The puzzles in Fez aren’t just difficult in and of themselves; discovering that that content even exists is a puzzle. The game’s masterful in both its design, and the way it subtly communicates information to the player through iconography and visual cues. Original and truly ingenious puzzle games are hard to come by, and that’s a large part of what makes Fez so special.
Runner-ups: XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Mark of the Ninja
Halo 4 accomplished a remarkable task in both honoring the series’ slower pace, and polishing certain systems to stay competitive. The story was vastly improved, and while it still has some noticeable flaws, there’s more character work done on both Cortana and Master Chief than ever before. The additions to the multiplayer suite solidify what was already a damn good shooter on base gameplay alone, making it an easy pick for best FPS of the year.
Runner-ups: Far Cry 3, Borderlands 2
BEST THIRD-PERSON SHOOTER
MAX PAYNE 3
It’s been a long time since Max Payne 2. A lot of third-person shooters have come and gone, some with their own takes on Max Payne‘s marquee “bullet-time” hook. So it’s especially impressive that Max Payne 3 plays as well as it does, and feels just as fresh as its predecessors did a long time ago. The shooting itself is better than anything Rockstar’s done previously, and the game moves at a pace that can’t be beat.
Runner-ups: Hitman: Absolution, Spec Ops: The line
THE WALKING DEAD
Telltale’s been making old-fashioned adventure games with varying levels of success for a while now. The Walking Dead is a game that makes good on the promise of their colossal misfire Jurassic Park; where contextual button presses and dialogue choices play a bigger role than any traditional adventure game puzzle-solving. It’s an evolution of the genre, much in the same way Heavy Rain was. It would be unthinkable not to honor what The Walking Dead will surely do for this genre in the future.
Runner-ups: Dishonored, Journey
MASS EFFECT 3
Mass Effect 3 is the kind of RPG that speaks to a lot of people. It’s a fitting conclusion to a series driven by choice, and one that is unthinkably different based on those choices. There are times when the seams start to show, and the safety nets put in place for that level of player agency are shockingly evident. But it’s a small price to pay for a game that so thoroughly makes good on the kind of story that RPG players of yore could only have dreamed about.
Runner-ups: Guild Wars 2, The Secret World
DANCE CENTRAL 3
The Kinect’s game library is one littered with false promises and massive disappointments. So far, the one reliably good franchise has been Harmonix’s Dance Central, which manages to deliver a fun experience while recognizing the limits of the hardware. Dance Central 3 is the best game in the series, and by extension, the best game on Kinect, thanks to a huge music library, variety of moves, and appropriately cheesy storyline.
Runner-ups: Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, Rock Band Blitz
On the next and final page, we hit the bottom and ascend to the top…