First off a disclaimer. No, TWO disclaimers. First of all, I know this list is late. Like, really late. The reason is I had a few titles I wanted to finish up before I wrote anything about them and also I’m pretty lazy and it takes me forever to do anything, so if you’re past the point of caring about a top ten list, totally get that. Also spoilers.
Second, there’s a number of games I didn’t get to this year unfortunately like AC3, FC3, Dishonored, Hitman: Absolution, CoD: BO2, Hotline: Miami, Syndicate, Journey, a few others. So if they’re not on the list I might not have played them. Ok here goes.
EDIT: Also there were pictures to break up the wall of text but this goddamn editor decided to put them wherever it wanted for some reason once I posted this and I don't feel like dicking around with it further so they're gone. Sorry.
10. Punch Quest
Yeah an iOS game. Weird. Or is it? I feel like maybe we’ve gotten to the point where that’s no longer a crazy thing, but that’s another conversation. Punch Quest is yet another game in the ‘endless runner’ category that’s so popular on mobile devices (Jetpack Joyride, Canabalt), but with a twist. Punching. What isn’t better with punching? Great graphics, fantastic sound and it keeps itself from getting repetitive with 3 tiers of unlockable super movies, multiple pathways, unlockable customization and you get to ride a raptor that shoots lasers from its mouth. It’s as awesome as it sounds. I come back to this game time and time again when I have a few minutes just to complete an objective or two or get a few runs in to get some coins. Despite the game being a hit, it was a bit of a financial disaster due to it being a free game initially, so hey, why not throw a good developer some money? Totally worth it.
9. Hero Academy
The game is available on Steam but I played it on iOS and was obsessed with it for a solid month or two. Turn-based tactical games work great on the platform (being able to make your move then go about your business while you wait for your opponent to do the same) and Hero Academy is the best of the bunch. The game was developed by Robot Entertainment (former Ensemble guys) and it’s a blast. It may seem simple at first glance but there’s a ton of depth in the game for those that want to dig into it. Currently there’s six teams to choose from, including the Team Fortress 2 gang and every team plays differently, they all have their strengths, weakness and strategies and getting to know the nuances of each team makes for a great time. If this is the type of game you’re into you really have to give it a shot.
Ahh Spelunky. I would imagine everybody in this community is well aware of what this game’s about by now so I don’t know what else I can say about it other then this game can go to hell. And screw you Tunnel Man.
I’d say this is pretty solidly in the ‘go to hell’ category with Spelunky but man I love this game. I was a big fan of Trials HD but this game has a much gentler (if you can describe it that way) difficulty curve, so I didn’t feel completely boned as fast as I did in Trials HD. It takes what was great about the first game and just does more of it. The multiplayer mode is a hell of a lot of fun (stealing a win last second by bailing is almost as great as coming in last because you screwed up your bail and are flopping inches from the finish line) and the user created content is bananas. Seriously, spend a few minutes checking out some of that stuff, it’s mind blowing. Add to that a super well made interface for accessing that content (it takes seconds to download a new track) and you’ve got a game that solidly deserves its spot in this list.
This is not the type of game I would have expected to love as much as I do. I’ve never played any of the old school games it’s based on and when I saw Dave playing it I thought “meh”. It just sounded kinda dull. The reality is anything but. There’s something about Grimrock that scratches an itch I didn’t know I had. The level design and puzzles are great and complex enough to be interesting but not obscure to the point of driving you crazy, the combat is surprisingly fun for essentially boiling down to ‘click 4 boxes’ and the game looks and sounds pretty great. A turn based first person rpg isn’t really something I’ve ever been that into or even played in the past but Grimlock is a hell of a lot of fun and I’m glad I gave it a shot.
Oh Dwarf Fortress. This game. This goddamn game. Ok I know this isn’t a 2012 release, it’s still in beta and likely will never have an actual release but 2012 is when I found out about it and this is my list so Ima do what I want. This definitely falls into the same category as Grimrock in that I would never ever have thought a game like this would grab me like it did. First off, even getting the game to run took me a while (I’m on a mac and finding the correct version, the right graphics packs and whatnot took some research) and if you watched Dave playing it, you know just how incredibly steep the learning curve is. It’s not a curve, it’s a vertical cliff. I bought the goddamn book that dave had just so I could understand it a little better. The graphics are a joke, sound is almost non existent and the UI is so incredibly NOT user friendly it almost hurts. Getting into Dwarf Fortress is an exercise in frustration. But when you finally get it, when it finally starts to click, oh my god. Honestly, I’ve never played a game like it. I spent hours staring at the little blips that represented my stalwart dwarves shifting about the screen, reading obtuse text alerts and clicking 46 keys to initiate simple actions, but in my head an epic drama of survival, courage, loss and triumph was unfolding. Sure it pretty much always ended in death for my colony, whether it was invading undead, starvation, flooding or one of my miners going insane and slaughtering his kin, but it was the journey to that inevitable end, and watching an entire world being simulated and influenced by my actions that make this game as incredible as it is.
4. Halo 4
I missed you Master Chief. I’ve been a Halo fan since the beginning. It’s what got me onto Microsoft’s console, and it’s what’s kept me there despite getting increasingly sick of Xbox Live. Halo 4 showed that 343 is more than capable of picking up where Bungie left off. It’s not a flawless game by any means. The Prometheans are a drag to fight, the campaign could have been better (I still prefer Reach) and having the Covenant play such a big roll again, even though they’re still a blast to fight against, was a bit of a bummer. That being said, I loved this game. The story was for the most part pretty great and the emphasis on the relationship between John and Cortana was exactly the right move. Humanizing MC, while still keeping him a badass is something I’ve been wanting, I’ve always really liked him as a character to the point of even reading some of the books surrounding the games and when 343 started talking about getting into his character more in this trilogy, I got excited. Add to that the fact that the game is gorgeous. One of the best looking games on the 360 bar none and that includes the character models. Gone are the creepy plastic people of previous games, the new facial capture tech delivers some amazing performances, in particular Cortana performed by MacKenzie Mason and voiced as always by Jen Taylor. The range of emotions she displays is pretty amazing. Overall the game totally delivers. Firefight being removed is a bummer but the MP is as fun as it ever was and Spartan Ops is a good time. While I’m disappointed about a few things regarding this game, I think it’s a fantastic experience. Now that 343 has shown they can deliver a solid Halo game, hopefully they get a little crazy with the next one. I can’t wait to see it.
In the lead up to this game coming out, I decided to play through the first two over again. Had a great time doing so, got to remember how great the first game is and how terrible the framerate/Mako was and overall it was time well spent. Then Mass Effect 3 comes out and, for reasons I can’t remember, I didn’t pick it up. I totally wanted to play it, but for some reason...I just didn’t. Then the internet exploded. Maybe it was due to that, that my enthusiasm waned a bit? Not that I believed all the rage was warranted, but I guess I just moved on to other games. In retrospect, I’m really glad I did because I played through the game for the first time last month with the DLC installed and, like Brad, I absolutely loved this game. Loved it. Yeah the ending, even with the Extended Cut content added wasn’t the greatest thing ever, but it was good enough, I liked it (I went with Synthesis). But it was the journey that made that game great, specific moments that stand out as high points in the series. Mordin sacrificing himself to end the Genophage. Grunt emerging from the Rachni cavern bloodied and beaten after I thought he was dead. Helping Legion unite the Geth and the Quarians. Watching the mother of all Thresher Maws take out a Reaper. Standing at Thane’s bedside with Kolyat as he died. Shooting bottles with Garrus. As reserved and laid back as that scene was, getting to spend a few minutes with nothing exploding, nobody trying to kill me, just hanging out with a good friend (and one of my favorite characters in any game to date) was such a great moment in that game. And the final sequence of the Leviathan mission...goddamn. The sum of the positives of ME3 so completely outweigh the negatives that it deserves its spot on my list. Even now listening to the soundtrack makes me remember how much I enjoyed playing it. I understand someone having a totally different view of this game from me, especially those that played it when it was released but for me, ME3 was a great end to an amazing series.
What a great game this is, and how good does it feel to have a game released in a genre that really, nobody would say is that relevant in 2012, and for it to be a hit. I didn’t play the original so my investment in the series was pretty low (hell I thought the FPS looked kinda rad) but I’m a big TBS fan (Final Fantasy Tactics is one of my all time favs) so XCOM is up my alley. The balance between base management and field missions, customizing your squad, the intense combat, every part of the game is fun. And it’s tough as nails. You constantly feel like you’re barely scraping by, you never have enough money/time and it doesn’t matter how careful you are, you’re always a few bad moves from coming home a man (or a squad) short. Despite the story being somewhat bare bones, I got attached to my squad and I’d be damned if I would leave a man behind, even if it meant reloading a save. I’ve given it a few tries on Ironman/Classic and it just keeps kicking my ass. And I love every second of it.
The end of this game was spoiled for me. Some asshole on this very website decided to in a thread unrelated to the game because...I don’t know why. Because he’s an asshole. Even with that being the case, the end of The Walking Dead was devastating. I’ve come close to tearing up in other games (Red Dead Redemption) but I’ll fully admit to tears when the credits rolled. Walking Dead does such an incredible job making you feel invested in the characters. You care about them, you want them to survive, you want them to be alright. The world has crumbled to pieces around them but as long as Lee and Clementine have each other, things will work out. I’ll agree with the Bomb crew that having to kill Duck was incredibly difficult, but for me, telling Clem she had to put me down...man...heartbreaking. And then the post credits sequence, Telltale gives you one last ‘screw you’ by leaving her fate totally up in the air. Is she alright? Is she not alright? Was that Omid and Christa? Were those bandits? Were they zombies? I was almost panicked at the thought of her being alone. I was overwhelmed with concern for a person who doesn’t exist. I’ll continue to worry about Clem until Telltale lets me know if she’s alright. That’s sure as hell worth a number one spot to me.
Honorable Mentions: Mark of the Ninja and Fez
For some reason both Fez and Mark of the Ninja didn’t grab me like they did everyone else. I don’t know why. It has nothing to do with the quality of the games. They’re both incredibly well made games and do really interesting innovative things, especially Fez. I think they deserve recognition, in fact I almost put them on the list ‘just because’ but ultimately it should be about what I enjoyed the most, not what I feel like I should have enjoyed the most, so they got an honorable mention. Great games worth playing.
2011 game of 2012: Batman: Arkham City
I loved Arkham Asylum so I have no idea why I didn’t pick up Arkham City last year but I finally got around to it in 2012 and it’s as awesome as everyone said it is. It’s more of what I loved of the first game in a bigger, flashier package. What's not to love?
2008 game of 2012: Bully: Scholarship Edition
Bully went on sale over the holidays and, as I’d never played it, I decided to pick it up. It took a few weeks for me to actually download it due to some issues with Live (seriously MS are you trying to get me to switch consoles next gen?) but after some dicking around, including using my iPhone as a wifi hotspot the game was on my hard drive. Hey I don’t know if you’re aware of this but Bully is really damn good! It’s everything Rockstar does great, but the PG-13 version. I can’t understand why this game was controversial when it came out, I didn’t even run into any GAY SEXUAL CONTENT I had too look up online to see what that was even about. Also of note, the score by Shawn Lee is incredible. Buy it. Totally worth it. If you haven’t played the game, buy it too. It’s under $10 on Xbox Live, you can’t go wrong.
So there you have it. That's my list. If you read it I hope you enjoyed it, if you didn't, thats ok too. I ain't mad at ya.