I’m probably forgetting something, but if so I’ll update later. These are the video games that gave me my favorite experiences this year, certainly not in any order. There are a lot of noteworthy games I played and respect this year – like Fez, Spelunky, Walking Dead, Soundshapes, Quantum Conundrum, or Mark of the Ninja – but this is meant to be a list reflective of my own finicky tastes, as a player, not a “best” game list. For me, this list represents the most powerful interactive experiences I had this year, emotionally or intellectually.
- FTL: For giving us emergent stories to tell; a lovingly crafted setting; for enabling players to explore systems. (Give us a persistent campaign!)
- Journey: Transcendent, soulful, and aesthetically unified; for the music, art, movement, experience; for cleverly eliminating channels of Internet communication that might mar otherwise beautiful social encounters.
- XCOM: An update on a personal favorite; I stopped after losing all my friends in Iron Man mode, which is a testiment to the finality of the associated feelings.
- God of Blades: Such a lovingly-crafted world; the innovation of the “library unlock” feature; great environmental art; an earnest homage to a much-loved literary mileau; for reminding people that Elric was cool.
- Far Cry 3: For letting me play at my own pace, an high or low drama as I want; being attacked by an alligator; killing a shark with an AK-47; fleeing enemies and using a tiger to get them off my tail.
- Borderlands 2: Game systems that keep players moving, exploiting, reacting tactically; co-op fun with my wife; noteworthy art style and humor.
- Waking Mars: The “action gardening” game, taking the path less followed; for allowing players to screw themselves by creating their own incredibly-difficult emergent problems; gorgeous alien landscapes.
- 10000000: Always felt like a problem to be solved, in a good way; for having an actual ending; some part of me finished there, telling a story and mastering the hostiles of the world.
- Cyberqueen: For deconstructing power fantasy; lovingly reminding me of System Shock, one of my favorite games of all time; for expanding the narrowly defined boundaries of video game subject matter; for excellent writing and a cutting sense of humor(?).