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10 Must-Play Video Games Of 2013

Are these the "best" games of 2013? Who knows. But they will each make you look at video games—and interactive experiences—in a new light.

  • 01 /10 | Gone Home

    “You arrive home after a year abroad. You expect your family to greet you, but the house is empty. Something's not right. Where is everyone? And what's happened here?” That’s the premise of Gone Home (PC). There are no giant lizards to kill nor princesses to save, no powerups to collect nor headshots to nail. You simply explore the artefacts a family has left behind to learn what’s happened to them. [Link]

  • 02 /10 | Type:Rider

    What if every typeface was really its own world? That’s the simple but magical premise behind Type:Rider (iOS/Android). As you navigate through worlds like Didot, Clarendon, Helvetica, and Times, you’ll not only get a peek at the time and place they were invented (Times, for instance, takes you to New York in the 1920), you’ll soak in architecture built from the lettering itself. [Link]

  • 03 /10 | Harmonix

    Harmonix may have popularized music gaming with Guitar Hero, but the next wave of music games may be far less literal than clicking buttons on virtual Fenders. 140 is a perfect example. This 2-D platformer has only three buttons (forward, back, and jump), but you’re forced to sync your moves with a melancholic soundtrack to progress, evolving into boss battles with intense beats. [Link]

  • 04 /10 | Last Of Us

    There are a lot of adventure games. And there are even more zombie games. But Last of Us is on almost everyone’s top 10 list of the past year, because not only is it a technical masterpiece, showing what designers and engineers are able to accomplish on the PS3 as the platform reaches full maturity, but a rarely compelling story for the genre of gaming. Consider it the big Hollywood-level game of the year done right. [Link]

  • 05 /10 | Hakitzu

    You control a junkyard robot in a tetanus-inducing brawl of rusty steel on steel. But instead steering and punching your tin titan via a gamepad, you must control your robot by typing in command lines. And so while walking, turning, and slashing, you may not even notice: You’re actually learning Javascript. [Link]

  • 06 /10 | The Stanley Parable

    Eurogamer calls it the “offspring of Inception, Being John Malkovich and Portal,” and without giving away too much, that seems to articulate The Stanley Parable (PC) well--a video game that actually challenges both the nature of video games and our role playing them. Interestingly enough, the game is actually an independent modification of Half-Life 2’s Source engine, meaning it shows what can be done with independent artists take control of AAA, mass market platforms.

  • 07 /10 | Ni no Kuni

    More and more, we're seeing traditional forms of animation merry with interactive gaming. Nowhere is that marriage more gorgeous than in Ni no Kuni (PS3/DS), a game arted by the Oscar-winning Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli. Its gameplay is a fairly traditional RPG, yes, but it's also the closest thing you've ever seen to a cartoon coming to life. [Link]

  • 08 /10 | Blek

    All you need to do is draw a line between a few dots. But Blek (iPad) riffs on this simple idea with incredibly addictive gameplay. Its spartan presentation will appeal to any minimalist designer, but its core gesture is one any interaction designer should study: You draw a line (or a squiggle), and that line becomes living, tracing its way through a maze of dots (or not, depending how you drew it). Blek is a perfect example how a good game becomes a great experience with just the right gesture. [Link]

  • 09 /10 | Pirates of the Caribbean

    Disney characters have always lived in their own worlds: Woody exists only in Toy Story, while Jack Sparrow can’t leave the walls of Pirates of the Caribbean. But Disney Infinity (multi-platform) is an open world game that merges all of Disney’s classic IPs into one mega universe. Even if the gameplay isn’t that appealing to you, the art was a huge achievement: Disney animators had to tweak the proportions of some of the most iconic characters in history to live amongst one another in a visually cohesive fashion. [Link]

  • 10 /10 | Papers Please

    The next time you’re infuriated by the TSA, go load up Papers, Please (PC). You’re an immigration agent, tasked with inspecting the IDs and paperwork of visitors to your dystopian country. Your goal is to approve or deny passports and entry visas. How do you handle the seemingly impossible task? Constance vigilance? A little demographic profiling? Either way, you’ll grow a new appreciation for our own bureaucracy. [Link]

I consider myself a "gamer." And I can tell you, with complete earnestness, that most video games are horrible. Every protagonist looks the same (white dude, 35 years old, brown hair). Every goal is similar (shoot, slice, or jump over something a bunch of times until you win). And every story is a sad facsimile of the richer ones being told in the best movies and books of the year. But I do keep coming back, and the nine games below (or above, if you'd prefer to view the gallery) are the reasons why.