1. Drinking in the environment, “Journey”
The year’s most atmospheric adventure was one long memorable moment in and of itself, its sprawling planes, sandy dunes, and icy tundra all adding up to an interactive character quite like no other.
2. Curing the Genophage, “Mass Effect 3”
Good Guy Commander Shepard: on a deadline to stop a swarm of sentient killer robots from destroying the universe, and still takes the time to cure a centuries-spanning alien sickness.
3. Clementine, “The Walking Dead”
Arguably the year’s biggest surprise, Telltale’s Walking Dead episodes were an emotional rollercoaster from their first moments. But the whole experience wouldn’t have been half as effective without the moral anchor of pint-sized Clementine.
4. The world’s turned upside down, “Gravity Rush”
Every great game comes with a built-in “a-ha!” moment, where some switch flips in its players’ brains and everything just clicks. The first time enigmatic heroine Kat literally turns the world on its head with her gravity-shifting powers is one of those moments.
5. The masquerade ball, “Dishonored”
Much of Dishonored is spent skulking through rat-infested slums and grimy city streets, which is exactly what makes Lady Boyle’s hoity-toity masquerade ball such a memorable mission. You get to step out from the shadows and see how the rest of Dunwall lives, even if it’s just for a moment.
6. A kingdom revealed, “The Unfinished Swan”
The first seconds of Unfinished Swan are set against, quite literally, an unmarked canvas. It’s only as the player begins blotting the walls with black paint that the game lets itself become known in a brilliant blend of exploration and creation.
7. Burning the fields, “Far Cry 3”
Murderous mercenary Vaas has been hunting hero Jason Brody in a twisted game of cat and mouse, but then Jason gets his hands on a flamethrower and the chance to hit his tormentor where it really hurts. And then the bass drops.
8. A goddess rises again, “Okami HD”
Watching sun goddess Amaterasu quest to cleanse the Nippon countryside is, without a doubt, one of the finest experiences a gamer can hope for. But watching all that in eye-popping HD? Perfection.
9. Ghosts in the graveyard, “Max Payne 3”
While the bulk of Max Payne’s last outing was a scattershot shoot-‘em-up through Brazil’s slums and side-streets, it was the harrowing flashbacks to his post-NYPD rut that really showed gamers how far the hard-boiled hero had fallen.
10. Tiny Tina, “Borderlands 2”
Who said Pandora’s bullet-strewn landscape was all about big, badass bruisers? Meet Tiny Tina, the deadliest 13-year-old in existence, and hands-down the best character in last year’s best multiplayer shooter.