Game Front Staff’s 2013 Game of the Year

Phil Hornshaw – Deputy Editor
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  1. Papers, Please
  2. Tomb Raider
  3. Teleglitch
  4. The Swapper
  5. Outlast

I have to say — it’s been a weird year. My Top Five Games of the Year is a nebulous, constantly shifting set of indie games, with titles shifting in and out depending on mood and memory — Gone Home was startling, beautiful and touching, but Antichamber was a mind-bending experience of shifting perspectives and a twisting, ever-changing world. I lost myself (and died) many times in the procedurally generated, top-down halls of Teleglitch’s Doom-like research station, but Outlast seems like it officially marks a trend of horror games in the mainstream that are willing to let players feel powerless, like its inspiration, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Standing out from the triple-A crowd is Tomb Raider, which I didn’t expect to like and instead loved, with its phenomenal reimagining of Lara Croft that, for the first time, made me want to keep playing as her.

If I must choose just one Game of the Year, however, I think it must (just barely) be Papers, Please. The game ensnared me with a brief, productivity killing addiction, by being both mechanically satisfying — I got good at checking passports, guys — as well as wholly disconcerting and vaguely terrifying. It spurred empathy in me as I was forced to deny someone entry to my country because of a faulty passport, and yet satisfaction from knowing that I was stopping criminals and preventing terrorist attacks.

Papers, Please is powerful because it manages to do what only games, at their very best, are capable of: putting players in a situation and making them feel it, at least a little. I got why the bribes were enticing. I got why being a cog in a machine — a good cog, with good intentions, in a machine that’s less evil and more just banal — can be a way to lose yourself. I got from Papers, Please an empathetic experience I’ve never had before, conveyed through an interactive system. I don’t feel like I’ve climbed mountains or hunted mutants or run from deranged killers in 2013, but I do feel like I’ve stamped passports, and asked myself, “Can I let this one slide?”


Ross Lincoln – Features Editor
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  1. Saints Row IV
  2. The Swapper
  3. Rise of the Triad
  4. The Wolf Among Us
  5. Grand Theft Auto V / The Last of Us (tie)

As Phil Hornshaw and I went into in great detail, 2013 was somewhat of a disappointing year games-wise. That’s to say there weren’t some great releases, but in a year so full of sequels and hype, even the games that initially blew me away also left me with serious ambivalence. As a result, my game of the year isn’t necessarily the best, but it did end up being my personal favorite.

Having been initially conceived as a DLC expansion to Saints Row III, Saints Row IV still bears such close ties to that game that it almost feels impossible to consider on its own. But thanks to some very smart comedic writing and a commitment to fan service bordering on the ridiculous, Volition delivered one of the most enjoyable and satisfying experiences of 2013. Boasting excellent co-op, it’s equally fun for male and female gamers, overflowing with absurdity, full of references to everything from They Live to Mass Effect 3′s ending, and it’s consistently hilarious. But in a shocking twist, it also managed to bring an end to the Saints Row storyline in a way that felt honestly touching. Better, it did all this without losing the sociopathic violence, and making certain male and female gamers could get the same experience out of it.

Yes, it did finally make certain the series’ transition from tongue in cheek crime game to straight up parody, but that’s only a bad thing if you only played these games to pass the time in between Grand Theft Auto releases. If you love super powers, consequence-free violence and the destruction of whole planets, and you like the idea of doing these things with some of your best friends, you can’t ask for more than Saints Row IV.

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12 Comments on Game Front Staff’s 2013 Game of the Year

Chirpy

On January 4, 2014 at 4:06 am

I’m a bit surprised Bioshock Infinite didn’t receive more love. At least nobody went for the ridiculous Beyond: Two Souls.

GazH

On January 4, 2014 at 4:38 am

Was it a requirement to vote in Tomb Raider? Did someone get paid at all? I’m just spotting it everywhere, even in places where it doesn’t belong, such as Mitchell Saltzman’s choices. He’s talking about his number 5 choice of Rogue Legacy and yet Tomb Raider is on the list in its place. Hmm…

Mitchell Saltzman

On January 4, 2014 at 9:56 am

@GazH: Miscommunication. When we first drafted these lists, we had a top 5 AAA and top 5 indies. Then we realized that they shouldn’t be separated and I included Rogue Legacy instead of Tomb Raider, but the first list was what got posted. Fixing it now.

SupremeAllah

On January 4, 2014 at 10:01 am

It isn’t my place to tell other people what their top five should be.

Though I am saddened that Wonderful 101 and on a lesser note, Metal Gear Rising: Revengance weren’t on anyone’s lists.

Phil Hornshaw

On January 4, 2014 at 10:05 am

@GazH

Should also note that, at least for me, the order of my list isn’t a ranking. I actually struggled to nail down my Top 5 for this year quite a bit, and I’m pretty sure a lot of other people did as well.

Also, because I guess I have to say it (SIGH): No, no one was paid. We just enjoyed Tomb Raider (in a year of many not-very-good triple-A titles).

Ed

On January 4, 2014 at 11:26 am

Nobody at Gamefront played Rayman Legends then?

Deadspace

On January 4, 2014 at 4:30 pm

@Chirpy Bio Shock had some great story telling and voice acting but the core gameplay was extremely average and generic that’s probably why it didn’t get more love.

Ron Whitaker

On January 4, 2014 at 4:52 pm

@Chirpy – If you’re wondering why we didn’t give more love to Bioshock Infinite, I’d suggest listening to our podcast where we discussed the lack of a clear-cut GOTY for 2013.

http://www.gamefront.com/game-front-podcast-11-does-2013-even-have-a-goty/

Personally, I felt like Infinite got a lot more love than it deserved.

As to the Tomb Raider error, that one is on me. Sorry, Mitch!

SweetPea

On January 5, 2014 at 6:13 am

It’s surprising that so many people think Tomb Raider was one of the best games this year. For me, it was a disappointment.

People constantly say how Lara was humanized. Well, not really. She’s supposed to be a young, inexperienced girl, still at the beginning of her career. But the gameplay doesn’t support that at all. Halfway through the game I found myself doing nothing but constantly blasting thousands of these islanders to pieces with a shotgun and an explosive bow. When I think of Tomb Raider, I want platforming and puzzles, with a little action, not 90%. That’s what Lara’s good at. She’s not a one-man-army.

And I’m surprised that Phil Hornshaw doesn’t seem to mind this, even though he likes to complain about The Last Of Us’ enormous body count, and how it turned the game “from a series of tense sneak-sessions into a slog through yet another group of idiot “hunters.”” (which I agree with, btw.)

Red Menace

On January 5, 2014 at 8:08 pm

I like the way you guys did this. A good read.

Sir Hawk

On January 6, 2014 at 4:29 am

@Gazh and Phil Hornshaw

completely agree that Tomb Raider was simple fantastic and fun to play all the way through… surprising it didnt feature in other game sites GOTY lists. Fantastic to see Gamefronts honest opinions.

Michael

On January 6, 2014 at 10:13 pm

WOW did everyone forget about Dead space 3 and the puppeteer.