5) 80 Days (iOS)
I have played through the wonderful 80 Days on my phone many, many times. Not only is this a wonderful piece of storytelling, but it can be played with so many different goals in mind — fastest trip, most countries visited, most money acquired — without forcing
you to pursue those goals in any way. It is hard to imagine inkle will ever be able to produce a piece of interactive fiction better than this, and I can't wait to see them try.
4) Shadowrun: Dragonfall (PC)
Delightful tactical stuff mixed with lovely storytelling and character development, this was an improvement in every possible way over Shadowrun Returns and has provided me with piles and piles of entertainment thanks to a vibrant mod community. It has taken us a long time to get another really excellent Shadowrun game, but it was well worth the wait. I recommend this game as the definitive intro to the Shadowrun universe.
3) Divinity: Original Sin (PC)
A game you can absolutely get lost in.
2) Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (PC)
We engage in a lot of spirited debate behind the scenes at RPGFan, especially when it comes to coverage. Shadow of Mordor is very much an RPG from where I sit, especially if we're going to insist on calling Mass Effect 2 and 3 RPGs. But there is unquestionably a very large issue of taxonomy in the evolving electronic entertainment space that we all adore, and I think a lot of it has to do with the word "game" itself, let alone "role playing game." Shadow of Mordor unquestionably has "role playing elements," but what is the requisite number of elements a game needs before it tips the scale to "RPG" as a classification? I think that Keith Burgun has done some tremendous work attempting to outline a better taxonomy around "games" and "entertainment" in general, and I encourage folks interested in such things to check out his blog
, and in particular, his budding "3 Minute Game Design" videos. To me, Shadow of Mordor feels very much in line with Kingdoms of Amalur or other action RPGs that aren't in the isometric Diablo/Torchlight vein. The Editor's Picks are when I can have it my way, and for me this is very nearly the best "RPG" I played all year.
1) Kentucky Route Zero (Act III) (PC)
Conversely, I would argue that "games" like 80 Days and Kentucky Route Zero are NOT RPGs. But I include them on my list anyway, since we covered them. And if I'm including "content" or "entertainment" that we covered here, there is no question in my mind that Kentucky Route Zero isn't just the best piece of interactive fiction/art/whatever I experienced this year, it is also the one that I think has the best chance of being critically studied in 10-20 years alongside art from other media. When I am experiencing Kentucky Route Zero, I feel many of the same emotions I do when I am experiencing a particularly excellent and complex piece of literature. That doesn't mean I recommend it for everyone of course — I wouldn't, for example, universally recommend Kafka's Metamorphosis as a good way to unwind on a Friday night. But for those that are comfortable with having questions asked and not always answered or with the belief that the reader can bring as much to an analysis as the author, I recommend Kentucky Route Zero without reservation. The biggest trouble I have with Kentucky Route Zero is trying to discuss it without sounding like an obnoxious, elitist jerk. In rereading this, I fear I may have failed yet again.
Dragon Age: Inquisition (PC)
Low expectations may have had a lot to do with why I enjoyed this as much as I did. The fiction in Dragon Age may have more in common with Michael Bay than Tolkien, but who really cares when the combat is this fun? I also appreciate a game that plays this differently at each difficulty level. I got about 35 hours out of this game that were really a blast, even if I skipped a lot of dialogue and fantasy geocaching. Kudos to BioWare for not mailing this in like they could have.