Even before the arrival of the next-gen consoles, 2013 has seen video games come on in leaps and bounds.
We've wrapped our sweaty mitts around game controllers and immersed ourselves in heart-stoppingly tense cinematic adventures, expansive open worlds and hyper-stylised indie games. But in the end there could only be only one victor – and it's the mind-boggling scope of Rockstar's immersive crim-sim that took the prize.
Winner: Grand Theft Auto 5
Few games arrive with the weight of expectation affixed to Grand Theft Auto 5, but in many ways the final product exceeded them: the map, which encompasses the city of Los Santos and the surrounding area, is immense; as is the level of detail, and the amount of activities on offer. The story does the trick too, with the innovative character-switching feature breathing new life into the franchise – and the extended heist missions are quite simply the most exciting in any GTA title to date. Essential.
Runner-up: The Last of Us
With the Uncharted series, Naughty Dog has delivered three of the best games in the PS3 era – but in The Last of Us, likely its final hurrah on the console, it has topped them all. Set in a future where a zombie infection has led to total societal breakdown, it offers a greater variety of gameplay than Uncharted – and a story with way more heart. A high watermark in the last generation of gaming.
Runner-up: Bioshock Infinite
Few games have managed to blend philosophical debate with shooting things in the face quite as effectively as the Bioshock series, and the third instalment carries on that tradition. Swapping the dark deep-sea dystopia of Rapture for the sunlit floating city of Columbia, it muses on many subjects (revolution, racial segregation, America) while also letting you blow the heck out of giant, minigun-wielding George Washington robots.
Runner-up: Far Cry 3
Forget its muddled meta-commentary on the nature of violent video games (it’s there if you look, but you’re left thinking, “So what?”) – Far Cry 3 is a game of such scope and beauty that it demands to be played. Stealth, shooting and side-missions, it’s all here. Taking the open-world roaming of Skyrim and throwing a lorryload of guns at it, it’s like taking a tropical island holiday in hell – and loving it.
More after the break...
Runner-up: Tomb Raider
The Tomb Raider series had gone as stale as the air in a dusty old mausoleum, but this gritty re-imagining made us remember why we first fell in love with Lara Croft and her Indiana Jones-esque shenanigans. Blending the best of the ‘old’ Tomb Raider with Uncharted-inspired action, it’s a varied, well-paced adventure game that provides the most human representation of Ms Croft yet.
Runner-up: FIFA 14
Yes, we know there’s a new FIFA game every year, but FIFA 14 feels like much more than a mere database update. The key development is the inclusion of realistic momentum, meaning players take time to shift direction. This pushes the game more towards rewarding tactical thinking, with space and support far more vital considerations than previously. Simply the best footie simulator around.
A first-person adventure that captures the essence of the original Deus Ex better than any other game, Dishonored lets you approach each level in a variety of ways: will you be the stealthy shadow or the balls-out brawler – or something in between? Extra spice comes in the forms of the vivid steampunk setting and twist-laden story.
Runner-up: Hotline Miami
This ultra-violent, ultra-stylish indie sensation (available for Windows, Mac, PS3 and PS Vita) mashes together the original Grand Theft Auto with movies like Drive and Scarface, then sprinkles one of the best soundtracks ever all over the resulting beautiful, bloody mess. The gameplay is simple – it sees you assassinating targets from a 2D top-down view – but it's so finely tuned that you’ll struggle to step away from your keyboard.