End of the year top 10 games lists usually just put into stark contrast how I play games compared to others. Not in the sense that my lists are dramatically different, but more in the fact that I usually don't have anything to actually put on the lists themselves. My tact of practically storing games means I usually actually play games 2 or 3 years after their release year, and thus when it comes time to compile a list, nothing is released in the right year. This year, however, I was a little better at it, and the fight for the prestigious title of “liked by that dude who plays porn games” turned into quite the bloodbath. But before I get to that, here are the games I played this year that I really enjoyed and in a just world would have made it on my 2011 list.
Saints Row: The Third
I really liked Saints Row: The Third, and I'm really glad I finally got a laptop capable of actually running it. The open world genre isn't really one I enjoy all that much due to various reasons, but for some reason Saints Row managed to hook me in a way I didn't think was possible. Some really annoying problems with the ending, however, stopped me from enjoying it to its fullest, and I have somewhere on my computer a 2000+ word blog entry that I was going to post which talks about game design and why the ending of Saints Row: The Third fell flat on its face for me. But I digress, at least it's better than Skyrim.
Sonic Generations is a great Sonic game, a phrase hardly anyone says anymore. The levels have a great mixture of 'inspired by'-esque remix qualities of the original games, and straight up taking the best elements from the original games. The different challenges they have for each level also gives a great spin on the core gameplay, some are better than others, but it's a great small addition that adds a lot. Also the online, when it works which is rarely, has a really awesome mode called 30 Second Trial, in which you have to get as far in the level as you can in 30 seconds. A seemingly simple mode but with the online leaderboards it's almost genius in how it works.
Driver San Francisco
What might be my favourite racing game to date. Driver San Francisco has a fantastic style to it with the whole coma aesthetic, and managed to tie it all together in a really amazing way. The ending suffers from Assassin's Creed's problem, however, of having to remove features because the main character wakes from the coma. A completely unavoidable problem when its all said and done but a problem nonetheless.
So without any further ado...
10. Analogue: A Hate Story
Appropriately, the first game in my list is a visual novel. Christine Love, creator of Digital: A Love Story and It Just Ain't Your Story returned this year with a 3rd visual novel. It stars a nameless main character on a mission to find an abandoned spaceship, where you find AIs that are still active. The story is primarily told in the form of data logs of the deceased crew, with some feedback and perspective from the AIs on board. It's rather minimalistic, which adds a lot more than it detracts. It's short, taking me roughly 3 hours to see every ending, and yet manages to back really interesting story beats in its short timeframe.
9. Sound Shapes
I'll admit I wasn't really feeling this game before its release, but hell I needed games to play on my Vita and it was either this or Everybody's Golf so fuck it. A platformer with music elements, but not necessarily rhythm based, that maintains its interesting premise and feel throughout the entire game. Some of the 'challenge' rooms are rather bullshit, simply due to an incredibly short time frame accompanied by random elements, but that pales in comparison to the reason it's on this list, and that's Beck.
When I got to this level I was blown away in ways I didn't think I would be. It's the perfect combination of an excellent look, great music and a progression that compliments the song so much that no matter how well or terribly you're playing the game, the song still works perfectly (though admittedly Turboman is really testing that theory in that video (love you man)). It's the moment in the game that really shows off everything working incredibly well. While a lot of the other levels get close, the experience of that alone really made me appreciate what they set out to accomplish with this game.
8. Paper Mario: Sticker Star
It's not as good as Thousand Year Door, in fact it's the worst Paper Mario game to date. Yet that really shows you how much I absolutely love this series and how high quality all of these games are that it's still one of my favourites of the year.
The battles feel more like a puzzle game than RPG, working out how to beat each battle without getting hit, and sure I miss the companions, but this is still Paper Mario, in fact in some ways it's the most Paper Mario yet. Instead of worried they're get 'hurt', the Toads are worried they'll tear, Toads fold in on themselves to form stairs, the opening of the game the main hub has been rolled up in a tube. They really lean into the fact that everything is paper and cardboard, instead of it just happening to be the aesthetic in the past games. If you love Intelligent System's style of game design and the Treehouse's amazing localisations (which is in full effect here) then by all means check this game out. Just don't expect a straight RPG, it's more akin to an RPG/Adventure hybrid.
When most people consider what the best way to play Journey is, I'm pretty sure none of them would suggest that hour long period in between really drunk and really hungover at roughly 6am, but that's how I played it! At a house party during the summer when most people were asleep, my “Fuck it let's play Journey” mode activated and I'm really glad it did. I got to the game rather late, and my friend had only beaten it once before, so in the 2nd 'level' or so I met up with this super golden dude with a long ass scarf. He ended up leading me to all the secrets, and was pretty much my tour guide for the world of Journey. Frankly, in my state, that was absolutely perfect. The game is stunning, the music is incredibly and the atmosphere in every single place is exquisite. By the time I beat the game and the credits started to roll, it turns out that my golden tour guide was actually 4 different golden tour guides, all of them saw my character and its dinky scarf and decided to take it on an adventure throughout an amazing world. The people playing will never know it, but they made that experience all the more special because of it.
6. Katawa Shoujo
Watching this game rise from the ashes of its existence into its final product was what, I presumed, would be the most interesting part about Katawa Shoujo. Yet somehow the actual visual novel itself surpassed all expectations and actually turned out to be amazing. A lot of people were surprised by how the game handled the different disabilities, in that the characters weren't reduced to just that, as if before release the general reaction to this game would be that it'd literally be the worst piece of shit every produced by any human beings in the world ever.
Well it is a visual novel, after all, only freaks play those.
There's a lot to be said about this game but it's all been said already, Katawa Shoujo is an amazing story and I'd recommend anyone to check it out.
5. Hotline Miami
4. Gravity Rush
Part one in my answer to “So should I get a Vita?” Gravity rush is an amazing game that shows off the handheld's strengths incredibly well. A great and interesting main character in Kat, a really expansive world, and a story that leaves enough things open to allow you to pieces parts of the puzzle together yourself. Honestly, that's the reason it's here. The story and the universe it creates is so interesting that it really gives off an amazing atmosphere while playing. Enough clues are placed in the main story and in side quest objectives to give you a great understanding of the bigger picture, but when you actually piece it all together it's really incredible, and the connotations it gives for more games or even stories set in this universe make this easily one of my favourite video game worlds in recent memory. The actual game itself is also fun for the most part, with the combat really being its only main drag, with a lot of different mechanics that all manage to compliment each other well, but I believe it's the story and the setting that is the main draw here.
3. Persona 4 Golden
Part two in my answer to “So should I get a Vita?” Obviously you should, so you can buy this game that was released on the PS2 a few years ago. I fucking love Persona 4, ok, it was my favourite RPG game of all time by a wide margin. I sunk over 500 hours into it, playing it 8 or 9 times total, and somehow the made it better with Golden. Since this website is rather uniquely familiar with Persona 4, I'll just list some of the ways they made it better.
The fishing has been completely redone and is actually fun this time.
They re-added all the shit they removed from Persona 3 that they shouldn't've.
The shuffle time card system has been completely revamped and it makes playing the game with only one persona actually a viable option which is awesome.
They added bugging catching and gardening and they don't take up time so you can do them whenever.
They added a bunch of ways for your teammates to remember moves you've deleted, or learn brand new random ones.
They rebalanced the teammate abilities, i.e. “Take a mortal blow” is moved from level 1 Social Link to level 9.
The new character Marie is surprisingly awesome, fits in well with the story.
MOTHERFUCKING ADACHI SOCIAL LINK IS SO FUCKING BOSS HOLY SHIT.
AND SO ARE THE NEW ENDINGS
FUCK THIS GAME IS SO GOOD
So yeah this is a pretty great version of Persona 4, it's number 3 on this list only because it is a re-release, it's probably top 3 in my favourite games of all time at this point.
So this game is really silly, and that's why I love it so. Take all the horrible and fearsome leaders of history and turn them into anime girls, and you've got this game. You start in Japan and then conquer the entire world, meeting such people as anime girl Ivan the Terrible, anime girl Sir Francis Drake and anime girl King Arthur. The stories are usually based on the actual country you're fighting at any given time America is in a civil war between the north and south, southern Asia is Journey to the West, and so on. The actual gameplay is split up between talking to your commanders and raising they standing with you in very dating sim kind of fashion, and the actual battles, 3x3 grid of commanders attacking the enemy, in which the commander's health also serves as their attack power. Battles are won and money is got, which can be spent of increasing the army sizes of the commanders, and so on and so forth. The story only gets crazier and crazier once you've taken over the entire world, and without a doubt it's the sillies and best thing I've read this year.
The game was also announced for PS3 and Vita since its PC release, lets hope for a translation release because more people have to be witness to this incredible stupidity.
1. The Walking Dead
Fuck this game. Rmanthorp and I would always talk about how impossible it'd be to actually play all five episodes in a row, and I agree. Usually I'd wait for all episodes to be released and then play Telltale games, but this time I was advised to jump in with only 3 episodes released, to give myself time to recover for the next two. I should also point out, after I beat the game, Rmanthorp apologised for recommending the game to me at all.
I guess that's the best way to talk about this game, it's by apologising. The entire game you're wishing it went different, and it then tricks you into thinking everything was your fault. Not a single thing happened in which I felt good about what I had to do, or what I was going to have to do. The game makes you think there are black and white choices, slowly turns them into shades of grey, when all along everything is pure black.
Fuck this game.
And there you go you can rest easy now that you know my opinion on videogames.