There's no doubt it's been an interesting one, with the usual release rush ushering in a veritable torrent of hugely backed titles of which Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, FIFA 13, Far Cry 3, Hitman: Absolution and Assassin's Creed 3 were but the start. As the list shows however, artificial marketing strategies don't always make for the greatest releases.
Virtue's Last Reward
Publisher: Rising Star Games
An interactive novel isn't the most obvious choice for game of the year contender, but the unique manner in which mystery and puzzle-solving are combined in Virtue's Last Reward means it's worthy of inclusion here. Particularly considering the mind-bending narrative that Chunsoft has somehow managed to thread together like some digital form of patchwork quilt. Imaginative, challenging, packed with humour and a more than viable alternative to the traditional detective paperback.
The Walking Dead
Publisher: Telltale Games
Harking back to the golden age of point-and-click adventures, The Walking Dead reanimated the original graphic novel's horror to forge an emotional connection as you followed and contributed to the fate of a gang of survivors. The five episode arc only ramping up the stress-levels amid zombie-dodging and a host of difficult decisions.
Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 is looking increasingly like the last of the 'great' MMOs. It's the one remaining light in a dying genre overshadowed by World of Warcraft and a series of expensive failures. It's trick? Being an expansive, confident game with plenty of free content and developers that know what they're doing. Long may it live.
Far Cry 3
Ubisoft's tropical island proves the perfect setting for a tale of war vengeance, as rival tribes fall victim to the teeth and claws of the indigenous wildlife just as often as they do to hostile fire. Meanwhile the descent of hero, Jason Brody, from innocent to ruthless killer marks one of the year's best narratives.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Publisher: 2K Games
A reboot of an all-time classic ushered in today's ubiquitous HD-visual goodness but retained enough of the old-school playability to ensure the classic gameplay survived the journey. What Firaxis have crafted is a complex and compelling strategy game which allows the player to save the world from alien attack in the manner they see fit — alien autopsies and all.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Publisher: Namco Bandai
The Witcher 2 brought foul-mouthed drunken trolls, bare breasts and stunning visuals to the RPG party, in a mature adventure that was not only refreshingly representative of its fan base but delivered at a perfect pace. Combat was much improved on its predecessor too, the combined results easily rivalling anything else in the genre.
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
The trials of Corvo Attano make for the year's most flexible first-person action game, as the assassin uses brute strength and dark arts to wreak his own brand of vengeance on the higher-powers out to frame him for murder. Dishonored's trick is in the way it hands the keys to said vengeance over to the player; the choice for a bloodless reprisal entirely within the realms of possibility. This same freedom of choice prevails through the ever challenging and gratifying adventure, as the storyline branches and the game's setting of Dunwall morphs depending on the player's approach. Nothing less than spectacular.
Fight met flight in Gravity Rush, what is still by far the best game available for Sony's latest handheld and a title that every owner of the system really should have purchased already. Novel yet utterly inspired controls allow perfect control of heroine, Kat (no matter which way she's currently pointing gravity); while those cel-shaded visuals perfectly show off the Vita's capabilities.
Journey followed the exploits of a solitary figure makes his way towards a biblical light, shining brightly from the top of a distant mountain. Occasionally you'd meet similarly garbed pilgrims — other players with whom you can form a transcendental partnership — but it was the otherwise barren landscapes that made it the year's most emotionally affecting struggle.
Mass Effect 3
A final act for Commander Shepherd as he and his crew continued to struggle against the odds to save the galaxy had been a long time in coming and, despite complaints over a curtailed finale, was worth the wait. By carrying the player's actions over from its prequels, BioWare was able to create a uniquely engaging narrative where every character really mattered — making the consequences of those life-or-death decisions all the more heart-wrenching.