1. Shadows of the Damned
Shadows of the Damned is one of the most bizzarre games I have ever played. It manages to pair up relatively standard third person shooter mechanics with a totally insane world filled with nasty enemies, creepy crying baby heads that you feed fruit to open doors, and goats that you shoot in the face to create pockets of light in the hell you must traverse through. The soundtrack is one of the best I have ever heard in a videogame due to the way it perfectly matches every situation you find yourself in. The voice acting and translation were fantastic and hilarious throughout, and I found myself pretty genuinely creeped out whenever Garcias girlfriend showed up to be tortured in front of him. Your gun (aptly named "Johnson") floats around as a skull next to you in cutscenes, and has some excellently written dialogue with a pitch perfect voice acting performance.
I can't make good sentences to accurately paint a picture of this game, so here are the bullets:
-Beautiful painterly art style
-My favorite game soundtrack of they year (the only game soundtrack I have gone out of my way to purchase and listen to)
-A unique world and powerful emotional story that does not feel heavy handed at all
-Dynamic combat that constantly changes as you are given new weapons in almost every level
-A satisfying new game plus that adds even more value to the already low price of $15
-A sauve sounding narration of all your actions that adjusts depending on how you play the game.
3. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Really beautiful RPG that has some of the best story telling in any game I've played. The choices throughout the story succeed in being grey and the world feels gritty in a very Game of Thrones kind of way. The game also features the best action RPG combat system I've ever played. Intensely challenging, strategic, and open ended throughout the game.
Catherine is a really weird game. The story manages to hit home for anyone who has been in a long term relationship, and the characters dialogue is usually interesting and believable. Paired with all this well done story telling and crazy japanese ghost fiction, is a very unique (and hard as hell) block climbing puzzle game, where your character must outrun horrific representations of his real life fears while climbing up a block tower in his underwear. The puzzles start throwing new mechanics at you, all while expecting you to climb at an insanely fast pace. Despite some major flaws in the camera controls (or lack thereof) and some occasional flubs in story telling, I love this game because I have never played anything like it, and probably never will again. Any game that can cause me to seriously reflect on my life to the degree this game did easily earns a spot on my list.
5. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
From the heart warming art style, to the best soundtrack in any of the Zelda adventures, to the really satisfying and clever dungeon design, this game kept me excited and engaged throughout most of the adventure. The low position on the list comes as a result of the stubborn Nintendo designers who force experienced players to waste hours on a boring tutorial at the start of the game, and add literally dozens of extra hours with trivial collectathons and travel distances. It is a shame the best dungeons Zelda has ever seen ended up being paired with some of the worst world exploration in the series. All in all though, this game still puts a smile on face and never does enough wrong to stop me from really loving it as a whole.
6. Iron Brigade
Another purely fun experience. Playing this game with all 4 players and going for all of the gold medals was a blast. It wasn't terribly funny, but that wasn't really the point. Really addicting game systems and awesome loot kept me sitting and playing this game for hours without moving.
7. Rayman Origins
Playing this game with my friends provided the most pure fun of any game I played this year. The animation is both adorable and funny as hell. Perfect checkpointing eliminated frustration and kept me retrying sections until I got them down. I really hope people end up checking this game out despite its lack of marketing support and poorly chosen release window. (This game has a killer soundtrack as well.)
8. Gears of War 3
As someone who actively disliked Gears 1 and 2, I had already written this game off before it came out. As it happened, this game ended up having a fantastic third act to its story that took out most of the bro-ey shit and terrible writing of the first two games. The four player co op campaign is colorful and varied, providing constantly changing combat scenarios with different enemy types throughout. Horde mode is one of the best co-op experiences of the year, and Beast mode is a fantastic experimental addition to the formula. Most important of all, the multiplayer seems to have finally found a near perfect balance, allowing for skilled players to shine with mid range rifles or shot guns, all depending on play style. Dedicated servers and dramatically varied maps provide for a technically sound and tactically engaging experience, that is easily my favorite competitive multiplayer mode of the year. Oh, and the graphics are still beautiful, but this time they are complimented by bright colors and well lit areas rather than grey and brown slop that made up most of the first two games.
9. Dragon Age II
10. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Another game that many people doubted up until its release, Deus Ex was following up one of the most beloved PC franchises of all time. What we ended up getting was an antithesis to the current on rails game design of today. Every single area had dozens of different choices and paths decide on, and except for some crappy bosses, the game allowed you to play whatever type of character you want. The world was convincing and frightening, and went with a grungy cyberpunk aesthetic that you don't see too often in the current slough of modern military shooters and generic sci-fi fantasy games released in recent years.