Top 25 games of 2013: 15-11

OK, it's day two and we're counting down from 15 to 11.

Yesterday we managed to strike a chord with most of our commenters, which is encouraging, so let's see what you make of today's selection, which begins on floating city and ends in a multiplayer arena.

Oh and we didn't explain the selection rules before, so here they are. We're not including smartphone games, as Stuart Dredge does a great job of all that with his own list. Also, there are no HD remakes, no add-ons or expansion packs, and no titles that appeared last year on different platforms. This precarious set of guidelines has ruled out the likes of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Spelunky PC, The Stanley Parable and Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm – all excellent releases.

Anyway, enough excuses, let's get on with it...

15. Bioshock Infinite (2K Games, PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

There is little doubt about the sheer imaginative energy that went into this extraordinary sequel. Managing to draw themes of quantum mechanics, racial tension and parental guilt into a blistering shooter set on a steam punk air city is quite a staggering achievement – and Columbia could be one of the most memorable interactive spaces ever conceived of in this industry. Why 15? Because the combat and power-up mechanics are flawed, the vigors of marginal use outside of the upper difficulty levels. And Elizabeth is under-used as an AI but over-employed as a cipher for exposition and ammo collection. Certainly however, it is one of the most fascinating mainstream games of its era.

• Bioshock Infinite – review

14. Tearaway (Sony, PS Vita)

It swooped in at the close of the year, behind a wall of next-gen hype. Another handicraft masterpiece from Media Molecule, a game of charm, grace, beauty and child-like pleasure – a game built to show off the tactile strengths of the Vita. The story seems so simple – a messenger bringing a note to the player – but it is really a picaresque metaphor about gaming. Everything is joyous, colourful and pleasing, from the platforms that curl out like rolled paper, to the extravagant origami creatures. It just makes you want to hug your console.

13. Rayman Legends (Ubisoft, PC, PS3, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360)

Rayman Legends and its direct predecessor Rayman Origins represent the first time that the eccentric Gallic platformer has found truly its feet (if not its joints – the character's limbs remain detached from his body). Up to four players work together through a series of early-Mario-style scrolling stages, collecting various items and working together to progress. Despite the old school gameplay, the design feels fresh, while the rich abundance of ideas comes the closest of any series to matching Nintendo EAD's medium-defining work.

• Rayman Legends – review

12. Pokemon X/Y (Nintendo, 3DS)

Where once parents would teach their children to hunt, trap and battle as a matter of survival, today that responsibility falls to GameFreak, the Japanese developer behind the Pokémon phenomenon, in which players must fight and wound small mammals till they are sufficiently weakened to be captured in a tiny ball and, later, set to work enslaving other so-called 'pocket monsters'. The company's steady releases have refined the game's rhythm and style for two decades, but this year's iteration is undeniably the best yet. It features all manner of smoothing systems to make capturing and training your Pokémon as frictionless as possible, while the new aesthetic pops the creatures into 3D with effortless charm. A wonderful reminder of the childlike thrills of discovery, compilation and care, and yet another must-have title for Nintendo's enviably well-stocked 3DS.

• Pokemon – from bugs to blockbuster

11. Dota 2 (Valve, PC)

The rise of the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre from its origins as a curious fan-made Starcraft mod to the darling of the professional eSports circuit has been swift and inexorable. DOTA2 is, arguably, the finest example of the competitive, team-based sport yet made, a game in which two teams of five players compete to destroy the opposing side's 'Ancient', a MacGuffin that is invulnerable until certain other objectives are first cleared. While the game is undeniably complex and its strategic depths require a certain dedication from would-be players, its elegant balance and vibrant (if unwelcoming) community of players makes this the most exciting place to be in eSports – an accolade it seems likely to hold for the foreseeable future.

Tomorrow: we countdown from 10-6!Powered by article was written by Keith Stuart, for on Wednesday 18th December 2013 13.45 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © kss_cville

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