See the rest of TIME’s Top 10 of Everything 2013 lists here
10. Skylanders: Swap Force
If you’re no fan of collectible toy-based games with pricey upgrade trajectories, just move along, nothing to see here. Otherwise the series that inspired copycats like Disney Infinity celebrates its three-quel with Skylanders: Swap Force, a much-refined version of the prior two platformers with new characters you can split in half, separating legs from torsos, then mix and match to unlock different abilities.
9. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
This standalone expansion of Ubisoft’s popular sandbox shooter is a throwback to the testosterone-driven films of the ’80s and early ’90s, before we demanded deep thoughts from our action films. The protagonist, Sergeant Rex Power Colt, is a gravel-voiced cyborg with a metallic arm and glowing red eye. Tired clichés, cringe-worthy double entendres and references to decades-old pop culture saturate every line of dialog. Basically, it’s like modern video games, only gloriously aware of its silliness.
8. BioShock Infinite
BioShock Infinite isn’t formulaic. It’s a game that’s prompted more smart commentary than most games will ever see. It has a reputation for being that kind of game — the one you approach intellectually, despite its grisly facade of smashed skulls, burnt bodies and cartoonish gore. The same was true with the original BioShock and with the spiritually-related System Shock series
7. Pikmin 3
Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto’s Pikmin always deserved a broader audience, but that’s usually the case with quirky games. Pikmin 3 rebuilds its gameplay from the ground up to be easier for novices while retaining the depth longtime fans expect. Otherwise it’s still the same cute little real-time puzzler, where you lead a group of creatures (the eponymous Pikmin) through crazy-scapes, working your way around impediments and battling goofy, colorful creatures.
6. The Last of Us
With The Last of Us, developer Naughty Dog crafted a survival-horror game that sounds like a pitch for an Uncharted spinoff with zombies: third-person exploration, an A.I. companion and cover-based gunplay. But the game manages to fold in a clever stealth system, much-improved (and terrifying) enemy A.I. and above all else, storytelling that elevates the medium.
5. Animal Crossing: New Leaf
The Animal Crossing games are about turning mundane activities into rewarding activities while interacting with cute little human-like animals (in other words, The Sims imagined by Richard Scarry). Animal Crossing: New Leaf takes that idea and lets you play as mayor of the town for a change.
4. Gone Home
We’ve all had that feeling: the uneasiness of being alone in the dark, of being spooked by the sound of our own house settling, of bounding upstairs just a tiny bit faster after we’ve turned off the downstairs lights for the night. Without having to shoot or stab anything along the way, it turns out that rummaging for important items in a video game is pretty enjoyable when handled properly. The game’s empty, ever-groaning manor provides the suspense, which you relieve by moving from room to room, turning on the lights, examining every corner for clues and gradually becoming familiar with your new home. You might even call it therapeutic.
3. Pokémon X & Y
The 3DS versions of Nintendo’s celebrated roleplaying franchise don’t revolutionize the exploration-focused, turn-based critter-battling series so much as refine it, rendering the game world in beautiful 3D while iterating combat features that allow your Pokémon to assume temporary “ultimate” personas and battle in the sky as well as on the ground.
2. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Imagine the gameplay breakthroughs of Assassin’s Creed III in a bigger sandbox, playing as a buccaneer scraping by during the early 18th century so-called Golden Age of Piracy and all of that rendered in exquisite detail.
1. Grand Theft Auto V
It’s as irresistible to play as it is to admire, a super-sized version of the already super-sized Grand Theft Auto IV with the best parts intact and all the impurities leeched out. It’s the most refined game Rockstar’s ever published: the vehicle physics are immaculate and the driving controls are superb; the interface is stripped and clean; the gunplay and tactical cover system are perfected; and the expertly paced missions are honed to a fine, felonious edge.
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