I like my games pretty. Hey, if I'm going to have to stare at it for upwards of 50 hours (hello, Ni no Kuni), I'd like it to massage my eye holes with spectacular tendrils.
This year proved, as most do, that good-looking games are more art than horsepower. One voxel-filled PS4 game did creep onto the list, though, joining the likes of small indie titles, wonderfully artistic handheld games, and good old last generation fare. Long live the Cell processor.
Everything just works so well in unison. The soundtrack is delightful and odd, at times reminiscent of Paprika’s parade fanfare with its lively horns. The world, put together in paper scraps, is unbelievable in its artistry and function. Tearaway’s paper water and ripples as you walk through it are more impressive than any realistic water graphics I’ve ever seen. The level of unique detail in the world is staggering. Every moment spent immersed in it is heartwarming. Fittingly, it feels positively handcrafted.
Read the full Tearaway review
Super Mario 3D World
There was a moment where I was taking in the beautiful soundtrack, hovering over a tricky jump as cat Peach, and watching the glistening water below where the game really came together. It was then that I realized that Super Mario 3D World had achieved a level of platforming design that's close to perfection, and there was almost never a moment where I didn't have a smile on my face. This is the unequivocally the best Mario game since Galaxy 2, and it shows up anything the "New" series has ever done, and then some.
Good work, Nintendo.
Read the full Super Mario 3D World review.
If you're a lover of games that require you to put in before you get out, and you recall the glory days of the Eastern RPG, where experience points were the lifeblood and the grind was king, you have literally no decent excuse for not finding a way to play Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. A classic of the modern age, built entirely from classics of the past, it's advised you get comfortable, cancel all your plans, and prepare to enjoy a game that will dominate your life for the next few months.
Rayman Legends is occasionally flustering, and sometimes seems to demand more than a conventional controller is capable of. The surprisingly slapdash jury-rigging of Wii U features on other systems is glaring in its inelegance, too. However, we're still left with an impressively designed platformer that proves itself a worthy followup to Rayman Origins, making a few notable omissions, but adding some excellent new ideas of its own.
Charming, funny, and only sometimes exasperating, Rayman Legends is the kind of game that makes this industry a better place for its existence.
Read the full Rayman Legends review.
As a game, BioShock Infinite has its successes and its falterings consistent with any suitably complex piece of interactive entertainment. As a story, as an exercise in drawing the player into a believable and relevant world, as proof of exactly what a videogame can mean to a person ...
Well, I already said it. BioShock Infinite is damn near perfect.
Read the full BioShock Infinite review.
I came away from The Swapper with nothing but amazement. From the first time you see the literally hand-crafted visuals until the final moment in the game, which is sure to give you pause for thought, you will be in complete awe. Brilliant puzzles with even more brilliant solutions compliment the philosophical plotline, leaving an unforgettable experience unlike any other.
Read the full The Swapper review.
At five stages long, Resogun can be finished in one sitting. But it’s so lovely and inviting that you don’t mind jumping right back in. Turning up the difficulty is a great reason to come back. Add in the systems that pile on new levels of depth and you’ll find new challenges each time .... Resogun is a satisfying arcade-style game with a next-gen look and feel -- the ideal system launch game. It’s an eye-searing blur of a loop that you’ll be happy to jump into again and again. Don’t miss it.
Dragon's Crown is quite literally a crowning achievement in the beat 'em up genre. Utilizing some of the best design concepts of the past 20 years, Vanillaware succeeds in creating a captivating world that you just can't help but experience over and over.
While it may not win over the hardiest of brawler haters, if you've even had an inkling of joy hacking and slashing at any time in your gaming career, you should probably be playing Dragon's Crown.
Read the full Dragon's Crown review.
The Last of Us
There is more to The Last of Us than just combat and "emotional" story tropes. To touch on its setpiece moments, to detail its beautiful changes in pace, would be to spoil too much. It cannot be said enough, however, that Naughty Dog's new best creation is complete, and when I say complete, I mean it to pay the highest of compliments. I do not want more from The Last of Us: I do not need more. As the last line was uttered and the credits ushered in the close, I was done. The Last of Us had achieved everything it needed to achieve in order to provide me with everything I wanted.
And it ended perfectly.
Read the full The Last of Us review.
Kentucky Route Zero
Kentucky Route Zero evokes the feeling of old ghost stories told around a campfire. There's the familiarity of friends and family around a warm, man-made fire, but with it comes the unnerving tale of the strange and unusual. Kentucky Route Zero is beautifully bizarre and perfectly poignant, and most of all, deserves your attention.
Read the full Kentucky Route Zero review.
Congrats to all the nominees! We'll be announcing the official winner on Monday, December 24.
Here's all the other nominee categories we've revealed so far:
In the mean time we want you to tell us which game has the best visuals of 2013.