Although 2012 is still clinging to life, its days are numbered. But weep not for our dearly departed year. Embrace the future, and help us welcome 2013, a kinder, gentler year, completely free of political elections and Mayan doomsday prophecies.
2012 was an interesting one in gaming. It was transitional and informative, and nothing will ever be the same! Of course, that is true of every year, but 2012 more so than most. We saw the rise of the digitally distributed game, and the first volley in the next wave of console wars with the Wii U. We saw new franchises born, and established properties crumble. It was a wild year, and it paved the way for an even crazier 2013.
And so we look ahead to the games that will make the most waves heading into the new year. There are, of course, some mitigating factors to consider while viewing this list. Due to the nature of digitally distributed games, there very well may be one – or even several – groundbreaking new games that are released without physical media. That makes them harder to gage. So while you won’t find any on this list, please note that we are more excited to see what comes via that medium than ever before.
The second thing to consider is that this is likely the last year of this generation of consoles. The Wii U has already been released, and the release schedule for Xbox 360 and PS3 games is suspicious, to say the least. The first part of the year is absolutely stacked with major franchises, but there hasn’t been a single game officially announced for Q4. Not one. It’s almost as if developers were waiting for something else to be announced first, something that will alter their own development. If that’s too subtle, it means we think one, or both, of the other upcoming consoles will be released late in 2013. The next Xbox is almost certainly coming before the holidays, and the PS4 can’t be too far behind.
So, what does that all mean? It means gaming fans should consider taking up a paper route for the next few months to earn enough money to purchase some of the biggest games of the year, all of which are looking to ship in a relatively tight time frame. There will be more games that will catch our eye throughout the year, but this list is reflective of the games that have been confirmed for 2013. There is almost certainly an EA shooter coming late in the year, probably Battlefield 4, but that doesn’t have an official release window yet. Although there hasn’t even been an official hint of it, there will probably be a new Assassin’s Creed title this year. A new Call of Duty is inevitable, and odds are that it going to be Modern Warfare 4, but again that is conjecture and this list is focusing on definite releases. So with that in mind, we offer our list of the 25 games we are most anticipating for 2013.
Confirmed Release Days/Months
DmC: Devil May Cry
(January 15; PS3, Xbox 360; Ninja Theory, Capcom)
Dante returns with a new emo look, but the same demon smacking attitude. The game is one-part prequel and one-part reboot, with new developer Ninja Theory taking Dante into an alternate reality. But despite the 100% mopier looking Dante, the character will retain all the ass-kicking action that the series is known for, and the shift in style (and developer) may be just what the neglected franchise needs to survive.
Dead Space 3
(February 5; PC, PS3, Xbox 360; Visceral Games, EA)
The somewhat crazy (ok, mostly crazy) protagonist Isaac Clarke returns to once again kneecap the spreading Necromorph scourge. But this time the darkness of space is partially replaced by the whiteout of a frozen world, and Isaac’s solitude is interrupted by the arrival of a co-op friendly soldier to hold your hand through the bleak trek to destroy another alien Marker. It’s a new direction for the series, but built on the foundation of the survival horror staples the franchise is known for. It could also be the worst game of the year to play immediately before going to sleep.
(February 19; PC, PS3, Xbox 360; Crytek Frankfurt, EA)
Perhaps there will come a day when people grow tired of seeing the city of New York destroyed by enemy soldiers/monsters/meteorites/aliens/giant marshmallow men, but thankfully that day is not coming any time soon. The third Crysis game returns to New York, but it is a New York unlike any that we have seen before. Encapsulated by a dome, the man in the fancy suit returns to the Big Apple on a revenge tale, and finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy. Which is a good thing, because if he found nothing much happening it would make for a fairly dull game. The game should feature plenty of options on how you play, and PC fans should begin salivating over the return of one of the most graphically impressive franchises around.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
(February 19; PS3, Xbox 360; Platinum Games, Konami)
At first, it sounded somewhat silly. Rather than a new Metal Gear Solid game, the franchise decided to take a slight detour into the realm of side story and release a game where Snake (or Big Boss) was not the protagonist. Instead the spotlight falls on Raiden, the majority hero of Metal Gear Solid 2, and a character that annoyed some people so severely that his redemption came at the cost of his humanity. Even then as a super cyborg killing machine he whined a bit. But more than that, the game was a completely different style of action from the other MGS games, and a new developer was brought in to oversee the shift. You can hide and play some stealth sections in Revengeance if you like, but with a sword that can cut through just about anything in the game, and a character powerful enough to punch helicopters in the face, why would you want to?
Aliens: Colonial Marines
(February 12, 2013; PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U; Gearbox Software, SEGA)
When this game comes out, expect to read the phrase “game over, man” at least a dozen times. Then once you are sick of it, expect to hear it a few more times. On behalf of all game writers: sorry. It’s low hanging fruit, what can ya do? But don’t let that turn you off from one of the more intriguing games of the year. Blending survival horror and first person shooter mechanics, as well as a multiplayer mode that has gotten people talking, this one is worth looking into.
(March 26; PC, PS3, Xbox 360; Irrational Games, 2K Games)
Based on the anticipation alone, you could probably give this the title game of the year right now. Children born at the end of 2013 may carry the name Booker or Elizabeth just because of it. Tattoos of the creepy songbird will probably find their way onto the flesh of fans, and the city of Columbia will take its place next to Rapture as one of the most iconic gaming settings ever. Assuming, of course, that it can deliver. And things are looking great on that count, even with multiple delays. The biggest enemy of this title may be its expectations. But if any game deal with that, it is this one.
(March 5; PC, PS3, Xbox 360; Crystal Dynamics, Square Enix)
It has come to the point that there should be a reboot/prequel genre. But while it’s easy to point at the constant wave of reboots and deride them for the lack of creativity they often denote, every now and then they are exactly what is needed. Tomb Raider was a franchise that had long since maxed out its full potential on the path it was on. The games inspired countless others, and many of those did it better. So it made sense that something needed to change. And of all recent reboots, Lara Croft was perfectly situated for one. Her history was just sort of taken for granted, but there was always a rich story there, just waiting to be told. And about time, too.
God of War: Ascension
(March 12; PS3; SCE Santa Monica, SCEA)
While the third God of War game seemed to wrap things up nicely, Kratos is not one to be denied a bit of the old ultraviolence. In another prequel for the year, this one takes us back to the early days of Kratos, back when he was really angry. Set nearly ten years before the events of the first game, Ascension pits a freshly ash covered Kratos against the Furies. It also takes the series down a well trodden path by introducing multiplayer to the franchise, but this one looks good. Prequels rarely have the emotional impact that the next chapter to a story can, but in a series known for its gameplay, a new prequel is ok by us. Besides, each of the previous games upped the ante in terms of who Kratos went after. At the rate the games were on, Kratos would need to kill the sun in order to surpass his previous outings.
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm
(March 12, PC, OS X; Blizzard)
Although technically this is an expansion and not a full game, it deserves to be listed thanks to the power of the franchise – not to mention the infrequency of StarCraft releases. There will be one more expansion coming… sometime-ish in the future, and then who knows when or even if StarCraft 3 will debut. 2020 is a very real possibility. In the meantime, the expansion pack to StarCraft II is essentially a game in itself, with a full storyline of its own. It won’t push the franchise forward, but it will expand it and offer enough content to tide fans over until the third expansion is released, presumably in the next 15 years or so.
Gears of War: Judgment
(March 19; Xbox 360; Epic Games/People Can Fly, Microsoft Studios)
The prequel-o-rama continues, with a new Gears of War that takes place years before the seemingly final events of Gears of War 3. But even though the major storyline seemed to have concluded fairly definitively, the series is too popular to simply let die. Odds are that we will once again see Marcus Fenix chainsaw something, but for now the series switches to Cole and Baird, and a story from the early days of the war against the Locust. New multiplayer modes will be present, of course, and the campaign will expand on the mythology that made this series one of the best on the Xbox.
Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel
(March 26; PS3, Xbox 360; Visceral Games, EA)
This game is best played with another real person, otherwise it becomes a standard, over the top, bloody shooter. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it misses the point of what makes this game worth paying attention to. The story is incidental. There are bad guys that need a good killing, and you go in with a partner to do just that. The body count is high, and the narrative is slim. The game is all about working as a team with another person, something this series has down to a science . This can be done with the AI in control, but it is a bit sad. Play with a friend, and make beautiful memories of laying grenades at the feet of those in your way.
Metro: Last Light
(March 2013; PC, PS3, Xbox 360; 4A Games, THQ)
You know how you have a particular band that you’ve been a fan of for a while, then suddenly they get really big and now everyone knows them? For many gamers, that was Metro 2033. The first game was quirky and weird, and offered a traditional experience in an extremely untraditional way. It gained a cult following, and that following has grown and grown. So much so that while the original game was barely a blip on most radars when it came out, this one has a lot of attention on it. If it can build on what made the original a hit, this game should easily surpass it, and reach a much bigger audience.
Dead Island: Riptide
(April 23; PC, PS3, Xbox 360; Techland, Deep Silver)
While this isn’t technically a sequel to Dead Island, it is a complete story in its own right that picks up after the events of the original game. But somehow it isn’t being called a sequel… It’s also a game that proves that this is a new franchise that could be around for a long, long time. If the first game floated your zombie infested boat, this one should offer more of the same, in a good way.
Injustice: Gods Among Us
(April 2013; PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U; NetherRealm Studios, WBIE)
If you are a comic book fan, there is probably a bit of a battle going on in your head about this game. Part of you should be excited to see a fighter based on the biggest and best of the DC universe. Being able to battle with the likes of Green Lantern and Nightwing is cool, and NetherRealm Studios knows fighters (even if its previous attempt to merge the MK and DC universes, while still operating under the Midway banner, was less than successful). The second thing going through fans’ heads is how the hell could Catwoman offer Superman a fight. He can fly into the sun. She can deactivate an alarm. It’s not exactly a fair fight. There is supposedly a story element that explains balancing characters, and as long as it is at least remotely possible within the logic of the game, we’ll probably buy it.
Confirmed for 2013
(Spring 2013; Wii U; Nintendo EAD, Nintendo)
The Wii U has been slightly neglected on this list, but the odds are very good that many of the titles listed here will also be on the Wii U and just haven’t been officially confirmed for it yet. There is also the good chance that the Wii U library will begin to blossom late next year, as developers figure out how to make the most out of the system and what it can do. For a good example, all they have to do is check out this game that brings back the cult favorite Pikmin games, and does so using the GamePad in a unique way that makes the game play in a way that it could only be possible on the Wii U.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist
(Spring 2013; PC, PS3, Xbox 360; Ubisoft Toronto, Ubisoft)
Although this game will be 100% Michael Ironside free (which is a wee bit tragic, but understandable), Sam Fisher returns with a new voice and a new mission. The days of restarting missions, over and over again after being spotted by a guard that just happens to decide the dark corner you are hiding in would make a good place to lean against, are over. Fisher still retains his stealthiness, but he has also embraced the joy of murdering a room full of people. But hey, if no one is left alive, no one will raise an alarm. It’s a far more action oriented take on the series, but one that should appeal to a wider fan base than the original games. And with a movie starring Tom Hardy confirmed to be in the works, this could be a very big year or two for the property.
(Q1 2013; PS3, Xbox 360, PC; Digital Extremes, Namco/Paramount)
To all the developers and publisher looking to make a game based on a movie, you should seriously consider following the pattern set here by Star Trek. Rather than just churning out a playable version of the rebooted, JJ Abrams infused Kirk and Spock movie, the guys at Digital Extreme spent the last few years building a game set within the universe of the films, but not specifically beholden to them. Star Trek is fortunate enough to have the excuse of multiple missions built in to its DNA, so this game is just one more event in the lives of the Enterprise crew. Designed as a co-op game, Kirk and Spock lead up the fight against the Gorn, an enemy not seen since the days of Star Trek TOS. Perhaps after their one encounter, Kirk then led the Federation to exterminate the Gorn, thus preventing their return to the show. Maybe we’ll find out when the game conveniently releases in Q1, just before the next film.
Grand Theft Auto V
(Q2 2013; PS3, Xbox 360; Rockstar North, Rockstar Games)
Although we don’t have an official release date or even month yet (May), whenever this game eventually releases (almost certainly May), it will land with a loud splash (in May). It’s been a while since there has been a good, old fashioned protest against a game, and if anyone can get Senators to talk about the dangers of playing a game like it was going to mutate your brain, Rockstar can. The years have likely desensitized us to anything shocking that GTAV could offer, but it’s still nice to see the franchise back – or at least it will be whenever it is released (in May).
The Elder Scrolls Online
(Mid/late 2013; PC, Mac OS X; ZeniMax Online, Bethesda)
Although the idea of a fantasy setting for an online game built around a massive community isn’t anything new, the Elder Scrolls brand received a massive shot of awesome last year with Skyrim, and the series moved to the top of the RPG food chain. Can it surpass the established MMORPGs already out there? We’ll see. It’s a tough market to crack into (just look at the middling success of Star Wars: The Old Republic). But if anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt, it’s Bethesda.
Beyond: Two Souls
(2013; PS3; Quantic Dream, SCEA)
Of all the games on this list, this one looks like the most unusual and possibly original. From the fevered minds of the developers behind Heavy Rain, the game may be as close to a playable movie as we’ve ever seen. It even stars Ellen Page as one of the two stars – the other being a poltergeist-like entity that co-exists with Page’s character and acts as her protector, friend, and occasionally the equivalent of a drunken, angry boyfriend with Hulk-like rage issues that gets jealous when other dudes hit on her.
(2013; PS3, Xbox 360; High Moon Studios, Activision)
Ok, we have to admit that part of the reason this game made the list is the incredible promotion for it that introduced Deadpool to the world. Marvel needs a good superhero game of its own to keep up, something it has not shown the aptitude to do. There have been plenty of Marvel games recently, but don’t beat yourself up if you have forgotten them. Even if you played them. They haven’t exactly been memorable. Hopefully that all changes here and the character opens up the door to a new wave of Marvel based games from Activision, who have never given up on the license even though many of us gave up on it.
The Last of Us
(2013; PS3; Naughty Dog, SCEA)
Since the moment this title made its debut, gaming fans have had a love affair with the idea of it. Coming from the developers of the Uncharted series, the new property takes us to a wholly original, and totally never before seen world that takes place after an apocalypse. Wait… Ok, so maybe the setting on the face of things isn’t groundbreaking, but with the developers at Naughty Dog at the helm, The Last of Us looks like a game that will make the voyage to the dark possible future of humanity worth the trip.
Star Wars 1313
(2013; PC, PS3, Xbox 360; LucasArts, Disney LucasArts)
If you have seen anything about this game, anything at all, and you still question why it is on this list, we seriously can’t be friends anymore. There is still a lot of mystery surrounding this game, and no one can even confirm with absolute certainty if it will be on this gen or next, but it is a completely new Star Wars game set within the larger universe but not necessarily in a way we’ve seen before. The new Disney purchase of the Lucas properties could also help to make this game great, as Disney would no doubt like the first game under the Disney LucasArts banner to be a success.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6: Patriots
(2013; PC, PS3, Xbox 360; Ubisoft Montreal/Red Storm/Toronto, Ubisoft)
We first saw this game a while back, and we haven’t heard a whole lot more since the announcement that it was coming. It’ll be set in the jeopardy-friendly confines of New York, and the odds are good that it will involve squad-based play as all the other games in the franchise have. After laying the smack down on Vegas before entering a hiatus of sorts, it’ll be nice to see the series return. The Rainbow Six titles have always been quality games, and there’s no reason to think that will change.
(2013; PC, PS3, Xbox 360; Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft)
Despite a massive lineup filled with blockbuster after blockbuster, Ubisoft’s E3 presentation was dominated by the reveal of its newest property, Watch Dogs. After the clip showed off what the game could do, it was all people could talk about. And with good reason. This one might not have the mainstream appeal that something like an Assassin’s Creed game does, but you can be sure most dedicated gamers are going to be following this title closely.