GOTY 2012

2012 has been a weird year for games, and while I don’t think it’s been a particularly strong year when compared to the rest of this generation, it's by no means been a bad one either. I still managed to play a lot of fantastic games that I thoroughly enjoyed, and was certainly more than entertained throughout the year. I even had a hard time narrowing this list down to 10 games, which speaks to the breadth of good games I played throughout the year. Anyway, these are my top 10 games of 2012!

List items

  • Nothing else comes close to XCOM: Enemy Unknown for me in 2012. Its mesmerizing blend of tactical turn based missions and strategic base planning (two things I love) had me positively hooked in a way that no other game was able to match all year. This is a large, complex and challenging strategy game that pulls numerous deftly executed parts together with incredible precision and care, combining them in smart ways that directly benefit one another. XCOM is a bold and ambitious reminder of what makes strategy games great, and an easy pick for my personal game of the year.

  • I have a special place in my heart for both quirky Japanese rhythm games and Final Fantasy music, and while Theatrhythm Final Fantasy may be a little pandering, it’s also a smart, quality product that successfully combines those two loves. Great feeling rhythm fundamentals combine with some of my personal favorite video game music to create a delightful and charming rhythm game that I have yet to get tired of. Theatrhythm was the one game I kept coming back to throughout the year, and I’ll continue to tap and swipe along with these classic tunes well into 2013.

  • It speaks to the strength of the Borderlands formula that after spending over 200 hours with the original I was eager to play more. Even more impressive is that after spending over 100 more hours with Borderlands 2 already, I’m still not tired of it. Not many games create such a wild and exciting world worth spending that much time in, but Borderlands 2 does with its crazy characters, fun quests, bizarre guns and well measured customization options. Not only that, but it’s a fantastic venue to hang out with friends online, meaning that my Borderlands days remain far from over.

  • It’s easy (and tempting) enough to look at or listen to Journey and call it art, but there’s a lot more to what makes games art than how they look and sound. Pure gameplay is art in and of itself, and can elicit as wide a range of emotions from the player as much as anything. Journey clearly understands this, and sends you on a tumultuous and memorable quest that’s filled with an incredible variety of things to see, hear and do, each of them as gorgeous and affecting as the last. Journey combines all the pieces with the highest level of craft possible, making for an unforgettable experience.

  • The Mass Effect series has been one of my favorites this generation, and Mass Effect 3 continues to do what’s made it so great. A large cast containing many of my favorite video game characters reconvenes in this fantastic, well realized universe one more time, and this final act in the trilogy contains some awesome, memorable moments. It’s nice to get a real sense of closure for these characters and their stories, and it helps that Mass Effect 3 looks, sounds and plays as well as the series ever has. Also, the multiplayer is surprisingly fun, and the ending is totally fine.

  • Mark of the Ninja completely redefines what stealth games can be in my eyes. By providing a host of smart, digestible information it completely eliminates trial and error to make puzzling through each encounter an absolute pleasure. It successfully walks that fine line all stealth games strive for, making you feel like a powerful predator despite your obvious vulnerabilities, even once you break stealth. Mark of the Ninja has made me, someone who traditionally hates stealth games, a believer. Any game that can turn me on to an entire genre is worthy of the highest praise.

  • Video games have come a long way as a storytelling medium, and there’s no better indicator of that progress than The Walking Dead. This sharply written season had me eagerly coming back for all five episodes, and that it can feel as much like a quality TV show as it does a video game speaks volumes for the compelling nature of its narrative. The game’s great cast of endearing characters delivers dozens of unforgettable moments, and that you get to participate in the story in your own small way only raises the stakes. The Walking Dead is video game storytelling at its finest.

  • I can’t claim to have ever caught a genuine case of “loot lust”, but fortunately for me that’s not all Diablo III is about. This is a robust and exciting RPG in any number of ways, with my personal highlight being the revamped skills system. Experimenting with different builds by modifying and combining each class’ wide variety of interesting skills is a real treat, and the game backs it up with a fun, lengthy quest and the high levels of polish that Blizzard is known for. I played Diablo III for upwards of 100 hours during the year, and I’m still looking forward to more.

  • It’s been an exceptional year for Japanese rhythm games. Usually I’m lucky to get one, but 2012 gave me two great ones, including Rhythm Heaven Fever. This quirky game absolutely nails the fun, hilarious style that the series is known for, and had me laughing out loud constantly. It’s also a finely tuned rhythm game that focuses entirely on rhythm, making it one of the purest examples of the genre. Rhythm Heaven Fever gets a ton of mileage out of its simple, great feeling two button gameplay, and I happily jammed through every one of its varied challenges.

  • The “indie puzzle-platformer” has become a crowded field lately, but that doesn’t make quality entries like Closure any less impressive. This is an incredibly smart puzzle game that will bend your brain in all sorts of ways, as its expertly designed puzzles constantly demand that you reconsider how the world around you works. It’s simply filled to the brim with genuinely surprising moments, and it’s backed up by thick atmosphere and a killer soundtrack. Closure is the real deal, standing toe to toe with my favorites in the genre.