5) Guild Wars 2 (PC)
Though it may not have changed the MMO genre in a dramatic way, Guild Wars 2 kept me interested for nearly fifty hours and opened the door to potential improvements from future titles. The world created by ArenaNet is brimming with personality and style, and hopefully they create a slightly more compelling reason to explore in the months (and years) to come.
4) Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
The trilogy ended on a downer, but ME3 is still the best playing game in the franchise. Combat is always smooth and responsive, even if I did grow tired of it after the 700th headshot on a Cerberus agent. There are also some quality character/story moments that (almost) make up for the completely batshit insane ending.
3) Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)
Xenoblade reminded me why I fell in love with the JRPG all of those years ago. The sense of exploration, strong characters, and definite goals kept me enthralled and hungering for more. Unfortunately, Xenoblade provides almost too much of a good thing, and I grew tired as the finish line approached. With a little more care and editing, Xenoblade would have probably been my number one choice this year.
2) Diablo 3 (PC)
Though the endgame may be broken, D3 provides hundreds of hours of enjoyable and fun loot hoarding. The enhanced combat actually requires a great deal of strategy on the harder difficulties, and the rune system combined with near constant balance tweaks from Blizzard helps keep things fresh and exciting. Too bad the end of the game is far too narrow in scope, requiring a dedicated search of the auction house to find the proper gear combinations necessary for survival. D3 suffers from overproduction in a way, and it's my hope that Blizzard opens things up a bit for the eventual expansion packs.
1) The Walking Dead (XBLA, PSN, PC)
The Walking Dead is probably getting too much praise and hipster attention right now, but dammit, it made me feel each choice and every consequence even if the end result featured only minor permutations on a fairly linear story. TWD avoids many of the problems and pitfalls of Mass Effect 3 by deciding on a story rather than trying to craft endings to an insane number of possible choices and paths. The end of TWD left me an emotional wreck in the best possible way, and I have to recognize it as the most impactful story I played this year.
Dishonored (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Easily the best game I played this year, Dishonored makes me think about stealth and first person games in an entirely new way. Hell, I basically look for places to quickly "blink" while walking down the street! The freedom awarded the player goes beyond what most video games are doing today, and we need more of this in our industry. Though the story was a bit lacking, this fresh IP featured more personality and chutzpah than any other game I played this year. Do yourself a favor and play this game. Now.
Dark Souls II (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
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I'm worried just like everyone else, but it's hard to imagine From Software producing an absolute disaster. Much has been made of the infamous Edge article and focus on "accessibility," but the original game could have used a bit more information and explanation of the key mechanics and systems. Also, the Artorias DLC shows that a bit more balance can go a long way towards making a super fun and highly entertaining boss fight on par with some of the best games ever. I can't wait to explore a new world and die over and over and over and over and over...