes that video games are places where you can make the absolutely impossible so very possible. It doesn’t hold back for a second, and along the way it lovingly mocks the many games that have lost sight of this fact. It’s noble in that way.
It doesn’t hurt that it’s also one of the smoothest superhero games to come along in some time, or that its cast of characters is eminently likable, or that it’s simply one of the funniest titles we’ve ever played either. Its open-world setup may feel familiar at points, and it may be too over-the-top for some, but Saints Row IV is a game that’s obsessed with letting you enjoy yourself at any cost. In the end, we need more of that.
Read the Saints Row IV review.
3. BioShock Infinite
BioShock Infinite is good at being a game. The gorgeous yet twisted floating city of Columbia houses a more-than-competent first-person shooter, one that manages to significantly tighten up the combat from past BioShock games. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s damn satisfying for those who can stomach its brutality.
But like the lauded first entry in this series, Infinite proves that a good video game can be so much more than just pure mechanics and gunplay. This is an ambitious, deeply provocative experience, one willing to touch on themes many games dare not touch. That combat’s brutality is equally disorienting. Infinite succeeds at having its cake and eating it too.
This is largely due to its narrative. TG can’t spoil, but suffice it to say that BioShock Infinite’s top-shelf writing elevates it beyond just being “a great FPS.” It’s a wake-up call to big-budget shooters, and an affirmation that interactive brawn and brains can still work in harmony.
4. Skulls of the Shogun
The turn-based strategy game Skulls of the Shogun is deep yet accessible, challenging yet enticing and fun yet…well, it’s really fun. Available for download on Xbox Live, Windows Phones and Windows 8 and RT tablets, Skulls of the Shogun blends sharp, witty writing with fantastically cartoonish visuals, and features an enjoyable multiplayer mode alongside an already stellar campaign. It’s a treasure for any strategy game fan, but to be honest, everyone should give it a look.
Read the Skulls of the Shogun review.
5. Dragon’s Crown
Dragon’s Crown is a love letter to a forgotten kind of game. Vanillaware’s latest adventure is a mixture of 2D beat-em-up and Western RPG that is heavily indebted the old school Dungeons and Dragons brawlers that used to populate arcades in the mid ’90s. It was originally envisioned as a Sega Dreamcast game, and it shows.
But it turns out that’s not such a bad thing. Dragon’s Crown’s high fantasy setting is soaked in style and detail, and its world is compelling enough to transport you back to a time when games relied on passion and craft more than technical prowess. Although it ventures into the more embarrassing aspects of old-school RPG imagery from time to time, Dragon’s Crown is earnest, fun and well worth a spot in your PlayStation 3 or PlayStation Vita library.
Read the Dragon’s Crown review.