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Gift Guide: Best video games of 2013 for grown-ups

To all but the most confused and stodgy commentators, the days of video games being just for kids are long gone. The average age of a gamer is now mid-thirties, and the industry is understandably catering to a more sophisticated audience.

While the likes of Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog are still there for younger players, the biggest games of the year are progressively becoming more mature. In some cases that means more violent, but in others it represents better storytelling, or more subtle humour.

The challenge in shopping for the adult gamer lies chiefly in ensuring that the intended recipient doesn't already have the game in question. In that case, it's best to check their shelves when you make your list.

With that in mind, here is our guide to the best home console games aimed at an older audience.


Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Sure, it’s a spinoff of Far Cry 3, one of the best first-person shooters of 2012, but Blood Dragon stands on its own as a completely separate downloadable game – and a hilarious one at that. If you lived through the ’80s, you’ll instantly recognize it as a bang-on spoof of everything from the 16-bit games of the time to the Schwarzenegger science-fiction movie milieu. And there’s voice work from Michael Biehn, the actor who played both Kyle Reese in The Terminator and Corporal Hicks in Aliens, plus a kick-ass synth soundtrack. This game could be its own franchise – and hopefully it will be. (Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3; Developer: Ubisoft Montreal)

Injustice: Gods Among Us

A fighting game with DC Comics heroes and villains from the makers of Mortal Kombat? Yes, please. All the favourites are here, from Batman and Superman to Lex Luthor and the Joker, with fast-paced action that’s easy to pick up, but hard to master. It’s worth the price of admission alone to see the unlikely scenario of Aquaman whooping everybody’s butts. Great graphics, bone-crunching fights and even a decent storyline to boot – what’s not to like? (Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, PlayStation 4; Developer: NetherRealm Studios)
Warner Bros.

Batman: Arkham Origins

Many reviewers weren’t kind to the latest instalment in the Batman Arkham franchise, probably because it was produced by Warner Bros. Montreal rather than U.K.-based series originator Rocksteady. The excellent Arkham City (2011) was indeed a tough act to follow, but Arkham Origins isn’t that far removed from it. It features the same great Bat-action with a few new Bat-features, such as interactive Bat-crime scenes. While the franchise may need some freshening up in the long run, the third entry is still an eminently enjoyable Bat-romp. (Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U; Developer: Warner Bros. Games Montreal)

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist

Ubisoft Toronto decided to give superspy Sam Fisher the reboot treatment for its first game, and the latest Splinter Cell certainly feels like a new experience. Set aboard a flying mobile operations centre, Blacklist throws Fisher back into the shadowy world of international terrorism. But this time, players have a lot more freedom in how they go about the different modes, from single-player to co-op to the great Spies vs. Mercs multiplayer, which makes its return in this mode. A new kind of game from a new studio – Splinter Cell feels fresh again. (Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U; Developer: Ubisoft Toronto)

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Some gamers are getting tired of the annual Assassin’s Creed releases – after all, there’s only so much free running through historically relevant locations you can do before the law of diminishing returns kicks in. That’s why Assassin’s Creed IV is so great – it takes the naval battles introduced in the previous game and makes them central to the experience. In that way, Black Flag is almost two games in one: it’s a standard Assassin’s title, plus a pirate game on top of it. Sailing around a huge open world in search of booty, it’s most definitely Assassins of the Caribbean. (Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Xbox One, PlayStation 4; Developer: Ubisoft Montreal)
Crystal Dynamics

Tomb Raider

Splinter Cell’s Sam Fisher wasn’t the only hero to get a reboot this year. Long-time game stalwart Lara Croft also gets a re-imagining in this grim and gritty prequel to her Indiana Jones-esque career. Rather than the confident, wise-cracking heroine of the previous games, Croft is an inexperienced and vulnerable rookie this time around. The action and the visuals, however, are the product of a highly experienced team of developers, which made the newest Tomb Raider one of the most exciting action-adventure games of the year. (Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3; Developer: Crystal Dynamics)
Irrational Games

BioShock Infinite

The BioShock series has become known for its high-minded themes. More than just first-person shooting, the games have tried to get players to ask moral questions of themselves and to ponder such issues as class struggle and political theory. BioShock Infinite, set in the fictional floating city of Columbia, certainly aims for that level of discourse – whether it gets there or not is up for debate, but the fact that there’s even a conversation about it indicates Irrational is succeeding in its mission. Regardless of that, Bioshock Infinite has one of the trippiest endings of a game yet. And oh yes, there’s lot of shooty fun to be had too. (Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3; Developer: Irrational Games)
Naughty Dog

The Last of Us

Speaking of efforts at high-brow story-telling, The Last of Us does the best job of that this year. Ostensibly a zombie thriller, the game is really about the losses its characters suffer and the lies they’re willing to tell each other – and themselves – to regain what’s gone. While The Last of Us starts off as just another typical zombie-horror game, its story builds and becomes more complex to the point where it becomes so much better than the genre. Along with Injustice, it’s also a rare original title on this list of sequels, which speaks volumes about what happened to game development in 2013. The Last of Us is a great standalone game that really shouldn’t have a follow-up, but with so much success coming its way, it’s hard to imagine it won’t. (Platform: PlayStation 3; Developer: Naughty Dog)
Capcom Vancouver

Dead Rising 3

Speaking of mindless zombie stories, Capcom Vancouver has the right idea: if you’re going to do them, you might as well go way over the top. Dead Rising 3 is the epitome of absurdist violent fun. Where else can you combine a traffic light with a car battery to make a giant electric staff, or mash a steamroller with a motorcycle to forge a fire-shooting hell ride, all of which can be used to take out vast hordes of zombies? Besides the endless weapon possibilities, Dead Rising 3 also provides a taste of what upcoming next-generation games are going to feel like. The game crams zillions of zombies onto the screen at once, with each individualized and alive – pardon the pun – and coming for you. It’s the most immersive and impressive next-generation game available at launch, hands down. (Platform: Xbox One; Developer: Capcom Vancouver)
Rockstar North

Grand Theft Auto V

Could there be a more perfect bookend to the outgoing generation of game consoles than Grand Theft Auto V? The game, released in September, broke all kinds of sales records and deservedly so – it’s a technical triumph that will be hard to top for years to come, even on more powerful next-generation consoles. The fictional city of Los Santos looks and feels positively alive, with incredible graphics and a clockwork precision to the workings of its inhabitants. Moreover, it’s as fun, funny and liberating as its predecessors. The Grand Theft Auto series established open-world games as the medium’s driving force. GTA V, for its part, has forever raised the bar in that regard. Including it on a holiday gift list may be somewhat foolish, since pretty much everyone has it by now – but still, as the year’s best game it does belong here. (Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3; Developer: Rockstar North)

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