Top 10 Games for 2013

It's the time of year for games journos to impress the masses in the game community by declaring their list of the Top 10 Games of the Year for the year...

This year when the subject was raised we pointed out that such a list is highly subjective and impossible to get everyone to agree on, so the only way we would do it (again) is if we were allowed to suggest that everyone reading it comment with their Top 10 Games of 2013 List (if they want to).

We hope you will want to - that way we get to see where our list stacks up against yours! And prove we're totally not RPG whores after all.

Oh and remember: The title that ends up in the 01. Slot is the game you are picking for Game of the Year!

10. Killer Instinct

That this one made the list at all is an absolute shocker. When I first heard about the game I thought, well, I am not a big fighter game fan but I do have fond memories of the games Rare made and this could very well... Wait, Rare is not making this?

A week after I learned that I received a free code from Microsoft for the game on Xbox One - say, how did Microsoft know I was going to buy an Xbox One? Anyway, that free code pretty much sealed the game's fate - if Microsoft was GIVING the game away to me just because I spend a lot of time playing games on my 360 and have a Gamerscore over 125K (both are true, really), then it simply has to suck, right?

But when Xbox One day came, due to my having left the bag of review copies at work, I did not have any games to play on it. Shock! Dismay! Then I remembered that code for Killer Instinct and was like, well, OK I do actually have a game I can play and after all we went to the trouble of setting up the One we may as well try it out, right?

Six hours later -- and that was six hours spent just playing the instructional sets in the dojo tutorial mind you -- I was not only fully hooked AND fully entertained, but my old sorta like for fighting games is now a firmly established like for fighting games! The tutorial alone is entertaining AND challenging -- when is the last time you could honestly say that about a game, discount arcade title or not?

This one should be in your game play rotation if you own the Xbox One -- seriously. Even if you have to pay for it.

09. Tomb Raider

Here is another game whose place on any Top 10 Games of the Year List you probably would not expect to see based upon the performance of the previous games in the series, and in fact when we played it what we were not expecting to find was a game that is part prequel, but full reboot, that was tightly engineered and coded to offer a measure of control uncommon in the series.

Not only were the controls tight, if we excuse the excess grunting, gasping, moaning, and constant heavy breathing of the protagonist -- and her spots of whinging -- what we end up with is a character we can not only feel more than a bit sympathetic for, but actually start caring about beyond you know, caring about what makes her jiggle...

The important thing that must be understood early in the story is that the Lara we are playing is NOT the Lara we know! This Lara is made of clay that has yet to be formed and baked into the kickass, take names, seriously lethal superhero archeologist explorer of the previous titles.

The character that we meet for the first time on a ship headed to an epic location to look for what is largely written off as a mythical legend is really nobody. She is just a girl. OK perhaps it would be more accurate to say just a girl whose potential to be a kick-ass superhero we already know exists in there somewhere, but for now what you see is what you get.

Thankfully she has the bad luck to have signed onto an expedition that is about to get shipwrecked on an island that fully justifies the worst horror elements of the legendary treasure and dead society that the expedition means to track down. I say thankfully because while she really and genuinely starts out to be a whingy and moaning little girl, by the time this adventure is over we start to see the Lara we already know is in there start to take shape.

As she works towards solving a series of mysteries, dealing with the genuine lunatics who, like her and her party, were trapped on this island with a mind of its own, and let us not forget the real a*hole of a team leader she is serving under, we discover that the wonky controls that made the sort of staged puzzle slash platform play-style of the previous games more a question of luck than skill have been replaced with a level of control that means we finally get to influence the outcome of game play.

While the new Tomb Raider is not the perfect Lara-based RPG Action-Adventure title, it is a serious step in the right direction, but more important than that, it is a gift to every gamer who ever played a previous title in the series, because for once they got it all mostly right!

We may have a few issues with the plot, and an issue or two with making collections in the game filter into capabilities for the character, but beyond that, missing out on this one would be a pity.

08. Metro: Last Light

Considering how mediocre the original game that established the series was, the incredible immersion value and entertainment in Last Light was more than a stunning shock. Particularly since the horror-survival genre depicted in this romp through what is left after society completely collapses is not a world of despair on the order of Fallout III, it is a post-apocalyptic nightmare that takes place in Russia, which all things considered is not exactly a tourist destination in good times. Just saying...

The voice acting in Last Light is not going to win the game any awards, nor really is the plot, though how much plot do you actually need in a game that is mostly about not being killed by the two-legged human sort of predators above, or the mutated monsters you find in the tunnels below?

One of the most amazing elements in Last Light's favor is the light. Or to be more accurate, the shadows and the light -- because the lighting effects in the game are more important than the character you play in some ways. Certainly they set the stage and ramp up the tension -- and to be clear this is a game that keeps the player under tension pretty much for the entire ride.

Considering just how effective the use of shadow and light was in this title, it sort of makes you wonder if this quirky little studio could pull off these effects on the last generation of gaming hardware, what will the sequel be like on the next gen?

Even the most hardcore veteran of the survival horror genre and post-apocalyptic game play will find themselves startled to the point of panic fire a few times as the story as the adventure unfolds, but the really surprising part is how quickly you slip into the survivalist mindset that your character, Artyom, must adopt just to survive.

We first saw Last Light at E3 2011 and at the time it was part of the stable of games being presented by ailing studio THQ -- much of whose catalog ended up being picked up by Deep Silver when things went from bad to worse for the publisher.

You might not like the linear track-style game play but giving this game its due, that one blemish is more than compensated for by the high quality of the game environment, graphics, use of shadow and light, and the story as it unfolds.

07. The Simpsons: Tapped Out

If you had told me that a freemium-grinder built to encourage the player to spend lots of money would make my Top 10 of the Year list I would have laughed in your face. What could a game like that possibly bring to the table that would set it apart from the other games in that genre -- or any genre -- to the extent that it would end up in this list?

That is an interesting -- and fair -- question.

In the process of creating this game, which is set in what is both the very familiar Springfield from the show as well as a Springfield of your own making thanks to the plot and story line, it boosts its attractive nature by leveraging the unique and entertaining personalities of the iconic characters from the television show, and firmly connecting the game to the show with constant tie-ins.

Factor in what seems like a never-ending schedule of special and holiday events, adding in special premium items that you absolutely do NOT need in order to play the game, but that you absolutely WANT to have... Well now that strikes me as the secret to making a successful freemium-grinder!

What surprised me most about the game though was the genuine sense of progress and accomplishment that you end up receiving from playing it. The rewarding feeling of adding a large group of friends (who are naturally enough called Neighbors in the game due to their position and function) and the shocking level of developer support for the game (including adding social commentary that both laughs at itself AND at the players, who seem to celebrate the various hacks in the game).

While it is not really a game with consequences, it does keep you playing regularly just in case a new special tie-in event pops up because you don't want to miss out on the special character, objects, or building that it might add.

The limited interaction that you have with other players -- oh it is there, but there is really nothing that other players can actually do to mess with your game -- still makes the cooperative play elements that it does have feel like there is a genuine community present.

Beyond all that though is the fact that the game is engineered so that it can be played successfully and completely without spending one thin dime -- provided that the player does not waste the special resources that they can get for free -- and that alone makes this a special title. Add the overall massive entertainment and the more than a few hidden secrets, and what you end up with is a freemium-grinder that makes the Top 10 Games of the Year list.

06. Pokemon X & Y

OK yes, this is really two games, but is it? Considering that the only real differences between the games, which tell the exact same story in the exact same way, is a handful of specific Pokemon that you can only obtain in one or the other, I have to say no, it is one game. Really.

The stand out qualities for X & Y that scored it a place on the TTGotY 2013 is really a combination of factors.

One thing that is not on the list is the fact that it is a fully rendered 3D game and a Nintendo 3DS exclusive title. Why? Because I don't play it in 3D -- that slider is slid completely off -- for the simple reason that playing in 3D for any more than ten minutes or so makes me feel queasy, and playing in any sort of moving vehicle? That is right out of the question!

First there is its completely re-imagined game world, with characters who seem to finally have reached the stage in the evolutionary process when they are much more like the characters that we see and experience in the CS's than the forms that dominated game play for all these years.

The second special element that made the game far more attractive is the fusion of Pokemon that it was created with. In the past the Pokemon you captured in each game through the story consisted largely of new Pokemon, or at best, new Pokemon with a handful of Pokemon from the closest generation to it. This time though in addition to a nice selection of brand new and well-thought-out Pokemon, there is a very wide selection of Pokemon from pretty much the entire history of the game, and that is very cool indeed.

Considering that the previous mechanism for adding other gen Pokemon to your games usually involved first completing the story mode AND becoming the League Champ for the current region before you could even think about transferring older Pokemon in from other games, this is refreshing indeed, but then you find yourself being gifted with a selection of Starter Pokemon from other games in the series?! Wow! And bear in mind this is a grown adult male saying wow here...

The Pokemon game series has always had a lot to offer players and fans alike, and whether you watch the television show or not, has always offered a rather rich and easy to follow plot with an attainable set of goals that could (and did) keep all ages entertained.

But when you factor in all of that consistency and the fact that it remains a solidly engineered and developed title that maintains its immersion level and entertainment? Then what you have is a stand-out title.

When the games first came out along with the TV show it was declared a fad. Clearly not. This newest generation retains all that is good in the world of Pokemon and has weeded out some of the more annoying bits -- for example this time around it is easily possibly to build and level a team without having to resort to hour after hour of endless XP grinding.

Add to that a much more transparent training system in which skills and abilities -- and stats -- are much easier to both see, know, and understand, and it equally appeals to the player who is more interested in collecting the full set -- Gotta Catch 'Em All! -- and then training teams with which to battle other real-world players, and you find that X & Y have lept generations forward!

It is now possible to play Pokemon and compete with other real-world players from the comfort of your couch. And I am not just talking about the official events, the sponsored tourney-style battles, or the odd special event that delivers a rare Pokemon.

I mean you can end up having a team battle with a player in Oslo you don't know, then a battle with your best mate in Portland, and twenty minutes later a battle with some bloke in Sydney! The thing that makes that possible is the online component of the game that is present at the bottom of the second screen pretty much all the time.

With the loads of extra features, the well-refined older and established elements, and an awareness of just what it is that the typical Pokemon fan and gamer wants, the willingness to deliver pretty much guaranteed this mobile title a slot on 2013's list.

Our top five games of 2013 follow on the next page.

Posted: 24th Dec 2013 by CMBF