My Favorite Games of 2012

Now, this is a list of my top 10 favorite games and not a list of what I think are the overall top 10 best games. A game can be busted as hell or half finished, but if I really loved it for whatever little reason I'll put it on this list. I don't care if something else is considered technically better.

As a heads up I don't own a PS3, and I haven't played Halo 4, Sleeping Dogs, and a ton more games people probably have on their lists. I'm done with new games for the year barring random Christmas presents so too bad. Maybe one of those will make be my Game of Years Past next year. So here's my list:

10) Dust: An Elysian Tail

I can honestly say that I have never played a more charming game about mass genocide than I have with Dust. That's the thing with Dust, on the surface it looks like a Saturday morning cartoon (I bet those don't exist anymore. I feel old.), but goes to some very dark places. It makes for a really interesting juxtaposition between the story and how the game looks. If that was all there was to the game it'd be interesting, but not necessarily a game of the year. Thankfully there is also a really solid side scrolling beat-em-up here. It's not the most complicated in the world, but combining your sword skills with Fidget's abilities in a light RPG leveling system manages to keep it fun the whole way through. And finally to top it off it is a gorgeous game. Yes, the character portraits can be hit and miss, but the actual sprites and backgrounds are great looking. The animation is also fantastic making it great to just look at. No one element of this game alone would guarantee it as one of my favorite games of the year, but the combined package assures it a spot.

9) The Walking Dead

If there is any one game I don’t want to spoil for people it’s this one. So all I’ll say is that if you are in any way remotely interested in games as a mechanism for telling a good story you should pick this up without hesitation. Don’t get hung up on “It’s just another zombie game,” because really the zombies as enemies are the least important part of the story.

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8) Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3 has gotten a lot of hate for its ending. At this point I’ve finished the game twice. I finished it when it first came out with the original ending, and then again recently by playing through Leviathan and the new ending. I’ll say that the new stuff didn’t fix my biggest hang up with how that game ended. That hang up being that it did the whole "pick your ending because your choices didn't really matter that much" thing. But a game is more than just its ending, and the rest of Mass Effect 3 is really pretty good. It's not quite as good as ME2 mind you, but good enough to make my top 10 list. There’s a lot of great story content in the game, and the combat is actually a lot of fun. The continued popularity of the multiplayer mode is a testament to that. Rarely is the combat good enough in an RPG for it to stand on its own. I'm glad that Bioware is going to keep making Mass Effect games. It's really a great universe ripe for further exploration.

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7) Far Cry 3

My favorite characters in Far Cry 3 are Willis, Buck, and Vaas. So those of you who finished the game probably already have an idea of how I feel about the story. None of the others stood up to those three. Most of them were deplorable. Despite that, this still stands up as one of the best games I've played this year. They fixed all the big problems I had with Far Cry 2. Weapon degradation, gone. Malaria, gone. Bad fast travel system, fixed. Terrible respawning enemy checkpoints, gone. That great open world game that was hiding under a ton of annoying crap in Far Cry 2 is just out there in the open for Far Cry 3. It is the most fun and dynamic open world to interact with since Skyrim. Add in a little bit of propagating fire and you have a sure bet for one of my favorite games of the year, despite the disappointing story.

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6) Diablo 3

This is the only game on my list to rival the amount of hate Mass Effect 3 got from its players. From what I can tell it's mostly people who are trying to play Diablo 3 like an MMO that are angry. I won't say that these people are playing this game wrong. A lot of people tend to play loot based RPGs like that. They bought the game and are free to play it however they want. I will say that I will never understand those people. I made a few characters. I beat the game with one of them, and moved onto the next difficulty. I never finished the game on the second difficulty, but I still put a bunch of hours into the game and enjoyed it very much. I'll never understand the "endgame or nothing" mentality because I'll probably never make it to that end game. I'll move on to something else before then. Even when talking about actual MMOs the only game I've hit level cap in is DC Universe Online, and doing that is basically a joke. It's just not how I play games. I feel sorry for the people who hate the game so much, because I had a great time with it. It was a fantastic loot based action RPG for what I played of it. One of my most enjoyable experiences this year.

5) Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

There are lots of things you could say against this title for being on a top 10 game of the year list. This game barely adds anything new to the franchise. I know. They even recycle the same old maps that were used in the last three games. I know. For all the fuss people give Call of Duty about being the same thing over and over again this game is 100 times worse. I know. It barely even looks better than CS: Source. I know. You see, this is why I like to list my favorite games of the year, and not the 10 that I think are definitively the best. Someone would have to be crazy to argue that this was one of the best games of the year. But me, I love counter-strike. I love it too damn much. I'm part of the problem and I can't help it. I still haven't ever played a shooter that I liked nearly as much as CS. So when they say, "here have a slightly altered version of this game you love," I eat it up. The best thing that can be said about Counter Strike: Global Offensive is that they didn't screw it up, and I love it for that.

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4) Trials Evolution

I have put more time into trials this year than anything other than the number 1 game on this list. That time isn't even going into playing the extreme courses. I gave up on those a long time ago. It's just one of those games where they so perfectly nailed the controls that it's fun to relax and play some of their easier courses repeatedly. On top of the already great game they packaged it with a fantastic level editor and sharing tools. One of the reasons I first fell in love with the Counter-Strike and Trackmania games is because they seemed to have endless content with people always pushing out new maps / tracks. I’m sure something like that probably existed on consoles where it was easy to play custom maps before Trials Evolution. I know Halo games did it, but you couldn’t play those maps in regular match making defeating the purpose for me. I know Far Cry 2 did it, but I hated Far Cry 2 and stopped playing it. This is the first game I’ve played with great level creating and sharing tools that are based on a great game, and can be enjoyed easily in single player. This secures it a high place on my list.

3) Borderlands 2

I didn't really like the original borderlands much. I found the world to be dull and lifeless. The best thing I can compare it to is an MMO with no other people and almost no friendly NPCs. It may be a weird thing that only applies to me, but without those other friendly characters to make a RPG feel like a living world I quickly grow bored of it. By adding a much better story and a more alive feeling hub town I found myself much more interested in Borderlands 2. So while many people found BL2 to be more of the same of BL1, I found it to be a much newer and refreshing experience due to putting very little time into the first. This really was my first time falling in love with the loot and leveling systems in a Borderlands game. Wrap that up in a good open world with a pretty great campaign and you have a recipe for success. Some of the characters got a little grating at times but nothing near enough to put a damper on the overall experience. Oh, and you can count me among those who thought Handsome Jack was a great villain and not the worst thing ever.

2) XCOM: Enemy Unknown

I’ve beaten XCOM twice, lost once, and was on a third playthrough when I finally put it down to play Dishonored. I had gotten Dishonored and XCOM on the same day, but I was having too much damn fun with XCOM to put it down for a second to try the other game. That’s not how I normally operate. I finish a game, and then if there’s something else waiting for me I move directly on to it. So a game has to be very special for me to finish it, and then decide I want to keep playing despite another critically acclaimed game sitting there ready for me to play. I love so much about this game. The combat is intense and satisfying. Trying to keep the panic levels low for your different nations can lead to some hard choices of whom to help. The leveling system has some real hard decisions to make in it. Said leveling system and character customization give you a lot of attachment for your men. The limited resources at the beginning make every purchase choice feel important. The research can be stressful when you’re trying to decide what tech you need the most. The one big negative about this game is that most of those things I just mentioned stop being as great near the end of the game. You do eventually run out of things to research and buy, and as long as you don’t lose too many max level troops missions become way easier. If they had managed to make the game feel as tense from the beginning of the game to the end it would be one of all-time greats of the gaming world. Despite that failing it is still one of the best games I’ve played all year, and a shoe in for its place on my list.

1) SSX

People who like the SSX series generally fall into one of two categories. Either SSX Tricky is the best game, or SSX 3 is the best. I fell firmly into the SSX 3 camp, but now I think that might have changed. This new SSX might just be my favorite game in the series. Sure I’ve lost a couple things I loved about SSX 3. The absence of DJ Atomica and that long ride from the very top of the mountain to the bottom come to mind. But in return I’ve gained more courses than any game has previously had, more challenging runs, a smartly implemented rewind feature, a great online leaderboard and ghost system, and I no longer have to complete a course 3 times in a row to finish them. The last of those always grew tiring after a while in previous SSX games. If there is one thing this game does poorly is that the deadly descents are a bit hit and miss. For example wing suits and avalanches are fun diversions from the normal, but the darkness and cold temperature ones are annoying at best. In the end whether you want to challenge yourself on a hard course with bottomless pits, or just enjoy a relaxing ride doing tricks down an easy slope there’s something for you. This is the game I’ve probably put the most time into all year, and I continue to enjoy every minute of it. It's literally the game sitting in my 360 disk drive right now.

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Honorable Mention: Fez

Fez is an interesting in that it was one of the best times I had in a game this year, but I don't think I would recommend it to anyone. You see, Fez was an amazing experience, but it happened in a moment in time that I don't think can be replicated. When Fez first came out we all bought it expecting nothing more than a simple little puzzle platformer with its cute rotation mechanic. Then people started finding more things buried in the game. There was a code to decipher, an alphabet to figure out, and even all the gibberish that the NPCs said turned out to translate into an actual language. As these things were being found out people on the internet were working together to solve harder and harder puzzles. It was in that moment of everyone working together to figure out this game that I was having one of the most amazing experiences that you could ever have with a video game. But now that's over, and everything is just out there in plain sight on walkthroughs. Sure you can try your best to figure things out on your own, but what truly made the game magical was the huge community it brought together in that moment. And that can't happen again. Because the great experience I had with this game was more around the community gathering around it than the actual game itself it doesn’t make my list, but it deserves mentioning.

This Year's Game of Years Past: Batman Arkham Asylum

I don’t think I really have anything to say about this game that hasn’t been said a million times before. Everything about this game is fantastic. The open world, the combat, the characters, the side quests, and the main story are all top notch. I can’t think of a single negative. I’m a little sad I missed this game last year because it probably would have made my top 3, but I’m glad I got around to it now.

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My Favorite Games of 2011

So I'm at a point where I'm pretty much done with new games for the year. I might pick up Skyward Sword but even if I do I won't finish it before the years out. So I've decided to make a top 10 list, because well, I enjoy writing stuff like this every once in a while.

Now, this is a list of my top 10 favorite games and not a list of the overall top 10 best games. A game can be busted as hell or half finished, but if I really loved it for whatever little reason I'll put it on this list. I don't care if something else is considered technically better.

As a heads up I don't own a PS3, and I haven't played Batman Arkham City, The Witcher 2, MW3, and probably some other notable games I can't think of off the top of my head. I've limited my games to 10 because that seems like the thing to do. You have to stop somewhere.

10) Bastion

Most people who love bastion will go on and on about the narrator. While I also liked the narrator it alone wouldn't get this game into my top 10. When it comes down to it the game play is what got Bastion here. While I've heard some people complain that the combat was too simple I really enjoyed it. Every weapon felt very unique and viable for any encounter. This left me constantly going back and forth between weapons and agonizing over what I should be upgrading. It never felt as if one weapon was designed to be better than another. To me this is the mark of a great weapons system in any game that offers this sort of weapon upgrades. Thanks to this the game play felt fun and fresh right up to the end of the game.

9) Terraria

In the most basic sense Terraria is a 2D take on Minecraft, but what makes the game stand out from the myriad of Minecraft clones that have now come out is how the amount of effort they took into making it a unique experience of its own. Having a more diverse library of weapons and armor to forge than anything at its time, and unique areas such as the floating islands and underground jungle gave the players great incentive for exploring their personal randomly generated world in the search for new treasures and hidden areas. On top of that features such as bosses, a final dungeon, goblin invasions, and meteor crashes made this feel like more of a traditional game with goals to achieve than the Minecraft of its time did. In the end I enjoy Minecraft a little more than Terraria because I feel the 3D nature of the game makes for a better Lego-esque building game, but Terraria is the one spin-off of the Minecraft phenomenon fans shouldn't miss.

8) L.A. Noire

L.A. Noire is not a game for everyone. It's an old school action adventure game with a little bit of grand theft auto mixed in. Those who were looking for this year's Red Dead Redemption were most likely left disappointed by the title. In fact I found the gun battles to be some of the weakest moments in the game. If it wasn't for the fun scripted chase sequences I would say the game might have been better off removing the action elements all together. What really sold me on this game and led to it making my top 10 list was the sense of immersion L.A. Noire cultivates. From the attention to detail in the environment to the excellent voice acting you're drawn into a late 1940's world until the moment you put down the controller. The story takes a bit of a downward turn after you finish the homicide desk, but that doesn't stop the overall experience from being one of my favorite of the year.

7) Saints Row the Third

With Saints Row 2 the series began to take its place as the crazy over the top counterpart to Grand Theft Auto's growing serious tone of game. In Saints Row the Third I feel they have secured that roll for the time being. Even the incredibly fun Just Cause 2 doesn't come close to the crazy shit that goes on in this game. There's so many moments I would like to talk about, but the game is still relatively new and it would be terrible to ruin it for anyone looking to pick it up in the future. In the end I'll say this is an very well polished open world game with a similar sort of humor to what one finds in Amped 3, and several missions that will go down as the best open world game missions of all time.

6) Rayman Origins

I had never played a Rayman game before this and as such had little expectations for it beyond it looking really pretty. Well I'm a sucker for a pretty game so when it came up in a lightning sale on Amazon at $40 I picked it up immediately. What I ended up with was not only an extremely beautiful 2D game, but an amazing platformer with great levels, fantastic feeling control, and a wonderfully memorable music score. The game even ended up being much longer than I anticipated. When I thought I was almost done I turned out to only be at about the half way point. As far as I'm concerned Rayman Origins is the best platformer to come out to the HD Consoles. It can stand toe to toe with New Super Mario Bros Wii and Donkey Kong Country Returns as one of the best 2D platformers of this generation.

5) Dark Souls

When Demon's Souls came out it was one of the few PS3 exclusives I said I definitely wanted to try if it ever came to a platform I owned. Well 2 years later a sequel came out and I found myself apprehensive to buying it. Even though I wanted to try Demon's Souls I ended up really worrying the repeated deaths that is a part of the series would end up with me getting frustrated and hating the game. Well after agonizing about it for a week or two I decided to give it a chance and dive in. Luckily this sort of frustration rarely came up when playing the game. Instead what I got was a constant feeling of doing just a little better than the last time I died, and the desire to keep improving. It's a feeling I haven't really gotten in a game since the heydays of Mega Man, Ghosts'n Goblins, and their like. The only times I truly got frustrated was when I had to face more than one enemy in a boss fight. Nito, I'm looking at you and your little skeleton bastards. This was alleviated somewhat by the ability to summon others but in my experience that worked so infrequently it was better to just go in with an AI companion when available. This is the only game on my list with a definitive end that I have yet to complete, but at 90 hours in I feel I've played long enough to know it deserves a spot on my list. Even if the last few hours end up being bad that can't retract from the good time I've had up to now.

4) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

In ordering my list of the top 10 the hardest choice I had to make was between the four and five spot. I've poured and incredible amount of hours into both games and have thoroughly enjoyed them. In the end I decided to give the four spot to Skyrim over Dark Souls by the slightest of margins. I poured hours and hours into Oblivion and Skyrim is everything that game is only better. I really enjoy the worlds of the Elder Scrolls games more than the Fallout series. I like how full of life everything feels as opposed to the desolate nature of the fallout games. It's this feeling along with the overwhelming nature of the amount of stuff I can do that keeps me coming back to this game. The one thing they did take from Fallout is the idea of a perks system. I really enjoy this a lot more than Oblivion's system. This is a great game world with a great RPG system and a nearly unlimited amount of things to do. I think I might never leave.

3) Track Mania 2: Canyon

If you were to make a list of the definitive top 10 games of the year this does not deserve to be on it. However, I love Track Mania so much I can't see not putting it high in my list. Game's like this and the fact that I can't play every major release is why this is a top 10 list of my favorite games of the year and not the best games of the year. I first fell in love with the series around '07 or '08 when I tried the free version of the original game. This is the version you should probably try out if you're interested in the series. My love for this game actually comes from F-Zero. On the N64 F-Zero X became my favorite racing game ever. I loved the crazy tracks and having an insane number of racers on them. Well it had been a long time since F-Zero GX when I first got a Track Mania game, and it filled the empty space the lack of F-Zero had left. The multiplayer filled the exact same love of having a large number of racers on crazy tracks. Only this time there were unlimited tracks. Track Mania 2: Canyon is more of the same but with better graphics and a different car handling system. I actually enjoy the way the canyon car drives more than any in the original game making Track Mania 2: Canyon my favorite of the series. It's a game I'm going to continuously go back to over and over again. I also get a bit of a kick out of being ranked in the top 3 of my state, but with less than 50 people that's not much of an accomplishment.

2) Portal 2

It feels weird to have a game this high on my list and not have much to say about it. I could go on about the excellent level design, the humor, or the stellar ending but that's all been said 100 times before. I will say when I play a single player game I normally finish it and never return. I only extremely rarely play through a game twice. I've played through Portal 2 three times. That's how much I love this game and why it's so high on my list.

1) Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat holds a special place in my heart. It was MK2 that first got me into 2D fighting games (now my favorite genre). When arcades and fighting games in general started to die out the MK team completely reinvented the series to something more casual gamer friendly in the PS2 era of games. I can recognize this as a smart move as it kept the series popular, but as a fighting game fan with a great love for MK this was a sad time. In MK vs DC you could see the beginnings of going back to a more traditional variant of the game and now with the new popularity of fighting games they've swung back in full force and it is good. While not the deepest of fighting games in general MK9 is most likely has the deepest fighting engine in the series history. On top of that Netherealms has done a great job being on top of things with balance patches, even if they came a little too often at first, and even fixing the netcode which is something they never would have done in the past. As much work that has been done to appeal to more hardcore fighting game fans they haven't forgotten their bread and butter, the casual gamer. They've put a lot of effort into things a competitive gamer won't care much about. To this endeavor they've got what is without a doubt the best story mode a traditional fighting game has ever had. I could go on about MK9 forever, but I'll leave it at this is the story mode by which all traditional fighters should be judged from henceforth.

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Honorable Mention: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus Ex: Human revolution is a fantastic and addictive stealth action game, but what kept this game from breaking my top 10 is the boss fights. I hated them so much I stopped playing the game on the third one. At this point I don't see myself going back and finishing it. It's really too bad because everything else about the game is absolutely phenomenal.

Most Notable Omission: MineCraft

So in my list I said I liked MineCraft better than Terraria, but Terraria is ranked number 9 and MineCraft isn't in the list at all. MineCraft technically came out this year so it should be there right? Well this is something I thought about for a while. MineCraft may have technically came out this year but I paid for it last year and have been playing it since then. In the end I went with my gut feeling and decided not to count it towards this year's releases. I have no real excuse for this beyond that's what just felt more right to me. The core of what I love MineCraft for, building stuff, hasn't changed that much. If I had made a list last year it probably would have been on it.

2011 Game of the Year not from 2011: Baulder's Gate

My history with PC games goes as such: Apogee games, Doom, some shitty early 3D games, Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast, and then balloons forward after that. As such I completely managed to skip over all the great isometric rpg's of yore. This year I decided to fix this oversight by venturing into the world of GOG.com. I've started with Baulder's Gate. It should be noted that I am using the Tutu mod for Baulder's Gate 2 that plays the entirety of the original along with its expansion in the Baulder's Gate 2 engine as it was recommended to me. So technically I'm playing BG2 with the story of the original. This game has been a slow burn for me but a very enjoyable one. It's certainly making me think a lot more than either of the Dragon Age games did and I appreciate it for that. I'm looking forward to trying more games like this next year.

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