2012 was certainly a weird-ass year. The console generation's almost certainly overstayed its welcome (thanks in part to a global financial meltdown), and devs who would perhaps rather be breaking new ground have been forced to retread the old. In spite of that, and my list will certainly run this joke into the ground, I can't think of a year in recent memory that I stayed up well past midnight (and I work early) more times than this year. But the year was not without charm nor delights! I think I can wrangle up at least 10 excellent games that I'd call...GAMES OF THE YEAR!
|1. The Walking Dead|
There's really nothing left to say, is there? But I guess if I had to I could list the fact that every single person in this game acted, more or less, like a real person (even if that real person was unstable/under a lot of duress), it involved one of the ONLY likable child-characters in ALL media, let alone videogames, gameplay that was somehow minimalist, but never quite "not a game"-level, and some of the most genuine, emotional rides in years. One of the greatest videogame experiences of all time on any system and proof positive that videogames truly earned that protection under the 1st Amendment.
|2. Mass Effect 3|
I liked the ending even before the extended cut (and even more after it) but that's not the point. The point was/is the journey and this game had one of the most emotionally resonant ones since...well Mass Effects 1 & 2. But there's another aspect overlooked by so many in the debates about endings, DLC and plot twists: the multiplayer. It's been almost a year since this game came out, and in addition to no fewer than five free expansions, there's been an entire new layer placed over it. So frankly, I feel like I paid for the single-player campaign and got this for free.
|3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown|
"There's no MARKET for a turn-based, hardcore, sci-fi, top-down shooter!" someone said, not accounting for the fact that Firaxis knows a thing or two about a thing or two about "Just...one...more...mission...oh hey, when did the sun come up?"
Glitches aside, which I never experienced until the very end, this game was basically perfect for me. A no-frills story (what? You need MORE than the Earth being overrun with extra-terrestrial invaders??), the by-the-seat-of-our-pants research-style, the expendability of your units (and how CRAZY attached you get to them, especially after slapping a nickname on 'em) along with a game that very rarely felt cheap and much more just felt punishing. A beautiful example of how streamlining doesn't have to mean dumbing down.
|4. Sleeping Dogs|
SSSSSSSSSSLEEPY DAWGS!! There, now I got that out of my system and can say that this game is one of the most satisfying open world experiences of all time. Particularly because it bridges the whole "what else can I do in this world besides story missions and random rampages" perfectly with actual character development. That and having an actual awesome melee combat system was something I didn't even know was missing from open-world sandbox games until this one showed me the error of my narrow thinking.
|5. Persona 4 Arena|
We're going to follow our deep, strategic RPG with a fighting game that continues both the story and the character arcs. STOP LAUGHING, IT'LL WORK!! And it did...AND it had a deep, nuanced fighting game system. More accessible than Guilty Gear or BlazBlu, and a truly rewarding, gradual learning curve with room to grow. I may not return to it, because I don't have time to dedicate in order to become truly proficient, but the single-player alone was worth it.
|6. Spec Ops: The Line|
What if, instead of trivializing the horrors of war, we actually showed the psychological impact that it had? This game began the trend of disempowerment fantasies that have seemingly swept videogames recently AND made player choice really, REALLY matter in a very granular way. The shooting may not have been on the level of a Call of Duty or a Gears of War, but for a game that had me legitimately breaking down and wishing for a way out, I'll take the switch. And if you hear what the head writer has to say about the deeper levels of the plot, it gets EVEN better.
|7. FTL: Faster Than Light|
Okay, this time I'm going to...have a Mantis on my ship, but also have this guy in the engine room, this guy in the life support, this guy on guns and GODDAMNIT, they just blew up my life support!! VENT THE AIRLOCKS INTO SPACE! PUT OUT THE FIRE BEFORE THE SHIP BURNS UP-well the ship burnt up...I'll try it one more time...it's 3AM...
|8. Borderlands 2|
"Sorry babe, I know it's 2AM , but the roommates and I are just...we just need to defeat this guy, then I'll come to bed...yeah, it'll only be another 10 minutes..." A truly great multiplayer experience but VERY playable as a solo venture with enough development to be fun and even some legitimate laughs to be had.
|9. Dust: An Elysian Tail|
This one just BARELY snuck in after a couple of marathon sessions, but it was more than worth it for a great, character-deep story along with a no-frills, incredibly satisfying and sleek combo system. Large enough to make exploring feel fantastic, but not big enough to become tedious.
|10. Lollipop Chainsaw|
Hilarious writing coupled with addictive gameplay. It's either endemic of videogames' attitude toward women or a brutal, hilarious satire of it. Either way, it's clever enough without being too in love with how clever it is and the gameplay is a perfect mix of hack-and-slash hilarity and arcade-style fun without the coin-pumping requirements.