10. L.A. Noire
Rockstar and Team Bondi have crafted something pretty incredible with L.A. Noire. The facial motion-capture technology is amazing and the story is pretty great, but what is most fascinating about L.A. Noire is how it turns your typical point-and-click adventure title into a blockbuster hit. This game is far from perfect, but it’s one where I’m able to look at the package and a whole and say, “Yeah, that turned out pretty great, didn’t it?”
9. Gears of War 3
The game isn’t all that fresh, but that doesn’t mean Gears of War 3 is a slouch. All of the improvements to the campaign and multiplayer are much appreciated and the experience of cutting an enemy in half with your chainsaw is just as satisfying as ever. If anything, this game proves that Epic still knows how to make a compelling multiplayer experience as well as a surprisingly deep campaign that might lead you to become more emotionally invested with these characters than you ever expected to be.
8. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the new Deus Ex game people have been craving for the past ten years and it delivers on almost every front, which is no small feat. Deus Ex expertly crafts together an intriguing plot with a fun, exciting gameplay experience that leaves you wanting more. The level of choice involved in this game is astounding, something that you so rarely see in games these days. It’s a hard balance to create a game with a good story containing so many different possibilities, but Deus Ex: Human Revolution pulls it off spectacularly.
7. Rayman Origins
Platformers, especially 2D platformers, have been coming back strong these past few years and I couldn’t be happier about that. Rayman Origins is a game that capitalizes on the strengths of the genre while still delivering one of the best platforming experiences I’ve played in quite a while. I’ve always been a big Rayman fan, but this is the best, most tightly designed, and most delightful experience the series has to offer. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better platformer than Rayman Origins this year.
6. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Bethesda has made their masterpiece, their magnum opus. I would say it’s easy to dismiss Skyrim as “just another Elder Scrolls game” or even “just another Bethesda game,” but this time it’s really not. Skyrim is much more than that, really. It’s the game Bethesda, as a developer, has been building up to for many, many years now. This is the game they wanted to create from the beginning. This is a huge, densely populated world with many amazing characters, stories, and locations to discover in what could be the most addictive game release since World of Warcraft. Is it perfect? No, but it doesn’t need to be.
This has been another strong year for downloadable games, but very few have reached the levels that Bastion has for me. It’s gorgeous, full of outstanding music, and is damn fun to play. The narration is very well implemented, which was enough to make me want to replay the game a total of three times since its launch. It’s just one of those games that only comes around once in a while, but when it does, you are left with one of the best experiences of that year.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
If you went back in time and told me “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is just another Zelda game,” I would honestly be perfectly okay with this. The series is one of my absolute favorites, and to have just another one of those is always a delight. And yet, here we are, with one of the best games in the entire series. Skyward Sword has some filler, sure, but the overall package is just so damn good that I feel like those small quibbles I have with it are meaningless in the end. Is Skyward Sword my favorite Zelda? No, but it’s very close. This game exceeds the hype, folks.
3. Batman: Arkham City
Batman. Seriously, Batman. Batman is the coolest superhero around, and with Arkham Asylum, he broke the mold and proved that not all superhero games are bad. Arkham City ups the ante by giving Batman an even bigger playground with more excellent villains and exciting stories. The freeflow combat is as satisfying as ever, and traveling around an open city hasn’t been this fun since Spider-Man 2. There was a moment when I thought “This might just be the best game I’ve played all year,” and in some respects I still feel that way, but it just misses the mark by a hair. Regardless, this is a game that deserves all of the praise it has received.
2. To the Moon
If there was a category for “biggest surprise,” this game would win easily. I had my list pretty much finalized until I played To the Moon, an indie adventure game that has a lot of heart. I never expected to be so emotionally impacted by a small game like this, but it really is one of the best stories I’ve seen in a game in a long time, one I think will stay with me for a long time. If you’ve never heard of this little title, check out my full review and even Freebird Games’ website to find out more; it’s a real gem.
1. Portal 2
Valve, you’ve done it again, this time creating what I consider to be your best game yet. Portal 2 does everything right, from the opening to the end credits, providing what I consider to be one of the best games I have ever played. The puzzles are still fantastic, the new mechanics are ingenious, and it’s all wrapped in an expertly crafted and well-written story that goes in some surprising directions. I can’t sing this game’s praises highly enough, so for now placing it at the top of my favorite games of the year list will have to do.