What is the best game of 2013 not named BioShock Infinite or The Last of Us?

Gaming Culture Screenshot - Not Bioshock Infinite and not Last of Us

Can you believe we're more than halfway through 2013? The "end of the current gen" has begun with a bang -- with the release of several blockbuster titles early on. Can you remember a March that was as packed with games as the one we just had?

But for as many games that were released, only two have been in the talkings of "Game of the Year" -- BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us. When it comes to early contestants for the 2013 Game of the Year award, these are the two games you hear most often. So we challenged ourselves with a more difficult question this week:

What has been the best game of 2013 not named BioShock Infinite or The Last of Us?

Today we're also joined by a special guest! Daniel Kayser is joining us all the way from Epic Battle Axe to chime in with his thoughts on the last big wave of games for this generation of hardware.

Daniel Kayser Follow on Twitter

Daniel Kayser2013 has been a really interesting year thus far. As the industry awaits the next-generation of consoles and interactive entertainment experiences that will come with it, we're not just ushering in a new generation of gaming, but simultaneously saying goodbye to the current one. As a result, the last great games of this console generation are unfolding before our eyes, placing my expectations rather high on the various projects I've found time to play through so far this year.

While there's several contenders on the short list of great games in the first half of 2013, I've gotta say that Tomb Raider is probably the one that stands out the most to me. Now, this may come as a surprise to folks who follow me on GameTrailers and EpicBattleAxe.com as I was very open about my dislike of the level of violence in the game. I still feel the same way now having completed the game shortly after it was released and having invested numerous hours in post-narrative exploits, but I'm willing to recognize its achievements alongside its flaws.

For me, the expectations going into Tomb Raider were sky high. I loved the old games back in the day and was hoping that this could be a game that would bring back that sense of adventure and exploration that made me a fan of the franchise in the first place. While developer Crystal Dynamics did in fact reestablish the relevance of Lara Croft, the modernized version was made way too macho for my liking. The seemingly fragile Lara that we meet at the beginning of the game almost instantly transforms into a barbaric beauty with no reservations about executing countless swarms of cult-following contenders. It just felt odd to me to have such brutal, visceral violence come on so strong in a game that could have set itself apart by establishing other unique mechanics within the context of the heroine and this particular story.

Violence aside though, I felt that the moments of exploration and discovery helped balance the game into a more complete package and, truth be told, I had a hard time putting it down once I got started. The varied locations, item/weapon customization process, environmental traversal and good ole' fashion tomb raiding were highlights for me when not doing my best to perfect my bow skills in favor of more militaristic weaponry. Sure, some of the characters were generic and it lacked some of the grandeur of the Uncharted series, but I found myself having a lot of FUN with the game when all was said and done. 

My concern is that the success of this year's effort will reinforce the more brutal vision of Lara Croft rather than focusing on the all around aspects of the game that deserve to be enhanced and expanded on in the inevitable sequel, but only time will tell on that front of course. For me, Tomb Raider is easily one of the most memorable games of 2013 thus far - even if it's due to the titles' combination of beauty and bruises that make me appreciative for what it had to offer while wondering what it could have been.

Verdict: Tomb Raider, obviously.

Lance Liebl Follow on Twitter

Lance LieblThis is a difficult question, seeing as how those are arguably the two frontrunners for Game of the Year thus far. There are strong cases to be made for Blood Dragon, Tomb Raider, Fire Emblem: Awakening, DmC, Injustice, Metro: Last Light and ACNL. The game I'm choosing, though, is LEGO City Undercover.

The Wii U has been struggling and there are few games worth playing. LEGO City Undercover is one of the games that is an obvious purchase for Wii U owners. It has humor, that LEGO charm, an open world and exploration. It's as much for adults as it is for kids. And that's the main reason it's the best game for me in 2013. When I get off of work, I only have two hours or so to spend with my kids before they have to go to bed. There's something about hearing your son ask you to play the LEGO game with him that absolutely melts your heart.

Does he get the references and all of the jokes? Nope. Can he do all the missions? No. I help him with the missions and some tough-to-get-to places. But hearing his laughter and seeing his smile while he just hops in and out of different vehicles, driving around and exploring the open world city is special. So my answer is LEGO City Undercover... until Disney Infinity comes out.

Verdict: LEGO City Undercover.

Matt Liebl Follow on Twitter

matt liebl pictureWait, there were other games released this year? I'm actually having a very difficult time picking a game other than BioShock Infinite or The Last of Us because, quite frankly, these two games were about as close to perfect as this current-gen can get.

To be fair, 2013 has had some good, even great, games released. They all pale in comparison, but if I have to be another "best game," it'd have to be Injustice: Gods Among Us. I had serious issues with the game's lackluster story, but it was still a fun little romp. I mean, who doesn't enjoy beating the living pulp out of superheroes?

Honestly, I'd have an easier time picking out the worst game of 2013, or the most disappointing. Or maybe I wouldn't -- there have been quite a few releases that have let me down this year.

Verdict: Injustice: Gods Among Us.

Tatiana Morris Follow on Twitter

Tatiana MorrisAnimal Crossing: New Leaf! I have already put in an incalculable amount of hours into that game and I have yet to even put a true dent in it. Sure, my museum has 50% of the fish, bugs and fossils... and a second floor, but I still have yet to collect more than 2 paintings! I have half of the shops open and one third of the public works projects done. Being Mayor is hard work. 

New leaf is very replayable (if you ever reach the end -- is there an end?). Gameplay stays true to previous Animal Crossing games, and it's tons of fun. Without BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us, this wasn't even a hard choice.   

Verdict: Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

Max Baehr Follow on Twitter

Max Baehr

Did Borderlands 2 come out in 2013? No? Crap. Let's see... Tomb Raider did truly kick a ton of ass, I lost a week of my life to Runner2, and even though it’s been around for a couple years, I only recently played Thomas Was Alone, and fell in love with it. Actually, the other people in (at? on?) this roundtable can confirm: I won’t shut up about it. “ZOMG you guyz it’s got the craziest story-to-presentation ratio thing evarrrr!”

Right, after much deliberation, I’m giving my 2013 First Half GOTY nod to... Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. I loved Far Cry 3, sure, and that’s got something to do with it, but Blood Dragon just did so many things right on its own. It has humor, violence, love, revenge; a cookie-cutter 80’s action plot set in a neon-everything, Lite-Brite world; ninjas, cyborgs, and freaking robot sharks; and of course, dragons that shoot lasers out of their mouths. And your name is Rex Power Colt. If this game were an ice cream sundae, it would be three scoops of victory with a double dose of mother%$#@er sauce.

Blood Dragon’s also pretty much a DLC-reskinning of a full title, and that’s exactly what I love about this game. You see, for much of 2013, Borderlands 2 (among others) has been receiving fully-satisfying, “Oh damn, that probably would have required a second disc”-sized DLC updates, proving that if the goods are meaningful, a gigantic game really can be parceled out into $10 increments. Anyone who’s ever played a Blizzard game should be at least roughly familiar with this concept. Blood Dragon just goes one step further by repurposing its source material in only the loosest sense. It’s more of a remix than a game extension, and I’m way into that. Game production can be wasteful, engines die before their time, and if all I have to fork over is a tenner for top-tier quality in a ridiculous, 5-hour package? Sure, gimme another!

Verdict: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.

Mike Splechta Follow on Twitter

Mike SplechtaWe're only halfway into 2013 and I feel like it's been full of stellar titles. From the fantastic Tomb Raider to the over-the-top Blood Dragon, picking just one was pretty damn hard. My number one spot though has to be Bit.Trip Presents... Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien. Gaijin Games has taken the addicting rhythm platforming formula of their first Runner game, gave it a gorgeous new coat of paint, and made the music even catchier than it was before.

Maybe it's my love for the little guys, but I feel like Gaijin games deserves the recognition for not only delivering on a fantastic game, but building up on its predecessor in almost every single way.

Runner2 was also very approachable thanks to three difficulties that players could choose from. It gave newcomers a fighting chance, and purists the ability to play the game's crushingly hard difficulty. It really was the perfect package -- gorgeous, amazing controls, a catchy soundtrack and cost only a quarter of any major retail title. Did I mention that it was the first game of 2013 to receive a perfect score on GameZone?

Verdict: Bit. Trip Presents... Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien.

Andrew Clouther Follow on Twitter

Andrew CloutherI’m going to have to go with Tomb Raider. In all honesty, I enjoyed the hell out of this reboot. I only ever played the original Tomb Raider and before this current edition, I had no interest in the series; for this game to come out, catch my attention, and then for me to play the hell out of it says a lot. The combination of action, adventure, and even RPG elements made this game for me.

Which is totally strange -- I’m a guy who favors strong story and Tomb Raider did not have this. While the game did execute character development well, there were still some extremes throughout the adventure, you do go from sniveling girl to murderous woman though. Tomb Raider did gear-gating well and discovering new tools to open new areas made even backtracking an enjoyable experience. I already look forward to the future games of this reboot and know they’ll be day one purchases for me. 

I obviously would have picked BioShock Infinite if allowed.  

Verdict: Tomb Raider.

What is the best game of 2013? Remember, it can't be BioShock Infinite or The Last of Us. Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter: @GameZoneOnline.

Matt-liebl-profile
Matt Liebl You can follow Senior News Editor Matt Liebl on Twitter @Matt_GZ. He likes games, sports, musicals, and his adorable dog, Wrigley. And his wife.
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