I could use this time of year to make a boring old top 10 list, or you know give out awards that make sense. Instead you get this. A bit of weird nonsense (but totally true nonsense) followed up with my actual game of year.
Best Co-op Game I played in Single player
Monaco What's Yours is Mine
I ended up playing a little bit of online with the Halloween update and a bunch since then, but up till recently I played the entire game alone. I played it much more as a stealth game than most people probably did so working solo helped that goal somewhat. It seems like co-op games are destined to turn into utter absurdity pretty quickly. That game is still excellent playing alone but it really does shine when playing with people and everything goes wrong.
Game that exists on this list only for me to shake my head at before moving on
Brothers a Tale of Two Sons
Moving on then! Okay fine I'll just say this, it's a super interesting game that should be really remembered for what it does control wise. And then should be scorned for what it does narratively because it's kind of terrible.
I baked a cake! Okay, a small glass ramekin of a cake but still! As it turns out it's hard to bake when you lack baking equipment. Not sure what I would've made if I had flour but I probably would've made more cake than I did, because you know cake. Also Hate Plus is a really cool visual novel, that mixes in a lot of real life stuff with it. So one of the characters asks you to look in your kitchen to check if you had baking stuff and I immediately said no and she immediately scolded me saying that wasn't enough time for me to actually go into my kitchen and check...
You should probably play the previous game, Analogue a Hate Story if you want to play Hate Plus. It directly follows on from that last game so it probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense without it. But it's a really interesting story that even though you know how it's all going to pan out in the end, it's much more about how that place ended up the way it did.
Most Laughs and Best Demo
The Stanley Parable
Hands down funniest game I played this year. Also best demo that's super weird because it isn't a demo at all and is just it's own thing. Absolutely go play the demo regardless of if you intend to play the full game, it's completely separate to the main game so just play it anyway.
The Stanley Parable does a lot of really good comedy and just general taking the piss out of video game structure. It's well worth playing through to see as many of the endings as you can. Even though I played the original mod there's still plenty in the game that was new and much of it has been improved a lot since that Half-Life 2 mod.
The narrator is the one that brings that humour to the game and is just a treat to have along to guide/snark at you. It's just wonderfully well done how many lines there are in the game and how they call to various things that you do. Also there's an achievement for clicking on a door 10 times. Try it out. That one's pretty great. You'll probably need to lookup how to get every ending but even then it's still worth seeing as much as you can.
Game I didn't play that I enjoyed the most
I never really got into the original DOTA I played a few games years ago and I played a tiny bit of League and then went I don't like these games and just quit. DOTA 2 is just not a game that I'm interested in playing and sinking the time to learn it properly. That said I watched The International and watching that just kind of incredible. That game is an absolute wonder to watch pro teams just do crazy things that require so much skill and coordination to pull off.
Starcraft 2 Heart of the Swarm is still my eSports game of choice when it comes to watching. I'm more familiar with the game, I know how that game works and I've been following it for much longer. Still just super cool to watch how DOTA 2 and all that stuff plays out from the sidelines.
Game of the Year
Probably one of the easiest Game of the Year choices I've had in a good long while. It's a game that's full of heart. I could go on about how clever the environmental storytelling is in that game. There's just so much in that game that is just in the background for you to find, that the game doesn't telegraph, that it just expects you to look and try and connect the dots for yourself.
It's weird how much a game that boils down to walking around and picking up stuff actually gets. The voice acting keeps Sam's story at the forefront the entire time though and it's just lovely the whole way through.
It's hard for me to say how well that resonates with people of different ages, I'm a little bit younger than the generation of folks to who probably relate to Gone Home much more. And I think a lot of what makes makes the game great is that it has touched so many people on a deep personal level. I read a lot about how people felt about the game and it was all really wonderful to hear about how these different people reacted to different parts of the game.
Like the Stanley Parable, Gone Home uses your expectations against you. The former uses it to get laughs out of you, but Gone Home uses it to just tell you just a bit more about life at the Greenbriar household. Sometimes that family life is mundane, sometimes it totally sucks and other times it's just beautiful and those are the parts of the game that still stick in my memory and that's awesome.
Other notable games for me this year
XCOM: Enemy Within - This game was awesome before, expansion just makes it even better
Metro Last Light - Awesome dark atmosphere, makes me long for a new STALKER game. Really creepy depictions of women that half feel like they fit and half a measure of we wanted an excuse to have breasts in this video game
Papers, Please - Moral choices, like actual ones where you make hard decisions about do you do a good deed only to not have money to feed your family for the night
Antichamber - Kind of peters out towards the end but there are some great puzzles that force you to think in really strange ways to solve them
Strike Suit Infinity - The much better follow up from Strike Suit Zero, it's just some really excellent space shooting freed from the really terrible missions that plagued the original game
Depression Quest - The second 'I will never play this game' on my list. Super important though.
Race the Sun - Kind of an endless runner using a solar powered hovership and you chase the sun. Super well made and great for doing a couple of runs between other things.