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The 25 Best Video Games of 2013
The Last of Us

5. The Last of Us. Come for the zombies, stay for the giraffes. Dead Space fans will smile as they navigate claustrophobic sewage tunnels, Metal Gear Solid vets will have a blast outmaneuvering a psychotic cannibal, Resident Evil junkies will enjoy trying to sneak past noise-sensitive Clickers, Fallout experts will find every scrap of material to scavenge, Dead Rising pros will put Joel's limited ammunition and makeshift shivs to good use, and Walking Dead fans will be instantly charmed by the evolving relationship between grizzled Joel and the tough young girl, Ellie, he's protecting. But The Last of Us stands decaying heads and rotting shoulders above its peers because it's not just about the relentless struggle to survive, but the beauty that remains: the sun sparkling off a distant hydroelectric dam; the banks of pure, unsullied snow; even the wispy elegance of otherwise toxic spores. Oh, and giraffes, carelessly walking through vegetative cities, the long-necked light at the end of the tunnel that's worth surviving for.  Riccio

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

4. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Another Zelda game, another new gimmick. But whereas the twist is that Link can turn himself into a two-dimensional painting and walk along walls, A Link Between Worlds is anything but flat. More of a reinvention than a mere return to the revered world of A Link to the Past, every sprite is now bursting with color, every nook of Hyrule (and its flipside, Lorule) is filled with hidden, collectible animals, and each dungeon—while familiar—comes with a new and unique mechanic, which can include collaborating with a friendly thief to reach safety, finding ways to traverse see-sawing platforms, or manipulating the lights in order to reveal hidden passages and dissipate walls. Visually and aurally immersive (three-dimensional effects bring the multi-floored dungeons to life while the gripping soundtrack is simultaneously nostalgic and modern), A Link Between Worlds makes the series feel legendary once more.  Riccio

Super Mario 3D World

3. Super Mario 3D World. Well, lesson learned. Never doubt Nintendo when it comes to first-party IPs. There was such consistent mastery on display throughout both Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Super Mario 3D Land that the thought of the company running out of inventive ideas weighed heavily on the minds of many a Mario loyalist. Yet, somehow, even with the shaky sales and quality software output of the Wii U hanging over their heads, Miyamoto and his team produced a fundamentally spotless tour de force of platforming composition. Every nook and cranny of Super Mario 3D World unconditionally exudes an air of high-spirited amusement coupled with a hearty rise in dexterity-testing challenge that sneaks in like a gingerly tip-toeing Goomba. With brilliant implementation of the Wii U's hardware (unarguably the best use of the GamePad to date), boasting graphics that finally make the system stand out among the current wave of premier consoles, Super Mario 3D World is Nintendo firing on all cylinders and clearly having a blast in the process.  LeChevallier

Bioshock Infinite

2. Bioshock Infinite. Bioshock Infinite is a visceral experience about an irredeemable psychopath murdering a city of despicable fundamentalists. Booker Dewitt is tasked with saving a reality-tearing woman from a floating white-supremacist paradise, leading to the interactive slaughter of its inhabitants; so much was made of the game's violence that many overlooked that the repugnant brutality was exactly the point. While most shooters shy away from grue or any consequences to the player's actions, Bioshock Infinite vividly depicts these rippling across universes, where a single choice can carry disastrous results. The horrifying "Romney/Ryan 1912" setting of Columbia and its "damsel in distress" serve as an elaborate MacGuffin for the game's deeper ideas about the nature of choice and consequences. This is an astonishing game that philosophizes on the human condition (consider that the opponents of Columbia's segregation aren't interested in equality, rather suppressing their suppressors) while critiquing its entire genre, concluding that the protagonist of a first-person shooter shouldn't be allowed to live in any universe.  Aston

Grand Theft Auto V

1. Grand Theft Auto V. It's only been available for roughly three months, but Grand Theft Auto V has already approached Breaking Bad levels of "What else is needed to be said about how amazing this is?" ovation, and rightfully so. Rockstar North has accomplished something no other developer has ever done with such utter faultlessness, crafting an ancillary version of our own modern America, where veracious appetites for virtually every breed of sin or virtue can be brought to life in an authentic, meaningful manner. Michael De Santa, Franklin Clinton, and Trevor Philips are a trio of protagonists for the ages, each of their individual personalities and fully realized stories meshing together to paint a stunningly broad portrait of how the drive to succeed and attain self-worth can be unknowingly coupled with the internal craving to cause mass chaos and destruction. There were so many days this year when I inadvertently responded to the question of "What did you do today?" with a detailed retelling of my latest exploits in San Andreas. This is as possessive a game as has ever been made, bewitching not only in its remarkable design, but in its prodigious capacity to integrate the player into its sublime alternative cosmos without so much as a hint of unwanted turbulence.  LeChevallier


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