Road to Game of the Year 2013

A Look Back at 2013's Best Sequels

Sequel isn't a dirty word.

GameSpot's Game of the Year series is set to kick off soon. Starting on December 9, we'll unveil all of this year’s nominees. Then on December 10, we'll start awarding platform category winners daily, until we reach the big one--the Game of the Year--on December 19. But before we start naming nominees and crowning champions, we’re taking a look back at 2013’s top games to help refresh your memories (and ours) about what was great, what was worthwhile, and what could probably, maybe, possibly warrant inclusion in our Game of the Year deliberations. In this first installment of our Road to Game of the Year series, we look at the latest additions to some of gaming’s most beloved franchises.

The games industry is built on the back of its megafranchises, and 2013 proved to be an outstanding year for some of gaming’s best-known series. The last 12 months have seen the reinvigoration of some stagnant titles, impressive reboots of a few beloved characters, and the long-awaited return of some fan favorites. There were, of course, some serious missteps, but several of the latest installments in franchises both big and small are some of the best gaming experiences 2013 had to offer. So will a sequel or a series “reboot” end up taking GameSpot’s prestigious Game of the Year award in 2013? There’s plenty of precedent for this, with numbered sequels or the latest in a franchise winning GameSpot’s top accolade several times in the award’s 17-year history. It happened as recently as two years ago, when the last Elder Scrolls game--Skyrim--won Game of the Year, but other notable numbered game winners including Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008), Resident Evil 4 (2005), and Grand Theft Auto III (2001).

A great sequel needs to straddle the line between the new and the familiar, between nostalgia and innovation, and between giving us what we’ve already played and loved and giving us what we’ve never seen before. So which of this year's sequels or franchise entries deserve to be considered as potential platform category winners, or even as Game of the Year?

DmC: Devil May Cry

There's no point in looking back: Dante has got a brand-new future in front of him, and if DmC: Devil May Cry is anything to go by, it's going to be a great one.

GameSpot Editor - Mark Walton

2013 started with a lot of angst about a fictional character’s haircut. To be sure, the wailing and gnashing of teeth about the rebooted DmC: Devil May Cry wasn’t all about Dante’s shorn locks. The moaners moaned that the new game had deviated too far from what made the series great, with some of the more passionate moanatees bombarding the game’s Metacritic page with low user scores and even trying to get US President Barack Obama involved. Most critics, however, loved the game and praised the new direction developer Ninja Theory had taken.

Check out our review for DmC : Devil May Cry

Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Heart of the Swarm is a safe expansion, but it's also an excellent one.

GameSpot Editor - Daniel Shannon

With all the buzz around eSports, it’s easy to forget that Starcraft isn’t all about massive tournaments and how fast your APM is. It’s also about a lady who becomes a human-alien hybrid and can control space bugs with her brain. Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm’s single-player campaign focuses on the Queen of Blades herself--Kerrigan--while the multiplayer continues to refine the tight competitive gameplay that has made Starcraft II one of the leading eSports games to date. It may not be the real-time strategy revolution many were hoping for, but Heart of the Swarm has the polish and finesse very few other games can match.

Check out our review for Starcraft II : Heart of the Swarm

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

The more you play, the more invested you become in the well-being of your city, and the more exciting each small success becomes.

GameSpot Editor : Tom McShea

Animal Crossing is one of those games whose appeal is almost impossible to describe to someone who hasn’t played the series. “So you collect fossils, you say? And you get to write letters to animals? And I have to pay off debts? Sounds great!” But trust us: the unique New Leaf is loaded with charm, and the 3DS’s online capabilities make Animal Crossing a much more social game than ever before.

Check out our review for Animal Crossing : New Leaf

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Assassin's Creed needed something ambitious to get the series back on track; Black Flag is that game and then some.

GameSpot Editor : Shaun McInnis

After many were underwhelmed by Assassin’s Creed III, there was a real danger that Ubisoft’s flagship franchise would either sink under the weight of expectations or get becalmed in a sea of familiarity. But Black Flag sailed in on a stiff breeze, and its focus on pirating in the Caribbean propelled the franchise into exciting new waters. It is, to jam in just one more nautical term in this paragraph, sea shanty-rrific.

Check out our review for Assassin's Creed IV : Black Flag

BioShock Infinite

It's immensely fun to stir up trouble, and even more engaging to see how boldly BioShock Infinite portrays a society torn asunder.

GameSpot Editor - Kevin VanOrd

BioShock Infinite is a game that invites discussion, with the answers to its many narrative mysteries still being debated months after the game’s release. What’s not in question is that BioShock Infinite is one of 2013’s best-reviewed games, with an astounding 94 average on Metacritic. But perhaps the greatest mystery still lies unsolved: Where did Elizabeth find all those coins? Was she holding a purse Booker didn’t know about? Or did she keep creating tears to some mysterious coin vault?

Check out our review for Bioshock : Infinite

Dota 2

The experience of playing Dota changes day by day--some evenings will be exhilarating, while others will kick your morale to the curb--but there are few games as worthy of your time investment as this.

GameSpot Editor - Martin Gaston

Though it has been a fixture of the eSports scene for close to two years, Dota 2 is still technically a 2013 game, being officially released in July this year after many months in beta. The game can be staggeringly complex, but the full release comes with comprehensive tools and tips aimed at helping newcomers ease in and perhaps think that maybe, just maybe, they have a shot at turning pro. Which, of course, is impossible. Everyone else is far too good.

Check out our review for Dota 2

Grand Theft Auto V

Your time in Los Santos may leave you with a few psychological scars, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from visiting.

GameSpot Editor - Carolyn Petit

Let’s face it: the behemoth that is Rockstar’s latest open-world crime epic is sure to be featured as a nominee for several Game of the Year awards, and not just GameSpot's. Grand Theft Auto V received almost unanimous critical acclaim and sales that dwarfed the biggest Hollywood blockbusters, making it one of those rare games that absolutely everyone--self-confessed gamer or not--talked about. But does it have what it takes to go all the way and take our top award of Game of the Year?

Check out our review for Grand Theft Auto V

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Though it can be bizarre to think that something so occasionally familiar can still be so fresh and engaging, A Link Between Worlds is itself a unique experience.

GameSpot Editor - Martin Gaston

Nintendo did it. It actually went ahead and did it. After almost two decades, Nintendo finally had the temerity to--gasp--change how a Legend of Zelda game plays. A Link Between Worlds shakes up the traditional Zelda formula by letting you rent items and tackle dungeons in almost any order, and it introduces a new ability that impacts your moment-to-moment play. The result is pure, uncut Zelda goodness, and it’s the best the series has been in years.

Check out our review for The Legend of Zelda : A Link Between Worlds

Pokemon X/Y

Whether you're a pokefreak or a trainer who hasn't played since the days of Red and Blue, Pokemon X/Y is easily the most enticing entry in the franchise in years.

GameSpot Editor - Randolph Ramsay

Nintendo did it. It actually went ahead and did it. After almost two decades, Nintendo finally had the temerity to...oh wait, this is Pokemon X/Y we’re talking about, right? OK, so the core experience of playing a Pokemon game may not have changed that much in X/Y, but the first Pokemon on the 3DS adds subtle refinements (such as faster ways to level up your team) and extensive multiplayer modes, making this one of the most accessible Pokemon games ever made.

Check out our review for Pokemon X/Y

Tomb Raider

It doesn't try to rewrite the book on third-person action adventure games. But with its excellent controls, engaging heroine, thrilling combat, and fascinating setting, it doesn't need to.

GameSpot Editor - Carolyn Petit

It’s hard to believe that at one time, Lara Croft and Sonic the Hedgehog were the biggest, most popular video game characters out there. Both iconic game icons had a new game this year, but only one was in a game deserving of consideration as a contender for our end-of-year awards. Here’s a hint: it’s the game that doesn’t have hedgehogs in it. The Tomb Raider reboot this year--smart, sometimes harrowing, and always exciting--builds on Lara’s legacy as one of gaming's most beloved characters.

Check out our review for Tomb Raider

Super Mario 3D World

Everything that you can see and do within its enchanting levels is so bright, colorful, and full of wonder that it's impossible not to be taken in by its charms.

GameSpot Editor - Mark Walton

Here’s a thought that may stir some heated debate: the only next-gen game worth playing this holiday season is Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U. Sure, it may not have the looks of a Killzone or Forza, and you can’t use the Wii U to, say, search Bing for pizza delivery using voice commands, but Super Mario 3D World does have the most diverse, addictive, and downright charming gameplay seen in a Mario game since the Galaxy heydays.

Check out our review Super Mario 3D World

Metro: Last Light

Last Light is notably superior to its predecessor, merging storytelling, shooting, and sneaking into a remarkable and cohesive whole.

GameSpot Editor - Kevin VanOrd

Apparently the budget on the hugely impressive Metro: Last Light was a 10th of some of its AAA counterparts. And apparently the Ukrainian devs had to work in freezing temperatures in their offices in Kiev, and had to “smuggle” in high-end PCs to get past corrupt Ukrainian customs officers. Yet despite those development challenges, Metro: Last Light became one of the most compelling shooters of the past year, and compares more than favorably to some of the huge AAA titles Western game companies have produced.

Check out our review for Metro : Last Light

The above games are just a few of the high-quality sequels released in 2013. Did we miss some obvious choices? Do you think any of the above will make it as a nominee, or even as GameSpot’s Game of the Year? Sound off in the comments below! And come back tomorrow when our Road to Game of the Year feature continues with a look back at 2013’s brand-new titles and gaming experiences.

Discussion

516 comments
SnowyKat
SnowyKat

As an older gamer (nearing 70) AND a female to boot you can believe I'm pretty picky about the games I play.. Since purchasing my first console (the old Sega Master System) decades ago, I've been devoted to RPGs.. I've owned about every console you can think of from the original Nintendo and all it's many variations to the Sega Dreamcast to the PS 1,2 and 3.. I now own just 3 units, the wii, the X-box 360 elite and the PS3.. As for games, I'd like to say I've evolved along with them but, until Tomb Raider 2013, I never had any use for violent shoot-em up types.. Now, don't get me wrong, I loved all the previous Tomb Raider games, still have them and still play them on occasion BUT I was blown away by the newest and that was a big surprise to me! I do not like gore and there was a LOT of gore in this game but I did LOVE the way Lara Croft was portrayed.. I loved her gumption, her anger at the people trying to kill her and her desire, above even her own life, to protect her friend, Sam.. It was the characterization of Lara and how she grew during the game that drew me in, despite the violence and, to me, unnecessary gore! It also made me aware that I have been missing out on a big part of gaming, the first and third-person shooter.. Don't get me wrong, I won't be buying tons of gruesome, violent-ridden zombie games, but I did buy Uncharted and, though I was only able to play Drake's Fortune (because the second game kept shutting down my PS3 and I had to put it aside) I look forward to purchasing others that have GOOD stories and great game-play.. If you haven't played Tomb Raider:2013 yes, I can't recommend it highly enough! This is Lara Croft at her best!

rIVAL_sWORD84
rIVAL_sWORD84

i have no idea about Star Craft and Dota. Except these two games all others are excellent sequels.

Iordanis1278
Iordanis1278

Tomb raider was a great game, a pleasant surprise i would say. However one thing is for sure grand theft auto V is a magnificent achievement in my opinion not only the greatest game of this year but the best of this generation. When it comes to game design these people at rockstar are very hard to compete, they are excellent game creators and they have proved that before with red dead redemption and now once again with grand theft auto v. This game is a wonderful, absorbing game world, the best i have seen in terms of game design. Also i would like to express my admiration for another game i have played in the beginning of this year assassins, creed 3. Rayman legends was also a great game, just too difficult when you get deeper into the game, from a point and on its pointless to keep playing because of its high difficulty. 

elbcen
elbcen

I was surprised that Rayman Legends did not get recognized as a great sequel, though I would agree with that either way since I don't see Legends as a vastly superior sequel to Origins (then again, the same goes for my appreciation of DmC: Devil May Cry).


Great list, I cannot think of any other sequel that deserves as much recognition as the ones already listed here. This will be an exciting Game of the Year show.

Hellcanwait
Hellcanwait

please, if you as a gamer don´t want microtransaction as the future of gaming, do not, i repeat do not vote for metro last light.


having to pay for a harder setting is just disgusting and should at least have been mentioned in the review.


shame on you kevin van ord, for not mentioning all the micro transactions in your review, disgusting, just disgusting.

natanmir
natanmir

GTA 5 is Shit! you know why? because it didn't get a PC version. it gets no respect or attention from me.

bourne2live
bourne2live

Well, the answer is obviously GTA5 for living up to mammoth expectations, though Bioshock Infinite is an amazing stand-alone game too; but I would hand it to Assassin's Creed 4 for actually turning out to be a much better experience than ACIII.

Samslayer
Samslayer

Sadly, I haven't played any of these titles other than Bioshock: Infinite, I'd better get playing!

Mesden
Mesden

Uhh.. Gamespot? Tomb Raider wasn't a Sequel... At least not until Crystal Dynamics makes a title prior to the events of Tomb Raider but I don't think that's going to happen...

darkljolly
darkljolly

Metro Last Light. Those developers went through hell and they still managed to pull of one of this years best shooter, they deserve it.

chyng85
chyng85

I want Lara to win~! 

archav3n
archav3n

Assassin's Creed IV one of the most impressive i would say..

cwatz12
cwatz12

Where. Is. FIRE EMBLEM!

timthegem
timthegem

Bioshock Infinite is $10 on Steam again today, in case anyone didn't get it during the autumn sale.

bunchanumbers
bunchanumbers

Metro was a great game! hoping for metro. But the whole list is nice.

street-killer86
street-killer86

I choose Assassin's Creed because it's one of the best game franchises ever,it's so underrated by people.Also,Saints row IV must be in this list,it's so amazing!

J4m3sR4n0r72
J4m3sR4n0r72

Could somebody please explain to me how a reboot of a franchise counts as a sequel?

warriors30
warriors30

For me it's either Bioshock Infinite or GTA V. Both games created a fantastic world and atmosphere and were really hard to put down.


2013 was a good year, I really can't pick my number one game.

curiousarman
curiousarman

is it just me or does the GOTY background looks like mimicking the sims?


oh... it's a clue...

AndCarlsen
AndCarlsen

Will the readers also be able to choose their game of the year, just like last year? That was pretty cool.

chad28_69
chad28_69

I'm so glad that DmC is on the list, and the first one at that. The game was super fun to play and I liked the story.

All the negativity around it is unfounded.

psygnosis
psygnosis

Metro: Last Light, my best game of 2013, brilliant storytelling, the gameworld is unforgettable and that atmosphere is so good.

hornspiller
hornspiller

Isn't video games mostly sequels? At least in AAA titles. Since when have blizz for instance made an original game not based on previous stuff?


Kyrylo
Kyrylo

Looks like Crapcom finally scrabbled enough money from Monster Hunter sales to throw up a bone to GS. I honestly dunno how much in denial somebody must be to give 7/10 game (according to GS itself ) a title of DA BEST SEQUEL EVA. Seriously, GS, do you even check your own scores? Pfft.

DaRq_MiNoS
DaRq_MiNoS

My list so far (I have PS3, PS4, PC, 3DS):

1.  Ni no Kuni

2.  The Last of Us

3.  AC4 (PS4)

4.  Tomb Raider

5.  GTA V

6.  Bioshock Infinite

7.  Fire Emblem:  Awakening

8.  Gone Home


These are the games I've played this year that I consider excellent.


cboye18
cboye18

All are quite good, except the overrated AC franchise. There's nothing that can fix the broken combat mechanics and awkward movement controls, not even the latest game....


Personally I would go with GTAV, Mario 3D world and Zelda 3DS with being the top 3 contenders.

hotdiddykong
hotdiddykong

They were all great experiences.

Whether you like a good shooter with one heck of an engaging story like Bioshock Infinite, or just a casual life simulator that is one of the best of the best like Animal Crossing, or just having a great as hell Pirate game that you just remembered was an Assassins Creed game. There's something for everyone and i love it.


Personally, while it might not be one of the toppest community wise , you gotta give 3D World props for having a complete 360 after its E3 showing was massively underwhelming

jecomans
jecomans

The games from this list that I think should be contenders are; Bioshock: Infinite, Tomb Raider, and A Link Between Worlds. None of them will likely beat out new IP for GOTY, but they deserve very special mentions.

dxBIGBOSSxb
dxBIGBOSSxb

Great list. Honestly this was a good year for sequels, albeit in my opinion not all that great for "gaming" outside of the next gen launch. Personally what I'de like to add to the list is Saints Row 4, Dead Rising 3, and Splinter Cell: Blacklist. I know there's plenty of "interweb trollz" who've been giving these games hard times and spamming metacritic to s*** on them without ever having PLAYED the game, but I found them each fantastic fun and satisfying from both a hardcore fan's standpoint and a gamers perspective. There are few bigger fans than me for SR and DR. As for the lisy, here are my thoughts... if anyone cares :'(    JK! XD

DMC: Not a huge fan of this series, but I liked it well enough. Story kinda sucked though. HoTS: Why's an expansion pack here? Animal Crossing: Felt too much like a facebook game to me :/  AC4: Loved this game! Helped reinvigorate the series for me. Got a little fatigued after AC3 BioInf: Found it overrated. Hated the combat and short length. Good story though. Dota2: N/A GTAV: Loved it, but it's a LOUSY sandbox game. Enjoyed SR4 more as a FUN game. Zelda: N/A X and Y: Love this game! Repeat of my AC4 comment. Tomb Raider: Meh :/ Mario: No... just, no. And people say Call of Duty is bad... Metro Last Light: Wish I could have s*x with this game :D

Slagar
Slagar

What a great list of games. Honestly I have my hat tipped to Tomb Raider this time round. The devs had a lot of stigma to overcome and prove an old franchise can still be viable in the modern gaming world, and I think they did a top job of it. Great to have Ms. Croft back from the ashes of gaming's yesteryears.

h1221292h
h1221292h

oh god! NO!

Please give it your attention!

LordKaizer
LordKaizer

@itmustbepaul while garbage games like DmC. a game so bad that gamespot can't name the good points it has beside insulting DMC fans with the hair (that nobody mentioned it for the past 3 years)

slainta
slainta

@J4m3sR4n0r72 That was my question as well indeed. TR sure doesn't belong to this category.

Sevenizz
Sevenizz

Bioshock may have looked pretty, it's gameplay was rather boring.

Sevenizz
Sevenizz

Please don't. I'd hate the rabid JRPG fans to take over a category and that dumb niño no in (or w/e it 's called) and win goty - did anyone even buy that garbage?

python1026
python1026

@cboye18 The only gripes that you mentioned are the combat and controls, you do know that AC4 is mostly naval stuff, right? Its not overrated, YOU just dont like it, simple as that. 


But seriously you think DmC is a good sequel? Its a good game, but it removed some cool things from the past games.

DaRq_MiNoS
DaRq_MiNoS

@cboye18 I'm not a huge fan of the AC series or anything, and I didn't finish AC3, but Black Flag was a fantastic game on PS4.  Yes the controls are annoying, and I felt the story was kinda weak in parts, but everything else was awesome.  I got this with my PS4 on launch day and did many all-night sessions with it.  Even a 32 hour straight session on Thanksgiving weekend.  There's about a dozen different kinds of side quests which are all incredibly fun (managing your fleet, looting ships, harpooning whales and sharks, diving around shipwrecks, assassination missions, hunting, capturing forts, following treasure maps, etc).

It's really one of the best games this year, IMO.  If the controls were silky smooth, and the story was a bit better, I'd give it a straight up 10.  As it is, I'd give it a 9.0-9.5.

warriors30
warriors30

It was a pretty generic shooter, gameplay wise, I agree...but for some reason it was also the most enjoyable shooter I've played this year. It was very straight forward but I had a fun time from start to finish. Of course the gameplay is not what people will remember, it's the colorful world, well painted characters and the storytelling. The lenght of this game was also perfect for me. The whole thing felt like a rollercoaster ride, and that's not always a bad thing, in my opinion.

slainta
slainta

@Sevenizz Garbage? This from the guy who just above wrote "Gimmie a good shooter or a racing title any day". Obviously you are one of those people who think COD is the best thing ever happened. How original. 


Oh, and it is Ni No Kuni anyway.

Sevenizz
Sevenizz

I tend to enjoy gameplay over story/graphics - I guess it's why I could never get into JRPGs. Gimmie a good shooter or a racing title any day.

slainta
slainta

@Sevenizz Still I'd love to remind you that two of the best action RPG ever are JRPG: Demons' and Dark Souls. Anyone trying to define them as western RPGs still doesn't have clear how RPGs work.

Sevenizz
Sevenizz

Actually, I haven't played the new CoD or BF for that matter. They aren't the only shooters out the - or even the best ones.