Now, this is a list of my top 10 favorite games and not a list of what I think are the overall top 10 best games. A game can be busted as hell or half finished, but if I really loved it for whatever little reason I'll put it on this list. I don't care if something else is considered technically better.
As a heads up I don't own a PS3, and I haven't played Halo 4, Sleeping Dogs, and a ton more games people probably have on their lists. I'm done with new games for the year barring random Christmas presents so too bad. Maybe one of those will make be my Game of Years Past next year. So here's my list:
10) Dust: An Elysian Tail
I can honestly say that I have never played a more charming game about mass genocide than I have with Dust. That's the thing with Dust, on the surface it looks like a Saturday morning cartoon (I bet those don't exist anymore. I feel old.), but goes to some very dark places. It makes for a really interesting juxtaposition between the story and how the game looks. If that was all there was to the game it'd be interesting, but not necessarily a game of the year. Thankfully there is also a really solid side scrolling beat-em-up here. It's not the most complicated in the world, but combining your sword skills with Fidget's abilities in a light RPG leveling system manages to keep it fun the whole way through. And finally to top it off it is a gorgeous game. Yes, the character portraits can be hit and miss, but the actual sprites and backgrounds are great looking. The animation is also fantastic making it great to just look at. No one element of this game alone would guarantee it as one of my favorite games of the year, but the combined package assures it a spot.
9) The Walking Dead
If there is any one game I don’t want to spoil for people it’s this one. So all I’ll say is that if you are in any way remotely interested in games as a mechanism for telling a good story you should pick this up without hesitation. Don’t get hung up on “It’s just another zombie game,” because really the zombies as enemies are the least important part of the story.
8) Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 has gotten a lot of hate for its ending. At this point I’ve finished the game twice. I finished it when it first came out with the original ending, and then again recently by playing through Leviathan and the new ending. I’ll say that the new stuff didn’t fix my biggest hang up with how that game ended. That hang up being that it did the whole "pick your ending because your choices didn't really matter that much" thing. But a game is more than just its ending, and the rest of Mass Effect 3 is really pretty good. It's not quite as good as ME2 mind you, but good enough to make my top 10 list. There’s a lot of great story content in the game, and the combat is actually a lot of fun. The continued popularity of the multiplayer mode is a testament to that. Rarely is the combat good enough in an RPG for it to stand on its own. I'm glad that Bioware is going to keep making Mass Effect games. It's really a great universe ripe for further exploration.
7) Far Cry 3
My favorite characters in Far Cry 3 are Willis, Buck, and Vaas. So those of you who finished the game probably already have an idea of how I feel about the story. None of the others stood up to those three. Most of them were deplorable. Despite that, this still stands up as one of the best games I've played this year. They fixed all the big problems I had with Far Cry 2. Weapon degradation, gone. Malaria, gone. Bad fast travel system, fixed. Terrible respawning enemy checkpoints, gone. That great open world game that was hiding under a ton of annoying crap in Far Cry 2 is just out there in the open for Far Cry 3. It is the most fun and dynamic open world to interact with since Skyrim. Add in a little bit of propagating fire and you have a sure bet for one of my favorite games of the year, despite the disappointing story.
6) Diablo 3
This is the only game on my list to rival the amount of hate Mass Effect 3 got from its players. From what I can tell it's mostly people who are trying to play Diablo 3 like an MMO that are angry. I won't say that these people are playing this game wrong. A lot of people tend to play loot based RPGs like that. They bought the game and are free to play it however they want. I will say that I will never understand those people. I made a few characters. I beat the game with one of them, and moved onto the next difficulty. I never finished the game on the second difficulty, but I still put a bunch of hours into the game and enjoyed it very much. I'll never understand the "endgame or nothing" mentality because I'll probably never make it to that end game. I'll move on to something else before then. Even when talking about actual MMOs the only game I've hit level cap in is DC Universe Online, and doing that is basically a joke. It's just not how I play games. I feel sorry for the people who hate the game so much, because I had a great time with it. It was a fantastic loot based action RPG for what I played of it. One of my most enjoyable experiences this year.
5) Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
There are lots of things you could say against this title for being on a top 10 game of the year list. This game barely adds anything new to the franchise. I know. They even recycle the same old maps that were used in the last three games. I know. For all the fuss people give Call of Duty about being the same thing over and over again this game is 100 times worse. I know. It barely even looks better than CS: Source. I know. You see, this is why I like to list my favorite games of the year, and not the 10 that I think are definitively the best. Someone would have to be crazy to argue that this was one of the best games of the year. But me, I love counter-strike. I love it too damn much. I'm part of the problem and I can't help it. I still haven't ever played a shooter that I liked nearly as much as CS. So when they say, "here have a slightly altered version of this game you love," I eat it up. The best thing that can be said about Counter Strike: Global Offensive is that they didn't screw it up, and I love it for that.
4) Trials Evolution
I have put more time into trials this year than anything other than the number 1 game on this list. That time isn't even going into playing the extreme courses. I gave up on those a long time ago. It's just one of those games where they so perfectly nailed the controls that it's fun to relax and play some of their easier courses repeatedly. On top of the already great game they packaged it with a fantastic level editor and sharing tools. One of the reasons I first fell in love with the Counter-Strike and Trackmania games is because they seemed to have endless content with people always pushing out new maps / tracks. I’m sure something like that probably existed on consoles where it was easy to play custom maps before Trials Evolution. I know Halo games did it, but you couldn’t play those maps in regular match making defeating the purpose for me. I know Far Cry 2 did it, but I hated Far Cry 2 and stopped playing it. This is the first game I’ve played with great level creating and sharing tools that are based on a great game, and can be enjoyed easily in single player. This secures it a high place on my list.
3) Borderlands 2
I didn't really like the original borderlands much. I found the world to be dull and lifeless. The best thing I can compare it to is an MMO with no other people and almost no friendly NPCs. It may be a weird thing that only applies to me, but without those other friendly characters to make a RPG feel like a living world I quickly grow bored of it. By adding a much better story and a more alive feeling hub town I found myself much more interested in Borderlands 2. So while many people found BL2 to be more of the same of BL1, I found it to be a much newer and refreshing experience due to putting very little time into the first. This really was my first time falling in love with the loot and leveling systems in a Borderlands game. Wrap that up in a good open world with a pretty great campaign and you have a recipe for success. Some of the characters got a little grating at times but nothing near enough to put a damper on the overall experience. Oh, and you can count me among those who thought Handsome Jack was a great villain and not the worst thing ever.
2) XCOM: Enemy Unknown
I’ve beaten XCOM twice, lost once, and was on a third playthrough when I finally put it down to play Dishonored. I had gotten Dishonored and XCOM on the same day, but I was having too much damn fun with XCOM to put it down for a second to try the other game. That’s not how I normally operate. I finish a game, and then if there’s something else waiting for me I move directly on to it. So a game has to be very special for me to finish it, and then decide I want to keep playing despite another critically acclaimed game sitting there ready for me to play. I love so much about this game. The combat is intense and satisfying. Trying to keep the panic levels low for your different nations can lead to some hard choices of whom to help. The leveling system has some real hard decisions to make in it. Said leveling system and character customization give you a lot of attachment for your men. The limited resources at the beginning make every purchase choice feel important. The research can be stressful when you’re trying to decide what tech you need the most. The one big negative about this game is that most of those things I just mentioned stop being as great near the end of the game. You do eventually run out of things to research and buy, and as long as you don’t lose too many max level troops missions become way easier. If they had managed to make the game feel as tense from the beginning of the game to the end it would be one of all-time greats of the gaming world. Despite that failing it is still one of the best games I’ve played all year, and a shoe in for its place on my list.
People who like the SSX series generally fall into one of two categories. Either SSX Tricky is the best game, or SSX 3 is the best. I fell firmly into the SSX 3 camp, but now I think that might have changed. This new SSX might just be my favorite game in the series. Sure I’ve lost a couple things I loved about SSX 3. The absence of DJ Atomica and that long ride from the very top of the mountain to the bottom come to mind. But in return I’ve gained more courses than any game has previously had, more challenging runs, a smartly implemented rewind feature, a great online leaderboard and ghost system, and I no longer have to complete a course 3 times in a row to finish them. The last of those always grew tiring after a while in previous SSX games. If there is one thing this game does poorly is that the deadly descents are a bit hit and miss. For example wing suits and avalanches are fun diversions from the normal, but the darkness and cold temperature ones are annoying at best. In the end whether you want to challenge yourself on a hard course with bottomless pits, or just enjoy a relaxing ride doing tricks down an easy slope there’s something for you. This is the game I’ve probably put the most time into all year, and I continue to enjoy every minute of it. It's literally the game sitting in my 360 disk drive right now.
Honorable Mention: Fez
Fez is an interesting in that it was one of the best times I had in a game this year, but I don't think I would recommend it to anyone. You see, Fez was an amazing experience, but it happened in a moment in time that I don't think can be replicated. When Fez first came out we all bought it expecting nothing more than a simple little puzzle platformer with its cute rotation mechanic. Then people started finding more things buried in the game. There was a code to decipher, an alphabet to figure out, and even all the gibberish that the NPCs said turned out to translate into an actual language. As these things were being found out people on the internet were working together to solve harder and harder puzzles. It was in that moment of everyone working together to figure out this game that I was having one of the most amazing experiences that you could ever have with a video game. But now that's over, and everything is just out there in plain sight on walkthroughs. Sure you can try your best to figure things out on your own, but what truly made the game magical was the huge community it brought together in that moment. And that can't happen again. Because the great experience I had with this game was more around the community gathering around it than the actual game itself it doesn’t make my list, but it deserves mentioning.
This Year's Game of Years Past: Batman Arkham Asylum
I don’t think I really have anything to say about this game that hasn’t been said a million times before. Everything about this game is fantastic. The open world, the combat, the characters, the side quests, and the main story are all top notch. I can’t think of a single negative. I’m a little sad I missed this game last year because it probably would have made my top 3, but I’m glad I got around to it now.