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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.

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.

37 Comments
Posted by Staff

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.

Edited by chocolaterhinovampire

nice list

awesome...finally got this quest. Trials Evo is dope

Edited by NuclearMusic

Hello 4

I agree with his assessment of Halo 4's multiplayer as well.

Posted by mike28212

great list. I have been thinking about giving The Darkness II a try. I kind of forgot about soon after it was released.

Posted by MormonWarrior

I got the Darkness II for free so...I've gotta check it out at some point.

Posted by zombie2011

Halo 4 has the best MP of all the Halo games, it's a shame the GB guys didn't enjoy it as much.

Posted by jasondesante

who would have thought Journey would be left out of this guys list. Fez was on Xbox live, and not on this guys list either. Kinda lame. Actually super lame!

Posted by xMEGADETHxSLY

Halo 4 MP is soo good. A tad bit faster than any Halo.

Posted by 617_jbug

Solid list.

Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles

@617_jbug said:

Solid list.

Posted by ptc

Spelunky gets some love. Well deserved! Such a great, frustrating, anger inducing, great great game!

Posted by Brackynews
"You're a damn good looking man."

Hey e! Good list, and good to see you 'round these parts again.

Posted by dfoz3

@jasondesante: I doubt he would list a PS3 only game since he works for MS but even then Journey isn't everyone's cup of tea.

I am an old school gamer and after hearing all of the ravings about how moving it was I picked it up. I played all the way through the first section of the game waiting for the magic, the hook. It wasn't there for me.

Posted by FourWude

Biased.

Posted by Milkman

Nice to see someone giving some love to The Darkness II.

Posted by eXists

Good list, Dishonored, Walking Dead, Mark of the Ninja are all top notch!

Btw, thanks to the podcast I've also gotten some great tips from "e", from Amazon Prime a few yrs back (best.thing.ever) and FitBit; love the gadgets portion of the show!

Posted by Beatus

Halo's multiplayer is fantastic. Well deserved selection.

Posted by csl316

Alright, this is a quality list.

Posted by Falconer

Sorry, but Halo 2 was by and far the best Halo multiplayer. It's my Quake/Unreal/Counter Strike/TF2/etc. There haven't been so many amazing, memorable maps since H2.

The only really good H3 maps were High Ground and Valhalla, bother spiritual successors to Zanzibar and Blood Gulch respectively. Then maybe Sandtrap and Standoff being good, but not great.

Anything good out of Reach was either from campaign or a remake. (Though I will say Reach is my second favorite multiplayer after H2.)

Aside from Ragnarok, the only decent maps in Halo 4 are Haven and Longbow. Everything else is meh, or bad.

Posted by mcmax3000

@dfoz3 said:

I doubt he would list a PS3 only game since he works for MS but even then Journey isn't everyone's cup of tea.

They occasionally talk about PS3 games on Major Nelson's podcast when they're playing one to talk about (I think one of the hosts of that show listed one of the Uncharted games in their GOTY list one year on the show), so it's not some taboo subject, but obviously his main platform is going to be 360.

Posted by George_Hukas

Wow these Top 10's are a real "Who Give's a Fuck What This Guy Thinks"

Posted by PimblyCharles

So great to finally see Darkness II on a GOTY list! While not my favorite of the year, I thought it was a damn good game

Posted by SatelliteOfLove

and his Gamertag--e--was the first one created.

Huh, interesting.

Posted by Uberjannie

Nice list. I wonder why there is no PS3 exclusives there :]

Posted by Zereta

@George_Hukas said:

Wow these Top 10's are a real "Who Give's a Fuck What This Guy Thinks"

I do, and I'm sure a lot of people do. Some of these guys are people who have become part of the site's family of personalities and others, like 'e' here, are legitimately important people in the industry.

Posted by Arrested_Developer

I gotta stop reading these lists. Every time I read a list that has FTL on it I end up logging onto steam and playing hours upon hours more of FTL. BRB, I got some Mantis crew that need to tear up some zoltan pirates.

Posted by Jack_Lafayette

@George_Hukas said:

Wow these Top 10's are a real "Who Give's a Fuck What This Guy Thinks"

Please, take a brief moment to re-examine your statement in the context of it's own irrelevance.

Posted by DedBeet

@Branthog said:

@George_Hukas said:

Wow these Top 10's are a real "Who Give's a Fuck What This Guy Thinks"

I'm actually a big fan of this. It's just for a week every year and it's nice to see people from the various points of gaming comment on their best of the year. I think it's also nice that all these people are willing to share their lists with the GiantBomb community. The only thing that will tick me off is if they don't get a list from John Vignocchi.

Also, I'll take stuff like this over "let's re-print the same trivial story everyone else is running with this hour", like most sites and a slew of "here's another trailer you've seen everywhere else". Plus, it's the holidays. They gotta fill this game-release-chasm with something, right? :)

I agree. I find these lists interesting and I love to see who they can wrangle up to provide lists each year.

Posted by dropabombonit

No Sony games on the list, true MS employee

Edited by MeatSim

He list should have games that start with the letter e from 2012.

Posted by ChrisTaran

@Dark_Lord_Spam said:

@George_Hukas said:

Wow these Top 10's are a real "Who Give's a Fuck What This Guy Thinks"

Please, take a brief moment to re-examine your statement in the context of it's own irrelevance.

Posted by Danda

This is the first list that seems manufactured by a PR guy.

Posted by Roger778

@Milkman:

I loved the first Darkness game, and I can't wait to play the sequel.

It's definitely great to see this game get some attention.

Posted by gosukiller

I'm surprised at alot of The Darkness 2 love from several people. I loved the original but 2 just doesn't feel right to me, and I don't know why!

Posted by Sammo21

@NuclearMusic:

I wish I could agree, but I think this installation of Halo may be the worst and most creatively bankrupt of the series.