Game of the Year 2013: Overall winner and finalists

January 2, 2014


We’ve shared our favorite games with you, but which game is 2013’s true number one? We narrowed it down to six fantastic finalists, and tell you which one takes the crown.


There are a handful of games this year that feel familiar, yet are different enough to distinguish themselves from gaming’s past. BioShock Infinite is one of those games. It’s a sequel that takes everything that works about the previous entries and molds them into something that feels distinct without compromising what made it so memorable in the first place. It remains fast-paced throughout, yet still provides us with some of remarkable (and memorable) moments that are still stuck in my mind nine months later. – Andrew Passafiume

BioShock‘s attention to setting and back story has always set the series apart from many other first person games. With Infinite, this effort is doubled, with an immense level of character development occurring before the player ever sees the characters in question. Through animation and audio, Columbia reveals its character and story to the player without excessive cutscenes. The colorful city stands in stark contrast to Rapture, and helps make Infinite one of the best-looking shooters of the last few years. – Jeff deSolla


I tried Fire Emblem once, back when we first got a localized title on the GBA. It didn’t really take with me for whatever reason and I sort of let future releases pass me by, but I figured it was time to give Fire Emblem another shot. This was not a decision I regretted, as Awakening really is exceptional. I can’t put my finger on why or what changed, exactly, but I want to give credit to the way decisions you make regarding the characters’ relationships affects the narrative as being a standout feature that wasn’t present in previous editions. The tactics and story remained as solid as I remembered, but that extra emotional attachment to the characters really brought everything together in a satisfying package. – Chris Ingersoll

Play Fire Emblem: Awakening. I really don’t have anything else I can say, but not because there isn’t anything: it’s because I’ve been telling everyone to play it all year. On Snackbar. On Twitter. To friends. To random grocery store cashiers. I can’t stop, because with its compelling plot, balanced combat mechanics and stellar 8-4 localization, it deserves the praise. It’s the best Fire Emblem, and it makes a solid case for both the best strategy RPG ever and the best handheld title. – Graham Russell


A Link Between Worlds is what everybody who loved Link to the Past has been waiting for. Everything feels familiar, thanks to recycling much of the map from the SNES classic, but all of the dungeons are fresh thanks to the merge mechanic. Dungeons are much more vertical, and it works because of how much more of a puzzle traversal is thanks to merge. Combat is button-based in a pleasant return from the DS Zelda games, and the whole game is absolutely dripping in nostalgia. It could have felt cheap, but Nintendo pulled it off, making it feel like a love letter to the SNES classic rather than a rip-off. – Justin Last

Nintendo has really found a groove, taking its beloved franchises and reinventing them for the better. Taking a chance and making a sequel to Link to the Past was a huge move as it was. Now it’s one of the best entries in the series. Link’s ability to transform into a mural gave us a new way to think about puzzles and gave the series a much-needed innovation. – Eric Albuen


We got another new Pokemon game, which is a big thing in and of itself, but this time Game Freak opted to change things up a little. A major aesthetic shift was the main focus, but a ton of effort also went to making the experience much more accessible. As a result, the main campaign (you know, the annoying part you have to get through to get to the endgame) was a much more compelling ride. Weird control and design choices hampered the experience a little, but ultimately the package as a whole was much more smooth and open, and players felt more like an organic part of the Pokemon world than ever before. – Lucas White

After two years of patience, the 3DS finally got a real Pokemon game to call its own. X & Y represented a fresh start for the series, and allowed for more vibrant and grand locales, as well as more nuance to the monster designs themselves. Topping all that off with Nintendo’s own brand of insular social communication between trainers over top of the Nintendo Network, X & Y felt like the franchise was stepping into the modern age. – Chris Dominowski


Rather than simply trying to ape the success of Super Mario Galaxy, 3D World remixed familiar elements of the rest of the series’ past in ways that made them seem like they weren’t retreads. It’s all of the fun of the New Super Mario games with none of the headaches, and it shows that EAD Tokyo has quite a supply of whimsical innovation left. Play it with friends, if you can; that’s where it truly shines. – Graham Russell

Nintendo never ceases to amaze me. While the Mario series has always been rather simplistic in premise, each game always finds some way to innovate the series and make it feel like a whole new experience on each release. Super Mario 3D World is no different, as it takes the smooth gameplay introduced in 3D Land and tosses in the multiplayer experience that we’ve come to expect with the console releases. 3D World also stands as one of the current benchmarks for how a Wii U game should look. There’s no excuse for anyone who owns a Wii U not to have this game in their collection. – Eric Albuen


We’ve seen a million post-apocalyptic movies and games, but The Last of Us surpasses them all. Instead of telling us the world has moved on, it shows us. We feel that houses were once lived in, offices were centers of activity, stores were (and still are) filled with various goods and that some losses are never gotten over. The Last of Us throws away stereotypes and cliches, and trusts the player enough to punch us in the proverbial gut before giving us one of the best endings of all time. – Henry Skey

Naughty Dog is capable of many things, but I am still stunned it managed to craft such a believable world and create two of gaming’s most memorable protagonists. That’s not to say the team lacks the talent to do so. It’s just that The Last of Us is such a departure from its previous work that it proves it has what it takes to tell any story, no matter how serious the subject matter is. Due to its methodical pace, emphasis on stealth and extreme violence, this isn’t as much a game for everyone as Uncharted is, yet those who play it can’t deny its impact. This is a game we’ll be talking about for years to come, and now remains Naughty Dog’s crowning achievement. – Andrew Passafiume