DarkZero’s Top 10 Games of 2013
It has been 10 long years since DarkZero first started gathering its staff members to decide the games of the year for that, erm, year. It’s an exciting time of the year, as we choose only to speak to each during these moments. The rest of the year is spent in solemn silence – only typing words that sometimes appear on the site. Since 2004, we have settled on 9 previous GOTY winners - Halo 2 (2004), Resident Evil 4 (2005), Gears of War (2006), Super Mario Galaxy (2007), Left 4 Dead (2008), Uncharted 2 (2009), Bayonetta (2010), Skyrim (2011), and Journey (2012).
With 2014 just begun, we gathered, spoke, and voted once again to decide on our games of the year for 2013. The result was the Top 10 list below. The list has games from 6 platforms, represented by 9 different publishers and developers. Can you guess who wins twice? It also highlights that great games are apparently commonly released in March, Shocking!
If this list is not enough for you, make sure to check our our separate Honorable Mentions article too. Happy New Year to all!
Ian: Towerfall is a competitive local multiplayer archery combat game. Wall jumping, dashing and firing arrows around a small arena in pursuit of your friends is stupid amounts of fun but what I think makes it so great, second best game of the year great, is the arrow management system. By starting each player with a limited number of arrows Towerfall becomes oddly deep. Arrows can be retrieved from walls and corpses, stolen from opponents and even snatched right out of the air by dashing through them (so cool!). The power-ups only heat things up even more by rewarding players with the ability to fly, create level hazards or use special arrows, such as bomb or laser arrows.
Mix this hectic gameplay together with great level design, beautiful pixel art and one of the best video game soundtracks ever made and you have yourself one of the most exciting multiplayer experiences in a long time. Sadly, there’s not much to do as a single player as you can’t battle an AI. There is a challenge mode though, that requires some serious puzzle-solving, fast reflexes and the ingenious use of arrows but once completed there really isn’t anything to do alone. With the announcement of Towerfall: Ascension, a significantly updated Towerfall to be released on the PC and PS4 with tonnes of new features such as the addition of new characters, arrow types, challenges and even an entire single-player campaign there is no need to fear missing this gem.
Simon: Potentially lucrative franchises like Tomb Raider have a responsibility to remain relevant, and their reinvention is always scary. Depending on what specifics you connected with in their previous incarnation, it’s likely that you will lose some of them as the game adapts to the current market. Tomb Raider doesn’t hit all the notes I gravitated towards before, but, taken on its own merits, Lara’s new beginning is still very successful. Thick with a harsh, unforgiving atmosphere; its elegant combat, its blend of openness and linearity, and a largely effective origin story combine into what is probably one of the most underrated games of the year.
Thomas: Unlike a lot of the big budget, action-packed games released this year, Papers, Please does not have a lot of technical tricks up its sleeve. What it has though, it uses well, and that’s was enough to make it one of my favourite games of the year. I did not really have fun playing it. Instead I felt anxious and claustrophobic – which is great for someone who usually only feels jaded by the industries samey release list.
Whilst playing Papers, Please I felt distressed that I was not doing enough for my virtual dying wife and my equally virtual starving child, but to help them I had to do evil to virtual others. No decision I made was good vs bad, black vs white, or in gaming terms, Renegade vs Paragon. It is a lot more subtle, and in turn a lot more smarter.
For an industry that treats it’s more mature content in a direct “head-on” mentality – Papers, Please almost insidiously takes a much more effective approach to immerse players in its hard to digest content. Thus, leaving the torture scene in GTA V, and the yearly “shocking” level in Call of Duty seemingly feeling like childish cries for attention by the developer in comparison.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Nathan: Much has already been said about how non-linear the latest Zelda game is. It’s also the first Zelda since Majora’s Mask where I was more interested in discovering the story and world of Hyrule than I was with actually saving Zelda, and, even now, there’s a part of me that’s hoping Nintendo announces another sequel in a January Direct. If you own a 3DS, this is the reason you game; if you don’t already own one, go and buy one immediately. This masterpiece deserves your time.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Dominic: The Wii U might not be doing so well for Nintendo, but for me, there was no denying that it had the best entry of the Monster Hunter franchise to date. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate was, as the title says, the ultimate version of any Monster Hunter title, combining the content of Monster Hunter Tri with new monsters and locations that originally only Japan got to see, thanks to their hold on Monster Hunter 3rd Portable.
Capcom pretty much achieved a perfect representation of what they were trying to accomplish with the franchise – creating a game that is the pinnacle of cooperative gameplay, combining four players to work together to hunt down powerful monsters. Players need to have a keen sense of old-school gameplay to study a monster’s attack patterns and then find openings to go in to deal the damage. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is a unique title that fits into a select few video games that spawn a story through the experiences that people acquire over the course of the game, alone, or with friends online or locally, when participating in hunting down one of the game’s many memorable beasts. Through failure or success, this game will get people talking about their adventures in the vast lands of Monster Hunter, and it helps that the game is extraordinarily deep and plays so damn well.
Anthony: Bioshock Infinite is quite simply a work of art in every possible way, from the beautiful floating city of Columbia to the excellently designed Elizabeth. Many games have tried to team you up with poorly coded allies that get in the way, waste valuable items and die every five seconds, but Elizabeth makes Bioshock feel like a game of teamwork; helping you with ammo, items and even cash whilst constantly commenting on the environment, contributing to the story and pointing out things you may have missed. You appreciate the freebies when she’s about, and miss her when she’s gone. Bioshock Infinite is a first-person experience quite like no other.’
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Thomas: Brothers is a game made by Starbreeze (the guys behind Syndicate and The Darkness), and it’s nothing like you’d expect a Starbreeze game to feel. It is also a game with a film director at its helm. This is notable, as it is also a game without too much fluff, with every small facet building towards the greater whole. It tells a great story, albeit a short one, that is filled with beautiful landscapes combined with interesting gameplay, and well simple but still intelligent controls. The story advances and ends as you’d expect it too, but is well executed both artistically and technically to make it feel unique.
It really is one of the best of 2013, but that subtitle is completely unnecessary to be honest. It’s like calling cabbage for food about vegetables
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Dominic: Cyborg ninjas and Platinum Games’ skill in crafting fantastic character action games makes Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance the action game of the year. This game throws a twist on the typical offensive gameplay, instead, building around the very distinctive mechanic that is based around Raiden’s use of the Katana. Fundamentally, the player is required to learn how to time precise parries with the Japanese sword to counter attack and switch the momentum against the enemy. Parrying in Revengeance is an intelligently designed mechanic that is assigned to same button as attack, yet it works, by having it intuitively activated by a direction and the attack button being pressed at the same time to parry in that direction.
Oh, and the boss fights, oh boy, those fights are fantastic, with each one having a unique weakness that brings their downfall. Let’s not forget the final boss of the game and his ridiculously, yet so entertaining, speech that you won’t forget any time soon. Blend those features with the adrenaline-fuelled action and the amazing (and dynamic) soundtrack that changes as the player makes their way through a boss fight, and you have a game that, while short, is one heck of a stylish and exceptionally executed title based around the principles of swordplay. I did say it had a cyborg ninja, too, right? A CYBORG FREAKIN’ NINJA.
Super Mario 3D World
Dominic: People love Mario and Nintendo will give people Mario, but Mario has had some less than stellar outings over recent years, all thanks to the sterile New Super Mario Bros. series. They’re good games, but you want more than just good games from Nintendo. Thankfully, we got a fantastic taster in what the real Mario studio, Nintendo EAD Tokyo, can do, with the release of Super Mario 3D Land in 2011. Role on two years and the Mario masters are back with Super Mario 3D World, a platformer that stands out in a year that has been full of excellent platforming games.
We all know Mario can jump, shoot fireballs and all that malarkey, and with EAD Tokyo at the helm, the controls are the most responsive in the business. What really steals the spotlight in Super Mario 3D World is how the studio can still come up with inventive and creative level designs that keep on surprising. Mario has been bouncing around 3D worlds for 17 years, and yet I was still in awe at the genius this studio keeps crafting in the 3D Mario titles, not to mention that it now includes multiplayer that works in a 3D environment.
We can’t forget the new power ups, especially the cat suit – it adds more to the game than I thought it would have. The cat power builds on Mario’s already well developed move set, giving the chubby plumber a chance to climb surfaces that allow for fresh level designs grounded on this new climbing mechanic. I can strongly say that this is 3D platforming at its finest since Super Mario Galaxy 2, and having the game in high definition running at a buttery smooth 60FPS is icing on the cake that makes Super Mario 3D World one of 2013’s most beautiful and imaginative games.
The Last of Us
Dominic: You might have heard of a studio named Naughty Dog, they created that awesome Uncharted series. Normally, when a studio is done with their trilogy on a system, they would wait for next gen to start, but not this studio. Instead, they decided to release my personal game of the year, a new IP, on a now seven year old system, called The Last of Us.
The Last of Us is a completely different beast compared to Uncharted. It’s a much more serious game built around a dark setting where most people have turned into zombie-esque mushroom walkers. It’s a take on a zombie story, which should be stale by now, yet Naughty Dog manages to keep it interesting by having these zombies look different and act in interesting ways to make the gameplay incredibly tense.
This game is also Naughty Dog’s best shooter. Some might argue that the studio doesn’t quite have the mechanics down in the shooting area, but I felt The Last of Us captured the dark, torn down world in its use of guns. The gunplay was heavy and brutal. No one was a bullet sponge, if you took a shot from a shotgun, Joel was sent on his arse, struggling to recuperate and get back up. Staying in cover was important, but staying hidden was even more so. The Last of Us did gunplay better than any survival horror has done in this – now coming to an end – generation.
But let’s not forget that the true star of The Last of Us is its story – that beginning scene was a right smack in the face to wake up the player in what to expect from the game – and the two main characters, Joel and Ellie, who are perfectly represented, thanks to the fine work from Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, are the best characters of the year. These two embark on a personal journey that grows both characters, turning into a father-daughter relationship that makes the player continue to dish out the punishment without questioning the morality behind the actions, just to keep Ellie alive for that little longer and reach that fantastic ending sequence that I completely didn’t expect to happen, but also makes The Last of Us have a solid closure for the best game of 2013.