Like most people here at The Escapist, games are a strong passion of mine. In fact, I love games so much I went and got a master's degree in making them! But gaming's a tricky hobby to keep up with, especially since such a surprisingly large number of games come out every year. Some are good, some are bad, and some are so fantastic they just stick with you regardless of what else is out there.
So here is my list of my favorites of the past year, the five games that I kept coming back to whenever I could and had an asbolute blast playing through.
5. Rayman Origins (PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360)
This game'll make you work each step of the way and put your reflexes to the test with a host of beautifully designed levels and tricky high-speed jumps. While it doesn't have a great deal of extras or unlockables like others in its genre, there's plenty of enjoyable content to play through with Origins' 60+ levels. The soundtrack is also incredibly addictive and well composed, with a wide variety of musical genres and themes adding on an extra layer of ambience to each world. Overall, Rayman Origins is a great example of what a makes up a solid platformer.
4. SpaceChem (PC, Mac OS X, Linux, iPad)
SpaceChem is an absolutely fantastic and brain-melty puzzler put together by indie developer Zachtronic Industries. In the far future, the player takes up a new job as a Reactor Engineer for SpaceChem, a chemical synthesizing company. Each level tasks you to create a series of circuits and pathways to bond or split molecules into the chemicals you need, and then ship them off while hoping that something hasn't gone horrifically wrong. It may sound kind of dry, but I can't say I've played many other games this year that offered me the kind of neuron-frazzling challenge that SpaceChem brought to the table.
3. Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)
My 3rd favorite game of the year is Super Mario 3D Land, which I would most certainly say is one of the biggest reasons to own a 3DS. While it doesn't exactly bring anything new to the franchise- after all, you're once again rescuing Princess Peach from Bowser- I really loved how it kept things simple and called back to the more classic side-scrolling platforming days of Mario. For the most part, it's just you, the iconic plumber, some mushrooms and tons of Goombas to stomp. The tons of extra content included after the main story is nothing to laugh at either, especially since it practically gives you a full second game to play and different game types to keep things interesting.
2. Atom Zombie Smasher (PC, Mac OS X, Linux)
This real-time strategy slash tower defense hybrid from indie developer Blendo Games has players battling the zombie apocalypse in the fictional South American city of Nuevos Aires. I know zombies have been kind of hitting their peak lately, but I felt Atom Zombie Smasher breaks the mold with well-crafted RTS gameplay and clever humor. You'll be frantically trying to helicopter as many civilians to safety as possible before nightfall hits, and recruiting snipers, placing landmines, and firing orbital ELEPHANTBIRD cannons to try and hold off the purple undead hordes. Atom Zombie Smasher's campaign and city maps are procedurally generated and randomized, giving it a ton of replay value along with a host of developer and user created mods to give an extra challenge.
1. Portal 2 (PC, Mac OS X, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
My all time favorite game of the year is, surprisingly, not Skyrim (as much as I love that game), but Portal 2. What can I say? I loved the first Portal, and found that the follow-up to 2007's ground breaking first person puzzler took all of the black humor, platforming and puzzles and cranked it up to 11. I enjoyed learning more about Aperture Science's history and matching wits with science-obsessed GLaDOS, and got a kick out of the new puzzle mechanics like the repulsion gel and thermal discouragement beams. I had an absolute blast with the unique cooperative testing imitative mode, leaping into test chamber with a friend and then trying to solve it by using good old trial and error... with the error part usually resulting in hilarious tragedy.
So that's it, my top five game picks of the year. I heartily recommend checking them out if you can, and feel free to leave your own top five favorite list in the comments. Also be sure to check out my fellow Escapist editors' top fives as well!