I don’t care that Fez’s creator Phil Fish said that Japanese games suck. Big shock, a lot of them do. So do plenty of games made everywhere else. Big whoop. What I do care about is how Fez takes a familiar platforming formula that everyone gave up on years ago and cleverly stretches it into a game we’ve never played before but always wanted to.
Stark, bare, and unflinching, Slender is pure. horror. Being lost in a forest, searching for clues, hearing the crush of your pursuer grow louder with every hint you find, with nothing to do but walk, run, and turn a flash light on and off. It’s fast, it’s free, and it’s totally effective. Watch yourself in the bathroom.
8. Halo 4
Master Chief has never looked better, sounded better, or played better, and that goes double for his blue and red twerp buddies in
multiplayer War Games. Halo 4 is classic Halo, and big props to 343i for delivering a crazy great and super fun Halo reboot under what must have been an immeasurable amount of pressure.
If it wasn’t for Ben Prunty’s amazing soundtrack, I’d be half as in love with Faster Than Light than I am. And if there were no solar flares, I’d be a third more in love with FTL. But alas, the soundtrack is amazing, along with the writing, the sparse art design, the super addictive “one more try” appeal, and the clever progression system. Now, about those stupid solar flares.
Everyone has a crush on Dishonored, but if I have to pick one stealth game this year to ball up for, I’d ask Mark of the Ninja to the prom. It’s mix of slick presentation, perfect 2D stealth platforming and ultimate ninja power puzzling combat make it a potent cocktail of play it now. You should.
Speluny is as tough as it is adorable. It will easily eat up entire weekends if you let it, but you won’t mind. Like, at all. I have a friend who I hadn’t seen in months. I ran into him last week and the first thing he told me was that he 100%’ed Spelunky. I nearly had a stroke. Spelunky is yet another 2012 game that defies marketing budgets and buttoned-down trends and all the other gobbledygook that developers and publishers so often listen to before they embark on making the next Haze or Fracture. Oh, and Peter Eykemans, you’re my hero, mister 100%. I bow before you.
People say Hotline Miami is like that movie Drive, but that’s just all wrong. Drive is all about Ryan Gosling’s sweet ass jacket and Carey Mulligan’s heart rate, god bless her. Hotline Miami, on the other hand, is more Smash TV, more blood, more gore, more skull bashing, and yes, neon-lit urban post post-style and music. Sure, Drive traces lines between some of those same sensibilities, but does cutey Ryan throw baseball bats? Um, no. Does he wear a horse mask named Don Juan that allows you to kill people by opening doors? Wait, I think I just wrote Drive 2.
3. Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition/Artorias of the Abyss
It’s pretty tough to beat Dark Souls, though my carry-over obsession from last year has subsided some. What started back then with a 24-hour marathon ended with me emphatically championing FromSoftware’s abyssal and indifferent Zelda game for grown-ups, and making the return trip to Lordran this year was well worth it. I even leveled a new Sorcerer for the occasion to take on the new black fire-breathing dragons with the creepy, inky black spellcasting. I know, they said there wouldn’t be any DLC, they said Dark Souls was fully complete. They changed their minds. People do that. Almost GotY that didn’t come out in 2012.
For better or worse, The Walking Dead will likely become the poster-game for the future of video games. Episodic, choose-your-own-adventurey, short enough to play each piece in one sitting, and emotionally consuming, Telltale’s cruel trip through Robert Kirkman’s dead world is as unforgettable as it defies conventional marketability. It’s a bummer the game itself has so many performance hiccups (exploding saves, weird corruption issues on PC, bad control mechanics on consoles), otherwise it would be my absolute pick for GotY, bloodied hands down.
Journey is a reflection sim disguised as a platformer with dune surfing and chirps. Like the Dark Side Cave on Dagobah, it shows you whatever you bring with you, and specifically in Journey’s case, whatever you project onto it. Some people say it’s a game about nothing, just jumping and sliding through sand. Other people think it’s a game about life and death. Still others believe it’s a meditation on the anonymity of lifelong relationships. I think it’s an awesome game to play while unsober. Game of the year.