This is the time of year when everyone under the sun compiles their top 10 games of the year list. You may have seen mine if you read the most recent issue of our magazine. (That photo of me was originally a joke by the way, and I’m super excited that it was published in the issue.) Here's mine, with a little explanation as to why I picked why I picked. It's not a random selection, honest!

1. Journey
I played a lot of games this past year, but few of them stuck with me the way that Journey did. Thatgamecompany delivered an experience that dealt with some pretty heavy themes, without getting mired in the same kind of snooty self-indulgence that many indie devs find irresistible. Check out our video, where Dan, Kato, and I talk about the game at length.

2. Far Cry 3
I love games that let me explore, and Far Cry 3 provides one of the best playgrounds I’ve seen. We’ve all spent time in open worlds by now, but I enjoyed the interplay between the game’s humans, animals and, of course, fire. I never knew what to expect whenever I tried to seize control of an outpost. Would my sneaky plans go off smoothly, or would a surprise tiger inadvertently provide a helping paw?

3. The Walking Dead
Gamers seem obsessed with crying. I can't understand why making people bawl their eyes out is supposedly some kind of achievement. By the time I finished Episode 5, I was grateful for such an emotionally packed experience, and I was surprised to see how fond I’d grown of the characters. My eyes didn’t mist over (I am a robot, apparently), but I felt completely satisfied with the journey and the way that it wrapped up.

4. Call of Duty: Black Ops II
If you told me that a Call of Duty game would have made my top 10 – let alone take a position in my top five – I would have called you insane. When I took it home, I reluctantly went online to check out multiplayer. It clicked with me in ways that the series has never done before. I would have been completely satisfied if it only shipped with the Kill Confirmed game type. The story surprised me, too, particularly the post-credits sequence. It’s the best/worst moment of the year.

5. Zookeeper Battle
This is one of my desert-island games. It’s not my favorite title from 2012, but I think it has more staying power than the other titles on my list. I’ve spent countless hours matching icons and competing with folks online – a disturbing proposition, considering each round only lasts 30 seconds. It’s one of those rare puzzle games that’s as polished as a PopCap release, which is a benchmark for me.

6. Hitman: Absolution
I watched Jeff Marchiafava play through this game while he was reviewing it. Every time I looked at his screen, something insane or hilariously dumb was happening. I’ve loved the series since the first game came out on PC, and this one’s the most refined iteration of the game’s core concepts. Plus, you can dress like a scarecrow and hide nuns’ bodies in outhouses. 

7. Dishonored
Arkane Studios did something awesome with Dishonored: They created a world that was unlike anything else I’ve seen in a game. The bizarre, plague-filled steampunk sandbox was a great backdrop for Corvo’s sneaky adventures. I’m obsessed with taking the stealthy approach whenever I can, which is one of the reasons Dishonored buried its hooks into me.

8. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
I’m not much of a strategy-game player, but I’m beyond happy that I gave XCOM a shot. Like a lot of players, I grew attached to my squad members, and it bummed me out whenever one of my veterans bit it on the battlefield. We’ve come a long way since the days of moving tiny blip people around the screen. 

9. Dragon’s Dogma
What do you know? It’s another game with a big ol’ world to explore. There’s a fair amount of backtracking to be done in Dragon’s Dogma, which is why I appreciate how interesting Gransys managed to be. I felt familiar with the world by the time I was done with it, but not in an “Oh god, I am tired of seeing this dumb place” kind of way. Also, you can climb up bosses and stab their heads. Sold.

10. Lego the Lord of the Rings
TT Games’ Lego games are reliably good, and Lego the Lord of the Rings is the best one yet. I love the licenses (Lego and Lord of the Rings), and the game manages to combine the films’ epic story with a whimsical twist. Smashing a diminutive Middle-earth with Sauron and the Mouth of Sauron in the game’s bonus round is always satisfying.

That’s my list, and I stand by it. You may notice a few high-ish profile games aren’t on it. Here’s why:

Mass Effect 3
I liked the series a lot, but I feel as though my mind was erased about a month after playing it. I recall being annoyed by the ending (not the content, generally, but the lousy way it was presented), but that’s about it. A lot of people in the office thought this was one of the best games ever. While I respect their opinions, they are all crazy people.

Borderlands 2
I had completely forgotten about this game when it was time to write my top 10. I enjoyed what I played of it, but if it didn't leave enough of an impression (or any, really), that was a sign that it didn't earn a spot on my list.

Assassin’s Creed 3
The Assassin’s Creed series is one of my favorites, which made this one so disappointing. I liked Connor a lot, but the game’s Forest Gump-like story made me cringe throughout it. My breaking point was during the tandem ride with Paul Revere. Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb. Dumb. And would it have killed Ubisoft to come up with at least one more tree to climb? Far Cry 3 managed to pull off some variety in their tower-climbing section. Maybe they were too busy finding a way to have Connor write the Declaration of Independence while helping Francis Scott Key with the Star Spangled Banner.

Asura’s Wrath
If I had a top 11 list, this would have made it. It is a good game.

People sure like Fez. I thought it was pretty cute, but I got bored with it pretty quickly. 8-bit graphics, though. 

Diablo III
I didn’t play enough of this one to form a solid opinion. I moved on when the servers were down and I couldn’t continue my single-player game. That’s probably been fixed now, but my backlog is too long to justify a return visit.