As an indie developer deep in crunch for most of 2012, it's interesting to reflect on my favorite games, and realize what little time I actually had to play anything. There are some glaring omissions (I'm a huge Halo fan, but never had time to play Halo 4) and an emphasis on handhelds. And of course, my backlog was so full that I was trying to catch up on games from 2011. Super Mario 3D Land and Dark Souls would have easily topped this list.
With that said, here are my top 10 favorite games of 2012 (excluding my own, because I’m not that big of an ass).
10. Puzzle Craft
I never thought I'd have a game with in-app purchasing in my top ten, but thankfully Puzzle Craft never required it. Another iOS title that I obsessed over for a few weeks, Puzzle Craft's matching mechanic was addictive enough. Adding a town building simulator and a clever upgrade tree cemented the game as the perfect way to spend a few minutes at a time.
9. Far Cry 3
To be fair, I'm not too far into FC3, and while it's less interesting than its prequel, mechanically, there's no denying how fun it is just to play in that world. Every encounter is a story in itself, and I can't stop staring at the amazing visuals that Ubisoft has delivered.
Torchlight II improved on everything from the first game, while delivering a world that felt bigger and more fantastic. I'm normally not a loot lust sort of person, but Torchlight II hooked me in a way few loot games do. The ability to keep playing after a surprisingly lackluster ending was an appreciated addition.
There's not much more that needs to be said about Journey. I applaud how the social aspect was handled, as someone who has grown tired of online gaming. While the game doesn't quite rank up as high as Flower in my book, Journey was perhaps the most daring and important game this year, amidst a sea of blockbuster sequels.
I'm a massive horror games fan, and love the RE series dearly. In a year where RE6 bombed, it was refreshing to see Capcom deliver a much purer experience with Revelations. In a dark room with headphones, Revelations can be quite terrifying, and the limited resources and high difficulty make it feel like a long lost numbered title. It’s still one of the best looking games on the 3DS.
I was a huge fan of Spelunky on PC, and the XBLA version delivered with more structure and direction, and some of the tightest controls of any game this year. Maintaining a good run was stressful and rewarding, and every new game had a story to tell. Sadly this is a game I’ll never S-rank.
I love the Alien films. I love Metroid. And I love hard decisions in games. Aliens: Infestation gave me all of that, with satisfying exploration and the beautiful visuals that WayForward is known for. I don't think any other video game has ever done a better job capturing the feel and tension of the Alien films, particularly with how "lives" are handled. I learned to care for every person on my team, and losing a teammate became heartbreaking and terrifying. It's all over a bit too quickly, but bonus points for a ridiculously awesome song during the credits.
Yeah, I had to count the zeroes as I typed that out. I've always been a fan of genre-mixing, and this game gives you a roguelike, endless runner, and sliding match-three all in one. I was absolutely obsessed with 10,000,000 for a few weeks, and the music still haunts me to this day. The perfect iOS game, as far as I'm concerned.
The moment I read about FTL, I knew it was something I was going to love. Roguelike? Check. Space combat? Check. Charming visuals and a great soundtrack? Yes, it delivered. FTL is the type of game that makes me jealous as a developer, with its simple and clear mechanics and tight economy, set against a brutally difficult and randomized world. But as a player, there's been no greater feeling of success this year than when everything aligns just right, and you end up surviving just a bit longer than your last playthrough. For me, FTL has been the very definition of "gotta give it another try!" and has become my 2012's Dark Souls.
If I am to judge videogames by how much joy they brought me, directly or not, then nothing tops this little gem. Watching my children play Theater brings back memories of when video games were magical worlds, before I cared about how games were made, the politics of the industry, and how many levels of antialiasing my current card was giving me. I'm sure a lot of people will hate me for saying this, but videogames are the ultimate toy. Happy Action Theater strips that toy of all the other nonsense we've piled on over the years, and delivers what is pure about the medium.