1. Max Payne 3
Max Payne 3 might be my favorite third person shooter of all time. I can't think of one other third person shooter that feels as good as MP 3. That's mostly due to the Euphoria engine and every firefight felt different because of it. It's the only shooter I can think of in recent memory where I got better the more I played, not because of upgrades but because there was depth to the combat.
My only complaint with it is the unskippable cutscenes, but in retrospect that didn't bother me very much at all considering I played through the game 5 or 6 times. It doesn't hurt that it also has fantastic multiplayer and a great story. The greatest compliment I can give MP 3 is that it's the only game I've played this year that will most likely be just as enjoyable in a couple of years, as it is now.
2. Mass Effect 3
I should start off by saying I've always been more invested in the characters of the Mass Effect games rather than the overall story. That's why I didn't come from Mass Effect 3 disappointed. I haven't ever been more emotionally invested in a game than I was in ME 3. It's the only game I can think of where by the end I was sad that this was the last time I was going to see it's characters. I'm not afraid to admit that some games have made me cry but Mass Effect 3 is the only game that has made me do it more than once. Not to mention, it has the best gameplay out of the whole series. If Bioware hadn't dropped the ball with the side content, ME 3 would have easily been my game of the year.
3. Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3 is the definition of a power fantasy. In every encounter I felt like I was unstoppable even though I died quite a bit throughout my playthrough. No matter what I was doing I felt like I was in complete control of my character, which is truly impressive considering what the game allows you to do. It's one of the few games that makes the stealth feel just as satisfying as the gunplay, due to the addition of the new stealth takedowns.
Other than the story, the only fault I can find with Far Cry 3 is there's not enough incentives to finish all of the side content. By the time I got to the second island I had most things unlocked interest in the game waned. It also could have been due to the second half of the game being less interesting than the first half. But if the second half had just as many unlocks as the first, the game probably wouldn't have left such a sour taste in my mouth by the end. From an actual gameplay standpoint though it was some of the most fun I've had in any game this year.
4. Assassin's Creed III
I've always enjoyed the Assassins Creed games but they never clicked with me like they did other people. Which was mainly due to the fact that I never enjoyed the gameplay all that much. No matter whether I was platforming or in combat I always felt like I was either holding one button or just timing a button press. That's not to say that Assassins Creed 3 fixes that but it improves upon the foundation of those games in some smart ways. My favorite addition being how the muskets effect combat. I loved being able to use a guy as a human shield, and nothing beats nonchalantly picking up a musket and shooting the last guy in a combat encounter.
The biggest improvement from the old AC games to AC3 had to be the story though. I loved the story in AC3 and the main reason why is Haytham Kenway. He's such a great character and although I liked Connor more than most other people, Haytham is the reason why that story is so good. It's not only due to how good of a character he is but it's also because (SPOILERS!!!!) you spend 5 or so hours playing as him before even knowing he is the antagonist and Connor's dad . This adds a personal element that has sorely been missing in the other AC games. The story does falter a bit at the end but it still is one of my favorite stories of the year.
5. The Walking Dead
If you would have asked me if Walking Dead was my game of the year right after I finished the first 2 episodes, I probably would have said yes. But after episode 3 I decided to see what would happen if I had made different decisions, and I was disappointed to learn that most of the choices don't change the storyline at all. For example, at one point you have a choice to put a women out of her misery or use her as a distraction so you can find more supplies. And no matter what zombies will still attack you when you look for supplies. Although, you do have a chance to get all the supplies if you leave her to get eaten by the zombies. The problem is nothing changes whether or not you left her to die or killed her.
I was hoping story lines would diverge at least a little (I didn't have a problem with how the major choice from episode one affected the storyline for example) by the end of the game but there is only two different endings. Heavy Rain had tons of variety in it's endings and I'm hoping with The Walking Dead's success Telltale can achieve that variety with season two. It may seem like I didn't enjoy The Walking Dead all that much but I absolutely loved it and it has the best writing/story of any game I played this year.
6. Borderlands 2
Borderlands 2 improves upon the original in some smart ways but most importantly it has even crazier loot. That's all that really matters right? In all seriousness, I spent more time with Borderlands 2 than just about any other game this year. And it's not a huge step up from Borderlands but I loved the 80 or so hours I played of it.
The only reason Syndicate is on my GOTY list is because of its coop mode. That's not to say it's singleplayer is bad but it has what might be my favorite coop mode of this generation. Syndicate fixes my major problem with coop games and that's the over reliance on punishing the players until they work together. Syndicate's solution is to make teamwork as easy and intuitive as possible. Healing people in Syndicate is as easy as looking at someone (as long as they were in eyesight) and holding a button. That same button is used for every ability tied to the “breach” mechanic so as long as you know the basic mechanics of the game, you can easily heal your teammates. Due to that feature, it's the only coop game where I can have just as much fun playing with random people as my friends. It also doesn't hurt that the shooting and breach powers are fantastic.
8. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
I did not expect to get hooked to XCOM. Turn based strategy games have never grabbed me but I understood why people enjoy them. I was addicted to XCOM the week it came out though. For example, Walking Dead episode 3 came out the same week of XCOM and I was enjoying what I was playing of it but I was just thinking about XCOM the whole time (which is pretty crazy considering how important the 3rd episode of Walking Dead was).
Other than Dark Souls it's the only game that had me excited to play it while also making me scared to play it. But by the end of the game I was just scared. The glitches ended up souring my enjoyment of the game though; I had way too many sectopods spawn on top of me during my playthrough.
9. The Darkness II
The Darkness 2 is some of the most fun I've gotten out of a first person shooter in a long time, let alone this year. It's different from most shooters because it gives you a large amount of options during combat rather than before. During combat scenarios I was constantly thinking about what to do next. And with the addition of the “quad-wielding” mechanic, I could do everything from using a car door as a shield or beat somebody up with my tentacles while shooting at the guy behind them. Although, the story doesn't reach the bar set by the original it still has a better story than most other games.
10. Forza Horizon
My two favorite racing games this generation are Dirt 2 and Burnout Paradise, and Forza Horizon combines the best aspects of both of them. It has the style of Dirt 2 and the open world of Burnout Paradise. Although, Forza doesn't quite reach the levels set by those games, it's still one of the best racing games I've ever played. It's the only racing game I can think of where I have fun just driving around the open world. I only wish it had as much content as Burnout Paradise and was as immersive as Dirt 2.