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D+PAD’s Games of the Year 2013

20:2020/12/2013Posted by D+PAD Staff3 Comments

Ah, 2013. It’s been quite the year for the gaming industry, as it continued its march into the mainstream with the launch of a new console generation. But it wasn’t just the big budget console releases that made waves. Indie developers in particular had a fantastic year, with a large number of releases garnering critical acclaim and mass appeal across a range of platforms. Along with the traditional home consoles and PCs, mobile gaming and casual gaming continued to be a part of the indie revolution, leading many commentators to speculate 2013 will be the year of the last ever major console launch.

But 2013 will obviously be remembered for one thing above all else: it was the year that D+PAD’s long-time editor Simeon Paskell decided to hang up the laptop for a while and pass the keys to the D+PAD car over to the triple-headed monster that will shortly sign off this introduction. Even with the change in leadership, it’s been an excellent year for D+PAD – we’ve posted well over 100 reviews, previews, opinions and impressions.

With the year drawing to a close, it’s time to indulge for awards to be handed out. As is the tradition in these parts, our writers each pick their individual Game of the Year. This year D+PAD awarded 11 games a perfect five-star review. There’s only one way to find out which of those (if any) nabbed nods from our writers as Game of the Year: read on!

But before we get down to business, we’d just like to say thanks very much to you (yes, you!) for reading this year. The kind comments that our writers have received have been hugely valued, and any criticism (constructive or otherwise!) has been taken firmly on board so that we can continue improve in the future. We hope that you continue to come back here for D+PAD’s coverage of gaming in 2014 and beyond. It should be a heck of a year!

Chris Braithwaite, Sean Evans and Dave Stuart

Chris Morell’s Game of the Year 2013: Tomb Raider (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC)

Grand Theft Auto 5 may have sold the most copies this year and The Last of Us was every bit the game we had hoped for, but my pick for Game of the Year is an adventure that no one had guessed would be as epic, beautiful or absorbing as it turned out to be. Lara Croft’s reimagined origin is both brutal and believable, turning a fragile adventurer into the toughest girl around. Crucially, Tomb Raider wasn’t afraid to show her as a fallible human being thrust headlong into a danger she didn’t fully understand.

We witnessed her first hunt, first kill, and explored realistic locales teeming with life and all manner of collectible items. The drip-fed reward system meant putting the controller down became nigh on impossible as you gained new weapons, upgrades and skills that Lara could use to devastating effect. It might not have had the best opening we’ve seen this year, but the game’s cinematic quality and responsive controls came together to form a cohesive whole that managed to outshine Nathan Drake’s most recent outing. Even better, frustration was kept to a minimum thanks to solid pacing and a lack of incessant enemy waves.

The Tomb Raider: Legend trilogy was good fun, but it was 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot that made us believe in Lara Croft again. With the Definitive Edition coming at the end of January and a sequel in the works, we’ll be seeing a whole lot more of Lara in the coming years.

Sean Evans’s Game of the Year 2013: The Last of Us (Playstation 3)

In many ways, The Last of Us struck me as a near-perfect storm of what this passing generation leaned into. As a third-person shooter, it’s bombastic and gnarly, replying on some bracing and tense combat to see Joel and Ellie through their journeys together. It worked, too – smashing up against a smoke-bombed foe in desperation and revelling in the bleakness of it all is unnervingly enjoyable. But the game also knows when to pull back and let the world around take centre stage, and its surrounding decay is really something else. Its characters are more interesting and flawed than most from any game of any generation (not to mention a decent crop of TV serials and film efforts), and the story treats its subject matter with enough poise to lead into a truly fantastic ending.

And to top it all off, the multiplayer side of things is pretty excellent as well. The blending of Gears of War’s first-to-draw combat with a Counter-Strike-like tempo really comes together to form harsh, tactile fun. For my tastes, The Last of Us hits all the right notes, and that’s about as good as praise can get.

Dave Stuart’s Game of the Year 2013: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC)

One of 2013’s smaller offerings has, for me, ended up being the game that continues to stick with me the most from this year. Of course Joel and Ellie’s fate in The Last of Us lingers, as do the final moments in Bioshock Infinite and Gone Home, but none have resonated quite like one simple action undertaken at the end of Brothers. I will tread carefully around spoilers, for it is a game best discovered for yourself, but its greatness is one of stealth, that creeps up on you.

Ostensibly a fairly simple puzzle platformer the game sees you control a pair of brothers using the same controller, one on each stick. And it is this innovation, and the use to which it is put, to tie to the games thematic ambitions, that impress. Visually the game is spectacular, offering up sumptuous environments, all tinged with their Nordic origins and a fairy-tale tone that strikes just the right balance between whimsy and darkness.

Each new area and mechanic sticks around just long enough for familiarity to set in before the game changes things up, the brothers’ quest to retrieve medicine for their sick father lends a sense of urgency to the proceedings, but also serves as an excuse for more of this fascinating and bizarre world to be revealed as you progress.

Ultimately though it all comes down to that ending, and the way it reveals the power and meaning behind all that have come before. Like the game it isn’t especially showy, but because of what it means it lasts, and looking back on my gaming this year, that’s an achievement worth highlighting.

Charlie Etheridge-Nunn’s Game of the Year 2013: Fire Emblem Awakening (Nintendo 3DS)

Fire Emblem Awakening is the game which heralded in a year where the 3DS was my favourite console. Apparently this was going to be the last hurrah of the Fire Emblem series and Intelligent Systems and they appear to have gone all out because of that. My flatmate saw HALF A BATTLE and bought the limited edition Fire Emblem 3DS a week later. It’s a Final Fantasy tactics type game where you make your own character and forge bonds with twenty-nine characters, pair them off in soap operatic fashion and their child from the future comes back to help you, with skills and stats determined by who you picked to end up with whom. For a game with 48 characters not including your own avatar and DLC characters, each one has a lot of depth and when they die (and they WILL die) it changes your story. Fire Emblem Awakening wouldn’t be anywhere near as good if the characters weren’t realised enough and you didn’t actually feel punched in the gut when your wife dies on the battlefield. If your wife dies on the battlefield. Mine did. Permadeath and personal investment are harsh, but really good when executed this well.

There’s free Spotpass DLC and paid DLC levels with new classes and characters from across the Fire Emblem pantheon. Each of these are utilised near-perfectly, as is StreetPass and the game’s use of 3D effects.

The multiplayer is a bit patchy, but that’s hardly a problem after all the gameplay provided in the humble cartridge. The 3DS has been a magnificent machine for games, and Fire Emblem Awakening is a must buy for it. Build your army, your friends, your family and then do your best not to lose all of them on the battlefield.

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