Portal 2 is the closest thing I've seen to a perfect game. Ever. A tremendous achievement of design, visual arts, music, and writing, it might just be the greatest game ever made. It feels really good to be able to honestly enter a game that came out in 2011 into a discussion for the greatest game of all time. Portal 2 is what I hope the future of gaming looks like.
For all the praise I give Portal 2, it's amazing to me how close this game came to taking my #1 spot, for having such a small core development team. The story is told uniquely and beautifully, and the entire package comes together to create a world more ambitious than even much larger studios attempt. Bastion is beautifully crafted in all ways.
I was very excited to play this game coming off of Arkham Asylum, but I was pretty shocked to find a story and environment that I actually cared about, as well as some really smart additions to one of the best combat and stealth systems I've ever played. I eagerly await Rocksteady's future titles.
Rayman: Origins is a refreshing taste of what video games used to be. Tight platforming controls, and great level design, all wrapped in a beautiful, modern package. This is a tough game to put down.
Mario has always been a series that is about pure level design. Nintendo never needed to drum up some excuse for Mario to be where he is or do what he does. That hasn't changed with this 3DS title, and it didn't take me long to acquire every collectible coin in the game. Some added difficulty would have been welcome, but excellent controls and fun levels are what sell this game.
Tiny Wings is a shining example of beautiful art created in spite, and perhaps because of some extreme self-limitations. It's a deep and addictive game with only one functional input: tucking your tiny wings. This is probably the best 99 cents a person can possibly spend in the first world.
It feels weird to include this game on the list, since it came out so close to the year's end and I've barely scratched the surface of it. I bought it on an impulse, not really expecting to fall in love with it the way I did, having never been able to get addicted to World of Warcraft. And indeed, this game is virtually identical to WoW, with the exception of the narrative bits, which I quite like. But perhaps all this time, all I really needed was a WoW clone set in a different universe. I suppose the 25 hours I've already logged speak volumes.
It takes a very particular kind of person to enjoy Dark Souls. It just so happens that I am one such person. The constant threat of death in the game makes for a methodical pacing and a gloomy aesthetic that I really adore. It's not for everyone, and I'll be the first person to admit that, but if it clicks for you, it's one of the most unique experiences you can have with a modern video game.
I don't tend to enjoy multiplayer games. They give me anxiety attacks and I don't like getting yelled at by mean people on the internet. But TrackMania is a multiplayer game made with people like me in mind. With no direct interaction between players in-game, it hearkens back to the days of arcade high scores, where you can be both fiercely competitive AND horribly antisocial. It's a fun and casual experience for those who want it to be, and an intense, competitive arcade racer for those who are into that. Everybody wins.
As a person who loves fighting games (in theory) yet can't stand the likes of Street Fighter and all of its many (MANY) clones, Mortal Kombat is probably my favorite fighting game from this generation. It makes great strides in single-player content for fighting games, and pretty much every developer out there could learn a thing or two from what NetherRealm did with the story. Oh yeah, and the fighting system isn't too shabby either.
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