My Game of the Year list comes down to which games I was happiest to have played this year. So while all these games are great, some of them are also pretty flawed — but don’t let that dissuade you from finding out what makes them interesting.
10. Asura’s Wrath
What CyberConnect2 has done with Asura’s Wrath is make a bonafide Saturday morning anime. The scenarios are over the top, the characters spend time talking about their various levels of power, and it’s an absolute riot to watch the madness unfold. This is a game that’s taken the time to include faux-pauses for commercial breaks and caps each episode off with tantalizing “next week on” moment. Yes the bulk of the game is quicktime events, but if you have a sweet-spot for any sort of the Shogen series like Dragon Ball or Naruto, Asura’s Wrath is a must-play see.
9. Halo 4
It has been awhile since I have enjoyed a Halo game as much as Halo 4. I’ve always been of the mind that Bungie never ‘sold’ the Master Chief as a 7 foot-tall super-soldier but this time around Chief’s larger-than-life qualities are on full display. 343 industries was blessed with an extra year of development time and it shows; that game is gorgeous, coupling the series’ staple skyboxes with impressive, colourful, locals. Chief can finally use abilities without sacrificing sprint, which makes skirmishes feel more robust, and creates de facto exit strategy. It’s a real shame the story takes such a nose-dive without doing some outside reading.
The plague riddled, whale-oil fuel city of Dunwall is the coolest world in a game this year. Not only are all the levels worth playing through a handful of times, but the design is so captivating I wanted to poke at every nook and cranny in search of hidden cellars or ceilings. Perhaps most impressive of all is that Dishonored managed to be a great stealth game, and a wickedly fun stabby title. The story is all kinds of nothing, and it kills me that that developer Arkane decided to separate levels from one another, but Dishonored has the trappings of a great series.
7. Mass Effect 3
It’s been 5 years and 3 games and I’m still ready to talk about the best and worst parts of the Mass Effect series. It may not be perfect, but Mass Effect might be the most ambitious thing to come out of this generation of consoles. Part 3 is no stranger to criticism, with bizarre pacing, weak side-quests, and a flat ending, but the highlights of Mass Effect 3 —built upon it’s predecessors— are too thrilling to call Mass Effect anything but a triumphant success.
6. Mark of the Ninja
Unlike maybe any other stealth game before it, Mark of the Ninja never feels like a guessing game. It’s not about guard patterns, or trial and error, it’s about being a dope-ass ninja. At any point during the game there is a wealth of information being communicated to the player, and if you get caught it’s your own fault. It also doesn’t hurt that the game looks great. So congratulations to the developers at Klei Entertainment, you undercut years of iteration in 3D gaming to prove that 2D side-scrolling makes for the best stealth around.
5. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
The last time I was this invested in a strategy game was Advance Wars (2001) on the Game Boy. This isn’t typically a genre I’m willing to wrap my head-around — let alone have any fun with— but everything from the fancy-pants dynamic camera, to letting me name and customize my characters had me totally wrapped up in my own race to save humanity. There aren’t very many games out that have me holding my breath every time an enemy attacks.
4. Spec Ops: The Line
I’m just happy this game exists. Spec Ops: The Line won’t be for everyone, it’s morbid, upsetting, and absolutely no fun. But what makes it so interesting is that everything from its art to its voice cast is meant to lure players into thinking that it is a typical military-shooter. By the time you realize just how un-Call of Duty the game is you’ll be wrapped up in a contemporary descent narrative. If any of this interests you check out the video extra credits put out on it — I wouldn’t have played it with their push.
A big thanks to the people at Yager, and 2K for developing and publishing this game — we’re better for it.
3. Far Cry 3
And then there’s Far Cry 3. Look, I know it’s crazy for me to beat the Spec Ops drum and then turn around and call Far Cry 3 one of my top games of the year, but it’s damn fun. It may be the most outright fun of 2012. Even if the story drops the ball into stupid-town towards the end, Ubisoft Montreal has hit a home-run with pretty much everything else in Far Cry 3. Surprise animal encounters are still exciting the tenth time something has snuck up on you, and the game’s side-missions are actually worth doing. It is just generally filled with delightful open-world shenanigans.
2. The Walking Dead
Don’t let any preconceived expectations about The Walking Dead franchise —be they good or bad— colour whether or not you play TellTale’s The Walking Dead. This is one gaming’s most compelling narratives due in large part to its pacing and voice-work. But it also makes great use of the form. TellTale’s backed-up their pseudo-television drama with conventions we only see in games, and it works really well. Even if the story follows a single trajectory I was convinced every choice I made was a matter of life and death. I haven’t ever cared about my ultimate fate in a game with such conviction.
Journey is just magic. Each of the moving parts of Journey, from the soundtrack, to the visual art, to the game mechanics, would be worthwhile by itself; pieced together they become an exquisite ensemble. Thatgamecompany has developed something that will last as long as we have the means to play it — I can’t imagine Journey ever being ‘dated.’ Journey is a must-play game and a fully realized work of art.
- Telltale's The Walking Dead: Season 1
- Far Cry 3
- Spec Ops: The Line
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown
- Mark of the Ninja
- Mass Effect 3
- Halo 4
- Asura's Wrath
Visit our 'canon' page to see how 2012 looked compared to years past.