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Posted by Ryan

Dean Dodrill is an independent game developer whose credits include Jazz Jackrabbit, Jazz Jackrabbit 2: The Secret Files, and the 2012 Xbox Live Arcade release Dust: An Elysian Tail.

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.

8. Torchlight II

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.

7. Journey

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.

6. Resident Evil: Revelations

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.

5. Spelunky

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.

4. Aliens: Infestation

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.

3. 10,000,000

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.

2. FTL: Faster Than Light

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.

1. Double Fine Happy Action Theater

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.

Staff
Posted by XSisko

Nice!

Posted by RetroVirus

Sweet list, dude! Excellent job on your own game as well!

Edited by Ghostiet
To be fair, I'm not too far into FC3, and while it's less interesting than its prequel, mechanically

PREDECESSOR, for fuck's sake! PREQUEL is a SEQUEL that takes place before the events of its PREDECESSOR, which, in turn, is the PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT IN A FRANCHISE.

Goddammit. I'm sorry for going all Grammar Nazi here, but it's a mistake that for some reason makes me furious.

Posted by Phatmac

Didn't Aliens come out last year?

Edited by tescovee

Awesome, I just finished S ranking dust last night. Game is easily one of the best games this year, great to see him make a top 10 list for GB.

With that said, here are my top 10 favorite games of 2012 (excluding my own, because I’m not that big of an ass).

Fuck that, If I had made Dust there would be no way I would not put it on the list :P

Posted by DevourerOfTime

Not to sound like a dick, but Aliens: Infestation came out last year. Oops.

But yeah, it's a fantastic game. Not surprised you would put it on there.

Interesting list! Surprised you gave DFHAT so much props.

Posted by Phatmac
@Ghostiet
To be fair, I'm not too far into FC3, and while it's less interesting than its prequel, mechanically

PREDECESSOR, for fuck's sake! PREQUEL is a SEQUEL that takes place before the events of its PREDECESSOR, which, in turn, is the PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT IN A FRANCHISE.

Goddammit. I'm sorry for going all Grammar Nazi here, but it's a mistake that for some reason makes me furious.

He made Dust so shut your pie hole.
Posted by OneAndOnlyBigE

A refreshingly different list.

Posted by mancopter

Very cool! And congrats on Dust! That game is easily in my top 5 this year. Wonderful title.

Posted by JeanLuc

I love the variety of people Ryan got to do top 10 lists. Its always interesting to see what developers have been playing. I'm also a huge fan of Dust.

Posted by slimepuppy

Great choice and justification for the number 1 pick. It's easy to forget why we started playing games and why we continue to play them. As someone who enjoys the more self-important and pretentious side of gaming, it's always a good reminder that games can and should be silly and fun too.

Posted by Ghostiet

@Phatmac said:

@Ghostiet
To be fair, I'm not too far into FC3, and while it's less interesting than its prequel, mechanically

PREDECESSOR, for fuck's sake! PREQUEL is a SEQUEL that takes place before the events of its PREDECESSOR, which, in turn, is the PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT IN A FRANCHISE.

Goddammit. I'm sorry for going all Grammar Nazi here, but it's a mistake that for some reason makes me furious.

He made Dust so shut your pie hole.

Right, I hope he makes a great predecessor to that game.

Posted by PolygonSlayer

@Ghostiet said:

To be fair, I'm not too far into FC3, and while it's less interesting than its prequel, mechanically

PREDECESSOR, for fuck's sake! PREQUEL is a SEQUEL that takes place before the events of its PREDECESSOR, which, in turn, is the PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT IN A FRANCHISE.

Goddammit. I'm sorry for going all Grammar Nazi here, but it's a mistake that for some reason makes me furious.

I feel the same when people overuse the word "remake". Example, Persona 4 Golden is not a remake, it's a port with added content. Tomb Raider Anniversary Edition is a remake, made from scratch with all new assets/areas etc.

The use of the word "prequel" can get to me as well on a bad day :P

Posted by golguin

I still need to play Dust.

Posted by notdrew

Fine list. I'm playing through Dust right now; still hard to believe it was mostly made by one dude.

Posted by Pop

Bring dust to PC! Great list by the way!

Posted by JoeyRavn

@Ghostiet said:

To be fair, I'm not too far into FC3, and while it's less interesting than its prequel, mechanically

PREDECESSOR, for fuck's sake! PREQUEL is a SEQUEL that takes place before the events of its PREDECESSOR, which, in turn, is the PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT IN A FRANCHISE.

Goddammit. I'm sorry for going all Grammar Nazi here, but it's a mistake that for some reason makes me furious.

Thank you for saying this. When I read the list, I noticed it immediately and wanted to correct it, but I didn't want to sound like a dick :)

And, also, yes: Bring Dust to PC.

Posted by ThievingJacob

My favourite top 10 so far, I appreciate the RE: Revelaitons appreciation. I will probably try your game at some point. The furry handwaving stuff the GB crew was annoying. I'm sure the game doesn't have any deviant content, but as far as I can tell you self-identify as a furry, so it should be out and proud.

Posted by SSully

@Ghostiet said:

@Phatmac said:

@Ghostiet
To be fair, I'm not too far into FC3, and while it's less interesting than its prequel, mechanically

PREDECESSOR, for fuck's sake! PREQUEL is a SEQUEL that takes place before the events of its PREDECESSOR, which, in turn, is the PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT IN A FRANCHISE.

Goddammit. I'm sorry for going all Grammar Nazi here, but it's a mistake that for some reason makes me furious.

He made Dust so shut your pie hole.

Right, I hope he makes a great predecessor to that game.

I am waiting for the sequel that takes place before the events of the fist game.

Posted by csl316

Cool list. I'll support anything Dean does from here on out, even if it's just a top ten article.

Posted by cooljammer00

@Ghostiet said:

To be fair, I'm not too far into FC3, and while it's less interesting than its prequel, mechanically

PREDECESSOR, for fuck's sake! PREQUEL is a SEQUEL that takes place before the events of its PREDECESSOR, which, in turn, is the PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT IN A FRANCHISE.

Goddammit. I'm sorry for going all Grammar Nazi here, but it's a mistake that for some reason makes me furious.

You don't know that Jack Carver didn't get stranded on that island before Jason Brody got stranded on this one.

Posted by spankingaddict

This man created the true best video game this year . Thank you sir !

Posted by beard_of_zeus

Probably my favorite list so far. It's pretty darn varied, and your thoughts about Happy Action Theater warm my heart on this Christmas morning. Sometimes we forget what games are all really about.

Glad to see someone else who really enjoyed Spelunky as well. There's a reason I have that game pinned to my home screen on the 360.

I had to double-check the wiki, but as people mentioned, apparently Aliens was a 2011 jam. Could have sworn it came out in February, though. Doesn't matter, an awesome game, still. As you said, the permadeath on your soldiers really did a great job of capturing the feel of the movies.

Excellent job on your own game, too, Dean. Was number 5 on my top 10 this year.

Posted by RoyCampbell

Love this list. It's refreshing and atypical of many lists I've seen so far.

Posted by Pixeldemon

I bought Dust on the XBL sale, looking forward to playing it.

Edited by stise

@Ghostiet said:

@Phatmac said:

@Ghostiet
To be fair, I'm not too far into FC3, and while it's less interesting than its prequel, mechanically

PREDECESSOR, for fuck's sake! PREQUEL is a SEQUEL that takes place before the events of its PREDECESSOR, which, in turn, is the PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT IN A FRANCHISE.

Goddammit. I'm sorry for going all Grammar Nazi here, but it's a mistake that for some reason makes me furious.

He made Dust so shut your pie hole.

Right, I hope he makes a great predecessor to that game.

Um, you can't make a predecessor to a game that's already out. I for one hope Dust ends up being the prequel to an excellent sequel.

I get what you're going for here, I just think it's extremely silly. Replacing 'prequel' with 'predecessor' interferes with comprehension, the inverse "error" does not. 'Prequel' has a nebulous semantic identity anyway. It was coined relatively recently by entertainment magazines as a silly-sounding portmanteau. You may as well get up in arms about the proper usage of 'frenemy' or 'bromance' ("Just because Mario and Bowser sometimes play tennis together does NOT make them frenemies!!"). If Z proceeds Y in a sequence of releases, and is therefore a sequel, doesn't it follow that if X precedes Y in a sequence of releases, X is a prequel? No, not "officially". But the word doesn't have much claim to officiality anyway. Intuitively, given the way the word is constructed, it makes sense. Which is why everyone still understands the meaning of sentences that make that "mistake".

I mean, technically you're being a Diction Nazi and not a Grammar Nazi, but I understood what you meant so whatever.

Posted by Lukeweizer

Just wanted to let you know that I LOVED Dust.

Online
Posted by Turambar

@Ghostiet said:

To be fair, I'm not too far into FC3, and while it's less interesting than its prequel, mechanically

PREDECESSOR, for fuck's sake! PREQUEL is a SEQUEL that takes place before the events of its PREDECESSOR, which, in turn, is the PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT IN A FRANCHISE.

Goddammit. I'm sorry for going all Grammar Nazi here, but it's a mistake that for some reason makes me furious.

Not to be a vocabulary Nazi, but grammar does not mean what you seem to think it means.

Posted by Terjay

So uh... How exactly is 10mil a roguelike?

Posted by hollitz

Good to see 10000000 get some love. One of the very few iOS games I've really enjoyed. Bought Dust a few days ago. Looking forward to digging into it.

Posted by ThievingJacob

@stise:You can use prequel in whatever annoying way you want to use it. Prequel refers to a subsequent work based chronologically before the original work. Dust would not be the prequel to what Dust's Sequel is.

Prequels are an annoying marketing entity and to further integrate it into language would give it a legitimacy that it does not deserve. Reboot is probably the worst in terms of annoying usages. AAA games too.

Edited by Bummey

@Terjay said:

So uh... How exactly is 10mil a roguelike?

It's a roguelike to people who don't actually play roguelikes. Just like how Demon's/Dark Souls are roguelikes and Spelunky and La Mulana and... other games that have been mislabeled as such. I'm one of "those guys" that still plays Nethack every day, but I've long since gotten over the seething nerd hatred that threatens to bubble up whenever someone misuses a word like that.

All y'all need to chill out about these video game words. It's all good.

Posted by GunstarRed

Someone else that liked Revelations as much as me. Love this list, Infestation is awesome (It totally came out last year though)

Posted by Noogy

@GunstarRed: Yep, you're completely right, Infestation did come out in 2011 (total brain fail on my part). Oh well, at least I could give it props somehow!

Posted by Brackynews

Thanks Dean. I will give Puzzle Craft a try since Puzzle Quest 1 is among my favourite matching games along with ten-milly.

Also while your kudos for Dust is well deserved, I will add a special thanks for making the demo of Dust something special too. So many other games simply put a "paywall" after the first chapter break, and that just wasn't suitable for Dust. It makes me want to clap other XBLA developers sharply on the cheeks and paraphrase David Jaffe's team-motivating argument: "This guy fuckin' did it, I dunno why we can't..." ;)

Posted by dr_mantas

Interesting list. Also bring Dust to the PC, pretty please.

Posted by MattyFTM

Really glad to see Happy Action Theatre top someone's list. Can't fault his reasoning, either.

Moderator
Edited by xMEGADETHxSLY

Dust An elysian tail WAS SOOOOOO GOOD, enjoyed it better than Halo 4. and i'm a HUGE HALO Junkie

Posted by Noogy

@Brackynews: Thanks :) The demo was an interesting challenge. Since the full game starts slowly, it was recommended that I let the player sample the action at a more rapid pace. Also, there's a rule that you aren't allowed to save your progress in the trial experience, which sort of dictated some changes I had to make.

I can't tell you if it's a successful demo, but it was an interesting learning experience.

And yeah, Puzzle Craft is great (in small spurts). I just wish they had commissioned like... one more piece of music or something!

Posted by Ghostiet

@Turambar said:

@Ghostiet said:

To be fair, I'm not too far into FC3, and while it's less interesting than its prequel, mechanically

PREDECESSOR, for fuck's sake! PREQUEL is a SEQUEL that takes place before the events of its PREDECESSOR, which, in turn, is the PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT IN A FRANCHISE.

Goddammit. I'm sorry for going all Grammar Nazi here, but it's a mistake that for some reason makes me furious.

Not to be a vocabulary Nazi, but grammar does not mean what you seem to think it means.

I've always interpreted the term "Grammar Nazi" to generally mean someone who bitches about proper use of English, but after checking the net for a bit it turns out I was mistaken, so my bad.

@stise: I agree it's a silly thing, it just riles me up for some reason. Probably it's the fact that I just don't like when words suddenly lose its original meaning due to misuse, which happened a lot in the Polish language. Also, admittedly the "mistake" in this context is innocent, but I can see how this can potentially create confusion if talking, let's say, about the Star Wars prequels (hypothetically).

English is my second language, so I'm not jumping on some high horse or anything. It's just that this particular thing makes me roll my eyes a bit too hard.

Posted by MeatSim

This is a pretty well rounded list I would say.

Posted by CatsAkimbo

@Terjay said:

So uh... How exactly is 10mil a roguelike?

You do dungeon runs until you die, over and over? I dunno, it's a stretch to even call it a rogue-like-like.

Edited by Draxyle

Pretty interesting list! Happy Action Theatre is a surprise, but that's definitely a good reason to have it there.

Now get Dust on Steam, I'd love to play it.

Posted by Hunter5024

That's a really cool number one. The first part of the description reminds me of how I felt about Dust in a way.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

I just want to take this opportunity to say how great Dust is. 

Moderator
Posted by FesteringNeon

This guy seems like a pretty good shit.

Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

@Ghostiet said:

To be fair, I'm not too far into FC3, and while it's less interesting than its prequel, mechanically

PREDECESSOR, for fuck's sake! PREQUEL is a SEQUEL that takes place before the events of its PREDECESSOR, which, in turn, is the PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT IN A FRANCHISE.

Goddammit. I'm sorry for going all Grammar Nazi here, but it's a mistake that for some reason makes me furious.

Posted by ZagZagovich

But Aliens: Infestation came out last year...

Posted by Tesla

I love this list. Totally different than mine, but I love it. Especially the reasoning behind DFHAT being number 1.

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