2013 in review: The year's best games

It might have been a year which finished with Sony and Microsoft's hardware head-to-head with their next-generation consoles, but when it came to the software, here's what TimeOut reviewers loved playing the most ...

1: The Last Of Us
(PlayStation 3)

Yes, it had zombies - but The Last of Us is not about those scary violent mutants known as Clickers. It's about the sweet but sick relationship between Joel, a silent and violent hardman, and Ellie, a 14-year-old girl; both living in post-apocalyptic times. Joel's job was to smuggle Ellie - who may hold the key to a zombie cure - to a group of vigilantes known as the Fireflies, but over time the pair developed a father-daughter relationship that sucked gamers in until those shocking final scenes.

The Last of Us comes with a brutal twist that upends everything you thought you knew about the game, (and sparked a Sopranos-style debate over its worthiness). For a big budget game available on just one platform it was a huge risk - and it totally worked. So, it's no surprise that this isn't the last of The Last of Us - there's a prequel, starring Ellie, in the works.
- Chris Schulz

2: Grand Theft Auto V
(PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

Switching between characters during a thrilling bank robbery heist. Racing around Los Santos in a stolen car with a police helicopter tracking your every move. Guiding jet-skis between bridges while angry gangsters take pot-shots at you. Taking your dog for a leisurely stroll only to become the hero in a street robbery. Or chasing a soccer mom during a beachside marathon. Every single time you play Grand Theft Auto V, it's different.

Five years in the making, with superb gameplay, an addictive storyline, graphics that push consoles to the peaks of their powers, and about 40 hours of of story mode, GTA V gives you more bang for your buck than any game on the market. All that, and we haven't yet mentioned the sheer joy of rampaging around in GTA Online. This is a game you can get lost in for years to come.
- Chris Schulz

3: Bioshock Infinite
(Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)

When your character takes his first steps in Columbia, the depth of detail in the graphics, music, and effects envelopes you in a warm and unceasing sense of privilege. On one hand there's social privilege; the floating city-state invokes feelings of everything that was nasty about American society at the end of the 19th century. On the other hand, the beautifully rendered world and its uncannily clever features are a privilege to experience. Plus, if you don't like seeing good people downtrodden, well - that's why you have a clever hook weapon and a range of supernatural powers to exact justice with. A study in American exceptionalism gone terribly wrong, BioShock Infinite will be remembered as one of the most exceptional games of its generation.
- Troy Rawhiti-Forbes

4: Ryse: Son Of Rome
(Xbox One)

Have you ever wanted to stab someone through the throat with a sword? Smash a Barbarian over the head with a shield before hacking off his arm? How about stomping on someone's skull? If you answered yes to any of the above, then Ryse: Son of Rome is for you - or perhaps you need therapy.

As a Roman soldier seeking revenge for the murder of your family, you fight your way through unrelenting waves of adversaries, each requiring a number of sword thrusts and whacks over the head with your shield to be dispatched. After you've landed enough successful hits on your enemy a skull appears above their head, enabling you to finish them off in a satisfyingly gory manner. Ryse is astonishingly realistic, from the lifelike facial animations to breathtaking scenery, so the limb-severing gore may be offputting for some gamers.
- Paul Harper

5: Tomb Raider
(PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC)

I was never particularly interested in Tomb Raider when I was younger, but the 2013 reboot of the game had me hooked. There are some oddities in the story-telling - such as Lara feeling bad - for about two minutes- about killing one person, then proceeding to murder everyone in sight, without remorse, for the rest of the game. That said, I've never felt so compelled to complete every single optional objective in a game, collectibles included. Plus the bow and arrow felt exceptionally good to use. Thanks for that, Hunger Games.
- Siobhan Keogh

6: Gears Of War: Judgment
(Xbox 360)

Though set before the original Gears of War trilogy, Judgment represents a stunning leap forward for the franchise. It is refreshing, engaging, and almost flawless in its execution. Series hero Marcus Fenix is left behind with his baggage, allowing comrades Damon Baird and Augustus Cole to lead their fireteam through a series of flashback chapters presented as testimonies during a military tribunal.

If you love courtroom drama, and completely irresponsible future-tech weaponry, then this should be right up your alley. Brilliantly, each chapter presents the opportunity to open a declassified mission, which changes the level's objective, ramps up the difficulty, and alters the narrative. It's an excellent plot and gameplay device, which drives you to make the most of all those lovely, lovely weapons.
- Troy Rawhiti-Forbes

7: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
(PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, PC)

First of all, pirates. Who doesn't like pirates? Only people who like quinoa salad and feeling sad. In Assassin's Creed you are Edward Kenway, a pirate even Blackbeard is scared of, and your job is to carry out a series of high-seas muggings of the British.

The game is a gift and a curse for us obsessive types, with an immersive, open world designed to make you veer into hours of treasure-hunting and side missions. Just make sure you book time away from the house or you'll end up like me, ruing your lack of self-control as you search for an elusive sea shanty in the small hours.
- Hayden Donnell

8: Fifa 14
(Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, Wii, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

There are few sports games more eagerly awaited each year than Fifa, and the latest instalment in the series does not disappoint. As in past editions, Fifa 14 finds that perfect balance between realistic "television coverage" and the pick-up-and-play enjoyment of an arcade game. But though in the past each instalment has been a small improvement on the previous year, Fifa 14 is to Fifa 13 what the Premier League is to the A-League. The movement of players is much more fluid, contact between players is more natural and there is much more venom behind shots. The commentary is more comprehensive, too, from comments on the form of players to discussion of topics such as the imminent move of West Ham United. In career mode, the transfer system is more complex and a real treat for armchair Sir Alex Fergusons. For the best Fifa 14 experience, take on your mate in a two-player match. You'll hate each other by full-time.
- Paul Harper

9: Soul Sacrifice
(PSVita)

The PlayStation Vita is the best handheld console around, but far too many games have tried to incorporate its dual touchscreens for the sake of them rather than to add meaning. Then along came Soul Sacrifice, which took a minimalist approach to the touchy-pokey stuff and focused instead on addictive action-RPG combat, a dark and seductive plot, and a new skew on morality and consequences.

If you've ever joked about giving your right arm for an advantage, well, in this game you (sort of) can. Furthermore, murder goes hand-in-hand with sorcery. We learned that with Harry Potter. Soul Sacrifice advances the theme with brutal clarity. After felling a foe, you can opt to save their soul and enjoy the benefits of improved health and resilience. Sacrifice the wretched victim and your power increases. Soul Sacrifice is the game the PS Vita needed.
- Troy Rawhiti-Forbes

10: Saints Row IV
(PS3, Xbox 360, PC)

The Saints Row franchise is one of the silliest things I've ever played. It's also very engaging, funny and self-aware. Though in some ways it felt much like an extension of Saints Row III, I was surprised to learn it was based in the same city as the previous game. But having superpowers made it feel like an entirely different place. I was sold on Saint's Row IV within minutes when my character, the recently elected US President, was given the choice between punching a political opponent in the head or below the belt. You just know every politician in the world has wanted to do both.
- Siobhan Keogh

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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