1. Borderlands 2
The first Borderlands is probably one of my favorite games of this generation. Borderlands 2 improves and refines that concept in every way, making a near perfect game, -a few bad characters and technical hiccups aside- in my eyes. The shooting is satisfying, the loot hunting is addicting, the character building is robust and varied, and hey, this time around, it has a story worth giving a damn about. Borderlands 2 is more Borderlands, no doubt, but the concept and the execution are top-notch, making Borderlands 2 my favorite game of 2012.
2. The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead is the most emotionally engaging game I’ve played, perhaps ever. I have no shame in admitting that I cried at the end; and that is something that rarely happens, even with movies. For a game to be able to get such a wide range of emotions out of me –stress, relief, triumph, sadness, guilt, and tears- it has to be very special. The Walking Dead is excellent, and should be experienced by everyone. It’s just a shame that technically, it’s busted.
3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
XCOM is a brutal, brutal game. Six hours into my first campaign, I had to start over again because I was losing, badly; and you know what? I was completely okay with that. XCOM’s excellent, tense, tactical turn-based gameplay coupled with its unnerving, constantly pushing you to make out-of-the-left-field choices meta-game make sure you never, ever feel safe about anything. Your soldiers, some which you get attached to despite having no personalities to speak of, can die at any minute. Countries can pull out of the XCOM project and take their funding with them. Air crafts and satellites can get shot down by the aliens. You’re constantly in danger, so when you come out of a situation triumphant, you are overcome with a great sense of satisfaction.
4. Mark of the Ninja
Mark of the Ninja is excellence in execution. (Sorry, Bret Hart) Everything about the way it plays just feels refined and extremely precise. It makes stealth approachable and engaging, giving you everything you need to know without cluttering your screen with bars and meters. It looks gorgeous, with cut-scenes that look like Samurai Jack in HD, and a story that goes to dark places. Mark of the Ninja sets the bar for stealth games to come.
5. FIFA Street
FIFA Street manages to keep the stylish, fun, arcade feel of its predecessors while making it more realistic and modern. The tricks and stunts are very fluid, and satisfying to pull off. FIFA Street is one of those games that if you get very good at it, you can pull-off ridiculously long and stylish stunts that show-off your skills, almost like a fighting game. And it’s just a real gorgeous game.
6. Sleeping Dogs
Sleeping Dogs is a derivative, yet confident game; which is a rarity these days. It’s a game that is comfortable in its own shoes, bringing new elements from different genres into the open-world –city with cars, people and guns—formula. And its story works surprisingly well, too.
Syndicate’s rich cyberpunk world and aesthetics grabbed me from the beginning, and didn’t let go until I spent 7-8 hours with the game’s single-player, and around 20 with its excellent co-op mode. Syndicate is a breath of fresh air in a very crowded and tired genre. And hey, finally a game in which I can run and shoot at the same time! All games should be like Syndicate in that manner!
8. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
The Witcher 2 is a finely crafted game that is perhaps one of the most mature games on the market. Never backing away from sex, violence, conspiracies and cutting a man’s balls off. Yes, you read that right. That happens. The story, as dark and grim as it is, is very convoluted, and the game never bothers to explain any of it to you; but if you go the extra mile through reading and researching, it’s probably one of the best stories in any fantasy game in recent memory. The gameplay or more specifically, the combat at first may seem hard, and almost puzzle-ish, but ultimately as soon as you’ve found what works for you, that tactic will stay useful until the very end. Ultimately, what drives Witcher 2 is its fantastic characters, and its incredible, yet gruesome world.
I never got the hype about Minecraft when it came out last year. I understood why people liked it, but it was something I could never see myself putting any number of hours into. That, however, changed when I finally caved in and bought the 360 version, and sank hours upon hours of my life into it. Minecraft is brilliant, plain and simple. Spending 20 minutes trying to save my co-op partner from the deepest hole in the game with no torches or anyway to see what I am doing is one experience I will never forget.
10. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
Reckoning: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a fun game, and that’s pretty much the best thing I can say about it. It’s not a bad game, but it doesn’t do anything spectacularly either, and never tries to push the RPG boundaries it clings on. The best thing about it is the combat; it’s perhaps one of the best combat systems in a RPG to date. It is also a game that is too big for its own good. A 30 hours Kingdoms of Amalur would’ve been a fantastic game, but a 75 hours (Which is how many hours I put into it) Kingdoms of Amalur can get monotonous at times; but I still put 75 hours into it, for whatever reason (I am crazy), and I think that solidifies its place on my list.