There were too many games to count that offered up a superlative multiplayer component this year, particularly with persistent social MP features proving ubiquitous. There was an overwhelming barrage of titles to choose from for this list, with the process made even harder by the advent of the Wii U and its asynchronous delights. That the likes of Need For Speed: Most Wanted, Forza Horizon, FIFA 13, Far Cry 3, Assassin's Creed 3, and Mass Effect 3, New Super Mario Bros. U could only muster Honourable Mentions serves to show just how packed this category was with quality.
Any of the following would have made worthy winners, albeit perhaps for different reasons. Again, the sheer variety in multiplayer offerings this year only further underlined how brilliantly we gamers have had it this past twelve months...
NB. Click on the thumbnails for price comparisons and the game's title for the relevant review where available.
As usual, Call of Duty delivered another comprehensive multiplayer component this year, with Treyarch making tweaks here and there to expand ad enhance rather than overhauling. Reliably excellent fun as always, the simple -yet brilliant- revolution of giving players total freedom to tailor their loadout made Black Ops II a joy to play. Not many new modes to speak of, but existing party favourites, deathmatch options and shiny futuristic boomsticks will made it a surefire online MP hit.
We described Borderlands 2 as "the best co-op shooter of its generation" and it still holds true to that accolade. Outstanding AI, superlative scripting, one of this generation's finest villains in Handsome Jack, and more loot than we knew what to do with, Borderlands 2 was a huge step up from its predecessor. Not that Borderlands 1 wasn't great, it's just that its bigger, badder, bolder brother was so very pleasing.
343 Industries were up against it, the pressure must have been huge. Yet, with Microsoft's biggest frnachise in their hands, they pulled off the incredible: not only did the match up to Bungie's predecessors, they even managed to surpass some of them. Halo 4's campaign was excellent, but it was in the multiplayer modes that 343 really pulled out all of the stops. War Games is still giving us tons of fun, with expanded loadouts and greater gameplay variety than ever before. And then there was Spartan Ops: yes, there were examples of some lazy content recycling, but we've simply been having too much fun to care. An utter blast.
Thatgamecompany provided us with something utterly unique this year: a game with completely anonymous, completely non-violent, non-communicative, barely interactive multiplayer. It sounds like it shouldn't make sense, and there might well be many for whom Journey was something of a throwaway experience. But for us, it was something truly special, unlike anything else this year, with shared expeditions to the mountains summit providing some of the very best gaming memories of all time. Yes, we just said that.
As a collection of minigames, Nintendo Land was never going to be groundbreaking. But what it is, is a game that is inviting, engaging, rewarding and so full of polish that it sets a very high benchmark for this type of game. What it set out to do was showcase the WiiU potential. What it provided was not only a glimpse into a future for a console which most definitely has potential, but it also reminded us where some of gaming's finest moments lie, and brought local MP back with emphatic delight.
PES 2013 mkes the list over FIFA 3 because it gave complete control over to the player, meaning that when you played another human being, you knew absolutely that it was a hardcore test of skill, dexterity, strategy and execution. With FIFA feeling a little too fast, and a little too slick this year, PES was on hand to deliver a footballing experience that revelled in the tiny details, resulting in supremely tight games, furiously addictive grudge matches, and moments of sheer beauty.
Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed
With no Mario Kart out this year, and LBPK proving a little disappointing, SEGA stepped up to the plate to deliver some anarchic karting fun this year, building upon the success of Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing, and giving it the Diddy Kong treatment. Taking to the skies and diving onto the waterways, SASRT produced a thoroughly engrossing party racing title that served up some fine SEGA fan service too.
Quite how thatgamecompany managed to get us to care so very much about a companion who remains faceless, anonymous, and virtually silent save for that sung note like a soft bell chime, we'll never know. Journey's desert was on one hand a deeply lonely expanse, and if made alone, the eponymous trek to the top of the mountain could be a richly personal experience. But when you came across another wandering figure out in the wilderness, the sheer joy of enjoying their company was a game mechanic in and of itself. The alienation effect, the emphasis on the impersonal, it makes you stick together when you bump into someone else. And if you get separated, or eventually go off on your own distinct adventures, you feel that loss keenly. We had some cracking competitive and co-operative games this year, you only have to look at the table above for evidence of that. But none affected us quite as much, or in such a unique fashion, as Journey did.