This year, my Games of the Year got rolled into Kill Screen’s end-of-year countdown. It’s a fine list.
Kill Screen have also put up the individual participants ballot, and you can read mine here. I also wrote some notes about the list of ten:
Here’s my secret: I’m shamelessly mainstream. When I get home from a day at a desk, designing or programming, I like to play games on my sofa. And so: lots of major console releases there, from the advanced hiking simulator that is Skyrim to the elaborate team sport (disguised as a military shooter) that is Battlefield 3. It’s not all AAA-ware, though. The fact that games like Bastion and From Dust saw release on major platforms makes me enormously happy, and they deserve their place.
What binds all these titles together? Perhaps it’s just about wonderful worlds to escape to. Wonderful for their aesthetics: the cold mountains of Tamriel; the endless greyboxes of decades of Aperture Science; the silhouetted landscapes of Outland; the spectacular 17th century Mars of Jamestown; the steely glowing cyberpunk of Frozen Synapse; the rich, detailed decay of Arkham City.
Flip that around, though, because they’re also wonderful systems to get lost in: Skyrim‘s bottomless, endlessly free systems; the careful addition of gels to the Portal formula; the binary-coloured bullet-hell of Outland; the marvellous Vaunt mechanic in Jamestown; the perfection of turn-based (and play-by-mail) strategy in Frozen Synapse; the bottomless gadget-belt and inventive environment of Arkham City. At heart, I’m an escapist, and I escape into beautiful worlds and deep mechanics equally.
Ten was hard to pick, and I wanted to represent some potentially overlooked gems (oh, Outland) as well as some obviously great mainstream games. Two games slipped off the list for me: Deus Ex: Human Revolution just slipped off, but was a surprisingly lovely way to spend the middle part of the year, and Crysis (in its re-released, updated downloadable XBox and PSN port) wasn’t eligible for inclusion as it was a remake. It was, however, definitely one of the ten best games I played last year, and the Games on Demand version is worth your time, if only for the bottomless tropical sandbox of fun it offers in its early stages.