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Top Ten Xbox 360 Games of 2013

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2013 isn't quite the final hurrah for the Xbox 360 - there are still lots of cross-gen titles coming to both 360 and XONE in 2014 and beyond - but it is clear that most of the attention has already shifted to Xbox One as 2013 was kind of a letdown for Xbox 360.  There just weren't that many games released overall, and some of the biggest and most hyped titles turned out to not be all that memorable when it was all said and done.  So dire was the state of affairs, in fact, that I chose to include not just one, but three XBLA games in my overall Top Ten Xbox 360 Games of 2013 list instead of making separate retail and XBLA lists like I did in 2012. 

While overall 2013 may have been a bit of a disappointment, there were still some truly great and memorable gaming experiences on Xbox 360.  My picks for my ten absolute favorites are right here.

1. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (XBLA)

505 Games
  • Publisher - 505 Games
  • Developer - Starbreeze Studios
  • ESRB Rating - "T" for Teen
  • Release Date (US) - August 7, 2013

By far the most memorable game for me in 2013 was Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.  With a fascinating control scheme where you control two characters at the same time, nice visuals, awesome music, and a truly incredible story of two brothers going on an adventure to help their Dad, Brothers is an amazing experience all around.  It will make you laugh, cry, and pump your fists in the joy of victory all in the brief 3.5 hours it takes to beat.  Telling you specifically why it is so great in more detail will only spoil everything.  Just play it.  Please play it.  It is easily the best game of 2013 for Xbox 360 and perhaps even overall.

Read our Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons review

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2. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Konami
  • Publisher - Konami
  • Developer - Platinum Games
  • ESRB Rating - "M" for Mature
  • Release Date (US) - February 19. 2013

MGR: Revengeance won't win any awards for its story - the whole Metal Gear Solid story is a nonsensical mess at this point anyway - but the gameplay and presentation are more than enough to make it one of the best games of the year.  Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a character action game where you stylishly slice enemies (and objects in the environment) into hundreds of tiny pieces as MGS2 star Raiden.  The gameplay is incredibly sharp and precise and responsive and lets you fight and slash and cut and combo entire rooms full of enemies with surprising ease.  With over the top crazy boss fights, a great soundtrack (that I didn't like at first but it has definitely grown on me) and fantastic visuals, Revengeance is really quite stunning.  

Read our Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance review

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3. Diablo III

Blizzard Entertainment
  • Publisher - Activision Blizzard
  • Developer - Blizzard
  • ESRB Rating - "M" for Mature
  • Release Date (US) - September 3, 2013

Wait a minute.  A port of a PC game from 2012 can't possibly be one of the best Xbox 360 games of 2013, can it?  Sure it can, especially when the console versions of Diablo III are actually better than the PC release.  The console port of Diablo III solved most of the problems players had - namely the auction house and unbalanced loot system - while adding local co-op and a great control system.  I honestly think using a controller actually works better in this game than a mouse / keyboard.  The core hack and slash and magic gameplay is sort of mindless, but the randomly generated levels, multiple difficulties, and loads and loads of glorious loot make it deliciously addictive.  

Read our Diablo III review

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4. Grand Theft Auto V

Rockstar Games
  • Publisher - Take Two, Rockstar Games
  • Developer - Rockstar Games
  • ESRB Rating - "M" for Mature
  • Release Date (US) - September 17, 2013

GTA IV was a bit of a letdown when everything was said and done.  It just wasn't all that fun to actually play.  Grand Theft Auto V, on the other hand, brought the fun back to the series while still managing to tell an interesting and serious story.  It ramped up the presentation with some of the best graphics of any open world game yet, while giving you enough toys in the sandbox to play with to keep you busy for a long, long time.  The three character experiment also worked out amazingly well, and giving players three vastly different perspectives on everything was a great move.  It also brought us Trevor, who is freaking amazing.  With the best driving and shooting controls the series has seen so far, GTAV plays as good as it looks.  Considering it has already sold a bazillion copies, I probably don't need to tell you to play it, but I'll do it anyway.  GTAV is awesome.

Read our full Grand Theft Auto V review

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5. RockSmith 2014

Ubisoft
  • Publisher - Ubisoft
  • Developer - Ubisoft
  • ESRB Rating - "T" for Teen
  • Release Date (US) - October 22, 2013

RockSmith 2014, along with an experienced friend by your side to guide you, is probably the best way to learn guitar I can think of.  It eases you into the lessons and actually makes learning fun.  It also doesn't hurt that it has an amazing track list full of songs you'll actually want to learn.  The first RockSmith was good, but RockSmith 2014 really nails it and is highly recommended for both guitar newbies as well as more experienced players who just want to learn some new songs and have fun.

Read our RockSmith 2014 review here

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6. Rayman Legends

Ubisoft
  • Publisher - Ubisoft
  • Developer - Ubisoft
  • ESRB Rating - "E10" for Everyone 10+
  • Release Date (US) - September 3, 2013

Rayman Legends is the only 5-Star review I gave in all of 2013, which is kind of a big deal.  Everything about the game is just so polished and so well done.  The presentation is amazing.  The controls are precise and awesome.  The level designs are great.  And there is a ton of stuff to do in the game that will keep you busy for a long time.  The only downer on Rayman Legends is that it is coming to Xbox One in early 2014, so you might be wise to wait on that version instead.  You definitely need to play it, though, as it is one of the best 2D platformers ever.

Read our Rayman Legends review

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7. Tomb Raider

Square Enix
  • Publisher - Square Enix
  • Developer - Crystal Dynamics
  • ESRB Rating - "M" for Mature
  • Release Date (US) - March 5, 2013

The latest Tomb Raider reboot is arguably the best entry the series has seen yet.  There isn't much actual tomb raiding going on this time around, but as an origin story to set up the future raiding of tombs, it is very well done.  The graphics are outstanding and the gameplay is simply excellent.  We would rather there were more exploration and less combat, but there is quite a bit of variety overall that keeps the game flowing nicely.  Similar to Rayman Legends, an enhanced (with even better graphics) version is coming to Xbox One in early 2014, and you should definitely grab that one if you're an XONE owner.

Read our Tomb Raider review

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8. Phantom Breaker Battlegrounds (XBLA)

5pg
  • Publisher - 5pb
  • Developer - Division2
  • ESRB Rating - "E10" for Everyone 10+
  • Release Date (US) - February 27, 2013

I don't usually replay games I beat.  I just don't have the time.  I definitely don't replay and beat very many games on every difficulty level with every character.  But that is exactly what I did with Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds.  I love pretty much everything about this side-scrolling XBLA beat-em-up.  The sprite graphics.  The awesome soundtrack.  The overall anime aesthetic.  And the gameplay that plays more like a fighting game than a simple beat-em-up.  Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds really hooked me and I couldn't get enough.  It is truly an under appreciated gem that I highly recommend.  

Read our Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds review

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9. Saints Row IV

Deep Silver
  • Publisher - Deep Silver
  • Developer - Volition
  • ESRB Rating - "M" for Mature
  • Release Date (US) - August 20, 2013

Some would argue Saints Row IV was disappointing because it re-used the same city as SR: The Third.  Those people would be wrong.  Sure it is the same city, but you see it from such a different perspective - you do have super powers that let you run and jump over buildings, after all - that it feels like a fresh new experience.  And what an experience it is.  This mash-up of super heroes with "The Matrix" with Mass Effect and some "They Live" thrown in for good measure is ridiculously over the top and crazy and I loved every second of it.  Great gameplay.  Great story.  Very funny.  Much wow.  Saints Row IV is a must-play.

Read our full Saints Row IV review

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10. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (XBLA)

Ubisoft
  • Publisher - Ubisoft
  • Developer - Ubisoft
  • ESRB Rating - "M" for Mature
  • Release Date (US) - April 30, 2013

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is what happens when you take the great gameplay of Far Cry 3 and then make everything go nuts.  Set the game in the endless twilight of nuclear apocalypse, make up crazy weapons like quad barrel shotguns or rocket-powered sniper rifles, and populate the world with giant hungry blood dragons, and then set the player loose to go have fun.  Blood Dragon is one of the funniest games of the whole year.  When it isn't poking fun at 80's action movies or other games, it is making fun of itself for how darn ridiculous everything about it is.  It plays great and looks awesome and will keep you laughing the whole time.  If only the world had more games like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.

Read our Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon review here

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Bottom Line

Keep in mind that these are my picks of the Xbox 360 games I enjoyed best in 2013. I don't care about sales numbers or marketing hype. I only care about the games - out of the dozens and dozens and dozens that I played - that were the most memorable and most fun.
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