1. Borderlands 2
Developer: Gearbox Software
It’s hard to think of another game in the last few years that has so fervently nurtured cooperative gaming to such sublime depths. Gearbox Software’s sequel has no less than reinvigorated the first-person shooter, shifting the focus away from scripted sequences and linear pathways, instead delving into the multiplayer side of the genre that doesn’t involve getting n00bed by a ten-year-old. It’s not just the added incentive of working together for extra XP boosts that compels players to continue exploring Borderlands 2, but the richly detailed world so affectionately drawn that it’s almost impossible to resist its many splendours.
Developer: Arkane Studios
At a time when publishers busy themselves pondering over the viability of new IPs, Dishonored arrived as something of a bold statement. There’s an incomparable sense of freedom to design among the self-contained levels, and the delights of experimentation make return visits almost compulsory. Rarely does a game reward so proportionately to the investment, and Dishonored’s deliciously old-school mechanics are so tightly constructed that the possibilities are seemingly endless. It’s a puffed-up claim, but one that here feels wholly appropriate.
Hats off to Phil Fish. In a year when a few ill-thought comments could have engulfed his long-awaited platformer, Fez proved so utterly charming, nostalgic and unfettered that it transcended any and all controversy surrounding the developer. Beyond the genuine ingenuity behind the core world-spinning conceit, it’s the range of creative solutions to head-spinning conundrums, sumptuous aesthetics and incontrovertible understanding of its influences that make it a success. While it’s more buried features come across obtuse and slightly self-indulgent, it’s hard to deny Fez’s mighty accomplishment.