10. Spec Ops: The Line
I respect Spec Ops: The Line for what it wants to say about modern, military shooters, despite the troubles it goes through to convey it. It takes a little effort to peel back its layers, but once you do, its intelligence really shines. I never want to play Spec Ops: The Line again. It’s not fun, and it makes you feel bad about yourself. It’s an overall unpleasant experience. But I think it can be all that, and still be just as meaningful, if not more, than most other games this year.
9. The Darkness 2
I almost forgot The Darkness 2 existed, let alone came out this year. As much as I hate the term “quad-wielding,” it’s the best way to describe what it feels like to control two shadowy creatures along with two guns. You form a mechanical bond with the tools at your fingertips as you whip and tear dudes in half. There’s a distinct sense of speed as you lay waste to those who oppose you. It’s a controlled frenzy of blood and bullets. The quiet moments between Jackie and his girlfriend are good too. They’re intimate for the sake of being intimate. I kept expecting some weird twist or explosion to happen at the end of those scenes, but they didn’t, and I liked that.
8. Asura’s Wrath
Asura’s Wrath is hard to explain without making it sound like the worst thing ever. It’s a Japanese, episodic, quick time event game. You’ll watch it like a television show, and press buttons to keep it going. The small amount of gameplay makes room for the gigantic, planet-sized action that unfolds. It’s absurd enough to make your forget you’re just following the game’s instructions the entire time. If it weren’t so self-aware, Asura’s Wrath could have been terrible. But it isn’t, and it’s one of the most surprisingly good games this year.
7. Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3 is the first game I played on my newly-built PC. It was my entry into modern PC gaming, and proof that I could put together a bunch of electronics to make a working machine. After you get past how beautiful Far Cry 3 is, you realize how great it is to be dropped on an island, alone, with a gun. This all became clear to me after a few hours of playing. I was atop one of the games watch towers, overlooking what seemed like the entire island, lush foliage, flowing grass, and all, when the faint roar of a tiger in mid-leap rumbled through my headset. Looking down, I watched as a tiger mauled a group of bandits on patrol. One of them was not just any ordinary bandit. No, he was a armored, Molotov cocktail-throwing bandit. He wasn’t equipped with a gun. So what did he do? He resorted to his only weapon of choice, and set the a portion of the jungle on fire, killing both himself and the tiger in a fiery death. I zip-lined down into the charred remains and continued on my quest to save my girlfriend. You should play Far Cry 3.
6. Halo 4
I’m a sucker for Halo games. Always have been. Before playing Halo 4, I realized I had literally grown up with the Master Chief and Cortana, and the idea of seeing them again made me nervous. Would Halo still be the game I remembered so fondly, or had nostalgia clouded my memory? Turns out, Halo 4 is still the Halo I once loved. Sure, it’s more of the same. But that’s what I wanted. Halo remains an anomaly in the first-person shooter space, and it’s still an absolute blast to play.
5. Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 is a testament to investment in video game fiction. Few games warrant the amount of criticism it received. You can’t end a trilogy that attempts to encompass millions of players’ choices without pissing off a few thousand people — and I think that’s great. Ultimately, Mass Effect 3 handles the expectations well, offering a solid playing game wrapped up in an impactful narrative.
I hate stealth games. It’s the demand for precision that ruins it for me. When I stumbled out of the darkness in Dishonored the fun didn’t stop. It gave me a chance to climb over its barriers, make mistakes, and adapt to its stealth system without punishment. Before long, I was completing missions as a ghost, and manipulating the world from the shadows. I’d also like to award Blink my Ability Of The Year Award, it’s sometimes hilarious, and endlessly useful. I could live without those damn acid-shooting plants, though.
3. The Walking Dead
I love that The Walking Dead embraces its strengths and never looks back. I loved how deep it dug into my moral depths, and didn’t shy away from confronting me with my mistakes. There’s nothing clean about my playthrough, about how things ended. But I’d never change it, and that, I think, is the true power of The Walking Dead.
Journey is an exercise in video game puppetry. It pulls the strings on your emotions with a well-rehearsed grace no other game has performed. It’s dazzling to look at, and at times, you forget it’s a video game. Coupled with its study of anonymous interaction, Journey is an experience worth having.
As part of the generation of players who missed the era before games had tutorials, I latched onto Fez’s alien world. Below its indie charm lies a glitchy, cryptic underside I couldn’t stop myself from slipping into. All the message boards and failed attempts to crack the game’s final puzzle made me feel like a part of some kind of secret society of video game hackers. If anything, the scribbled symbols and ciphers on this notebook paper are proof Fez is pretty rad.