Although 2012 wasn't the strongest for big budget games, 2013 is shaping up to be one of the best in a while. Scanning the releases for the first five months of the new year, it seems the games in that span may be better than all of 2012.

The fun starts immediately in January with the launch of "DmC: Devil May Cry" (Jan. 15) and "Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch" (Jan. 22). The first game is a reboot of the longtime action franchise. In the hands of Ninja Theory, Dante has a new look but it still retains the quick-twitch hack and slash gameplay.

"BioShock Infinite" is one of the more anticipated games coming out in 2013.
"BioShock Infinite" is one of the more anticipated games coming out in 2013. (Courtesy of 2K Games)

On the other end of the spectrum. "Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch" is a Japanese role-playing game. The fact that it's developed by Level 5 gives it credibility, but it's the involvement of Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli that makes this game special. It's a gorgeous-looking RPG that looks like one of his animated films. (Release dates are subject to change.)

February releases

February will be a busy month with "Fire Emblem: Awakening" (Feb. 4), "Dead Space 3" (Feb. 5), "Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time" (Feb. 12), "Aliens: Colonial Marines" (Feb. 12), "Crysis 3" (Feb. 19) and "Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance" (Feb. 19).

Of these releases, "Dead Space 3" has the biggest potential to move the needle. Visceral Games took chances by making the third chapter of the survival-horror series a co-op title. From what I've seen, it can pay off with a new type of scares.

"Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance" is another game to watch. Developed by Platinum Games, this is a spinoff that follows the exploits of Raiden, not Solid Snake. Unlike previous entries, this is more focused on over-the-top action instead of stealth. As always, Platinum embellishes the gameplay with its trademark style.

March tops February in terms of likely blockbusters. Scheduled for launch are "Tomb Raider," (March 5), "SimCity" (March 5), "Castlevania: Lords of Shadow -- Mirror of Fate" (March 5), "God of War: Ascension" (March 12), "StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm" (March 12), "Gears of War: Judgment" (March 19), "Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel" (March 26) and "BioShock Infinite" (March 26). I'm not sure all of these titles can come out in one month, so it'll be interesting to see if anything changes.

The game to keep an eye out for is "Tomb Raider," which has been dying for a reboot for years. Crystal Dynamics shows players a young Lara Croft who is managing to save her friends from mysterious islanders. The gameplay blends elements of survival, puzzle solving and combat in a more cinematic way.

Months ahead

At the end of March is "BioShock Infinite," which is set for release after months of delay. No other title has as much pressure as developer Ken Levine's follow-up to the original shooter. This sequel takes players to Columbia, a floating city in the sky, as they take on the role of Booker DeWitt, who is sent to rescue a girl named Elizabeth.

April looks like it will be a fairly quiet month with "Dead Island Riptide" (April 23) headlining. If the sequel is anywhere near as good as the zombie-filled original, it'll be the must-have game for the month.

Lastly, May will be dominated by "The Last of Us" (May 7) if "Grand Theft Auto V" doesn't make it to release by then. (It's scheduled for the second quarter of the year.) This new property by Naughty Dog follows Joel and Ellie, who must survive an apocalypse caused by a mysterious fungus. If the team can put the same polish and care in this project as they've done with "Uncharted 2: Among Thieves," it could be one of the top games of the year.

Contact Gieson Cacho at 510-735-7076 or gcacho@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read his blog at http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei.