2012 was a strange year for me, kind of dull in terms of games actually released this year...compared to 2010 & 2011 anyways. I got way into retro games, and I will definitely have to give them some props on their own list. Despite all that, some of the very best games of the generation came out in my opinion, making 2012 worthwhile. On to the top 10 (here's the GB list version also).
10. Street Fighter X Tekken (Xbox 360)
SFxTK gets a bad rep because of the excessive timeouts, jab pressure, dysfunctional launch online, and the DLC/Gem apocalypse Cashcom situation. Unfortunate, as this game is actually really good. It brings you back to the CvS2 days when fundamentals were required, and it introduces a great combo system that feels like the perfect blend of Street Fighter and Tekken. The ground bounces are just a ton of fun, as are the unlikely character combinations previously unseen in the fighting world. Here's hoping the patch brings people back.
09. Mark of the Ninja (XBLA)
I love stealth games, but even I can admit that there are some mechanics that need some working. Luckily, Mark of the Ninja addresses all of these. The controls and contextual maneuvers in this game are so fluid, so streamlined--very few games actually play this good. The game is constantly reminding you how badass you are, being a ninja and all. My recent interest in speed-running made me respect this game more, as this is a game where your performance is limited by your own skill, and there aren't sloppy mechanics mucking it up like in most games.
08. Need for Speed: Most Wanted (Xbox 360/PC)
I love Burnout Paradise. It's one of my favorite games this generation of consoles...maybe ever. And Most Wanted is essentially more Paradise. Sure, the console versions don't run 60fps, the handling feels heavier and not as white-knuckle as Paradise, and the single player isn't tied as seamlessly into multi-player as Paradise...but the autolog stuff is great, the multiplayer progression is addicting, and most of all...it's just a blast playing with friends--as we perform 350 yard jumps over buildings. Remake this game every year, I'd buy it.
07. Journey (PSN)
I was sort of put off by all the talk about this game. I felt like every sentence spoken and written about Journey was done while holding a whine glass with their pinky up and sounding very draconian...but I have to say all those things said were pretty darn right. It's one of the most amazing co-op experiences I've had, being paired up with a random person over the internet, we completed the entire Journey together. With no normal means of communication, we had to think of more primitive means to convey things. I was legitimately worried when my friend seemed to disappear in a couple levels, worried that I had lost them. But we conquered it together. Thank you random person over PSN, it was a swell time.
06. Dust: An Elysian Tail (XBLA)
When somebody tells me that a game is "basically Symphony of the Night" I throw my money at it. And that's what I did with Dust. The game is filled with anthropomorphic creatures, but don't let it deter you. Discovering areas that are inaccessible until you get a certain power. Progress in game, get power. Look at giant map screen, go back to previously unexplored area. The combo system is fairly advanced for a game of this type, and there are even a couple abilities I found that I can break the game essentially with. I don't know about you, but I feel pretty awesome when I find a way to exploit a game all by myself.
05. Sleeping Dogs (PC)
I was excited about this game when it was True Crime: Hong Kong. But all the preview events, people came out saying it looked janky and were worried for its future. The game was dropped, buy then revived by Square, under the new moniker "Sleeping Dogs." I hadn't played a serious open world game since GTAIV, and this struck a similar chord with me, brought all those good times flooding back. This game is extremely polished, with fun environmental hand-to-hand combat. The voice-acting is superb and the story is great overall. It helps that it looks amazing on PC, and the 'Hong Kong-drive-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road' thing is quite novel. More of this!
04. Max Payne 3 (PC)
Max Payne 3 could have been a disaster, leaving Remedy's hands and all. But it turned out to be an excellent chapter in the life of Max Payne. All the staples are here, self-loathing narration, slow-motion bullet-time diving-around-corners with reckless abandon, and a messed up story strung together by shots of whiskey, interrupted by popping painkillers, one-liners, and balls to the wall action. The soundtrack featured the usual Max Payne ambiance and main theme, but went above and beyond...venturing into Miami Vice territory, like that good of a soundtrack. The particular tracks that sets the mood other than the final theme of "Tears", are the one in the cemetery and the one on the boat after waking up. If you don't know these tracks, look them up. Or better yet, play the game, as the music will hit on a different level when you're plunged into a hellhole of a situation and have to gun down tons of guys in slow motion while listening to the music.
03. Lone Survivor (PC)
When I seen the quick look of this game, I stopped it about 8 minutes in and bought the game for myself. I love survival horror, and any unique take on it in this horror-deprived generation of games, is something I'm interested in. It features a very striking blown-out pixelated art style, and heavy reliance on survival and sanity mechanics. The story is intentionally very cryptic, with a couple branching points that lead to different endings. It's so vague at times that you don't understand what's going on at all, but I sort of like that about it. Completely open to interpretation. The game is full of atmosphere, so if that's your thing...play this.
02. Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)
An RPG as epic as this coming out in 2012 is a surprise, this type of game almost doesn't exist anymore. It takes plenty of things I love, and some that I hate, and mashes them all together, with amazing production values. The things I hate: Not being able to control the AI. It's annoying that there's combos that are completely reliant on your teammates finishing them, and they will do whatever is at their whim. MMO quests. Way too many of these, and they're all interchangeable fetch me this many items for set amount of experience and money. Grinding, holy shit. Get ready to grind in this game. You have to do those MMO quests, because otherwise it'll take even longer to get to the level you need to be at. With all that said, the story is excellent. The environments are MASSIVE and a pleasure to navigate through while admiring the scenery. The soundtrack, man. THE SOUNDTRACK IS THE BEST RPG SOUNDTRACK, in I don't know...forever? This game tears me down the middle with both love and hate, but I can't help but be blown away by Xenoblade.
01. The Last Story (Wii)
And then there's the Last Story. This game is the antithesis of Xenoblade. It's not massive and full of filler. It's completely focused on delivering a character driven story line and it's going to tell it from beginning to end. No threads will be open at the end of this adventure, it concludes everything in a gorgeously satisfying way. The combat is serviceable and almost automatic at times, there are no random battles and you can beat it without grinding AT ALL. You can beat it in 20 hours, short by JRPG standards. BUT FORGET ALL OF THAT. The soundtrack is sort of a retreading of territory by Nobuo Uematsu, but it takes on a whole new light when they are tied to the moments in the game them self. The characters are so likable in this game, I felt like they were genuine family by the end of it. I felt like I experienced all these trials and tribulations with them as they were experiencing them. I'm just going to say that it's the most touching game I've played in a decade or more...it brings me back to the fuzzy feelings I used to get playing things like Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and X. This is Hironobu Sakaguchi at his best, and if The Last Story is truly his last chapter in game development, what a way to go out.