Catherine was a game whose core gameplay was awful (essentially a very twiddly platform game). And you didn’t care because the game itself was so compelling. Japan is a society that takes adult games seriously (and by that I mean games with mature themes, not Jenna Jameson Modern Warfare 4) and thus we get games like Catherine, which start as a rumination on love and regret and veers into very weird places. Pity about the actual gameplay!
9: Fallout: New Vegas
Fallout 3 was very awesome – as someone who lived in the DC area for a few years it was pretty nifty actually recognizing the post-apocalyptic wreckage of many places I was familiar with, not to mention just being a great game in general. But it was very much apart from the canon established by Fallout and Fallout 2. Fallout: NV, on the other hand, very much was Fallout 3 in all but name. The only two problems with it: wacky instability when it shipped, and the fact that the timeline has moved so far in the future that Fallout 4 is kind of pointless without some sort of license reboot.
8: Hatoful Boyfriend
Hatoful Boyfriend is a romance simulator where you compete for the attention of pigeons. I don’t need to go any further.
Lum added Bastion as number 8 on this list. Lum didn’t know what else to say other than it was a really good game and that adding a dynamic narrator to a rogue-like was a work of genius. Thank you, Lum.
6: Portal 2
Like any sequel it wasn’t as OMG WHAT as the original and the gameplay itself started to drag near the end but it still had great writing and the best rant ever put into a video game.
5: Dungeons of Dredmor
Best Use Of Necronomiconomics As A Gameplay Mechanic 2011. This is a very silly game that you should be playing. It’s fun! It’s hardcore! You need the lutefisk for the lutefisk god!
4: Kaiserreich for Darkest Hour
This will take some explanation. Darkest Hour is a fan-made iteration of the ever-Lum-praised Hearts of Iron 2. Part of its feature set is support for fan mods. The most well-concieved mod for Darkest Hour is a game called Kaiserreich. Kaiserreich postulates a 1936 world where – stop me if I lose you – Germany wins World War 1, the Whites win the Russian Civil War, Communist revolutions overthrow the governments of France (who takes refuge in Algeria) and Britain (who takes refuge in Canada), Hermann Goering sets up a petit empire in the former Belgian Congo Mittlelafrika, Austria-Hungary is finally about to fall apart, the United States is about to be riven in dueling revolutions between the Communists of Jack Reed, the Fascists of Huey Long, and the military coup led by Douglas MacArthur, and Russia can go in any of four different wild directions from a Communist takeover to a Czarist revival. And it works.
3: All The Games I Should Have Played But Didn’t Have Time But Heard Were Really Good.
You know, Dark Souls, Arkham City, Saints Row 3. I’ll get to them. Eventually.
Skyrim is the latest version of The Bethesda Game – you know, the one they keep making ever since Daggerfall (trivia: my first foray into games writing was a walkthrough/support site for Daggerfall). This one, they got right. Skyrim really is a non-linear fantasy simulator that is utterly epic in every way and there is almost no wasted space. It really should be the #1 entry in this list and they really are pretty interchangeable at this point.
1: Star Wars: The Old Republic
Yes, the developers and inside baseball commenters will be debating throughout 2012 whether EA has literally moved the barrier of entry into MMO development into the level of small countries’ gross national product with the sheer thunderclap scale of investment that SWTOR represented. But let’s not let that detract from what SWTOR accomplished: storytelling in an MMO that works as the center point of the game. Also, lightsabers. SWTOR is fun. SWTOR is incredible amounts of fun, while redefining what an MMO is. Is it really an MMO when a game essentially is a Star Wars game that millions of people are playing at the same time? Who cares… it’s fun. Games are supposed to be fun, and SWTOR gets that – a point too many MMO developers have forgotten.