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?
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.