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John Drake's Top 10 Games of 2012

His name is John! And he is funky!

John Drake is the Director of Communications and Brand Management at Harmonix Music Systems, makers of Rock Band and Dance Central. He is most often found flying on planes to and from demos or trying to coax Ryan Davis into a dance frenzy with his patented move, the “Dazzle Crotch”. He also hosts the Giant Bomb Homage-fest that is the Harmonix Live Stream every Monday.

10. Sound Shapes

I bought my Vita as an impulse purchase at a Best Buy, due to general techno-lust. While it hasn’t made any strides in replacing my suite of Apple devices for on-the-go gaming, Sound Shapes stands out as a varied, charming and uniquely musical platforming experience that made fighting with the PlayStation Store trying to add money to my wallet worth it. The game got more intriguing with every level (I particularly liked the Beck suite) and justified, for a short while, carrying my Vita and headphones around everywhere.

9. Spaceteam

Anything that gives me an excuse to get Alex Rigopulos, Eric Pope, and Nick Chester into a room together and just scream nonsense at them is worth all the money in the world. Oh, it’s free? WELL DOWNLOAD IT ONTO EVERYTHING THEN. Seriously though, Spaceteam is the best experience I’ve had with local iOS multiplayer…probably ever. Who is your ideal Spaceteam?

8. Dance Central 3

Is it bullshit to put a game you worked on onto an end of year list? Is it? Mikey Neumann was all "I’m too good for that, I’ll just mention it in my post script." Well fuck that--Dance Central 3 is the best game ever developed for Kinect, it involves time-traveling dance crime fighting secret agents, it has Gangnam Style now and it allows you to HIGH FIVE YOUR OPPONENT TO START--GAME OF THE YEAR. (Except 8 on my list cause I’m willing to be an asshole and put it on here, but not THAT much of an asshole.) Though I’m clearly a biased representative, if you have people in your life who are looking to dance, have fun and use a Kinect, get DC3 and Double Fine’s Kinect Party for the 1-2 punch of hilariousness. Seriously.

7. Fez

Just the weirdest, brain-bendingest game wrapped up in a smart and simple execution. It’s really the open-world game of platformers. And just when you think you’re done, you get sucked back in for a whole new bizarre adventure. Also, QR codes--equal parts genius and ridiculous.

6. Assassin’s Creed III

Though it suffers from the “all-story” meta-narrative that all AAA games this year were infected with, I really, really enjoyed running around historically nerdy scenes, trying to be stealth, failing, and just hatcheting my way out of them. I had a lot of issues with AC3, but I also had a TON of fun during parts of it. Many of this year’s biggest games left me feeling uninspired after a few hours, playing out of obligation and not out of desire. With Assassin’s Creed III, I felt compelled to push history along and watch these characters grind the revolutionary war out. Additionally, I’m excited for the DLC that’s coming out where I’mma get to murder George Washington, because that guy has it coming.

5. Trials Evolution

Trials is still Trials, which means constant restarting of levels and the sweatiest hands I get all year as I muscle through ever more complicated levels. The crew at Harmonix was often found crowded around a 4-player multiplayer match screaming at each other, which was a welcome addition. Lastly, though I didn’t have time to dig in myself, I was particularly wowed that the devs at RedLynx figured out how to compact their level editor down into a robust tool fans could use to torture everyone around the world.

4. New Super Mario Bros. U

Alright, so I bought a Wii U, I really need a game that makes me feel justified in that purchase, and ZombiU freaks me out a little too much to complete. Where is a gamer to turn? Ah, like any Nintendo product--straight to a first-party title. Thank god NSMBU came out at launch. Though it’s “just more Mario”, that’s a welcome respite between bouts of Funky Barn. The platforming is tight and familiar, the graphics look great, and the extra bells and whistles are quirky and interesting. Additionally, This Mario Bros meant that our house has begun using the term “Bubbling” in casual conversation – When shit is just too stressful, bubble yourself and float through the level. “You okay, man?” “Rough day dude, but it’s cool--I’m just bubbling through to tomorrow.”

3. The Walking Dead

Thank god (or Telltale) for characters we can care about, environments and an art style that feels natural for the end of the world, and gameplay that stays out of the way. Pretty much everything that can be said in praise of The Walking Dead has been said at this point, but I enjoyed watching fans stumble across it over the course of multiple months--playing through it episode by episode, marathoning it all at once, or putting it down and picking it back up again weeks later. Walking Dead became lodged in your brain when you weren’t playing it, and that’s a testament to the writing and design at its core. So good.

2. Frog Fractions

Probably the most UNIQUE experience I had this year with a game, Frog Fractions is a fever dream wrapped in a nightmare wrapped up in Number Crunchers. Leap-frogging (see what I did there?) between a rapid-fire set of game styles, it’s frenetic and messy and confusing and awesome. I stumbled across the link (because LOL it’s a flash game) at 1am in a hotel, intending to play for 4-5 minutes just to check it out. I ended up unable to put the game down. So great. So, so weird.

1. Mass Effect 3

I wasn’t won over quickly enough by the gameplay in ME1 or ME2 to fall in love with the franchise, so I was surprised when Mass Effect 3 completely sucked me in for a few weeks this year. It tightened up everything I was hesitant about previously, making the shooting/combat fun and the quests comprehensible. Evolved gameplay aside, Mass Effect 3 felt like a crafted celebration of how the world BioWare created has evolved across 3 amazing games. The story, characters and universe were all equally compelling and made me feel like my moment-to-moment actions in this world had real consequences. While that causality was somewhat undermined by the catch-all endings, I thought the 25-30 hours I put into the game were some of the most enjoyable I’ve had in this console generation.

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Posted by Staff

John Drake is the Director of Communications and Brand Management at Harmonix Music Systems, makers of Rock Band and Dance Central. He is most often found flying on planes to and from demos or trying to coax Ryan Davis into a dance frenzy with his patented move, the “Dazzle Crotch”. He also hosts the Giant Bomb Homage-fest that is the Harmonix Live Stream every Monday.

10. Sound Shapes

I bought my Vita as an impulse purchase at a Best Buy, due to general techno-lust. While it hasn’t made any strides in replacing my suite of Apple devices for on-the-go gaming, Sound Shapes stands out as a varied, charming and uniquely musical platforming experience that made fighting with the PlayStation Store trying to add money to my wallet worth it. The game got more intriguing with every level (I particularly liked the Beck suite) and justified, for a short while, carrying my Vita and headphones around everywhere.

9. Spaceteam

Anything that gives me an excuse to get Alex Rigopulos, Eric Pope, and Nick Chester into a room together and just scream nonsense at them is worth all the money in the world. Oh, it’s free? WELL DOWNLOAD IT ONTO EVERYTHING THEN. Seriously though, Spaceteam is the best experience I’ve had with local iOS multiplayer…probably ever. Who is your ideal Spaceteam?

8. Dance Central 3

Is it bullshit to put a game you worked on onto an end of year list? Is it? Mikey Neumann was all "I’m too good for that, I’ll just mention it in my post script." Well fuck that--Dance Central 3 is the best game ever developed for Kinect, it involves time-traveling dance crime fighting secret agents, it has Gangnam Style now and it allows you to HIGH FIVE YOUR OPPONENT TO START--GAME OF THE YEAR. (Except 8 on my list cause I’m willing to be an asshole and put it on here, but not THAT much of an asshole.) Though I’m clearly a biased representative, if you have people in your life who are looking to dance, have fun and use a Kinect, get DC3 and Double Fine’s Kinect Party for the 1-2 punch of hilariousness. Seriously.

7. Fez

Just the weirdest, brain-bendingest game wrapped up in a smart and simple execution. It’s really the open-world game of platformers. And just when you think you’re done, you get sucked back in for a whole new bizarre adventure. Also, QR codes--equal parts genius and ridiculous.

6. Assassin’s Creed III

Though it suffers from the “all-story” meta-narrative that all AAA games this year were infected with, I really, really enjoyed running around historically nerdy scenes, trying to be stealth, failing, and just hatcheting my way out of them. I had a lot of issues with AC3, but I also had a TON of fun during parts of it. Many of this year’s biggest games left me feeling uninspired after a few hours, playing out of obligation and not out of desire. With Assassin’s Creed III, I felt compelled to push history along and watch these characters grind the revolutionary war out. Additionally, I’m excited for the DLC that’s coming out where I’mma get to murder George Washington, because that guy has it coming.

5. Trials Evolution

Trials is still Trials, which means constant restarting of levels and the sweatiest hands I get all year as I muscle through ever more complicated levels. The crew at Harmonix was often found crowded around a 4-player multiplayer match screaming at each other, which was a welcome addition. Lastly, though I didn’t have time to dig in myself, I was particularly wowed that the devs at RedLynx figured out how to compact their level editor down into a robust tool fans could use to torture everyone around the world.

4. New Super Mario Bros. U

Alright, so I bought a Wii U, I really need a game that makes me feel justified in that purchase, and ZombiU freaks me out a little too much to complete. Where is a gamer to turn? Ah, like any Nintendo product--straight to a first-party title. Thank god NSMBU came out at launch. Though it’s “just more Mario”, that’s a welcome respite between bouts of Funky Barn. The platforming is tight and familiar, the graphics look great, and the extra bells and whistles are quirky and interesting. Additionally, This Mario Bros meant that our house has begun using the term “Bubbling” in casual conversation – When shit is just too stressful, bubble yourself and float through the level. “You okay, man?” “Rough day dude, but it’s cool--I’m just bubbling through to tomorrow.”

3. The Walking Dead

Thank god (or Telltale) for characters we can care about, environments and an art style that feels natural for the end of the world, and gameplay that stays out of the way. Pretty much everything that can be said in praise of The Walking Dead has been said at this point, but I enjoyed watching fans stumble across it over the course of multiple months--playing through it episode by episode, marathoning it all at once, or putting it down and picking it back up again weeks later. Walking Dead became lodged in your brain when you weren’t playing it, and that’s a testament to the writing and design at its core. So good.

2. Frog Fractions

Probably the most UNIQUE experience I had this year with a game, Frog Fractions is a fever dream wrapped in a nightmare wrapped up in Number Crunchers. Leap-frogging (see what I did there?) between a rapid-fire set of game styles, it’s frenetic and messy and confusing and awesome. I stumbled across the link (because LOL it’s a flash game) at 1am in a hotel, intending to play for 4-5 minutes just to check it out. I ended up unable to put the game down. So great. So, so weird.

1. Mass Effect 3

I wasn’t won over quickly enough by the gameplay in ME1 or ME2 to fall in love with the franchise, so I was surprised when Mass Effect 3 completely sucked me in for a few weeks this year. It tightened up everything I was hesitant about previously, making the shooting/combat fun and the quests comprehensible. Evolved gameplay aside, Mass Effect 3 felt like a crafted celebration of how the world BioWare created has evolved across 3 amazing games. The story, characters and universe were all equally compelling and made me feel like my moment-to-moment actions in this world had real consequences. While that causality was somewhat undermined by the catch-all endings, I thought the 25-30 hours I put into the game were some of the most enjoyable I’ve had in this console generation.

Posted by Anim8td_fan

Yay

Posted by Lucri

Yay list!

Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles

Strange list (relative to others) but still cool.

Posted by phrosnite

OMG! We found an adult! Good job, John Drake.

Posted by Alex

Dance Central. FOLLOW THE MONEY.

Staff
Posted by StillAThreat

Woah, is "leap-frogging" the first ever TRIPLE entendre?!?

Posted by CaLe

I'm actually surprised he finished so many games. What a trooper. Insomnia has its benefits, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Posted by AlexanderSheen

Gideo Vames!

Posted by chilibean_3

The Dance Central games are why I have a Kinect and they are still the only reason to own one. Double Fine and Twisted Pixel are doing fine work there as well but Dance Central makes my purchase worth it.

Posted by SirOptimusPrime

Okay, so that's a gif I'm saving.

Posted by ApolloBob

You bitches just got DRAKED.

Posted by Gilsham

fuck spaceteam, such a bad game

Posted by ZombiePie

@Alex said:

Dance Central. FOLLOW THE MONEY.

Giant Bomb is honoring a known sexual predator (in 55 states for that matter!) by allowing for this list be hosted on their site! As one of his victims how could you let this happen?

Moderator
Posted by dr_mantas

Yes. Drake. YES.

MASS EFFECT 3 NUMBER ONE!

Posted by Johntdrake

@Alex: YOU'RE LUCKY I NEVER MADE YOU DANCE....

Posted by ManlyBeast

predictable.

Posted by Beomoose

I nearly walked into Drake's face at PAX.

I said "hey, John Drake!"

He Nodded

I went to look for clean pants.

Posted by JacDG

I COMPLETELY agree with the fine Mr. John T Drake on ME3, yeah the ending was kinda a bummer but the entire experience leading up to it was the best time I've ever had with the Mass Effect series especially when you compare it to Mass Effect 2, which was no where close to 1 let alone 3, that's right, I SAID IT!

Posted by Milkman

Wheels down. Game of the year.

Posted by AlexanderSheen

@ZombiePie said:

@Alex said:

Dance Central. FOLLOW THE MONEY.

Giant Bomb is honoring a known sexual predator (in 55 states for that matter!) by allowing for this list be hosted on their site! As one of his victims how could you let this happen?

I could never look at Alex and John Drake the same way after this. Thanks ZombiePie.

Posted by YungLukeSkywalker

You fight hard style John Drake!

Posted by Beatus

Mass effect in full effect.

Edited by Crushed

I wasn’t won over quickly enough by the gameplay in ME1 or ME2 to fall in love with the franchise, so I was surprised when Mass Effect 3 completely sucked me in for a few weeks this year. It tightened up everything I was hesitant about previously, making the shooting/combat fun and the quests comprehensible.

Posted by csl316

Cool, yet another person backing my Mass Effect 3 pick.

Posted by Quarters

Embrace the Mass Effect!

Posted by Droop

Finished Frog Fractions. Kinda losing respect for anyone putting that on a top 10 list :(

Posted by Demoskinos

Okay, Drake's list is my favorite simply because he had the balls to put a game he worked on the list and not give any fucks what anyone thought.

Posted by PimblyCharles

Time to do the teapot dance

Posted by Drebin_893

@Demoskinos said:

Okay, Drake's list is my favorite simply because he had the balls to put a game he worked on the list and not give any fucks what anyone thought.

Posted by Trilogy

@Droop said:

Finished Frog Fractions. Kinda losing respect for anyone putting that on a top 10 list :(

Yea...I'm with you. I didn't finish it but I got far enough to see what was up and I don't know. It just seems like a stream of consciousness that is weird for the sake of being weird. To top it all off, some brainless shithead in the comments on the site actually tried to equate playing frog fractions with taking an IQ test. Yea...

Edited by Krakn3Dfx

Sorry, it's super douchebaggy to put your own game on your Top 10 list, regardless.

Plus, Dance Central 2 was better.

Plus, no Kinect game in the history of Kinect should be on any GotY list.

Plus...well, no, that's it.

If Mikey had put BL2 on his list, it would have still been a douchy thing to do.

But he wouldn't be wrong doing it.

Posted by AlisterCat

How can we trust you Drake? You're a known exhibitionist.

Posted by TheHT

@Drebin_893 said:

@Demoskinos said:

Okay, Drake's list is my favorite simply because he had the balls to put a game he worked on the list and not give any fucks what anyone thought.

@Krakn3Dfx said:

Sorry, it's super douchebaggy to put your own game on your Top 10 list, regardless.

Plus, Dance Central 2 was better.

Plus, no Kinect game in the history of Kinect should be on any GotY list.

Plus...well, no, that's it.

If Mikey had put BL2 on his list, it would have still been a douchy thing to do.

But he wouldn't be wrong doing it.

Rich Gallup did that too.

Posted by Flacracker

@Alex said:

Dance Central. FOLLOW THE MONEY.

You but Rock Band Blitz on your list. Follow the money.

Posted by mcmax3000

@Krakn3Dfx said:

Plus, no Kinect game in the history of Kinect should be on any GotY list.

Pffftttt... Gunstringer was on my top 10 list last year.

Also, go Mass Effect 3!

Posted by kerse

@Droop said:

Finished Frog Fractions. Kinda losing respect for anyone putting that on a top 10 list :(

Its like pretty good, but it doesn't belong on a best games of the year list imo.

Posted by HatKing

@kerse said:

@Droop said:

Finished Frog Fractions. Kinda losing respect for anyone putting that on a top 10 list :(

Its like pretty good, but it doesn't belong on a best games of the year list imo.

If the zietgeist happened, say, mid-February, we probably wouldn't be seeing it on any lists. But, I did fully enjoy that game. And I'm not ready to immediately dismiss anybody who puts it on a top ten list.

Posted by Bribo

"Best game ever developed for Kinect" is like saying "Least debilitating disease" or "Most incompetent mass-murderer" but I take no issue with Mr Drake's inclusion of DC3 on his list.

Posted by Johntdrake

@Krakn3Dfx: For me, and not just off the review guide, Dance Central 3 did some pretty badass things with a small team and a device that doesn't have a lot of other proof points for the core (other than the aforementioned Kinect Party, which is amazing). The design, story and treatment of DC3 delivered some cool moments that showed just how much the team cares about serving both a core and a casual/mass audience, which is something no other game on Kinect even came close to accomplishing.

I played through it all the way and really really liked it. This is my list of favorites, and DC3 is one of the best games I played this year. Wasn't shooting for "ZOMG 1-10 of the most AAA Hardcore experiencessssssss", because that's not what I'm looking for when I play a game.

Re: the kinect comment, I disagree. I could see someone saying the same thing about a Vita game or a fucking FLASH game in 2012...just feels like a myopic and limiting way to look at things. I think about a game in the context of competitive titles, its input mechanics and its platform. WiiU games should be looked at for their use of the GamePad, Kinect for the camera, etc.

As for putting a game I contributed to on this list, I'm not sure if your primary criticism is that I'm a douchebag, or actually that you don't think that game belongs so it's a bad choice/I'm someone with bad taste. Maybe it's both, oh well. Figured it was worth an explanation of my reasoning.

Hurray games!

Posted by Johntdrake

@HatKing said:

@kerse said:

@Droop said:

Finished Frog Fractions. Kinda losing respect for anyone putting that on a top 10 list :(

Its like pretty good, but it doesn't belong on a best games of the year list imo.

If the zietgeist happened, say, mid-February, we probably wouldn't be seeing it on any lists. But, I did fully enjoy that game. And I'm not ready to immediately dismiss anybody who puts it on a top ten list.

Maybe it's an issue of me being inside such a small group of game fans - this became one of those weird "water cooler" things we all were talking about independently. And I remember laughing consistently throughout the whole thing. *Shrugs.* Totally get why it's not for everyone (just like a Kinect Game, or a hardcore turn based tactical shooter thing like XCOM (which I played a bunch of and wanted to love and just couldn't feel amazed by.)

Doesn't mean I don't think XCOM isn't a well made game or isn't super fun for those who love it. Just wasn't what made me excited this year. But totally get where the critique comes from.

Posted by SecondPersonShooter

People who freak out over Frog Fractions being on lists take these lists way too seriously.

Posted by unordinarily

@Johntdrake: You're a cool guy, John T. Drake.

Posted by SSully

@SecondPersonShooter said:

People who freak out over Frog Fractions being on lists take these lists way too seriously.

Also, they obviously didn't get to the courtroom sequence of the game.

Posted by Spaceyoghurt

"Dance Central 3 is the best game ever developed for Kinect".

Hey Drake, Kinect? Really? It's just nonsense to point out something that ridiculous. Dance Central 3 is the best dance game ever developed. But I guess it's unfitting to be boasting like that as a developer, even though it's true.

Posted by DiGiTaL_SiN

The man that never sleeps.

Posted by dropabombonit

John Drake including his own game on the list, classy

Posted by Ronald

Man, Drake has a Muir level smile going on in that gif.

Edited by Droop

@Johntdrake said:

@HatKing said:

@kerse said:

@Droop said:

Finished Frog Fractions. Kinda losing respect for anyone putting that on a top 10 list :(

Its like pretty good, but it doesn't belong on a best games of the year list imo.

If the zietgeist happened, say, mid-February, we probably wouldn't be seeing it on any lists. But, I did fully enjoy that game. And I'm not ready to immediately dismiss anybody who puts it on a top ten list.

Maybe it's an issue of me being inside such a small group of game fans - this became one of those weird "water cooler" things we all were talking about independently. And I remember laughing consistently throughout the whole thing. *Shrugs.* Totally get why it's not for everyone (just like a Kinect Game, or a hardcore turn based tactical shooter thing like XCOM (which I played a bunch of and wanted to love and just couldn't feel amazed by.)

Doesn't mean I don't think XCOM isn't a well made game or isn't super fun for those who love it. Just wasn't what made me excited this year. But totally get where the critique comes from.

The "lose respect" part was more about provoking some responds. I still love the Drake! Nice to see some more clarification of your choice. And who am I to judge, it's your list.

Posted by MeatSim

Dazzle Crotch is the best dance move of 2012.

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