This year's been pretttty good. So good, in fact, I've given up making a top 10. I don't want to eliminate anything damnit. So instead, here's just a list of games that gave me tons of pleasure this year. I'm kind of bummed there aren't any 360 titles on this list, but I honestly can't think of any that really did it for me this year. Even my most anticipated title, Ace Combat Assault Horizon, turned out disappointing.
DCS A-10C (PC)
This sim got me to the point where I've invested in a TrackIR, a 500 dollar joystick/throttle set, and spent significant time reading books about real life A-10 pilots. It's a ridiculously dense "game", but it also comes with an incredible feeling of mastery. I'm a shitty pilot, but my experiences in DCS A-10 is actually making me consider signing up for flight school in real life.
What a delightful game this is. I never thought I'd see a truly competent western bullet hell shmup, but Jamestown delivers in spades. Beautiful music and art, and tight responsive gameplay. I love this game.
Shogun 2 (PC)
The last Total War game prior to Shogun 2 that I enjoyed was.. Shogun 1. Maybe it's something about the portrayed time period and the terrain that lends itself particularly well to the style of game? Regardless, Shogun 2 is a gorgeous, evocative and endlessly impressive large scale wargame, and I suck at it. It still keeps me coming back for more however, just to drink in that amazing atmosphere.
The Witcher 2 (PC)
I wanted to like the original Witcher way more than I wound up actually liking it. Something about the clunkiness of the combat paired with horrible performance issues and really strange voice acting stopped me from progressing too far into it. But the second game just blew me away instantly. It's a gorgeous, *performant*, and deeply involving. It's also the best example of PC gaming embracing the joypad; The Witcher 2 plays flat out better with a 360 pad, and I wouldn't play it any other way.
Dawn of War 2 : Retribution (PC)
Retribution is to DoW2 what Dark Crusade was to DoW. It introduces needed scope, adds a very cool new army, and is generally just a rush to play. It loses some of the intimacy Relic was going for, but in my opinion, in the 40K universe, intimacy is a horrible, horrible thing to go for. Retribution is epic, loud, gorgeous, involving and *fun*
Bastion impresses me the most by being so much its own thing. I struggle coming up with good comparisons for this title, thank god. Beautiful and tightly balanced, it's a killer example of taking a "retro" style of gameplay into the next generation without compromising in any way. I enjoyed it to the extent that I felt grateful to be playing it.
Portal 2 (PC)
Another generous game, I liked Portal 2 a lot more than the original. I liked the first game a lot as a puzzle game, but I never really got people's wild infatuation with its story, which was, to me, simply there. In Portal 2 the story is much better integrated with the gameplay, and it winds up feeling like an epic journey through the story of Aperture, and it never really stops being interesting, puzzling or funny. A truly stellar game.
Resistance 3 (PS3)
I violently disliked Resistance, and Resistance 2 just made me angry. But Resistance 3 was a deep pleasure to play, with a beautiful, fascinating world, amazing weapons, tight, satisfying controls, and a story that actually felt apocalyptic in a way even Fallout has failed to in recent years. When Resistance 3 was over, I desperately wanted more. It's a huge shame "so few" bought it, and that we're unlikely to see another by the same team, who finally seemed to have reached their stride.
Dark Souls (PS3)
I did play Demon's Souls, but I never got "rolling" with that game. I did with Dark Souls, however. Oh boy. What a cool game to play. The constant danger, the sense of always being somewhere you shouldn't be, and going from struggling with an enemy to defeating them effortlessly time and time again. Dark Souls makes the journey personal, in a different, fascinating world of horrible, endless death. It blew me away.
Test Drive Unlimited 2 (PC)
Some people think Eden are lame. I think they're awesome. And lame. I loved Alone in the Dark more than most people think is rational, and the same is true with TDU2, one of the lamest, most European games in recent history. But what made TDU great still makes TDU2 great; The feeling of exploring, the pleasure of just driving and touring the countryside. The game is a sidenote here; The landscape and delightfully lame atmosphere are key. I won't recommend it to anyone, but boy, I had a great time with it.
Dead Space 2 (PS3)
And my most awaited sequel in years turned out to deliver. Not in exactly the way I'd hoped - this is very much Aliens to the original's Alien - but in delivering more of that gorgeous, awful world, paired with some of the best third person shooting ever concocted. I hope they take their sweet time with the third game; This is a franchise to cherish.
Star Wars: The Old Republic (PC)
I don't even like MMOs! Or Bioware! Or even Star Wars that much! Why am I putting so many god damn hours into this!? My Imperial Agent is a sadistic asshole, and playing her and watching her story evolve has been an absolute pleasure. This game is more than the sum of its parts somehow, and I struggle to find good words to explain it. Probably the smoothest MMO launch I've experienced, and easily the most interesting one to play alone. How the actual "Massively Multiplayer" part of it pans out is yet to be seen, but it appears I'll stick around for a while longer.
I'm Norwegian, and the prospect of "going to Norway" didn't really make me super excited about Skyrim. How they managed to make a landscape and atmosphere I typically travel abroad to *escape* into a game world I thoroughly enjoyed exploring is sort of beyond me. Better quests, better character progression, better story. This is likely the best PC RPG of its kind ever made. How all this content was produced, I have no idea. Just look at the *rivers*.
Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)
Another genre I haven't been interested in in years and years, Xenoblade makes JRPGs not only tolerable, but feel fresh. The closest comparison is Final Fantasy 12, incidentally the last FF I enjoyed. With great localization, great combat, a fascinating story and the most impressive engine running on the Wii, Xenoblade is sort of amazing.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PS3)
It peters out a bit near the end, its story is honestly a bit lame, and Adam Jensen's voice actor is godawful, but for the first 2 thirds, DXHR is a stunning reminder of what PC games used to be, and an excellent example of how the best parts of them can be translated into the modern world. It's probably the best modern stealth game since Splinter Cell Conviction, and watching the world open up as you unlock abilities is always cool. I had a fantastic time with this game.
Any god damn Kairosoft game (Android)
Are these games even games, really? You can't really fail.. It's a near linear progression curve; Level up your stuff to make money, spend money on leveling up your stuff. It's practically progress quest. But every single one of Kairosoft's titles, though sometimes they feel like re-skins of the same game, are so damn charming, and somehow such perfect distillations of their subject matter, they're just so hard not to love. Whenever a new title shows up, I don't even think. I just buy. And they give me hours and hours of.. Pleasure? Yes. Pleasure. Kairosoft define what makes mobile gaming acceptable to me.