Putting this list together, a few things struck me about this last year. First of all, many of these games I count as my favourites even though I haven't put nearly as many hours into them as I'd have liked, due to a combination of life stuff and the joy/constant backlog crisis that are Steam sales.
Edited by Workyticket - 12/9/12 at 3:39pm
As a result, these are the games that have captured my imagination and compelled me to keep playing past a handful of hours. What's been strange about this year is that I've been turned around on a few franchises I previously wrote off, or which failed to grab me (Assassin's Creed, Halo 4, FIFA).
At the same time, I've found this time around that there's been far less in the indie sphere that's gripped me. There's been lots of 'fun but uninspired' stuff like Shoot Many Robots, and while I enjoyed the demo for Fez the bugs scared me off a full purchase (still mulling over this one, though). Recently Mark of the Ninja has impressed me, but i simply haven't had the chance to play enough to know if I'd put it in the top 10.
1) XCOM: Enemy Unknown
I don't think any game has captured my imagination more this year. An absolute joy to play, even if I am awful at it.
2) Borderlands 2
I was a huge fan of the first Borderlands, and Gearbox haven't disappointed with the sequel. Yeah, it's a loot n' grindfest, but I enjoy the mechanics of this more than the traditional top-down Diablo style. Also, kudos for having a season pass that is actually worth the outlay.
3) Crusader Kings 2
Paradox's dynasty-'em-up has to be one of the dark horses of the year. Okay, you need a spare month to actually learn how to play it properly, but the experience of guiding your royal family through decades of turmoil and dysfunction is a joy to behold. Like XCOM, it's a game that feeds the imagination, and where every failure just makes your story more interesting.
4) The Walking Dead
Telltale's big comeback after the disastrous reception of Jurassic Park. While it becomes clear that player choice doesn't quite impact the storyline quite as much as initially suggested, its influence on your relationships with the cast of characters makes all the difference. Telltale didn't just nail the spirit of the Walking dead comic/show; the game represents everything they've tried to evolve the point-and-click adventure into, a mix finally perfected.
5) Halo 4
While there's aspects of where they took Master Chief's story that I don't totally agree with, 343 Industries finally addressed the elephant in the living room that has left me cold on Halo in the past: MC himself. 343 try to move him from being a cypher with a really fun AI sidekick to establishing him as a personality in his own right, and the signs are mostly good. Throw in a well-paced and stunning-looking campaign and some promising MP, and youget the first Halo game in years to actively interest me in the world.
6) Mass Effect 3
I had my issues with the ending, but that shouldn't diminish the hours of excellent gameplay preceding it. That final run to the portal with Harbinger raining fire down upon your head still counts as one of the most gripping experiences I've ever encountered in gaming, and Bioware did a wonderful job in wrapping up many of the characters' stories (Mordin *sniff*). Even the MP turned out to be quite fun.
Again, a good year for games that engage the imagination for narrative. A deceptively simple starship captain simulator that sees you traverse the galaxy with a barebones crew, pursued by a ruthless enemy force hellbent on blasting you to atoms. A lot of people seems to have been put off because it looks like an RTS, but it's really its own thing and incredibly simple to pick up. It's the dilemmas you continually run into that give the game its challenge, and makes it fiendishly addictive.
8) Minecraft XBLA
The other indie game to hit my top 10 (Although Minecraft's so established nowadays it feels weird still calling it 'indie'), it made me finally 'get' Minecraft. Kudos to mojang for their regular updates as well, which are rapidly making this version approach parity with the ever-expanding PC version. They've earned every one of their roughly eighty-nine squillion sales.
9) FIFA 13
THE big suprise this year. I've always been a staunch Football Manager fan, but having become a bit disillusioned with the series' increasing bloat I decided on a change. Now I know that these EA Sports games are all iterative updates rather than new games, so they never appear on best-of lists, but bear in mind that the last FIFA game I owned was '97. On the Megadrive. Utterly blown away at the sheer amount of stuff this game gives you to do, and the controls are smooth as butter. Now that I finally get what all the fuss has been about, colour me impressed.
10) The Witcher 2 (360)
Yeah, we got it late. I never got this on PC because frankly, I think it would've melted my computer, but it was totally worth the wait. A wonderful blend of modern and old-school RPG mechanics, an interesting universe, a videogame antihero taht actually has a bit of charisma... lovely stuff.
Mark of the Ninja
Retro City Rampage
Rock Band Blitz
Chivalry: Medieval Warfare
Legend of Grimrock
Max Payne 3