StarvingGamer's Games Worth Starving For (or Otherwise) in 2012

2012 has been nothing if not a controversial year. Both the journalist and enthusiast communities helped prove the law of mob intelligence (lowest IQ among mob members ÷ total number of mob members = mob IQ) and a disturbingly large number of game developers have been either imploding or exploding. Despite all this, there has been such an embarrassment of content to experience that I have barely scratched the surface on many of my most anticipated games.

So without further ado, here is my 2012 in a nutshell.

2012's 2011 Game of the Year Presented By Steam Sales

Saints Row: the Third

This, more or less
This, more or less

I don't like open-world games. I never have. And I've tried, putting at least a dozen hours into the most lauded entries in the genre including Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption, but have never been able to fight my way through the middling mechanics and, in the case of GTAIV, the mental disconnect between the tough and gritty storyline and the manic insanity of what is presumably "fun" about the series.

Then Saints Row: the Third happened and GiantBomb went nuts. I wanted to jump in again, just to see what all the fuss was about, but I couldn't in good conscience pay full-price for the game. It was trapped between a rock (my overwhelmingly negative past experiences with the genre) and a hard place (the impossibly high expectations set by Giantbomb's staff and community). So I waited and waited and waited for the Steam Summer Sale and the $12.49 price tag it brought.

Needless to say, I was blown away. It may have something to do with the fact that I'm a mouse & keyboard snob, but for the first time the gameplay of an open-world game felt tight. The driving and shooting were actually a ton of fun to do. No more slogging through action sequences just to get to the next story beat, I actually went around looking for trouble. And the snappy writing and cartoonish violence set the proper tone for gleeful mischief which is where open-world games shine. Now I'm a believer, and am actually looking forward to Grand Theft Auto V with something approaching actual excitement.

Runners-up: Pushmo, The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings

Best Surprise

Tie: Binary Domain / Sleeping Dogs

"Welcome to Japan, brother"

These are games that, by all rights, should not have been any good and were so far off my radar that I barely knew they existed outside of their name sardonically stated on the occasional podcast. Then they came out. Then the buzz started, but almost nobody bought them anyways. Then they started showing up on PC at extremely discounted prices. So I bought them, and wow.

Binary Domain is the wrong sort of game from the wrong developer in the wrong genre, so how is it so fun to play? The tactical options afforded by the location-based destruction of enemies make every encounter and interesting puzzle to solve. And while the upgrade paths are extremely shallow, they offer just enough customization to instill a sense of ownership over the characters. Sure, the wildly twisting plot is standard fare for anyone who regularly partakes in Japanese fiction, but the story meshes with the understated western designs of the cast in unexpectedly wonderful ways.

Sleeping Dogs, on the other hand, was caught in a development hell that most games would never have made it out of. The people at United Front Games are nothing short of miracle workers for managing to resurrect the game from its own ashes and elevate the entire genre in the process. The shooting is solid and the melee combat is sublime. And with numerous small touches they created a world that encourages players to drive within the lines and maintain that immersive sense of place.

Runner-up: Asura's Wrath

Geico Insurance's Best Game to Play While Driving

Magic: the Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013

Elemental on Archaeomancer Violence
Elemental on Archaeomancer Violence

...or pushing a stroller, or walking, or cooking, or giving my daughter a bath, or...

Hi. My name is StarvingGamer, and I am addicted to multitasking.

I have a restless mind that I need to keep occupied. As a kid, this meant lugging around a heavy, cumbersome book everywhere I went. Then the Game Boy Advance SP came out and I was diving a lot and there was this game called Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising and, well, that was that. Since then I have never left the house without a dedicated handheld device in tow, be it 3DS, Vita or, as it was for a majority of this year, iPad with Magic: the Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013.

MTG is a thinking man's game. A glance is all you need to get enough information to plan your entire turn, making it easy to play while on the go. And while DotP will never be fully-featured enough to fully satisfy my card-lust, the deck variety and system of unlocks are enough to keep me happy while my 15,000+ collection is in mothballs.

Runners-up: Penny-Arcade The Game: Gamers vs. Evil, Persona 4: Golden, SolForge Demo

Biggest Disappointment

Resident Evil 6

I've already spoken of the myriad failings of Resident Evil 6 at length here so I'll just say this: Resident Evil 5 was an incredible symphony mechanics, balance, and design. RE6 is a cacophony of dissonant ideas from developers completely tone-deaf to the successes of RE5.

Runner-up: Darksiders II

The Game to Pay Full-Price For and Not Play of the Year

Zone of the Enders HD Collection

No Caption Provided

As a person with a history of giving up food in favor of games, I have become more and more aware of my ever-growing pile of shame. In recent years, I have managed to crack down on my erroneous purchases for the most part, but every once in a while a few games slip through the cracks in my psyche despite the fact that I KNOW I will either not play them until they hit the bargain bins or not at all. This year, that game was Zone of the Enders HD Collection.

But what sets ZoEHD apart from the rest of the pack is my amazing ability to rationalize my poor life-choice. You see, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner is one of my favorite games of all time and still the best example of high-speed, anime mech combat in a game to date. So where is Zone of the Enders 3? WHERE KOJIMA!? You keep teasing me but all you make is Metal Gear games! I want my Jehuty! I want my Anubis! I want my ADA!

So while I may never actually crack open the case and insert disc, hopefully my expenditure is the one push Konami needs to greenlight the next game in the series.

Runner-up: Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

Game of the Year

The Walking Dead

This game has been talked to death, so I'll just say this. In all my time playing video games, I have never experienced a story so effectively affecting. The Walking Dead sets a new standard for interactive storytelling and player-choice that is going to be incredibly tough for anyone to top. I know I can't wait for the rest of the games industry to try.

Goodbye Clem, and good luck. I'm going to miss you.
Goodbye Clem, and good luck. I'm going to miss you.

Runners-up: 2. Persona 4: Golden, 3. Diablo III, 4. Mass Effect 3, 5. Borderlands 2, 6. Asura's Wrath, 7. Persona 4 Arena, 8. Binary Domain, 9. XCOM: Enemy Unknown, 10. Sleeping Dogs