This year in gaming
2013 was a good year to be a gamer. Some of the year's titles, like "BioShock Infinite" and "Proteus," pushed the boundaries of video game design. Others, like "The Last of Us" and "Grand Theft Auto V," took time-honored game conventions and perfected them. And some, like "Tomb Raider" and "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag," were just tons of fun to play. Here are the top 10 games of the year.
'The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds'
Hyrule needs another hero to save it and its dark counterpart, Lorule, in the latest "Legend of Zelda" game by Nintendo. The influence of earlier title "A Link to the Past" is evident, but "A Link Between Worlds" stands apart for its brilliant puzzles and a new mechanic that lets players "merge" with walls to become a two-dimensional painting.
MORE: 'Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds' Review
This terrifying indie game from Red Barrels Studios puts players in the role of journalist Miles Upshur, whose investigation of Mount Massive Asylum turns up much more than he bargained for. Armed only with a video camera and its flickering flash, Miles must sometimes sneak, sometimes hide and sometimes run for his life as he makes his way through the asylum, gathering notes on the building's chilling history and searching for a way out of its mazelike halls.
MORE: 'Outlast' for PC Review
'Super Mario 3D World'
Among the Wii U's generally weak selection, "Super Mario 3D World" is one of the best multiplayer experiences of the year. Up to four people can play, as Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad, in a three-dimensional world full of mind-bending puzzles and enemies both old and new. Players can cooperate and, inevitably, backstab each other for the highest scores.
This indie game is wildly different from any other game that came out this year. In each playthrough, the environment is procedurally generated, making it different each time. And depending on where you stand in relation to the ocean, trees, rocks and flowers in your surroundings, different melodies play, combining and recombining to form a constantly changing song as you explore.
With no "win" state and no end besides shutting the game down, you might argue "Proteus" isn't a game at all. But for its experimental, well-executed weirdness, it ranks as one of the most important video game experiences of 2013.
'Grand Theft Auto V'
The "Grand Theft Auto" games set the bar in terms of sprawling, dynamic game worlds, and with "Grand Theft Auto V" the series has reached an all-time high. The game balances open-ended exploration and a thrilling crime story by switching among three different characters whose personalities range from "morally gray" to "murdering sociopath." With hours and hours of gameplay and a world that feels real, the game is both a landmark achievement in video games and just plain fun to play.
'Injustice: Gods Among Us'
For fighting-game enthusiasts, 2013's best title was "Injustice: Gods Among Us," a beat-'em-up featuring iconic superheroes like Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, Nightwing and the rest of DC Comics' ensemble. From the makers of the "Mortal Kombat" series, "Injustice" features complicated move sets and diverse fighting styles that are difficult to master but allow for extremely robust and strategic gameplay. And for comic book fans, the game's story mode takes an interesting new look at what would happen if the Justice League weren't actually the group of heroes they believed themselves to be.
MORE: PlayStation 4 Review
The 2013 "Tomb Raider" reboots the almost 20-year-old franchise with a new origin story for iconic hero Lara Croft. When her ship runs aground on a mysterious island, Lara, a young archaeology student, must free herself and her fellow explorers from the bloodthirsty cultists also trapped on the island. For its strong story, fun exploration and beautiful graphics, and with a compelling new Lara Croft as the lynchpin that ties it all together, "Tomb Raider" is a must-have for any gamer this year.
MORE: Xbox One Review
The follow-up to the landmark 2007 game, "BioShock Infinite" took it's predecessor's penchant for frenetic first-person shooter gameplay and themes of power and choice, and cranked them up to 11. You play as Booker DeWitt, a hired gun sent to the floating sky-city of Columbia to "deliver the girl [and] wipe away the debt." With brilliant performances by lead voice actors Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper, and a conclusion that still has gamers talking, "BioShock Infinite" will definitely have gamers talking for years to come.
'Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag'
Players take to the high seas in the next of the "Assassin's Creed" series, which follows sea captain Edward Kenway, whose simple life of pirating around the 18th century Caribbean is interrupted by a new Assassin plot. But cloak and dagger intrigue aside, "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag" is just plain fun, with a huge, explorable world, exciting ship-to-ship combat, and plenty of swashbuckling adventures. If you've ever wanted to be a pirate, this is the game for you.
'The Last of Us'
A fungal infection has turned most of humanity into mindless monsters in "The Last of Us," a PlayStation 3 exclusive from Naughty Dog. You'll play as a middle-aged man named Joel tasked with escorting Ellie, a plucky young girl who may hold the secret to a cure, across the ruins of the United States. Gritty combat and stealth, breathtaking visuals, and haunting performances by Troy Baker (also of "Bioshock Infinite") as Joel and by Ashley Johnson as Ellie make "The Last of Us" a game that will stay with you long after 2013 ends.
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