I think Game of the Year lists are pretty fun so I thought I'd make one of my own!
This game made me feel: sentimental. I also feel like a jerk. I only played Journey completely through once, everything that can be said about it has already been said, and I most likely had the same exact super-special experiences that every other bro did with it. Even so, it's hard to be a human being and not have this game resonate with you in some way, even if that way is very intentionally designed and predictably somber. That's probably a signal of perfect game design though. Journey really, really made me care about my anonymous multiplayer buddy. I put voices to our little glyph bursts as we died and it mattered a heck of a lot. Never before have I felt such a strong, dense connection with the mask I wore in a video game and how it interacted with the masks around it.
4. Super Hexagon
This game made me feel: adroit. I haven't cared so heartily about an abstract game and getting as far as possible in it since Tetris. The difference here is that Tetris is pretty slow, whereas Super Hexagon throws you right in the mix right off the bat and creates a very distinct sort of pressure. Hyper chipmusic cackles away, you're a triangle, and now a wall has just killed you. Game over shithead! That was fast. I love games that make that saying "practice makes perfect" so utterly tangible. Super Meat Boy did this too with it's immediate respawn system: you feel yourself getting better with repetition and before you know it you're conquering segments of the game you wouldn't have been able to even see just a couple hours, even minutes, ago. Getting even one second more of a level logged in is an incredibly satisfying feeling that still begs to be conquered immediately afterwards.
This game made me feel: lost. In a good way. Fez is the epitome of the one thing I ultimately look for and care about the most in video games: exploration! I feel like the non-stifled version of myself, the one who didn't grow up in the shadow of Philadelphia only to end up working there and eventually living there, is the one who acts out his fantasies of exploring mysterious wilderness and ruins and cliffs and trees and caves thanks to games like Fez. Shadow of the Colossus and Skyrim both do this sort of unspoken solitude-in-nature simulation as well, but Fez has that extra kick thanks to its wildly video game-y aesthetics. I can fall into the gameplay even more easily thanks to music that soothes just as much as it haunts, and an art style that I wanna consume and digest until it becomes apart of my DNA.
2. Hotline Miami
This game made me feel: vulnerable. Cactus sure knows how to make a fella sick. Not to mention feverishly obsessed and afraid of the reactions it is simulating in him. I'm a big fan of nightmares and gameplay that stabs at me until I begin to feel the result of my character's actions, and Hotline Miami sure as shit provided this with ample consequences to my barbaric, frenzied murder sprees. Not only was my character prone to death at a moment's notice, but I began to feel a white hot ache of delirium which I imagine killers feel when they do the deed. We were both prone to wounds.
1. Mark of the Ninja
This game made me feel: powerful. Mark of the Ninja doesn't completely appeal to me with it's graphics, or sound, or characters, or story even, but it has the most refined and satisfying gameplay system I've played maybe ever. The emphasis on choice, the constant visual and aural feedback, and the razor-sharp controls each gave me a sense that I had complete power over my character at all times. I was a gosh darn ninja and holy hell did it feel satisfying and perfect. Game of the god darn year.