Several GameGrin staff members reveal their #1 picks for Game of the Year 2013...
The Last of Us - Rob Gisbey
In my mind there is one title that is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition this year, and that’s Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic masterpiece, The Last of Us. Unlike other games that excel in certain areas but disappoint in others, this momentous experience delivers on all fronts – narrative, gameplay, graphics and sound.
The harrowing tale that’s told here is mature and affecting, charting the journey of Joel and Ellie, two survivors travelling through a harsh post-pandemic world. This dark and gritty experience had a significant impact on me and – just as Metal Gear Solid did back in 1998 – will change how I view storytelling in gaming going forward.
Beautiful, tragic, compelling and immersive, The Last of Us offers an enthralling single player campaign and an exceptional multiplayer, combining to form an unparalleled product. Not only is it my pick for Game of the Year 2013, but it’s unquestionably my game of the generation; one that elevates the medium to new and greater heights.
Europa Universalis IV - Ryan Davies
“It’s a scaffold for your imagination.” That’s what I said about Europa Universalis IV when I reviewed the game back in August, and I still stand by that statement. Paradox’s ability to create a historical playground of diplomacy, subterfuge and warfare is unmatched in this business.
EUIV is the payoff after years of producing Grand Strategy titles. It takes every lesson learned across various franchises and equates them into a game that feels almost incomprehensibly deep and yet fantastically playable.
It’s my game of the year by a country mile; in fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of my favourite games ever. In a year containing the sequels to my two top games, Company of Heroes and Rome: Total War, I expected to be playing one of those non-stop. It’s EUIV, however, that I can’t stop thinking about this time around.
Total War: Rome II - Ross D. Brown
The Total War series has been the last word in strategy wargaming for years, and Total War: Rome II is the pinnacle of series’ evolution, with more factions, a bigger world and greater scope for expansion than ever before.
A troublesome launch marred by bugs and performance issues set Rome II back at the outset and cost it a few points on the initial critic reviews, although it still received positive attention. Never has a Total War release been smooth and Creative Assembly have been working hard since, patching for performance, optimisation and balancing.
Rome II launched as a contender for my Game of the Year, and has since been patched up to being the obvious choice. Nobody does large scale battles like Creative Assembly, and a chill runs up the spine when your two-thousand strong Roman legion crashes against the barbarian horde. It looks amazing. It plays amazing. It is amazing.
The Night of the Rabbit - Emsey P Walker
When I reviewed The Night of the Rabbit back in June, I said it was my “game of the year so far”, and well, five months down the line, that still stands.
Everything about the game is flawless. The artwork is beyond incredible, meticulously detailed and quite obviously lovingly crafted. All the sound, including background, music and voice acting is perfectly produced and implemented, dragging and swallowing you whole into the wonderful world of Mousewood. Really though, the pinnacle of its many, many achievements is the story. A heartbreaking and heartwarming tale that is impossible to tear yourself away from, while subtly but decisively bringing real-world questions and difficult modern issues to the table and discussing them with a mature but magical voice.
I would challenge anyone not to fall in love with The Night of the Rabbit, but especially point-and-click adventure fans, who will no doubt, like me, add this to their 'favourite games ever' list.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf - James Bralant
Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the Nintendo 3DS has inspired multiple generations of players to the revolutionary handheld. Before the release of the game there were few people to be found wandering the streets, with consoles in backpacks or pockets (if you catch my drift), making it difficult for players like myself to interact with others using Streetpass. Since the EU and US release of AC:NL in June however, players can be found almost anywhere with one thing in common - this game.
It’s not just how the game envelops you in a warm embrace every time you boot it up, or how you find new and exciting things to do almost every day. The beauty of Animal Crossing is how players can interact with their in-game characters like they were true friends and share the same affection and jealousy to strangers they pass in the real-world; exploring their homes, getting envious of their Rococo furniture set and working hard, striving to pay off that last rental loan so you can finally expand into your basement.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is my choice of GameGrin’s GOTY because it’s not like any other game, it’s an experience to behold and one that’s difficult to put on paper.
Guacamelee! - Harrie Bailey
Guacamelee! was the first platformer I had played in an incredibly long time, but this isn’t why I found myself enjoying it so much. This title has much more to offer than your average 2D platformer, and for me, this game merits GOTY because of its engaging storyline.
Everything from the vivid art style and fitting mexican soundtrack to small hidden memes make this game a pleasure to play, and it doesn’t fall short in other important areas such as combat and general gameplay. One of the most enjoyable features is learning those necessary move sequences in order to defeat the many variations of enemies you’re presented with.
In addition to this, Guacamelee! includes an easily accessible two-player option if you find yourself needing extra help in certain areas, or just enjoy a laid back game with others. Ultimately my one piece of advice would be not to pass up the opportunity to share this extraordinary adventure with your family and friends.
Pokémon X/Y - Joe Pring
Being the sad individual that I am, I’ve played every single generation of Pokémon games. From the original Red and Blue versions on the GameBoy to Black and White, I’ve seen and done it all in the Gotta Catch Em’ All series.
With the release of Black and White 2 last year, many were concerned that GameFreaks tried and tested formula had finally started to become stale; and to a certain extent it had - the mechanics and visual style of the games had remained almost exactly the same since its conception.
With X and Y though, GameFreak have given the series the new lease of life that it so desperately needed. Both the world and the 700+ strong roster of Pokémon have been fully realised in true 3D, making the world - and the Pokémon battles - feel more alive than ever before. Throw in some of the best online capabilities that the 3DS has to offer, and you’ll find yourself throwing time away as you battle, trade and train your way to the top.
Tomb Raider - Thom Whyte
Draw up a list of gaming’s most recognisable heroes, and Lara Croft will be on there. To re-imagine such a well-known protagonist takes guts, and - luckily for us - Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider was a game with big ambition. We saw a naive and inexperienced Lara be dismantled and forced into one of the most engaging character developments of recent memory. In a kill-or-be-killed situation, we got to watch as she began to form herself into the fearless survivor that we’re so familiar with.
Now, combine this with one of the greatest video game locales ever seen. The island, home to the lost Japanese kingdom of Yamatai, is stunning and varied, and I spent plenty of time admiring sublime vistas from cliff edges and vantage points. Ancient Japanese temples coexist alongside decrepit WWII bunkers, giving you an unforgettable playground to climb, swing and zip-line your way around. The exploration is fun, and there are enough collectibles to keep you ransacking areas long after you’re able to leave.
Throw in satisfying combat and enjoyable RPG elements and weapon upgrades, and you have a reboot that feels nostalgic, but also refreshing and exciting. Call me crazy, but I even liked the multiplayer. There’s just something about those long-distance bow-kills...
GTA V - Matt Girdler
I wasn’t the biggest fan of GTA IV. I could appreciate it from a technical perspective, but the gameplay and story never quite clicked with me. With that in mind, I approached GTA V with lower expectations than most. As you may have guessed, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.
Kicking off with a high-stakes heist, I was immediately struck by the improvement in gameplay and presentation over the previous title. What most impressed me, though, was the world itself; I spent hours just exploring the incredibly believable environment that Rockstar have created. I was blown away by both the vastness of the area on offer and the sheer amount of detail that exists in every corner of it.
Add to this some of the best characters and writing that Rockstar have come up with to date and what you have is - in my opinion - not only the best game this year, but the perfect way to send off this generation of consoles.