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Ken's (Totally On-Time) Top Ten Games of 2013 - Destructoid




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I wanted to start off by saying this year was a good one for gaming, but in all fairness, we had a shit ton of really shitty games. From Aliens: Colonial Marines to Ride to Hell: Retribution, we've had some bad ones. 2013 was a year that gave us gems like The Wonderful 101, but it also gave us shit piles like Final Fantasy: All the Bravest. Taking that into account, I guess I can't really call it a "very good year", so I'll just settle for "interesting". 2013 was an interesting year for gaming. Of the many games that came out last year, here's a list of the top ten that I played. Please note that I said "that I played", not "the objective list of the best games that ever came out period.", so try not to get too upset if I commit the unthinkable atrocity of not playing the game you liked.

10: Proteus




Why it's on the list: Well, it's pretty. I know that sounds shallow, but Proteus does a single thing, and it does it reasonably well. It's an escape, a chance to relax and unwind after a long day. There's very little interaction, merely exploration and serenity. Does that make it a "game", or should it be forever labelled as "not a game"? It doesn't really matter. Proteus is enjoyable for what it is, so I'm not going to damn it for what it isn't. It isn't deep, complex, or complicated, but not every game has to be. In an industry dominated by "Follow the Leader Syndrome", it's nice to see a game that just wants to do its own thing, which is to be an enjoyable little experience, for however long you play it. 

Why it's not number one: I feel that this game fills a niche that I've been looking for, small as it may be. Sometimes, I come home from a long day at work, and just want to unwind. I don't want always want to blast things to bits, and I certainly don't want to be teabagged by some twelve-year-old screaming in my ear. Sometimes I just want to escape to a beautiful, serene environment, and forget my worries. Proteus does this... but not much else. This isn't so much a criticism as it is a justification for its place on the list. It's not a game I'm likely to which I'm likely to keep returning, but at the same time, it isn't necessarily as memorable as Journey, which remains one of my best gaming experiences, even though I've only played it once. Proteus doesn't really have that many real issues about which I can complain, so I'll just say that I enjoy it for its simplicity, even if it's not all that memorable.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Non-Game of the Year

9: Dead Space 3




Why it's on the list: Despite forgoing its action horror roots, Dead Space 3 still managed to be an entertaining ride, not unlike how I enjoyed Resident Evil 5, despite being an inferior imitation of its predecessor. Despite throwing atmosphere aside, the game's core gameplay-that is, dismembering Necromorphs-is as strong as ever. The true saving grace of the game however, is its robust crafting system. Collecting resources, upgrades, and weapon parts was what kept me going through a second and third playthrough. I played this game for many hours, and I'd say most of that time was spent at the weapon bench, experimenting with the various permutations. Want an assault rifle with an underslung rocket launcher that slows down time? You can do that. How about a flame-thrower with a blade attachment that coats enemies in acid? Yeah, that's possible. 

The depth of the crafting system and the sheer visceral joy of using those crafted weapons to tear enemies apart is extremely satisfying, and is what ultimately saves it from being the mediocre experience it otherwise would be. It should also be mentioned of course, that cooperative play is a blast, with a unique twist on the co-op specific missions. Seriously, I get to dismember alien monsters with a a quadruple-barrelled shotgun that shoots fire. What's not to love?

Why it's not number one: Well, a lot actually. The story's a mess, with the character's actions ranging from impractical to the outright idiotic. Whilst the crafting system is the best part of the game, it's also held back by the somewhat egregious use of microtransactions. Every time you stop at a bench, you're reminded that you can always pay more money to cheat. Don't want to cheat? You have to wait for actual time to pass. I can't think of any examples of waiting used as a good game mechanic, but if there are, this certainly isn't one of them. 

I'm not sure if it's fair to judge a game based on its DLC offerings, but it should probably also be said that the downloadable content for this game was pretty terrible, even by the standards of a Dead Space title. Every weapon and costume you could buy was just a re-skin of existing models, and the Awakened add-on (if you can actually say that it added anything) shat all over the story with an even more confusing plot full of idiotic characters. It adds no new content except story, which was bad. It may not effect its placing on this list, but it certainly tarnishes my memory of the game.

Oh, but I did get a spear gun for eating a Slim Jim that one time. That was kind of a win-win, I guess.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Best Crafting System That Rewards You For Eating Junk Food

8: Volgarr the Viking




Why it's on the list: Volgarr the Viking is an excellent homage to old-school arcade games that walks the thin line between retro throwback and sensible game design. It can be frustratingly difficult, but that's also because you're a scrub and you should just be better at video games. Every misstep you make, as unfair as it may seem, is your fault. Because of this, the game creates a duality of frustration and satisfaction. Every time you fail, you're compelled to go again, because you know exactly what you did wrong, and what you can do to be better. At the same time, finally succeeding is extremely gratifying, not because it took so long, but instead because you did it, with nothing but raw skill.

Why it's not number one: Of course, it isn't a perfect retro homage. Whilst it does capture the look and feel of a classic arcade game, it would have done well to leave some of the more undesirable aspects of that era behind. At times, completing levels feels more like rote memorisation level design than mastery of mechanics. The player is also forced to play the whole game in one go, like you had to do in arcade games. However, this isn't an arcade game. It's another 2D platformer in my Steam library. After triumphing over a long, difficult level, it's nice to just take a break. Sadly, coming back to the game resets your progress, and the player is punished with a worse ending if you want to skip ahead, discouraging replayibility.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Best Viking Simulator of 2013

7: Grand Theft Auto V




Why it's on the list: With a large open world, an incredible attention to detail, and a metric ass-ton of content, there are plenty of reasons for this game to take a spot on this list. For the most part, the moment-to-moment events in the story were a lot of fun, and the staggering amount of detail etched into San Andreas is outstanding, rivalling a lot of single player games such as Metal Gear Solid. It's a game that definitely takes into account what the average player thinks of doing. If you shoot up one character's house with a rocket launcher, the other will text you and kindly ask you to stop. The amount of thought that went into the little things is what earns this game a spot on my list. In addition, the intricacies of the AI deserve a mention as well. I don't think I've had this much fun simply evading the law in any game as much as I did in this one. For the single playthrough that I did, it managed to justify most of my time spent with it.

Why it's not number one: Grand Theft Auto V is a game with a lot of problems. Despite an amazing attention to detail, I'd describe the overall experience as having a "frail grasp on the big picture". Despite what feels like an overwhelming amount of content, I constantly felt underwhelmed. There's a lot to do, but I never really felt interested in doing those things. The combat lacks challenge and depth, and the weapons lack impact. Shooting enemies in the face over and over again is really boring, and it really shouldn't to be. 

Despite having a plethora of missions with branching paths, I only ever did one playthrough, and only replayed a couple of missions. Whilst the moment-to-moment action can be a lot of fun, they're only fun once. Driving a crop duster into a cargo plane shouldn't get old after the first time, but the wow factor is completely lost, and with weak core mechanics, the game has very little replayibility for me.

Then of course, there's the story. It manages to build up a semi-interesting mystery at the start, but despite a fairly good set-up, the story simply doesn't go anywhere. After a string of set-pieces, the plot just fizzles out. The best way to describe the plot of Grand Theft Auto V-and indeed, the entire game-is a lack of focus. With three main characters, none of them get the time to be fleshed out. Unlike previous titles in the franchise, there was very little theming, nothing to tie it all together. The story eventually leads up to one of three disappointing endings. The first two are actually offensive in how anticlimactic they are. Ending 'C' is still anticlimactic, but less so. All of the elements of a good ending are there, but it simply fails to deliver, mostly because the storytelling wasn't very good throughout, and the combat is just so unsatisfying The story gives us several main characters with multiple antagonists (one introduced early on and forgotten, another alluded to late in the third act), but not a single interesting character.

The online mode showed promise, but it too drove me away, especially after seeing how Rockstar prioritises making a quick buck off of microtransations than actually making a good game. The gameplay of Grand Theft Auto V falls into two extremes: easy and boring, and too difficult and frustrating. The single player gives the player too much too soon, with too little effort, which led me to boredom. The multiplayer on the other hand, is far too slow paced and counter productive, which frustrated me to a point where I just got tired of all the repetition and poor design decisions, like cutting the payout for every mission in half, forever. Much like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto V is a game that simply failed to live up to its ridiculous hype train. Is it a good game? Yes, I'd say so. However, it's certainly not "one of the greatest games ever made".

If you want to read more about my thoughts on Grand Theft Auto V, you can read my full review of it here. For a detailed deconstruction of how the online mode is unbalanced, you can read more about that here.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Best Retirement Simulator of 2013

6: Sang Froid: Tales of Werewolves




Why it's on the list: Most PC gamers are no strangers to strategy games. As much as I love a good strategy title, sometimes I want to get right into the action. In this, Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves delivers, offering the best blend of action and strategy I've played since Brütal Legend. During the day, players prepare for the night's onslaught by purchasing items, setting traps, and preparing a plan of action. Oh, and I don't use the word "onslaught" lightly. The wolves will attack you relentlessly, and if you lose a single building, it's game over. You'll need to carefully plan ahead and act fast to survive and scrape together a living in this game. It takes the critical thinking of a strategy game and combines it with the frantic action of a brawler. Combine this with the clever "fear" mechanic-wherein you can keep attacks at bay for a short time-and you've got an intense nail-biter of a game. Refer to the above image. It might not look like much, but when you consider that I've got about a second left before that wolf attacks me, and likely a little more than a couple to fully reload my rifle, which only holds one bullet, it should be obvious that this game is anything but laid back. Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves combines two genres well enough that I can overlook some of its rougher edges, and enjoy one hell of an intense action strategy experience.

Why it's not number one: Like I said, the game's pretty rough around the edges. It's certainly not the best looking game, with a somewhat barren and uninteresting landscape. In addition, it's combat is fairly rudimentary, and difficult to enjoy on its own. Bashing wolves with your axe is clunky and not nearly as satisfying as it should be. Though the strategy aspect of the game is top-notch, the action side of things isn't quite as polished.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Most Accurate Representation of Canadian Life

5: Saints Row IV



Why it's on the list: I don't think the Saints Row franchise will ever recapture the perfect blend of over-the-top shenanigans, impactful storytelling, and an deep open world full of things to do like Saints Row 2 did. That said, Saints Row IV is some of the most fun I've had with the series in a while. In fact, it's some of the most fun I've had in a while, period. At this point, the game has all but completely shaken off its roots as a Grand Theft Auto clone, and now more closely resembles games like Crackdown and Prototype. This game takes a familiar setting and turns it on its head by giving the player super powers, with the ability to fly and spring at super speed, to name a couple. Much like Prototype and InFamous, the actual open world itself isn't very interesting; there isn't much to see from point 'A' to point 'B', most of the fun lies in simply jumping, sprinting, and flying through the environment. The world isn't so much fun to explore as it is to mess around in. Combine that with a zany plot full of laughs and a really deep customisation system, and you're left with a hell of a fun time.

The main reason however, is because you get RoboCop's gun.

Why it's not number one: Saints Row IV is a fun time, but not much else. Like other open world games such as Assassin's Creed, the gameplay is actually quite decent, but most of the entertainment lies in going everywhere and unlocking everything. Of course, there's also the baffling omission of mission replay, which can be very frustrating, considering how much I enjoyed doing those missions. I shouldn't have to re-do the whole campaign just to re-play one set-piece. Aside from that, I don't really have that many issues with the game, it just didn't consistently amaze me like the other games on this list did.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Most Patriotic Game

4: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon



Why it's on the list: Coming in at number four, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is the second game on this list to start off with a Predator reference. If there's one trend of which we haven't seen enough, it's the neo-eighties subgenre, and I don't think any game this year has perfectly embodied that decade like this one. Of course, action movie allusions aren't everything. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon takes the familiar setting and mechanics of its base game, and completely reworks it into something unrecognisable and totally righteous. Like the previous entry on this list, the game is chock full of humour, which prevents the game from getting dull. The open world itself isn't much, but there's plenty to do to keep yourself busy. For such a low price, this game is another great case for why the expandalone model should continue. Simply put, it's most excellent!

The main reason however, is because you get RoboCop's gun.

Why it's not number one: Honestly, there aren't that many problems with this title, unless you just don't like the premise, in which case you are not tubular. The game is just short enough so it doesn't overstay its welcome, but the fresh take on the mechanics and environment are so far removed from the base game that it still feels like a worthwhile experience, even if you haven't played it. Would it be a cop-out to simply say it's great, but not as great as the next three games on this list? Yeah, probably.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Most Eighties References in a Video Game Ever

3: Divekick



Why it's on the list: Whereas Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon managed to be a faithful homage to its source material, Divekick does more than simply pay homage to fighting games. In addition to its slew of FGC references, it actually manages to pull off being a damn good fighting game in its own right. Its sheer simplicity makes it a breath of fresh air compared to the overcomplicated series of systems certain games in the genre have become. What started as a joke ended up becoming a simple, yet hype fighting game that's impossible to criticise. If you don't like Divekick, it's probably because you're a scrub who should be better at video games. You scrub.

Bonus points for being the first of many games to feature Zubaz.

Why it's not number one: It's not as good as the next two games on this list.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Most Salt in a Video Game

2: Metal Gear Rising: Revengance



Why it's on the list: You throw a giant robot and slice it in half... in the first ten minutes. If you've ever played a Platinum game before, you know why this is on here. The game just feels incredible, especially since its running at sixty frames per second. The sound assets, animation quality, and visual feedback all come together to create what is known as a "Platinum visual sex game". Whilst other games have a weak core covered by lots of content, Metal Gear Rising: Revengance nails its core gameplay mechanics with tight controls and challenging, rewarding gameplay. Its story is halfway decent too, straddling the line between serious and insane. However, what most impressed me about this spin-off's story is how it managed to move the universe forward in a more coherent and interesting way than its mainline predecessor. Despite it's flaws (of which there are several), it just goes a long way to show that Platinum can take anything and make a great game out of it.

Also, it easily has the single best soundtrack of the year, no contest.

Why it's not number one: Considering its fairly rocky development cycle, it should come as no surprise that this game has its fair share of flaws. The camera can be infuriatingly antagonistic on higher difficulties, the game is extremely short, and lacking in overall content, and the environments are dull and lifeless. And if you think beautiful environments and high performance are mutually exclusive, I implore you to play Devil May Cry 4. It's obvious that this game was rushed, and whilst that isn't based Platinum's fault, a difference of perspective doesn't change the game itself.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Awards: Best Character Action Game, Best Soundtrack, Best Gameplay, Sexiest Display of Cyborg Ass, Best Boss Fight, Nanomachines, Son

1: The Last of Us




Why it's number one: I'll be honest. I could have rustled everyone's jimmies by putting a game like Gone Home just for the sake of going against the grain, but regardless of the accolades showered upon The Last of Us, it's number one on my list simply because it's the best game I played in 2013. After the subpar Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, this is a return to form for Naughty Dog, sending the PS3 off in style with a game to rival its other masterpiece, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Sometimes, mainstream praise is spot on. The Last of Us is a game that nails nearly every aspect of design (with the notable exception of its somewhat lacklustre AI), from graphics and art direction to gameplay and story. It's soundtrack fits every scenario perfectly, the game looks gorgeous, and despite having an unoriginal plot at first glance, it actually manages to get away with more than one surprising twist that turns the genre on its head with one of the best endings I've seen, ever.

Unlike Naughty Dog's previous title, the pacing here is spot-on. It's quiet and reflective when it needs to be, then tense and explosive when the time comes. It's quality is unrelenting, and in my opinion, it is what every triple 'A' title should aspire to become. If you want more justification than that for why its my best game of 2013, you can read my full review here.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Best Beard of 2013

About My List....


If you're wondering why X game isn't on this top ten list, it's probably because I haven't played it and/or it's a shitty bad game. It's probably both. No, I didn't play Beyond: Two Souls. David Cage is a terrible writer, and I will not support his works. I did play BioShock Infinite; it's not on this list because, whilst many of the games on this list had some major flaws, they had a few noteworthy accomplishments as well. BioShock Infinite has the former in spades, and not so much the latter. The truth is, it was just far too mediocre a game for me to consider it amongst the top ten best games I played in 2013. Besides, one Troy Baker escort mission is enough.

Well, there you have it. The factually objective, unbiased, definitive list of the best ten games from 2013. What were your favourite games? Think I missed anything? Feel free to post your picks in the comments section below!



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