Before you scroll through this thing to see if I'm right or if I'm an idiot, let me say that there are a lot of games that likely should be here, but I just didn't have the time to play. Full apologies to the likes of Fire Emblem: Awakening, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, and Metro: Last Light. I'm sure they're all amazing games and I'll get to them next year but also probably never. Then there are other games that I really liked, but sorta rubbed me the wrong way. Like Bioshock: Infinite, the Donnie Darko of video games. Mind-blowing at first and then weirdly flat when repeated. Jesus, Ken Levine. We get it. Lighthouses. IT'S STILL NOT FREEDOM FORCE.
Also, full disclosure, I used to work for Nintendo and I still have friends there. That said, there are no money hats involved in this list. I wish there were. I would love to sell out. But so far no offers. If you're a video game company and you need an overweight video game fan, lemme know. Short supply of them.
Let the disagreeing begin!
As a huge fan of the Alien movies, there was nothing more fun than I'm completely fucking with you. With this game, Gearbox took all the good will from Borderlands 2 and threw it in the trash and then peed in the trash. It felt like your dad bringing you toy shopping just so he could cheat on your mom with the... I dunno. Lady who managed the toy store? I didn't think this metaphor all the way through. Would be cool to have a step-mom who runs a toy store, though. Anyway. There's still a chance you're skimming this list and just wanted to see if what I liked lined up with what you liked. If so, I hope this entry sent you straight to the comments to look like a rube.
Actual 10. Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
It was between this and Grand Theft Auto V. Sure, I put a lot more time into GTA V. But, like my marriage, the love quickly faded and I was left with an experience that just didn't satisfy the way I thought it would. I mean, I enjoyed the time I had with GTA V/her. And I know that a lot of the failings are my own (I'm bad at multiplayer). But am I going to go back? Probably not. Also, I'm tired of people saying I look like Lester. Not a compliment.
So. Luigi's Mansion it is.
Remember Halloween when you were a kid? When it was spooky and goofy and silly and sugary? I know you like sexy nurses now. They're great. But remember that time of your life when any house could be haunted? When an old person living alone had a scary back-story rather than a really, really sad one? That's what Luigi's Mansion is. Hey! Surprise! It's fun exploring a haunted house. Looking behind pictures and under rugs while searching for ghosts plays like the best Scooby-Doo episode ever. And don't get me started on the attention to detail. Luigi with his screaming and jumping and humming.
You're the better brother, Luigi. You always were.
Enemy Within feels less like an expansion of XCOM and more like an insane alternate-universe version of Enemy Unknown. Whereas Enemy Unknown made players quiver in fear at the appearance of every Chryssalid and Muton, Enemy Within makes players look at those pussy aliens and go, “Kick his ass, Sea Bass!”
At first, it feels like the Gene Mods and MEC Troopers make the game less strategic. But then you play for a while, make some risky decisions, and realize that you're actually doing more with your soldiers than moving them take two steps, putting them into Overwatch, and repeating. Because you feel like a badass.
Okay. What I said about Enemy Within? It's basically the opposite with Brave New World. Finally I can play Civilization V like the complete wuss I am. I can turtle up and research things and make famous musicians and handsome scientists and hope everyone else gets really jealous and joins my country.
Civilization V finally feels complete. Is it better than Civilization IV? Last year I would've definitely said, “No.” This year, I'd say, “Maybe.” Could use a few more of those sweet, sweet Civilization II wonder videos, though. I'm looking at you, Women's Suffrage.
Why is it so much easier to make friends in a fake cartoon world than it is in the real world? Is it because I can just write one letter and do one favor for a fake friend and suddenly they love me forever? Probably. But then again, my real friends don't suddenly move away from me because I was busy for a few days. There's always that.
And my real landlord is a dick, but he doesn't ask if I want to add a room onto my apartment every fifteen minutes. Wait, I'm the Mayor of this town. I could probably throw my landlord in jail. But he owns everything. He's the true ruler of this town. A rich despot eager to make Druckburg his own personal Pottersville. Hmm...
Well, I won't let him. I'll build a park bench here. A bridge there. And those fools who claim to be my friends will slowly shrug off the shackles of capitalism and worship at my balloon chair as if I were a god.
Also, Animal Crossing: New Leaf has a bad comedy club and as a bad comedian, this I like.
Here's where I put an indie game on my list to clamor for a little hardcore cache. And what's more hardcore than a soft-lit, emotional game about a dying family member? Oh, dear reader, nothing is more hardcore than that. Shooting people in the face? Casual. Learning to appreciate your brother while getting your Dad medicine? Hardcore.
I didn't want to like this game. The controls sounded gimmicky and the style looked a bit too much like Fable. Ugh. Fable. But after succumbing to dozens of glowing reviews, I found that Brothers is an actually really weirdly touching game that shows the power of quality over quantity. There's no filler; every moment matters.
Wah, wah, wah, it didn't sell as well in Japan as previous Mario games. Nintendo is doomed. All is lost. Reggie is going to have to enter bum fights to survive.
Listen. Do you have fun having fun? Good. Because Super Mario 3D World is an super lovable puppy of a fun game. It just begs you to enjoy it. So... grab three friends and enjoy it. Stop living in a world where you don't see Mario meowing as he sitcom-jumps into the air.
The Stanley Parable is possibly my favorite puzzle game of all time. Yeah, Steam calls it an adventure game. Steam calls a lot of games a lot of things.
But, let's be honest; there's no real “adventure” to The Stanley Parable. It's all about figuring out new ways to end the game. That's what blows my mind, man. The entire game IS the puzzle. Checking doors. Trying to get out of windows. Even the achievements themselves are puzzles, changing and fucking with you as you try to unlock them. By the way, that's the best use of achievements in any game ever (excluding a game I've probably forgotten or some weirdo Hideo Kojima sex thing).
Oh, and the writing. Fantastic. So funny and clever and cruel and brilliant and thought-provoking. I don't want to spoil anything for you. Actually, I'm not even sure I could. Or because of how the game works, anything I did spoil wouldn't be a spoiler because we all lack free will. Is that a spoiler? Damn this game is good.
Remember when there was that trailer for Dead Island and we all shit ourselves because it showed the real personal tragedy of a zombie apocalypse? And then the game wasn't any of that? The Last of Us was that game. We had our trailers mixed up. It hurts on so many levels. Like Silent Hill and The Walking Dead, I never wanted to play it; I had to. I had to see Joel and Ellie (Page) through. Every step is brutal and hard and cutting. Oof. And that ending. Spoiler alert: not super happy.
Think of it this way. Naughty Dog made a zombie apocalypse shooting game that nobody really thinks of as a zombie apocalypse shooting game. That takes a lot of handsome brilliance.
2. Rogue Legacy
Do you know the Wikipedia page for Rogue Legacy doesn't mention Castlevania? Which is really weird, because Rogue Legacy is the best Castlevania game in maybe ten years. And I don't mean it's a Metroidvania. I mean, all the enemies and areas and power-ups and bosses are basically traced from Castlevania.
And the pieces that aren't from Castlevania are taken from Dark Souls. Wheeeeee!
It's a big old rip-off of my favorite games of all time. But that's okay. Because it works. Every death encourages you try harder. Switch up your class. See if different equipment and spells will get you a little farther than before. And the moment you think you've figured it all out and you're a tiny, farting masterpiece of a warrior, you get destroyed and you've got to do it all over again.
There's a moment in A Link Between Worlds that encapsulates everything I love about the game.
This is the most minor of spoilers. But here's a spoiler alert just in case. Anyway, there's a hidden cave with a Hinox in it. They're these big cyclops-looking enemies. And when you see him, he doesn't attack. Instead, he says he's scared of you and offers you rupees if you don't attack him. If you talk to him a little more, he'll offer a little more. And again. And again. Until you push him too far and he freaks out and attacks you for stupidly massive damage.
It's a surprising, hilarious scene that feels like something out of an old NES game. Just a wild freak-out moment that you aren't expecting and can't control. That's why it's my favorite game of the year. It cuts out the bloat of the recent Zelda games and makes it all about exploration and discovery. No sidekicks popping in to tell us to read signs to tell us to talk to somebody to tell us to go to a dungeon. Just surprises and fun.
It's like playing a better version of my favorite Zelda moments from my childhood. And dammit if I'm not a sucker for improving on the nightmare that was my childhood.