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AFC's Top Adventure Games of 2013

"Adventure" games are kind of hard to classify. Are linear games still adventures? Do games with heavy emphasis on combat still qualify, or do they count as action games? For the purpose of this list, adventure games are ones which are more than shooters and hack n' slash games, whether they be sandbox experiences or simply linear games with an emphasis on plot and world building. So, without anymore stalling, here are the "adventure" games I found most worthy of praise this year.

And unlike Spike, I'm not giving a game top slot just because it let me drive a tank through LA.

5. Grand Theft Auto V (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360)

Truly an off-the-rails experience.
This isn't at the top of the list for a number of reasons. First off, it didn't really do anything new for the franchise. Second, it was way too wrapped up in being "clever" to even begin to offer an original story, nuanced characters who weren't white dudes, or intelligent parody. Third, it felt like a major step back from the intelligent, morally ambiguous narrative found in the fourth entry, instead leaving that behind for a giant playground full of cheap laughs and stupid thrills.That being said, I sunk around 26-30 hours into it within a week or two, and loved every second I spent with it. Even with my numerous criticisms of the game, Grand Theft Auto V is still a superbly crafted experience, with fantastic gameplay and an interesting world to get lost inside... just so long as you don't start thinking about it too much.

Following the exploits of three radically different men, the plot, while very funny at points, basically gives players an excuse to listen to some witty dialogue, then go do crazy shit. But what fun shit it is. Riding motorcycles on top of crashing trains, chasing down exploding planes in the middle of the desert, skydiving onto government buildings to steal information... the laundry list of cool shit players get to experience in this game is worth the sixty bucks alone. The Heist missions, while pitifully few, are the best part of the whole game, requiring several missions to set up, then a long amount of time to execute. Vehicles now control like those in an arcade racer, gunplay has been polished, and aircrafts have been more or less tweaked. While the narrative and character development issues still haunt the franchise, and in a way have taken a major step back, Rockstar has still produced a great game with Grand Theft Auto V on a technical level, and it deserves praise on that basis alone.

4. Remember Me (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360) 

Futuristic skinny jeans makes this GOTY, all years.
Arguably the most criminally overlooked game to come out this year, Remember Me was a bold and beautiful vision of a tainted future. Aside from the mind-bending narrative and fantastic protagonist, though, the amount of effort that went into realizing the developer's vision was jaw-dropping. From beautiful glimpses of the Paris skyline to grimy sewer corridors filled with society's refuge to sleek interiors of corporate headquarters, everything about this game was simply a joy to becoming immersed in. Despite some occasional slip-ups with the combat, which heavily borrowed aspects from the Arkham series, it was an amazing experience that far too gamers experienced in 2013.

Nilin is a woman who has forgotten her past, and undergoes the dangerous process of regaining her memories in a futuristic dystopia, where thoughts have become physical merchandise to be stored by a large corporate entity. She must fight through an army of super-soldiers and scale massive structures if she hopes to achieve her goal, along with rewriting the memories of certain targets to get what she wants. With innovative concepts and imagery abound, Remember Me was an absolute joy to experience from start to finish, and was certainly a game I'll never forget.

3. Saints Row IV (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360) 

*insert Matrix line here*
Say what you will about the dick jokes, the rampant immaturity, or simply the sheer lunacy present, but the Saints Row franchise has always been and will most likely continue to be my sandbox series of choice. This time around, Volition pulled all the stops, and not only that, they didn't piecemeal content out through DLC. The result is Saints Row IV, a game that is as rich in content as it is in beautiful, unbridled stupidity. A trip into a crazy world of aliens overlords and superpowered gang leaders, this game offered a greater sense of exploration as well as more character and intrigue than prior entries, overtaking Saints Row II as my personal favorite entry thus far.

After taking over the White House in the light of blatantly Call of Duty-styled antics, the Saints get kidnapped by an invading alien race, thrown into virtual reality pods a la The Matrix, and forced to fight their way out of virtual reality simulations of Steelport and Stilwater, among many other locales. Because the characters are technically in a computer sim, they get imbued with ridiculous superpowers, such as leaping over huge buildings and dashing at speeds that toss cars aside like crumpled paper. That's on top of wearing almost any type of outfit you want, pimping out the dozens of weapons in a ridiculous variety of ways, and about a million other things you can do.This game gives players motivation to go through with the side-missions, making them feel urgent and important, and then just keeps giving them more. It would take a massive amount of time playing Saints Row IV to 100%, especially with the solid story DLC that's still getting released. But, most importantly, it would be fun the entire time.

2. The Last of Us (PlayStation 3)

"Oh, Joel, this body reminds me of a great jo-" "Shut up, Ellie."
When the final credits of Naughty Dog's tour-de-force rolled down the screen, I was sobbing uncontrollably for two reasons. First of all, the ending of the game and the horrifying realization that Joel is not as good of a person as you'd like (no spoilers here) made for my personal favorite gaming moment of 2013. But what tore me up almost equally was that my time inside the rich world of The Last of Us had finally come to end. The streets covered with overgrowth and decrepit cars, the dingy buildings inhabited by disturbing Infected, scenic countrysides I'd explored on horseback... I'd gotten to know this world so well, and having to leave it was a tragedy.

It would be a crime to spoil any of the stellar narrative for anybody who hasn't picked it up yet, but for the sake of this write-up, let's just say that it's about a grieving father escorting a young girl across the US, which has been infested by a horrifying virus, and the bond they build from that journey. Putting the emotionally riveting plot aside, the world itself is hauntingly and fully realized, more so than any other post-apocalyptic adventure game I've ever experienced. Through the whole game, players will stealthily creep past Infected and blast through bandit camps, all while taking in the sights and sounds of a world far past ruined. The Last of Us is, in many ways, a perfect game, and the awe-inspiring world is just another reason you need to check it out.

1. Tomb Raider (Playstation 3/Xbox 360/PC) 

"No idea where this rope goes, but fuck it."
Older outtings of Lara Croft had wonderful senses of exploration and emphasis on getting acquainted with the scenic locales she happened to find herself in. But as the series wore on, with the exception of Legend and Underworld, that kind of got bogged down in repetitive gameplay and dated mechanics. While I was resistant to the change at first, it turns out Crystal Dynamics' reboot was exactly what the doctor order to restore my faith in the series. Tomb Raider is, without any exaggeration, an absolute masterpiece of a game, and the best time I had getting to know any locale this year.

Lara finds herself shipwrecked on a bizarre island, home to icy peaks and boiling rivers of human blood alike. She must learn to stand up for herself and survive against daunting odds throughout the engaging and twisty campaign, which might be my favorite in the franchise as a whole. In fact, even as a lifelong fan, it might be my favorite game in the franchise as well. It's not the fantastic character development, or the nuanced mechanics, or even the jaw-dropping graphics. No, at the end of the day, I feel that Tomb Raider is the best adventure title of the year because it encourages exploration and experimentation. There are several hidden tombs to explore, each with puzzles that throw back to the old-school titles in the series. Being faced with enemies isn't equated with blasting your way out with the most powerful guns; instead, players are given the choice to handle things how they want to. 

Everything about this thrilling romp encourages players to scratch beneath the surface of the game, and to get pulled into the mysterious island entirely. Out of every title released this year, it felt like the most adventurous, given both the presentation and the subject matter. Because of that, Tomb Raider is not only a fantastic return to form for the franchise, but the best adventure game released this year... to me, anyways.

Alright, folks, it's almost that time. My 12 Best Games of 2013 list is almost among us, along with a few other little surprises. Stay tuned!


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