1. Batman: Arkham City
It's not that I didn't really want to play this game last year, it just got bumped down with everything else that came out. I ended up waiting for the GOTY edition that came out earlier this year and boy am I glad I did. Not only did I have all the time in the world to fully explore this game and do everything thanks to no other games being out, I also played it at the time I got into the actual Batman comic. Scott Snyder's Court of Owls story was fantastic and enhanced my experience. I was at awe as to how many characters and secret references Rocksteady was able to cram into this game. As a fan of Batman since I was little (I grew up on the Bruce Timm cartoon, which this game can be seen as a... spiritual continuation of that series), this game was amazing from top to bottom.
2. Mass Effect 3
I guess I'll get it out of the way by saying that I'm totally okay with the original ending. At this point, I'm not even entirely sure which one I picked. But I don't care. For me Mass Effect has always been about the rich universe, er, galaxy and the characters in it. Or, in other words, "it's about the journey". The Mass Effect trilogy is one of the best pieces of media, nonetheless video game, I've ever consumed or, better yet, felt like I've been a part of. My journey with Shepard and his friends, crew, and allies is something I'll never forget.
3. Halo 3: ODST
Yes, I'm well aware this came out three years ago. But I, surprisingly, didn't play it until this year. I wanted to correct my egregious oversight before Halo 4 came out. Holy shit! This game! ODST is the game we were promised with Halo 2; defending Earth from the Covenant. I was also one to take my time in the first trilogy, so I really enjoyed the pacing and the sneaking around you had to do. Then there's the fact that a third of the Firefly cast is here playing pretty much their exact roles from the show. Seriously, how the hell I didn't play this game before is BEYOND me. Halo + Nathan Fillion + jazz? *squee*
4. Forza Horizon
I went into 2012 expecting more from Most Wanted than Forza Horizon. This game is a joy to just drive around enjoying the winding roads and magnificent views. I know this uses the same engine as the Motorsport series, but Horizon somehow manages to look so much better than it. I'm constantly pausing the game to take pictures while traversing Playground's fictional Colorado. I love the Forza Motorsport series, and I'm so glad the first game in the Horizon series reaches the same level of quality.
5. Halo 4
I'm deeply conflicted with this game. All I want from the Halo universe is more stories of Master Chief and the remaining Spartan II's. Between the campaign and Spartan Ops, the inclusion of Dr Halsey in much more capacity than the two or three scenes she was in Reach for was a great surprise. But I don't like the changes made to the gameplay. The one sentence I use to describe this game is, "it's a good game, but not a good Halo game." Everything about this game moves way too fast, from the story all the way down to the gameplay. I wouldn't say that there's anything bad about the content of the story, but compared to the slower moving Bungie games there's a hell of a lot that went down in 343's Halo 4. Also, the amount of content and functionality that was left out of the multiplayer side is inexcusable. It sure is pretty too look at, but at times Halo 4 just does NOT feel like Halo.
6. The Walking Dead
I'm writing this paragraph about 10-20 minutes after finishing The Walking Dead. I can't help but feel a little disappointed. First off, I waited for the Xbox 360 disc release. After months Telltale STILL didn't fix the problems of the XBLA version and Microsoft allowed them to release an unplayable game. Fuck that. So I went into the PC version already hating it a tad. I'll also say that the actual video game parts of the walking dead were terrible to me. Multiple times I had to fight with the controls, and once or twice they permanently effected a choice/outcome. And I know Telltale wants me to make hard decisions by impulse, but to me it's broken if I can't even read all three dialog options before time runs out.
As far as what I thought about the story? So I consider myself to be... I dunno, level with my emotions? What I mean to say is, I'm not afraid to get a little choked up or anything. I'm super bummed about the ending. Who wouldn't be? But it just didn't hit me as hard as I was lead to believe it would. Maybe it was shock value versus a slow burn, but I think the two moments in Episode 3 made more of an impact on me than the very end. Hell, there were moments in Mass Effect 3 that effected more than the end of The Walking Dead.
Don't get me wrong, the story in this game is really well done. Even though I waited until the last week of the year to play it, I managed to avoid any spoilers. But even so, it just didn't live up to the hype. I dunno, maybe I played it wrong? Maybe the optimal experience is when it's release episodically? I dunno, but I still can't wait for Season 2!
7. Need for Speed: Most Wanted
Don't be fooled, this is a deeply flawed game. The AI is horrible, some of the menus suck, and there are design decisions that should have never left the pitch meeting. While the multiplayer makes some nice improvements on the Paradise formula, it's not quite as good. I mean, c'mon, no flatspins? But Criterion managed to capture a sort a feeling for me that I haven't experience in any racing game since Burnout 3: Takedown. The combination of art style, lighting, and the city location make the racing events click with me on that Burnout 3 level.
8. Frog Fractions
This... I don't... WHAT DID I JUST PLAY?! MY MIIIIIIIND.
9. Rock Band Blitz
I probably bought too many songs when this came out. But fuck it, it's awesome.
10. Hotline Miami
The gameplay is good, but I don't care for it. I was here for the soundtrack and art.
11. The Wavy Tube Man Chronicles
Honorable mention - This is nothing short of amazingly dumb. I'm surprised as to how much behind the scenes stuff Twisted Pixel crammed into this (at least in the Windows 8 version). I spent as much time looking at pictures and watching videos as I did playing the game. The alternate opening is fantastic. Gotta love Chainsaw.