6. "Halo 4" (Microsoft; Xbox 360) -- A new developer did nothing to slow down Microsoft's marquee franchise. In fact, 343 Industries actually managed to improve upon the legacy started by Bungie all those years ago on the original Xbox. This latest story featuring Master Chief and his AI construct, Cortana, is the most engrossing the series has ever seen, and the graphics are some of the best of this console generation. If "Halo 4" is any indication, the future of this franchise is in great hands.
5. "XCOM: Enemy Unknown" (2K Games; Xbox 360, PS3) -- There was a time when top- notch strategy games were only available on PC; a controller simply couldn't compete with the speed and accuracy afforded by a keyboard and mouse. But developer Firaxis, which knows a thing or two about making great strategy games, dispelled that notion once and for all with "XCOM: Enemy Unknown." Combining turn-based tactical combat with elements of base-building and resource management, this brilliant offering is a landmark achievement for console strategy games. Just don't get too attached to your squad. Chances are they won't be around for long.
4. "Far Cry 3" (Ubisoft; Xbox 360, PS3) -- The fictional Rook Islands are your playground in this outstanding open-world shooter that more than lives up to the high standards set by its predecessors. In true "Far Cry" fashion, you're given the ultimate freedom in choosing how you wish to survive in a world inhabited by deadly animals and trigger-happy pirates. But whether you choose to pick off enemies from distance using a silenced sniper rifle, sneak in close for stealth kills or rush headlong into battle in a hail of gunfire, the gameplay remains undeniably fun. And when you're not simply fighting to stay alive, there are animals to hunt, hidden areas to explore and a plethora of side missions to undertake.
3. "Borderlands 2" (2K Games; Xbox 360, PS3) -- So how do you improve upon one of the most influential games of this generation? In the case of "Borderlands" developer Gearbox Software, the answer was simple -- go big. Indeed, the follow-up to the massively popular co-op shooter is bigger and more bombastic than the 2009 original, but "Borderlands 2" is also better than its predecessor in every way imaginable. The action is more frenetic, the characters more over-the-top and the loot even more plentiful. Simply put, "Borderlands 2" is the perfect sequel.
2. "Mass Effect 3" (Electronic Arts; Xbox 360, PS3) -- Commander Shepherd's epicadventure that spanned five years and three releases reached a grand crescendo with the release of "Mass Effect 3." BioWare succeeded in its promise to bring together all of the choices you've made along the way, allowing players to influence Shepherd's story in their own way. The game play benefits from years of being refined and tweaked to near perfection, and the presentation elements -- especially the voice acting -- are unmatched in the genre. The final act of the trilogy wasn't without controversy -- Bioware released an update after some fans voiced their displeasure with the way the game ended -- but it was a fitting conclusion to one of this generation's hallmark series. In fact, "Mass Effect 3" would have been my Game of the Year were it not for ...
1. "The Walking Dead" (Telltale Games; Xbox 360, PS3, PC) -- When the final credits rolled after Episode 5 of Telltale Games' groundbreaking adventure game, I put my controller down and simply stared at the television screen in awe. Never before have I experienced a game that left me feeling as though I had actually told my story. It was my decisions that helped shape the events that ultimately guided convicted killer Lee Everett and young Clementine to their final destination, and my actions determined who lived and died along the way. Excellent voice acting helped bring Lee, Clementine and the other survivors to life, which -- in true "Walking Dead" fashion -- only served to make some of the hard decisions I was faced with even more difficult. Of all the great games on this list, "The Walking Dead" is the one that I will remember most fondly in 2013 and the one I most look forward to playing again.
Reach Jeff Rider at 304-348-5122 or jri...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/gazette_gamer.