When 2013 began, I said this would be one of the best years in gaming. With some disappointments and surprises, that prediction has been on target. Here are my top games for this year so far.
10. “Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch” This game blurs the boundaries between anime and video game. Level 5, the renowned Japanese developer, and Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation film studio, collaborated on this masterful Japanese role-playing game that is a loving throwback to the genre.
9. “Dead Space 3” In this generation, the hardest title to make is the third of a trilogy. But Visceral Games came out with a surprisingly satisfying conclusion to the Isaac Clarke saga. It doesn’t revolutionize the genre the same way the original did, but this is a better game than its predecessor.
8. “Gears of War: Judgment” Credit goes to the writing and the level design that showed the Gears universe had another compelling story to tell.
7. “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon” This was the surprise of the year. The game uses the Far Cry 3 engine and gameplay loops, but sets it into a post-apocalyptic world as imagined in the Me Decade. “Blood Dragon” shows that downloadable content doesn’t have to be throwaway material focused on rewrapping the same game in a zombie skin. It can be something so much more.
6. “Fire Emblem: Awakening” This edition is perfect for first-timers and shows off a deep combat system with a focus on personal relationships between characters. The game also has a twist that sets it apart from its peers.
5. “Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance” “Revengeance” is over-the-top as Raiden slices his way through an army of cyberborgs and giant robots to stop a rogue private military contractor. It’s a rare feat to create a hack-and-slasher that feels different from the pack.
4. “BioShock Infinite” The much-anticipated follow-up to “BioShock” was a great game with some flaws. But its problem and what separates it from the original is that it feels so contrived. Despite the missteps, the strength of Levine’s vision and the soundtrack make this a must-play.
3. “SimCity” “SimCity” is a phenomenal game. (Full disclosure: I’m good friends with one of the developers.) It takes the best parts of the series and adds a social multiplayer element to encourage mayors to work together to build a specific type of city for a region and share resources.
2. “Tomb Raider” As franchises get long in the tooth, they occasionally need a revamp, and Crystal Dynamics offers a master class on how to do it. The new take of the game shows a heroine who is coming into her own as she tries to rescue her shipwrecked crew from fanatics on a mysterious island. The game offers a much larger world where Lara Croft unlocks parts of the island with new tools and defeats enemies in a multitude of ways.
1. “The Last of Us” This was one of the top three games that players were anticipating this year. Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic world where infected zombified humans destroy society offers one thrill after the next. Those expecting another “Uncharted” will be surprised to learn that it’s more about survival-horror and stealth. But the performances and game direction are what make this game great. The chemistry between Troy Baker’s Joel and Ashley Johnson’s Ellie is magical and Naughty Dog captures the subtlety of human interaction with a deft touch.