Ashley's Top 5 Games of 2013

2013 was a special year for me when it came to videogames, being the first year of my life so far where I've had the money, time and effort to keep up with the majority of major releases. In previous years I was forced to pick and choose, or spend my time catching up with older titles I missed out on. 2013, in comparison, was gluttonous for me. I played so many great games that this list is possibly the hardest one I've ever had to make. I hope you had as much fun as I did this year!

Favorite Game Released Before 2013, Played in 2013: Persona 4 Arena

Arena is both a fun, easy to learn fighting game and a worthwhile spinoff to their seminal RPG. Employing 2d fighting veterans Arc Systems Works to handle the raw combat of the game ensures a solid base, but Arc took it one step further and streamlined their usually-complicated mechanics to suit Persona fans who wouldn't otherwise want to engage with the genre.

5. The Last Of Us

After a trilogy of bombastic and cheeky Uncharted games, there was a need for Naughty Dog to change their tune. They certainly did, and then some, with The Last Of Us. Arguably the first blockbuster horror game for years, its gameplay has a pleasing mix of tense survival and meaty, desperate action sequences. The story is a dark, depressing tale where the only moral is that The Last Of Us's world has no morals, and the ways in which pieces of backstory are revealed ambiently through environments provide beautiful changes of pace.

4. Grand Theft Auto V

The critical reaction to GTAV post-release was fascinating to watch. Critics and players seemed to have finally reached the point where they throw their hands up and admit that they feel too mature for it. The reason there's so much handwringing around seriously criticising GTAV, to the point where wholly critical articles almost seemed taboo, is that you can't deny that it's a brilliantly constructed video game. The change to three main characters was implemented smoothly and felt natural, the story missions adopted the variety and spectacle seen in GTAIV's last expansion, and once it finally worked as intended GTA Online proved a worthwhile addition to the series. Rockstar have shown why taking your time making a game can be more beneficial than squeezing out your title quickly, giving them a solid product (in review stage and on release anyway, where it mattered) and a million-making market hype to boot.

3. DmC: Devil May Cry

In a year when a lot of the games I played felt like they were trying to become more cinematic, more epic and emotive in story and more deliberate in pacing and impact, Ninja Theory’s reboot of Capcom’s most stylish series went against the grain. It was immature in its humour, and unapologetically favoured fun, varied level design over providing atmosphere or tone. The raw combat mechanics are some of the best the series has ever had, and they stuck by the Devil May Cry tradition of providing great replay value for players that value an old-school level of challenge in their games. I’ve not had more fun with a video game in 2013.

2. Tearaway

A beautiful, unique Vita title that manages to engage the player with tactile controls, Tearaway is perhaps Media Molecule’s greatest triumph yet. In a year when Sony is attempting to reconfigure the Vita’s selling point from standalone handheld to PS4 companion, this game makes a stronger case than ever that it’s capable of standing up against the 3DS as a proper gaming platform. The nature of the game means that each of you will have played in a slightly different Tearaway universe, making your ending all the more affecting once it pulls back and reveals the scope of your influence on this tiny, papery world.

1. Bioshock Infinite

I, for one, couldn’t believe Irrational did it. They had a lot to live up to by bringing the Bioshock name into this, and not only did they disprove those who thought it a cash-in on brand value, they went a step further and justified the move so deeply within their own lore that you can’t ever make another one of these without calling it Bioshock! Like GTAV, this is a game that reaps the benefits of a patient development cycle. Ken Levine’s writing is better than it has ever been, Elizabeth and Booker are amongst the best double act of the generation and the whole thing has the production values of a blockbuster movie. Stunning, stunning, stunning.

Honorable mentions: Divekick, Tomb Raider, Pokemon Y, FIFA 14 (PS4), Zelda: A Link Between Worlds