Best of 2012

Happy New Year! Its was a very good year for games, and I was actually kinda surprised how many games I played, and loved! Therefore, this is gonna be a longer list that the last few years. This time I'm going for a top 20, mostly because my top 10 barely scratches the surface of enjoyable experiences I had this year, and they all deserve recognition.

List items

  • When Persona 4 first came out in 2008, it changed the way I experienced games, it was my first JRPG and my first 100+ hour experience that didn't involve making my own fun. Since then I have played this game 4 times, watched the endurance run twice and watched the anime. Persona 4 is so ingrained in my subconscious i never thought I could have a new experience with it. But then Golden came out. This game probably could have taken my #1 spot by being a HD release in the vita. But the depth and breadth of the new content had made its so much more. Some of the updates are simple: UI improvements, some update to systems, but the truly rewarding addition are legion. They added 2 new (and amazing) social links, and handful of new story events, and an entire new dungeon. Golden is easily the perfect version of a game I already thought was perfect, and one of the most amazing experience of my life, even outside of games. I cannot recommend it enough, even for $300 which is what it cost me.

  • Far Cry 3 has ruined open world games for me, and in the best way. This is the biggest and best open world I have EVER seen. The world actually feels like a real place, and there is so much to do within this world its gonna keep me busy for HOURS. This is also the tightest shooter first-person stealth game of the year. The story is pretty lackluster but thats so little of the experience it doesn't even matter. This is a game that rewards me to hunting sharks, lets me snipe soldiers off with a bow, and I can hanglide across the games 3 gigantic islands. I've been waiting for the true successor to San Andreas, its here, and its awesome.

  • The Walking Dead is easily the best story of the year. A lot of that comes from the players agency on the story. While the actually story beats have little effects from the player, its the way the game lets you make decisions and making the story events feel like results of player choice, that sells it. This game also has amazing characters. The protagonists Lee and Clementine have a lengthy and emotion journey, but its the side characters, like Kenny, that sell this world. These feel like real people with real problems and no one is truly good or truly evil, and thats the magic of the Walking Dead.

  • I don't like art for the sake of art, especially in games. I like games to be fun, and they happen to effect me emotionally, thats just a bonus. But journey is the exception to the rule, this game is pure emotion, and I love it. There are 2 very distinct games here.: single player and multiplayer. Alone, this game is a slow paced exploration through a ruined world, and they tell an affecting story both about the history of the world, and you as the character without uttering a single world. The real magic comes from playing online, playing with another person, who you can directly communicate with, allows for the most enjoyable multiplayer I've played in a long time. Every person I have played with has gone from stranger to friend in just a short hour. Any game that can make me want to play with stranger deserves some recognition.

  • Some game are just about the fun, Torchlight 2 is one of those. I am shocked how much more I liked this game than its big budget competitor Diablo 3. This game has all that Diablo has and more. The design is also tailored to experimentation and reward, not grinding. It also runs on pretty much any computer, looks amazing, and has simple and fun online. This is the perfect indie game, humble, simple, and so totally rewarding.

  • Following up one of my favorite games of all time is a hard task. Having to continue I story I've been a part of for 5 years, even harder. Mass Effect 3 makes some small missteps, but all in all, this game finished the story beautifully. They cover almost every issues that have come up in the 3 games. Genophage, gone. Geth war, over. Reapers, explained. This game is in a lot of ways total fan-service, but it does it in such a smart way I don't mind at all. It also had the best combat, and the most involved RPG mechanics of the entire series. Also, I kinda like the ending.

  • In a lot of ways, XCOM is this years Dark Souls. This is a tough of nails game with failure around every corner. This game also has a sense of loss and frustration that is very hard to keep fro feeling unfair. For me, the back and forth of the meta game and main game is what won me over. Spending time researching tech and keeping my benefactors happy only to have a surprise mission that requires me to use all of my new research, that what this game is about, and its awesome.

  • I never thought I player a Forza game as good as 3. That game was such paradigm shift for me when it came to racing games, but Horizon tops it in so many ways. Taking the car show feeling of the previous games and changing it to a festival setting gives this game a very different feel. For me, its the open world design that really makes this game special. There is so much to explore and find, and taking to hundreds of events from previous games and cutting it down to 120 completely unique events makes it the first Forza game I completed 100%. Also, they did something really smart with the driving handling, the cars "feel" real, but they fudge the number enough to let you feel like a total badass.

  • Gun to my head, my favorite game genre is open world. I like to explore, I like to have freedom, and I like open ended mission structure. This was a pretty good year for open worlds, and Sleeping Dogs is probably the most traditional of them this year. This game doesn't innovate as much as it borrows, but it borrows from the greats of the genre and make the ultimate urban open world game. The combat in the game, borrowed from Arkham Asylum is so tight and rewarding, I'd almost rather fistfight enemies as shoot them. The driving and tight, and there is a large set of collectibles to look for. But the major selling point for me is the story, this game tells one of the realest stories in open world games, and all of gaming.

  • I'm still shocked how much I loved this game. This game doesn't make a lot of sense for a distance: taking a 100 hour RPG and turning it into a fighting game sounds crazy. But its the lengthy 30+ hour story that really makes this game special. Seeing characters from Persona 3 and 4 grow up a little is already a delight, but the setup for a new game, and the new character Labrys is so unexpected and amazing. Also, the fighting is pretty good.

  • FTL is a game about telling personal stories. As a rogue-like, it's designed for replayablility, and its very difficulty. This is a game you are supposed to lose, and the journey is what matters. You never know what the next stop on your journey is going to hold, and danger is just moments away. But in all this stress, they are so amazing stories being told, the man you saved from a wreck goes berserk and destroys part of the ship, sparing slavers just to have them fire upon you, making it all the way to the final sector and being 3 shot by a rebel ship. There is always a story to be told in a playthrough of FTL and every one is new and amazing.

  • I have an obsession with completion, no matter the game, I always come into it wanting to do 100% of everything. Rarely do I actually reach those goals, usually due to some bad mission or tedious gameplay. Mark of the NInja is a game I WILL 100%, and thats due to its perfect design. The stealth mechanics in the game are so tight and make so much sense, there is never a doubt of who can see you, why, and how. This game also has a very well designed goal system that rewards consistency as much as experimentation. Mark of the Ninja is perfect at what it set out to do, and while its scope may not be great, its execution is top notch.

  • Amalur is a very simple game. It doesn't have a great message, its world ins't meticulously designed, and its story is lackluster at best. But Amalur got one thing right: the combat. Fighting in this game is an absolute treat from start to finish. The leveling system that goes with it is mart as well, encouraging player to experiment and rewarding multi-classing was a great idea, and should be implemented by more games. Overall this game didn't do anything truly original or new, but any game that keeps me hooked for 80+ hours deserves so credit.

  • I feel like I've been playing the Assassins Creed series forever. This series has been around 5 years, and has had 5 releases, only skipping one year. Finally getting to see the end of this crazy ancient aliens saga was worth it alone. However, this is also a pretty great game! The traversal and combat are better than ever and the Colonial setting is probably Creed's best. Running across treetops in the frontier and hunting redcoats is so much fun! And the early game story twists were so well done and set up one of the best villains of the series. However, the high point of this game has to go to the naval combat, a system presented as an afterthought, it ends up being so visceral and intense I can't believe it wasn't made into its own game.

  • This is probably the strangest game on my list. There is very little gameplay in Asura's Wrath, most of the interaction is through quick time events. But this games tells an amazing and action packed story that truly is one of a kind. It captures all of the magic of anime and crazy japanese gaming in a concise package, and it does it all while giving the player just enough agency to feel involved. But the greatest thing about this game is its surprises, and soon as you think the game can't get any crazier, it does something so absolutely nuts that you'll be shocked, then it does it again!

  • Fez really captures a specific moment in time. Back in march, you couldn't venture far on the internet without seeing someone trying to find an anti-cube, or one of the damn heart things. On the surface Fez was a neat indie platformer with a great soundtrack, but the back half of this game, and the realization of the different cyphers hidden around the world, was absolutely amazing. It's too bad the game has been completely cracked now, because new players wont get to experience the magic of discover along with everyone else.

  • I got a lot of colored loot this year, and borderlands probably made up for about half of that. Following up 2009s amazing shooter is not easy task, but Gearbox did a great job. They took the basic systems of the first and sharpened then to a fine point. The shooting is as good as any major FPS and the different loot actually feels unique and interesting. The story was a surprising high point, with memorable characters and a great villain. I just wish the new game + mode was more solo friendly.

  • I like to drive cars, I especially like to drive cars in open worlds. This year, I got not one, but two experiences of that sort. Need for Speed was the more arcady of the set. The world in Most Wanted is beautiful and a lot of fun to drive around in. The car selection was great, and the upgrade system was a neat change to the norm. I'm not the biggest fan of the cop chases, but the races and exploration more than make up for that. This game gave me the greatest sense of speed of any release this year.

  • A lot of the major detractors of this game seem to be focused on the endgame, and I agree, the endgame is unfortunately balanced towards the mega-hardcore. However, people tend to forget the feedback loop bliss of the first playthrough of this game: Exploring the world for the first time, trying out new skills, and the quick pace of gear acquisition. Diablo 3 is a game is at its best early on, but the best is so amazing, I can't not put it on my list.

  • I've been a Halo fan pretty much since the beginning. The first Halo is easily one of my favorite game experiences of my childhood. Each sequel that has come out since has done a little to capture that experience, but not till Halo 4 did a game really capture the feeling of exploration and wonder. Halo 4 also makes some of the first real steps forward that the series has made since Halo 3. Speeding up the gameplay, and adding a meta-game to the multiplayer makes the funnest Halo in a long time and the best FPS of the year.