The following list already appeared here, but I've fleshed it out with a few extra categories below. Enjoy!
I'm a sucker for Metroidvania games, but when you add in a beautiful art design and a novel gameplay mechanic like polarity switching, suddenly I go from being a sucker to being in love. In fact, I'm normally kind of a baby when it comes to challenging boss fights, but Outland had me going all the way through to the moment I terrified my girlfriend with shouts of joy upon beating the final boss.
9. L.A. Noire
Rockstar games are always a lightning rod for nitpicking and naysaying, but as a fan of open-world settings, I tend to enjoy their stuff quite a bit. L.A. Noire's recreation of 1940s Los Angeles was an incredible thing, to the point where I enjoyed just driving around the city and soaking up the sights. And while the interrogation system was pretty flawed, that didn't stop me from really enjoying the adventure game elements of the game's detective work.
I really enjoyed the 10 minutes of this game I got to play before my girlfriend--normally not much of a gamer--ripped the controller out of my hand and proceeded to play through the rest of the game as I sat and watched, offering suggestions on how to solve its various puzzles. And while it may seem odd to put a game on here that I watched more than I played, its charming and whimsical sense of humor and ability to encourage couch teamwork was more than entertaining enough to earn a place on this list. Also, it had DLC called "The Lost Hobo King." How could I not put that on here?
7. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
If you know my tastes at all, you'll know that I'm a huge fan of engrossing atmosphere in games. Deus Ex, with its unique color palette and and buzzing sci-fi synth music, was one of my favorite examples of atmosphere all year long. And it certainly helps that I really enjoyed the story and gameplay as well, I suppose. Especially the part where you throw refrigerators at people.
This one's kind of a bittersweet entry for me. I recently went in and played some Terraria for the first time since this summer and really disliked the ramped up difficulty level of the most recent patch. But for those 30-odd hours I played the game earlier this year, I couldn't get enough of its freeform adventuring. The visual language of 2D sprites was more appealing to me than Minecraft's worlds, and the allure of building up toward big boss fights kept me plugging along when I'd run out of ideas for things to build.
5. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
I had several reasons to ignore Ghost Trick: the only portable games I play anymore tend to be on iPhone, and I've never played a single Phoenix Wright game either. But I took a chance on Ghost Trick after Carolyn's review and it was one of the best decisions I've made all year. Its puzzles feel fresh and unique, it's got a terrific sense of humor, and dear God that soundtrack! Oh, and did I mention Missile? You could put Missile in any game and it would be a contender for my top 10 list.
4. To the Moon
I'll go ahead and get this out of the way right now: To the Moon is the closest I've ever come to crying while playing a video game. But to dismiss this as some sappy story would be a profound mistake, because To the Moon's strength lies in its emotional complexity. Its story of a dying man's memories of his late wife alternates between genuinely hilarious and charming during certain points, to bittersweet and downright heartbreaking at others. The whole thing is a powerful testament to the storytelling potential of video games that you really ought to play if you have four or five hours to spare.
3. Batman: Arkham City
Funny story: I didn't play Arkham Asylum until earlier this year. But I knew that with Arkham City coming out in the fall, I had to fill that shameful gap in my backlog post haste. So I did, and went into Arkham Asylum ready to continue Batman's fight against the Joker. Pretty good decision, right? Arkham City has one of the best combat systems of any action-adventure game I've played in the past 10 years, and the new open-world setting really lets you feel like a predator stalking your foes from the rooftops. It's just a stunning overall package that could easily be my number one game of year at any other time besides 2011.
2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I'm about 65 hours into Skyrim right now, and I've barely put a dent in the main story arc. I've just been getting lost in the landscape, taking on any side quests that come my way, and wandering through the world as much as I possibly can. Skyrim is just that kind of game, one that makes you want to take your time and soak up every last sight as much as possible. There's so much to explore and see and kill and craft that you need to take your time with it. And I think that's one of the things Skyrim does better than Oblivion. There are more stories and secrets to be found out there in the world, and you really don't want to pass any of them over.
1. Portal 2
Entertainment doesn't get any more pure than Portal 2. It's a game makes you smile one of those big, stupid grins no matter whether you're playing it or thinking about it six months later. That's the sort of game Portal 2 is. Pure bliss.
The Witcher 2, Battlefield 3, Driver San Francisco, Bastion, Rayman Origins.
Most Disappointing Game of the Year
Dragon Age II. Just a textbook example or rushing a sequel out the door far, far too soon.
iPhone Game of the Year
Tiny Wings! Not the objectively best game of the year for the platform, but certainly the one I had the most fun with.