As much as I enjoyed the actual game (and I did, make no mistake) it forever sold me with Wavy Tube Man Chronicles, a fully FMV campaign inspired by Mad Dog McCree. The Long Winters sing a song called "Honest," about a girl who loves a singer, that includes the lyric "for him to say so plainly / what your heart can vouch is true / means something is connecting you / something is connecting you."
If you can believe that a single mission in a video game gave me that exact feeling, you can easily see how it made my list. They made it just for me.
OK, so this is by no means a perfect product, but I'm willing to forgive any game that's charting this much new territory for making a few wrong turns. The performances were great, the mechanics were interesting and the atmosphere was unparalleled. Also: the twist in the last quarter makes the whole thing work and anyone who says differently is a madman.
What started out as goofing on the latest in Frogwares' long-running series lead me to this buried gem from 2009. Expecting an easy-to-laugh-off jankfest, I instead was treated to a tightly-wound mystery, a convincing simulacrum of Victorian London and some really tough puzzles. Dig this one up.
This is a brilliant Half-Life 2 mod that plays with narrative and gameplay expectations, while simultaneously making profound statements about the nature of existence, control and video game structure.
It's incredibly well done and even more incredibly free. Get it.
This is a beautiful, singular game that adheres to no existing aesthetic or conventional gameplay wisdom. Seeing a developer confident enough to trust its own instincts rather than homogenize in service of widespread accessibility gives me hope for the future.
OK, so you're not a game, at least as far as I know. But you readers, even when we haven't seen eye to eye, have brought me more joy than any electronic entertainment ever released. Through your scrutiny and support, I've become a better writer, a better listener and a better person.
I'm giving you all four out of five stars in the hopes that you'll finally believe that it's a great score. Take care of yourselves.
Joystiq is revealing its 10 favorite games of 2011 throughout the week. Keep reading for more top selections and every writer's personal, impassioned picks in Best of the Rest roundups.