For some reason, every time I’ve finished the last couple of games I’ve bought, my end thought was “This is good, but it won’t take Portal 2’s place as my Game of the Year”. I’ve never, ever thought about what my personal game of any particular year would be. But this got me thinking what they would be for each of the last few years (ie the PlayStation 3 era, the one I know).
Here are my listings so far for 2007-2013.
1. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
2. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
3. Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction
1. Grand Theft Auto IV
3. Burnout Paradise
1. Brutal Legend
2. Skate 2
3. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
1. Skate 3
2. Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City
3. Dead Rising 2
1. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
2. Portal 2
3. LA Noire
1. Sleeping Dogs
2. Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition
3. Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
Here’s some explanations now.
2007 was easily the weakest year of gaming PlayStation 3 had. Along with the price, the console was initially ripped apart for it. It did have some goodness though. Brilliant exclusives Uncharted, like a better version of Tomb Raider, and Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction, strong sequel to the PS2 series (and the first “proper” R&C game for four years), were followed by ports of other successful games like Elder Scrolls IV and Tony Hawk’s Project 8 (which missed the top three despite how much I played it – it was pre-Skate so I’d not moved series at that point). There were other exclusives I enjoyed as well; MotorStorm, the game I got along with the PS3 on its launch, was good fun but mainly just a filler for the space between Burnout Revenge and Burnout Paradise, and Resistance: Fall of Man, a decent enough FPS and perhaps one of the last FPSes I’ve cared enough about to do that with.
Following 2007 was 2008, which was really, really strong in releases. It kills me to put Burnout Paradise as third favourite since I loved it so much, but it unfortunately was released in the same year as the near-perfect Grand Theft Auto IV, and the vastly-community-expanded sandbox-lover’s-wet-dream LittleBigPlanet. Had it been released in 2009 it would have been first place. GTAIV tops the list with absolute ease; one of the best game storylines I’ve ever witnessed (if anyone ever made a Grand Theft Auto TV show I would not remotely complain if they just shoved some real actors into GTAIV’s cutscenes and filled the gameplay bits with filler content), along with the best-crafted gaming city I know. Seriously, San Andreas may have been bigger and Vice City glitzier, but IV’s rendition of Liberty City is a beautiful, memorable, fun-to-explore take on New York. With a great physics engine that means you can now push people down flights of stairs or trip them up over kerbs, a shooting/covering system I only wish could be transplanted into the PS2-era GTA trilogy (I can’t enjoy them as much now I know what IV had), and two expansion packs that only upped its excellence (see 2010) GTAIV has won a permanent place in my heart.
2009 was okay at best. Brutal Legend was a stunning game, if not quite as interesting as Double Fine’s earlier outing Psychonauts. The only big detractors for me of Brutal Legend were the strategy segments. I cannot stand strategy games, so despite it being difficult I spent most of them in the action style (you can stay omniscient and manage your troops and/or hop down as Eddie Riggs and take them on yourself). Skate 2 ate a ton of my free time, just wandering around the universe. The walking, while present (in Skate you could only skate), was dodgy, and because the entire level was on a hill I always seemed to end up at the bottom of it. But it was an excellent time sink. And Uncharted 2 was pretty fun. I’d have put it higher but, while I find the games very fun, there are others I prefer and that hold the memories better for me. With Uncharted, I play it a ton, finish it in a week, and ignore it forever.
Then 2010 came along, and somehow it was worse for me. I enjoyed the Grand Theft Auto IV expansions (I got my Xbox 360 this year), Skate 3 was a fantastic improvement on Skate 2 and once again ate hundreds of hours of my time. There weren’t many other games I was truly into in 2010 so I put Dead Rising 2 third, which was fun in short doses and in spite of the ridiculous lack of a “sandbox” mode (you HAVE to do the story, and you HAVE to do certain quests which are far less fun than just killing zombies).
2011 was stunning. Best game lineup I’ve ever seen, and the first year where I had to fight multiple games. Honourable mentions would be Pokémon Black, LittleBigPlanet 2, The Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim, and Saints Row The Third, all of which I adored. But the best three are headed by Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I was enamoured with it from start to finish (ignoring the bosses). It’s one of those games that just let me play it however I damn wanted to. My mate would take a turn and do things all-guns blazing, I got to hide in pipes like a wimp and stealth-kill people. The missions were endearing, the side missions interesting enough, the game was sexy (though very black and orange) – it was just excellent. Narrowly second (I swore this would be first until I touched Deus Ex) was Portal 2. Portal 2 did the odd thing of making me nostalgic for it just days after completing it. While short, it was flat-out hilarious, memorable, stupidly clever – stunning stuff. And third goes to LA Noire, yet another memorable and unique experience. The facial motion tech it displayed was stellar, the game was interesting and long, it was set in a period not often seen in games and… yes, I just loved it.
2012 was, for me, the year of the sandbox (weird given GTA didn’t get a release that year). As well as finishing Saints Row The Third in 2012, I bought and played through Sleeping Dogs and Batman: Arkham City (the Wii U edition, so it was technically a 2012 release for me). Sleeping Dogs was another great sandbox game, though part of me kept dreaming about GTA V while playing it. Batman was fantastic, I’m surprised I hadn’t bought the original version on impulse but it did mean I had a launch game on Wii U that wasn’t the meh-tastic ZombiU. Speaking of the WiiU, it had a pretty good launch lineup! Ignoring ZombiU, I enjoyed four of its launch titles a ton – Batman, NintendoLand, New Super Mario Bros U and Sonic and Sega All-Star Racing Transformed. Best launch lineup I’ve seen for a console in recent memory (hi, PS3!). I put Professor Layton third because I fucking loved that too. I’ve loved all the Professor Layton games, but Miracle Mask was the best one I’ve seen since the first one.
I predict for 2013 that GTA V will win it (GTA IV remains my favourite 7th Gen game to date), followed by Watch Dogs for PS4 and then… well, I don’t know! Let’s say Far Cry 3 or Tomb Raider’s reboot for now.