1. The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead is nothing short of incredible. Telltale has crafted an engaging, emotionally charged and immaculately paced adventure game over the course of their first five-episode season. The game is filled with well-realized and memorable characters, an appropriately oppressive and dark atmosphere that lends itself well to it's post-zombie apocalypse setting, and emotional and moral decisions that really keep the player on their toes and influence the way the narrative unfolds. Spoiling any of these story beats would do a disservice to anyone who hasn't played the game yet, so without being specific I'll just say that the story of Lee and Clementine should be experienced by everyone. Seriously - play this game.
2. Persona 4 Golden
Since it's a re-release of Persona 4 on the PlayStation 2, does this even count as a new game? With all the content that Atlus added it certainly does. Atlus found a way to streamline Persona 4 in just about every way imaginable, taking away the tedium of the original release while adding in better graphics, new characters, entire months of events and social links as well as new gameplay mechanics to keep longtime fans of the original entertained. It's arguably the best reason to own a Vita and easily could be considered a straight upgrade from the original release.
Probably the most traditional "game" thatgamecompany has ever released, Journey was a pleasure to experience from beginning to end. Though it was short enough to be completed in a single sitting, Journey had a more profound impact on me than it's length would suggest. The unique multiplayer aspect fostered a real sense of cooperation between players who knew absolutely nothing about each other. The soundtrack was incredible and the art style and desolate world reminded me more than once of ICO or Shadow of the Colossus. A great game that I still go back and play to unwind.
4. Borderlands 2
Borderlands 2 is pretty much an improvement over every aspect of the original, so there's no doubt that it's going to win a lot of GOTY awards. It has more guns, more enemies, more locations and more everything. A great cooperative game that is always fun to play, the greater distinctions between weapons and characters make the gameplay a lot more interesting that doesn't end up being as tedious as the previous title.
5. Sleeping Dogs
Sleeping Dogs was sort of a surprise hit for me. What I expected was a Grand Theft Auto clone set in Hong Kong. Instead I got a really great, albeit somewhat derivative, open-world action game. The hand-to-hand combat borrows heavily from Rocksteady's Batman series blatantly and the mission structure is clearly based on Grand Theft Auto, but the game blends enough of the different elements together well enough that none of them seem out of place.
6. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Enemy Unknown was my first foray into the XCOM series. I don't play many strategy games but XCOM did a good enough job of easing me in slowly that before I knew it I was up until all hours of the night playing. Addicting and full of nitpicking amounts of customization, XCOM is a game that rewards playing intelligently and punishes players who don't think ahead. I appreciate the learning curve and look forward to conquering the harder difficulty levels.
7. Alan Wake's American Nightmare
As a huge fan of Remedy and the original Alan Wake, it'd be impossible for American Nightmare not to find a spot on my GOTY list. Though it steps away from the heavily Stephen King and "Twin Peaks" influenced world of the original and plants a foot firmly in Twilight Zone territory, American Nightmare is still a nice downloadable distraction to keep me entertained while we wait for an official sequel. It's more heavily focused on combat, something that may alienate a lot of players, but I've always enjoyed the feel of Alan Wake's gunplay, so more varied weapons and enemies kept things interesting. Remedy's use of FMV is always a pleasure and I can't wait to see more Alan Wake titles from them in the future.
8. Hitman: Absolution
Hitman is a weird game. The world in which Hitman exists is odd, filled with dark humor and bizarre characters who seem to thrive on sex and drugs. It seems to have a fascination with the macabre that borders on exploitative at times. Absolution is the newest, most accessible entry in the storied stealth assassin franchise and it retains IO Interactive's penchant for the offensive, but it's also a solid and fun game that gives players a playground full of options for eliminating the seedy targets that populate it's world. While it's easier now than ever to play it as a straightforward action game, players will still get the most out of attempting to finish a level undetected while making their target's grisly end look like an accident. The "Contracts" multiplayer mode could almost be a separate game entirely and is arguably where the real meat of the original series lays.
9. Max Payne 3
Undoubtedly influenced by Rockstar's other titles more than it's heritage at Remedy, Max Payne 3 was still a solid, technologically impressive shooter that was just plain fun to play. It's definitely a game I felt didn't receive the kind of attention it deserved. The gunplay was satisfying, the graphics and animations impressive and the multiplayer surprisingly fun. The story might not have been up to par with Sam Lake's writing for the previous games, but the way it handled Max's character arc, particularly his alcoholism, was well done and felt appropriate for the brooding ex-cop. I don't think we'll see another Max Payne, but that might be for the best. Let's end the series on a high note.
10. Mass Effect 3
What is there to say about Mass Effect 3 that hasn't already been said extensively somewhere else? For me, Mass Effect 3 was ultimately a good game that didn't quite live up to the previous games. There are some pacing problems, some weird character decisions, some odd side mission design choices and an ultimately rushed and unsatisfying conclusion that Bioware seems to still be trying to write itself out of with DLC, but at the heart of Mass Effect 3 you can find some of the highest points of the series. The writing for characters is as solid as ever. The conclusion to the genophage arc with Mordin, drunk Tali and kickin' it with Garrus are all quality experiences that I wish were more indicative of the rest of the game. It's a real bummer that a series as generation defining as Mass Effect had to end on such a sour note. Cue the trombones.