The 25 Best Videogames of 2013

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10. The Last of Us
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Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony
Platform: PlayStation 3
 The Last of Us is an uncommon (and uncommonly powerful) big-budget shooter. It depicts the gravity of its situation with an appropriate amount of sorrow and desperation but also lingers on the few moments of escape and relief that its characters are able to find. That makes them feel more human, which makes the inhuman conditions they struggle through more disturbing. It turns your final decision into one of the most conflicted and excruciating moments in gaming. The Last of Us makes you care about the end of the world again.—Garrett Martin

9. Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag
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Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PC
Assassin’s Creed IV is delightfully earnest. It takes itself very seriously without ever devolving into tired grimness or cynicism. At its best it captures the tone of the Flynn-de Havilland classic Captain Blood and other old Hollywood swashbucklers, presenting light-hearted adventure without any winking irony. It also gets the most out of its open world design by dropping us in an enthralling real-world setting with a generous freedom of motion. It’s one of the few open world games where the buildings that make up that world actually seem to matter, even if you still mostly can’t go inside them.—Garrett Martin

8. Tearaway
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Developer: Media Molecule
Publisher: Sony
Platform: PlayStation Vita 
The most challenging thing about Tearaway is finding something to dislike about it. It’s simply beautiful. It’s elegant in appearance and design, with an aesthetic that resembles no other game, mechanics that flaunt every feature the Vita has to offer, and a pacing and structure perfectly suited for the portability of a handheld. It might aspire to be more, but it doesn’t forget that it’s a videogame, first and foremost.—Garrett Martin

7. Saints Row IV
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Developer: Volition
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
A little gaming literacy goes a long way in getting the most out of Saints Row IV. It manages to riff off of classic games like Metal Gear, Streets of Rage and even the old Atari tank-battle title Combat in clever and endearing ways. Saints Row IV is incredibly aware that it is a Video Game, capital V, capital G; it explicitly embraces the bizarre, juvenile and often incomprehensible logic of the medium, and revels in it. Here’s a toybox, Volition says, go smash some stuff together. Can do, Boss.—J.P. Grant

6. Super Mario 3D World
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Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Wii U
The cat suit might be the most visible addition to Super Mario 3D World, but it’s not the only twist on an old idea. Super Mario 3D World doles out inventive new wrinkles throughout the course of the game, regularly surprising you with familiar but subtly changed mechanics. It isn’t content to aimlessly rehash Mario’s past—it approaches that history with reverence but also inspiration, spinning new threads out of old cloth.—Garrett Martin

5. Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: 3DS
The nicest thing about Animal Crossing: New Leaf is—depending on your real-life schedule, your emotional wherewithal, your ego’s appetite—the game conforms. It will read you like a fortune-teller and uncannily predict your needs and desires. The game, for you, might score a 2 or a 10. Because, see, the thing about paradise is, it’s whatever you want it to be.—Jenn Frank

4. Kentucky Route Zero

Developer: Cardboard Computer
Platforms: PC, Mac
Kentucky Route Zero demonstrates how beauty and joy can arise unscathed from seemingly hopeless situations. There’s a thread of dark humor that pulses from the dialogue, and a continuous theme of music as a way of confronting tragedy and frustration. Strangers in the night cling to one another with jovial and inviting conversation and treat one another in that quaint friendly way that modern folk often think of as naive. They get right to the point, not of the practical matters, but of soul-matters. There is no shame in this world. Everyone recognizes their own brokenness and their neediness. There are no haves and have-nots. No one has enough.—Richard Clark

3. Rayman Legends
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Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: Xbox 360, Wii U, PlayStation 3, PS Vita, PC
Playfulness is the main constant running through the large amount of varied content within Rayman Legends. Critics often try to avoid the word “fun” because it’s so subjective, but the only other game in recent memory that has so thoroughly embodied the most basic, universal and objective meaning of the word is Rayman Origins—much of which returns as unlockable bonuses within the already superior Legends. Revisiting classic gaming concepts with a timeless sense of humor that everybody can enjoy, Rayman Legends is a videogame without pretense, and that might be the most crucial decision its designers made without even realizing it.—Garrett Martin

2. The Stanley Parable
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Developer: Galactic Cafe
Platform: PC
It’s impossible to talk about The Stanley Parable‘s inner workings without wrecking the game at least a little bit. Unlike most works of art that can’t survive spoilers, it holds up (really well!) under scrutiny; rather than being surprising or weird for its own sake, it gradually assembles its weird surprises into a coherent whole, a cubist-insightful look at work, play and consequence. The Stanley Parable is a striking example of how, on a small enough scale, it’s possible to predict most any action a player might take and fit responses to those actions into a larger thematic idea.—Joe Bernardi

1. Gone Home
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Developer: The Fullbright Company
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux
Will Wright once said, “games are not the right medium to tell stories…videogames are more about story possibilities.” Gone Home challenges such notions, not only by telling a wonderful story but by setting players free in the game world and trusting them to uncover it. By refusing to tell us what to do in the game, it communicates a self-confidence that most games lack. The result is an unforgettable story that’s intensely personal but universally powerful. To play Gone Home is to grow deeply invested in the lives of a family we’ll never know but in which we can all see different aspects of our own families and our own selves.—Drew Dixon

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