Giant Bomb News

136 Comments

Giant Bomb's 2012 Game of the Year Awards: Day One

In our first awards installment, we sing the praises of 2011's most unsung game before digging into the 2012 awards good and proper.

This is it, people. Now that we've all made it through the apocalypse, it's time to begin a glorious new era for the good of all mankind, an era in which we at Giant Bomb make grand, declarative statements about the best things that happened in video games over the 12 months prior.

Hmm. In that respect, maybe this era isn't much different from the dark age that preceded it. In any case, you can look forward to a new batch of our awards every day this week, and be sure to hear our deliberation podcast to get an aromatic whiff of our sausage-making process.

2012's 2011 Game of the Year

Super Mario 3D Land

There are games that define a system, and Super Mario 3D Land is exactly that for Nintendo's 3DS. Not only it is yet another spectacular platformer from the same creative minds responsible for Super Mario Galaxy, but it simultaneously made the case for 3D being more than just a visual gimmick that tires your eyes. The 3D in Super Mario 3D Land actually enhances the player's ability to assess the world around them, and provides useful information for the game's trickiest moments. You won't encounter the most dastardly of those sequences until the second half of the game, a curious design choice that might lead someone to write the game off too early. Everything before the second half is fun to play, but it lacks a certain edge.

The second half of Super Mario 3D Land has all the challenge you're looking for, especially for players pursuing the hidden golden coins. For the most committed, beating the whole game a second time with Luigi unlocks one of the most difficult Mario levels ever constructed, one where you'll resort to checking a FAQ to complete, and spend hours cursing the screen in glorious frustration. In a year where we collectively lost faith in the Mario franchise with back-to-back lackluster sequels in the "New" series, Super Mario 3D Land reminds you how relevant Mario can be, and that Nintendo's decision to soften the challenge in many of its games is a deliberate one. When it wants to punish you, it can. Super Mario 3D Land is proof. How about a little more of that, Nintendo? Please.

Runners-Up: TrackMania 2: Canyon, Pushmo

Best Moment/Sequence

Fez - Cracking the Code

Fez might be the world's greatest switcheroo. It's a bait-and-switch that actually pays off by taking one game that you already wanted to play and turning it into a different game that you simply can't stop playing. Or thinking about. Obsessing over Fez and its real meaning was the thing to do in April and May of this year. All of that obsession starts once you begin to realize that there's much more to Fez than simple platforming and puzzle-solving. It's there, just under the surface, and it's constantly trying to tell you something.

Figuring that "something" out is the best moment of 2012. Realizing that the game is communicating with you from the very beginning, and that all those various blocks and scribbles aren't just gibberish is part of it. But finally cracking that code and getting to the root of the game's language is a magical happening that's unlike anything else. It shifts your perspective on the entire game, inspiring you to go back through every little bit in every single room to hunt for more clues and secret messages. It went from a quaint little 2D game with inoffensive puzzles to something with huge depth. It suddenly felt vast. It's nuts. It turned the game into a huge mystery, with message boards full of people poking away at different parts of it in an attempt to figure out what the hell Fez is really all about. Honestly, we're still not sure if the mystery was ever completely solved, but the journey was certainly worth it.

Runners-Up: Journey - Side-View Sliding, Frog Fractions - Going Underwater

Best New Character

Vaas

Video game villains regularly come in one of two flavors: boringly flaccid or cartoonishly evil. While there's certainly an extremely evil quality to Far Cry 3's pirate ringleader Vaas Montenegro, the intensity of his character never quite gives way to the over-the-top near-parody that plagues the bad guys in so many other games. Vaas feels genuinely threatening every time you come face to face with him, and even though the guy displays plenty of unstable behavior, you're never quite sure exactly what else he's capable of or what he's going to do next. He's the sort of unhinged madman who makes you feel uncomfortable every time he's around you. You just want to get the hell away from him as fast as possible. That's a good villain.

In a medium full of people plagued by the uncanny valley, all of Far Cry 3's major players are rendered with a relatively impressive sense of character and believability, and the Ubisoft team deserves much of the credit for bringing them to life. But Vaas wouldn't be as chilling as he is without actor Michael Mando, whose likeness and captured performance are what really instill Vaas with such a chilling malice. If the eyes are the window to the soul, you can see clearly enough into Vaas to know that he doesn't have one. Even if his potential and incredibly strong introduction are ultimately squandered by his perfunctory dismissal from the story later on, Vaas is still one of the stronger arguments we've seen lately that characters in video games can match the dramatic standards set by the actors in television and film.

Runners-up: Lee Everett, Javik

Best Music

Hotline Miami

The one thing you can say for all of the nominees in this category is that in each case, the music was an integral part of the experience. Not just ambient noise, or catchy riffs, but music painstakingly crafted to evoke a very specific emotional response in the player. In the case of Hotline Miami, most often that feeling could best be described as a kind of psychotic, yet leisurely dread.

The developers at Dennaton built their game's aesthetic heavily around the dingy, neon-soaked horrors of Nicolas Winding-Refn's film Drive, and to compliment that aesthetic, they sought out a variety of indie electronic artists to craft an aural vibe well-suited to that kind of late-'80s griminess. As the beats and synths kick into gear, the on-screen action becomes more than just a quickly paced top-down shooter. It turns the act of playing Hotline Miami into something almost resembling an intoxicating fugue state, the likes of which you simply won't want to escape from.

But don't just take our word for it. Listen for yourself.

Runners-up: Fez, Journey

Best Classic Revival

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

It certainly didn't feel this way at the time, but the way 2K rolled out its revival of XCOM almost feels like some deep, insidious plan in hindsight. Like this:

  1. Announce that you're turning a beloved turn-based strategy game into a first-person shooter.
  2. Show off said shooter and receive a fairly negative reaction.
  3. Remove shooter from view for "retooling."
  4. Announce that you're working on a more faithful reboot of the original turn-based strategy game.
  5. Profit.

What if the whole first-person shooter thing was a ploy from the get-go? It's the video game equivalent of tuning your guitars to A432, man. Seriously, I read all about it in one of my newsletters. Ultimately, none of that matters. What does matter is that XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a kick-ass modernization of one of the greatest games of all-time. It treats the source material with an appropriate amount of respect without sacrificing modern playability in the process. That's something of a highwire act these days, and not only did Firaxis nail it, but the team there also figured out a way to make the whole thing run on consoles without controlling like a total embarrassment. Super-impressive.

Runners-Up: Syndicate, Double Dragon Neon

136 Comments
  • 136 results
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
Posted by Brad

This is it, people. Now that we've all made it through the apocalypse, it's time to begin a glorious new era for the good of all mankind, an era in which we at Giant Bomb make grand, declarative statements about the best things that happened in video games over the 12 months prior.

Hmm. In that respect, maybe this era isn't much different from the dark age that preceded it. In any case, you can look forward to a new batch of our awards every day this week, and be sure to hear our deliberation podcast to get an aromatic whiff of our sausage-making process.

2012's 2011 Game of the Year

Super Mario 3D Land

There are games that define a system, and Super Mario 3D Land is exactly that for Nintendo's 3DS. Not only it is yet another spectacular platformer from the same creative minds responsible for Super Mario Galaxy, but it simultaneously made the case for 3D being more than just a visual gimmick that tires your eyes. The 3D in Super Mario 3D Land actually enhances the player's ability to assess the world around them, and provides useful information for the game's trickiest moments. You won't encounter the most dastardly of those sequences until the second half of the game, a curious design choice that might lead someone to write the game off too early. Everything before the second half is fun to play, but it lacks a certain edge.

The second half of Super Mario 3D Land has all the challenge you're looking for, especially for players pursuing the hidden golden coins. For the most committed, beating the whole game a second time with Luigi unlocks one of the most difficult Mario levels ever constructed, one where you'll resort to checking a FAQ to complete, and spend hours cursing the screen in glorious frustration. In a year where we collectively lost faith in the Mario franchise with back-to-back lackluster sequels in the "New" series, Super Mario 3D Land reminds you how relevant Mario can be, and that Nintendo's decision to soften the challenge in many of its games is a deliberate one. When it wants to punish you, it can. Super Mario 3D Land is proof. How about a little more of that, Nintendo? Please.

Runners-Up: TrackMania 2: Canyon, Pushmo

Best Moment/Sequence

Fez - Cracking the Code

Fez might be the world's greatest switcheroo. It's a bait-and-switch that actually pays off by taking one game that you already wanted to play and turning it into a different game that you simply can't stop playing. Or thinking about. Obsessing over Fez and its real meaning was the thing to do in April and May of this year. All of that obsession starts once you begin to realize that there's much more to Fez than simple platforming and puzzle-solving. It's there, just under the surface, and it's constantly trying to tell you something.

Figuring that "something" out is the best moment of 2012. Realizing that the game is communicating with you from the very beginning, and that all those various blocks and scribbles aren't just gibberish is part of it. But finally cracking that code and getting to the root of the game's language is a magical happening that's unlike anything else. It shifts your perspective on the entire game, inspiring you to go back through every little bit in every single room to hunt for more clues and secret messages. It went from a quaint little 2D game with inoffensive puzzles to something with huge depth. It suddenly felt vast. It's nuts. It turned the game into a huge mystery, with message boards full of people poking away at different parts of it in an attempt to figure out what the hell Fez is really all about. Honestly, we're still not sure if the mystery was ever completely solved, but the journey was certainly worth it.

Runners-Up: Journey - Side-View Sliding, Frog Fractions - Going Underwater

Best New Character

Vaas

Video game villains regularly come in one of two flavors: boringly flaccid or cartoonishly evil. While there's certainly an extremely evil quality to Far Cry 3's pirate ringleader Vaas Montenegro, the intensity of his character never quite gives way to the over-the-top near-parody that plagues the bad guys in so many other games. Vaas feels genuinely threatening every time you come face to face with him, and even though the guy displays plenty of unstable behavior, you're never quite sure exactly what else he's capable of or what he's going to do next. He's the sort of unhinged madman who makes you feel uncomfortable every time he's around you. You just want to get the hell away from him as fast as possible. That's a good villain.

In a medium full of people plagued by the uncanny valley, all of Far Cry 3's major players are rendered with a relatively impressive sense of character and believability, and the Ubisoft team deserves much of the credit for bringing them to life. But Vaas wouldn't be as chilling as he is without actor Michael Mando, whose likeness and captured performance are what really instill Vaas with such a chilling malice. If the eyes are the window to the soul, you can see clearly enough into Vaas to know that he doesn't have one. Even if his potential and incredibly strong introduction are ultimately squandered by his perfunctory dismissal from the story later on, Vaas is still one of the stronger arguments we've seen lately that characters in video games can match the dramatic standards set by the actors in television and film.

Runners-up: Lee Everett, Javik

Best Music

Hotline Miami

The one thing you can say for all of the nominees in this category is that in each case, the music was an integral part of the experience. Not just ambient noise, or catchy riffs, but music painstakingly crafted to evoke a very specific emotional response in the player. In the case of Hotline Miami, most often that feeling could best be described as a kind of psychotic, yet leisurely dread.

The developers at Dennaton built their game's aesthetic heavily around the dingy, neon-soaked horrors of Nicolas Winding-Refn's film Drive, and to compliment that aesthetic, they sought out a variety of indie electronic artists to craft an aural vibe well-suited to that kind of late-'80s griminess. As the beats and synths kick into gear, the on-screen action becomes more than just a quickly paced top-down shooter. It turns the act of playing Hotline Miami into something almost resembling an intoxicating fugue state, the likes of which you simply won't want to escape from.

But don't just take our word for it. Listen for yourself.

Runners-up: Fez, Journey

Best Classic Revival

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

It certainly didn't feel this way at the time, but the way 2K rolled out its revival of XCOM almost feels like some deep, insidious plan in hindsight. Like this:

  1. Announce that you're turning a beloved turn-based strategy game into a first-person shooter.
  2. Show off said shooter and receive a fairly negative reaction.
  3. Remove shooter from view for "retooling."
  4. Announce that you're working on a more faithful reboot of the original turn-based strategy game.
  5. Profit.

What if the whole first-person shooter thing was a ploy from the get-go? It's the video game equivalent of tuning your guitars to A432, man. Seriously, I read all about it in one of my newsletters. Ultimately, none of that matters. What does matter is that XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a kick-ass modernization of one of the greatest games of all-time. It treats the source material with an appropriate amount of respect without sacrificing modern playability in the process. That's something of a highwire act these days, and not only did Firaxis nail it, but the team there also figured out a way to make the whole thing run on consoles without controlling like a total embarrassment. Super-impressive.

Runners-Up: Syndicate, Double Dragon Neon

Posted by DevourerOfTime

YESS

Posted by pepperjack

ho ho ho

Posted by flasaltine

YAY

Posted by Baillie

GOTY YEAHHH

Posted by Jster57

yay

Posted by Brian333

Hi.

Posted by Jumbs

Hell yeah!

Posted by therealminime

Nice first day.

Posted by Cloneslayer

And so it Begins!

Posted by pbhawks45

WHERE'S THE BOMBCAST

Posted by JoeyRavn

Let the GOTYcast deliberations begin! :D

Posted by Sooty

Vaas over Lee?

Well okay I guess.

Posted by CountYourBlessings

where is the bombcast duders

Posted by probablytuna

XCOM had fantastic music, also Max Payne 3! You're wrong Giant Bomb!

Posted by TheHT

great choice of winners. i would've put walking through the zombie horde with glass and knife in the walking dead, but that scene totally glitched up for me the first time.

Online
Edited by EuanDewar

OH FUCK YEAH HOTLINE MIAMI THE BEST VIDEOGAME SOUNDTRACK EVER

also lol hailinel is gonna be pissed that you recognized fez

Posted by flasaltine

Journey has so much better music cause, you know, it's actually real.

Posted by rachelepithet

Podcast link?

Posted by Saadnation

I'm really happy to see that Frog Fractions made an appearance as a runner up for the best moment category. Hey everyone! Go play Frog Fractions and don't stop until you see the credits! It's a free flash game. You can thank me later

Posted by LarcenousLaugh

This is fucking amazing. Hahahahahahahaha!

Posted by familyphotoshoot

Ryan's internet is fucked, so he's driving over to Jeff's house to upload the podcast. Should be up by the end of the hour.

Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles

@therealminime said:

Nice first day.
Posted by CptBedlam

And so it begins....

Merry Christmas, ya'll!

Posted by okoctothorpe

This is so stupid. Sooooooooo deliciously stupid! Didn't think GB could one-up their GOTY from last year, but they did it!

Posted by bloodsoul5

this is a nice list except for mario.

Posted by bkbroiler

The eternal question of which to get into first, podcast or article? Podcast for the drama of not knowing what wins, article for immediate gratification. Article went up first, so that wins.

Posted by Dallas_Raines

I wish I 'got' Fez, but I find it to be intensely boring and tedious anytime I try playing it. Other than that, good choices.(Though, I'd put Lee above Vaas.)

Posted by TurboMan

What the hell is Frog Fractions?

Edited by Sammo21

lol

wow...really...Brad put Mass Effect 3 at the top of his list? Really? Never would have guessed that.

Posted by Mowgers

No borderlands 2 nom for best music? Laaaaaaaaaaaame.

Posted by drag

@TurboMan: a game you should play

Posted by Archer88

Gotta say I'm surprised that Handsome Jack isn't on the list for Best New Character, or Tiny Tina for that matter (not that I liked her, but she is popular. Ellie FTW!!!)

Posted by L1GHTN1N

Three minutes into the video: Already incredible. Haven't laughed this hard in a while.

Posted by mrfluke
Posted by Lukeweizer

Super Marion 3D Land makes me want to buy a 3DS.

Posted by Turambar

@Archer88 said:

Gotta say I'm surprised that Handsome Jack isn't on the list for Best New Character, or Tiny Tina for that matter (not that I liked her, but she is popular. Ellie FTW!!!)

I believe Jeff said "Tiny Tina is the worst character ever".

Online
Posted by Ghostiet

Frog Fractions? What?

Also, no love for the Max Payne 3 OST makes me so sad.

Posted by ocdog45

Kinda salty about Super Mrio Land 3D. Should of been Skyrim. I'm still waiting for FEZ to go PC, instant buy!

Posted by vietthreat

THIS IS AMAZING

Posted by Rhaknar

@ocdog45 said:

Kinda salty about Super Mrio Land 3D. Should of been Skyrim. I'm still waiting for FEZ to go PC, instant buy!

2012's 2011 GOTY should be the same as the 2011 GOTY? have you completely missed the point of the award?

Online
Posted by Tesla

Lee is the best character of the year.

Posted by Fistfulofmetal

Disappointed Dark Souls got no mention. Prepare to Die Edition makes Dark Souls the game is should have been.

Posted by kerse

Not sure how I feel about Hotline Miami for best music of the year, its good, but not the best imo. The runners up wouldn't be my choices either. Oh well not really a big deal.

Posted by Trnck

Oh fuck yessssssssssssssss

I love the video sooooo much

Posted by Turambar

How was Asura's Wrath not at least a runner up for Best Moment? How the hell. THAT LAST FIGHT HOLY SHIT.

Online
Edited by joe1138

Finally finished up Super Mario 3D Land's final *final* level this weekend and I completely agree with it's spot as 2012's 2011 game of the year, easily one of the most satisfying handheld gaming experiences I've ever had.

All the praise Far Cry 3 and its villain Vaas has received is really giving me cause to give the game a shot.

Posted by TimeStreamer

Second paragraph of Super Mario 3D Land -- "When it want to punish you, it can. " -- should be wants.

Posted by C0V3RT

This is probably art. Love it. You guys outdid yourselves.

Posted by Kiri90

Awesome! It's the most wonderful time of the year...

  • 136 results
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3