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Eric “e” Neustadter's Top 10 Games of 2012

The man with the one-letter Gamertag uses a few extra characters to list his 10 favorite games of 2012.

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Eric “e” Neustadter is the Xbox LIVE Operations Gaming Ninja. Yes, that’s actually his title. I’ve seen his business cards. He’s spent the last 11-and-a-half years working on Xbox LIVE, and his Gamertag--e--was the first one created. You can find him on Twitter as @thevowel, and you can hear him weekly on the Major Nelson Radio podcast.

The following are his Top 10 titles of 2012. These are not his 10 “best”, but the 10 titles that he had the most fun with during the year. To be eligible, the game had to come out in 2012 on the platform he played it on. They’re listed in chronological order by release date.

The Darkness II

Was The Darkness II really this year? It seems like it’s been longer--but Wikipedia says it was this year, so we’ll go with it. I enjoyed--and finished--the original and was excited to dive back into Jackie’s story. Do you enjoy comic books? If so, the ripped-from-the-comics story here is right up your alley. It had the magic quality that kept me from putting it down because I wanted to know what happened next.

The powers that you gain as you progress through the game are interesting and a blast to use. Objects in the environment can be utilized for some really entertaining kills (fan blades!).

Trials Evolution

I love games that inspire competition and smack talk between friends. Trials Evolution did that in SPADES. There was back-and-forth with my boss that just might wind up impacting my review someday. My Twitter feed was full of leaderboard screenshots going to and from @jack_p and others. The original Trials HD was an outstanding game, and with Evolution the developers addressed my only serious complaint--the difficulty spike. Evolution has a much smoother learning curve.

The fact that Trials Evolution was able to get me to play a single level OVER AND OVER AGAIN to improve my time by .01 seconds is a testament to the magic that they’ve captured.

The Walking Dead

I’ve read all the comics, and I’m an on-and-off watcher of the TV show. I’m a fan of zombie stories in general, yet I didn’t get around to playing the game until very recently. I’m not normally a big fan of this style of games, but TWD is so good that I didn’t care. You’ll be really upset by some of the choices that you’ll have to make, and that’s something special.

Spelunky

Spelunky was probably responsible for more rage and obscenities pouring from my mouth than any other game in 2012. I LOVE IT FOR THAT. I’m not normally one for intensely difficult games, but for some reason I’ve always had a soft spot for roguelikes.

Every time I die in Spelunky, I feel like it’s my fault and not the game being unfair. That’s a tremendous accomplishment in game design. All the information I needed to survive was on-screen, I just wasn’t paying attention or interpreting it properly. That’s vastly different than knowing what I need to do, but being unable to execute it (whether it’s because I have bad reflexes or because the controls are questionable). Except for the dark levels--SCREW THOSE.

Mark of the Ninja

I missed Mark of the Ninja entirely when it came out. I didn’t first play it until my Extra Life marathon, when it was a game I was sponsored to play. It turns out that I love it!

Mark of the Ninja has a spectacular style. The graphics and audio are both top-notch, and fit each other beautifully. I really love the mechanic of guards hearing you being more important than them seeing you. That’s what a ninja game should be all about. The controls are also really tight and intuitive.

FTL: Faster Than Light

I’m proud to say that I backed FTL back when it was on Kickstarter. A roguelike in space? Sign me up!

(It’s the second roguelike on my list--I thought 2012 was the Year of the Bow, but perhaps it’s Year of the Roguelike?)

FTL is the ultimate “just one more playthrough” game. You might not want to play it when you’re alone, as you can easily find yourself losing entire evenings.

Borderlands 2

What’s not to love? Borderlands introduced us to the amazing, colorful world of Pandora. It was a co-op romp unlike anything I’d played before. Borderlands 2 brings more of what I loved in the original to the table, but ramps everything up to 11.

Better graphics. Better controls. Even more insane weapons. Possibly the best co-op experience of this generation (although that’s a lofty claim and really needs a list of its own).

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Many times developers have revisited favorite games from my childhood. Rarely is it successful. Any developer considering doing such a thing needs to play XCOM:EU over and over again. Not only is it a brilliant game, but it’s faithful to the 1994 original at the same time.

I think the highest praise that I can give XCOM:EU is to say that I expect I’ll still be playing it years from now, much like I do with Civilization to this day.

Dishonored

Dishonored was my favorite new IP of 2012. It snuck up on me, too. Until seeing it demo’ed at E3 2012 I really didn’t know anything about it. I walked away from that demo excited and curious, and they delivered.

In Dishonored the developers really delivered on the promise of giving the player choice in how to play the game. Want to finish the level without being seen? You can do that. Want to go in weapons and powers blazing? You can do that too. The powers you build during the game are interesting, and the story grabbed my attention.

Halo 4

I admit it--I’m a Halo fanboy. I’ve been playing the franchise since before the first game launched in 2001, and I practically had a second job playing Halo 2 multiplayer when I wasn’t doing my real job. I’ve played all the games, I’ve read all the novels. I was really excited to get back to the story of Master Chief and Halo 4 didn’t disappoint me.

The single-player campaign sets up some great themes for the new trilogy. While the Covenant are still around, there’s a new enemy who you’ll be very familiar with if you’ve read the Greg Bear Halo novels. If you haven’t read them and love good sci-fi--do it!

The multiplayer is--in my opinion--the finest Halo multiplayer yet. It’s an evolution of what’s come before, and is the most fun I’ve had playing Halo online in years.