While the whole editorial staff contributed to our 2012 awards, we wanted to allow everybody the opprotunity to publicly name their personal top 10 games of the year. While many did play the majority of releases in 2012, please remember that unlike our main awards, the editors are not naming the *best* games, but their personal favorites out of the selection they played.
10. Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition
The Wii didn’t have a lot of strong support in 2012, but did see some in the form of two much sought-after RPGs and the best compilation that Nintendo has released since Super Mario All-Stars — the original SNES one, not the Wii incarnation, which was just a ramshackle OST alongside a ROM dump. HAL and Nintendo did right by Kirby fans by including not only six full Kirby games, but exclusive challenge stages, a museum section with clips from games and a few TV episodes, an OST CD, and a 45 page book covering the history of the series in avery pink deluxe box. There’s so much great stuff here between the games and the extra content that it could easily turn a casual Kirby fan into a die-hard one.
9. Gravity Rush
(PSVita, SCE Japan Studio)
2012 was an awesome year for portable gaming. Beyond apps and eShop games, there was also a ton of great retail releases. The best one for the Vita would definitely be Gravity Rush. It blended platforming and action fairly well and had a great gimmick in gravity-manipulation. The precision allowed by the combination touchscreen/button controls was surprisingly high and made for a really fun experience overall. The cel-shaded look combined with smooth animation is stunning and the jazz-heavy soundtrack stands out quite nicely. While the combat could use some refinement for a sequel, it’s really the only blemish on an otherwise outstanding game. Gravity Rush was the Vita’s first bonafide killer app, and remains one of the platform’s finest games nearly six months after its release.
8. Double Dragon Neon
(Multi-platform, Wayforward Technologies)
I didn’t really have high expectations for Neon before it came out. The pre-release videos showed a game with an iffy visual style, and the series itself wasn’t one I was all that nostalgiac for due to its slow pace, not allowing it to age as well as faster beat-em ups like Streets of Rage 2 and Final Fight 3. Thankfully, the developers turned the genre on its head with this game by being self-referencial and adding a lot of parody elements. Children of the ’80s and ‘90s will love using Crystal Soda as a power-up and chuckle at the Skellator-esque final boss, while the silly soundtrack and legwarmer-clad vixen enemies add some ’80s cheese that helps the game a lot. Double Dragon Neon is easily the funniest game I’ve played all year, with one of the most entertaining soundtracks to boot.
7. UFC Undisputed 3
After a two year absence, U3 brought the UFC back to gaming with the best-looking MMA game ever made, while its massive roster made it endlessly replayable. The inclusion of walkouts added to the authenticity and made the new PRIDE mode even better given how that company’s flashy entrances helped it stand out from other MMA groups in its heyday. Having about 100 fighters gave you plenty of matches to play, including dream matches with UFC vs. PRIDE. The ability to have makeshift catchweight bouts is also incredible, and beyond giving players a bit of a look at how things used to be with big guys versus small guys, it also allows you to have matches that the game itself didn’t intend — like Chael Sonnen vs. Jon Jones, or in a bit of a throwback, the massive Roy Nelson against the much smaller Benson Henderson. While the UFC license may in EA’s hands now, its final THQ installment remains the best overall MMA game ever made.
6. Sleeping Dogs
(Multi-platform, United Front Games)
Sleeping Dogs was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year for me. I didn’t have high hopes for another sandbox game, since they tend to feel more like a prettier version of a last-gen staple, but this one has a level of polish most lack. The shooting mechanics are good and it’s got the best cover system yet for one too. Driving is fairly smooth and the view of Hong Kong at night with the rain-slicked roads is incredible. The storyline is well-acted and compelling as a result, even if you can see a lot of things coming. Once that’s beaten, DLC helps give you a reason to keep playing, while a slew of hilarious outfit choices make dressing up as either Bruce Lee or Ryo Hazuki a laugh riot as you go through the world.
5. Hotline Miami
(PC, Dennaton Games)
Hotline Miami was a real mindfreak of an experience when I first played it, and has remained so months after its initial release. The addition of controller support was a huge Godsend as it makes the game much easier to control and more fun as a result. Hotline Miami has been described as a stylized grindhouse game, and given its video filter over the game and 8-bit bloodshed, it’s a fitting description to some degree. If you’ve ever wanted to play as a lunatic in a Delorean who bludgeons guys dressed like Sonny Crockett to death with baseball bats and decapitates them with shotgun blasts, get this ASAP.
4. Dead or Alive 5
(Multi-platform, Tecmo Koei)
DOA 5 takes the series back to being playable by humans and does away with DOA 4′s crippling difficulty against the AI. It also brings with it a few VF characters, although sadly not Wolf, who would have been fun to use against Bass. It‘s definitely strange to see Sarah, Pai, and Akira in the DOA universe, but they play nicely and fit the game well. As expected with a DOA game, there’s some sweet-looking backgrounds to destroy, things to either be thrown down or throw someone else down, and the smoothest combat yet in a fighting game this generation. DOA 5 looks and feels like what a current-gen fighter should be and doesn’t feel stuck in the past with only new moves and a fresh coat of paint to update it.
3. Forza Horizon
(Xbox 360, Playground Games)
Open-world games are a tricky thing, some are a lot of fun, while others would be more fun if they were a tad less open. Midnight Club: LA was a game I wanted to enjoy more than I did, but found its entirely open environment for races to be a nightmare. Fortunately, Forza gives you the freedom of an open world outside of the races and keeps the races track-based. As a result, you can actually focus on the racing and still have fun exploring the world at your leisure. There’s nothing quite like smashing through upgrade signs to accumulate massive savings or locating a barn find and giving a rare vehicle some love to get it back on the track. Exploring is something you’ll want to do beyond just the bonuses that come with it, but for the amazing views of the in-game Horizon Festival, which really shine at night with fireworks going off and a ton of modern-day music blaring in the background.
2. New Super Mario Bros. U
(Wii U, Nintendo)
After being incredibly disappointed by the sameness of NSMB 2 for the 3DS, I didn’t have high hopes for this. I figured that too little time had passed and that if any game was going to have a reason to feel like too little had changed, it was this one. Thankfully, my gut instinct was wrong. The level design is some of the most inventive yet in the “New” series, and unlike the Wii incarnation’s occasional controller tilting, this doesn’t have any forced system-specific hardware usage required. It’s the best entry yet in this version of the series and makes the wait for the next game that much harder.
1. Journey (Collector’s Edition)
Listing the CE may be a bit of a cheat given that the main game won so much, but it is the best version of the game to buy, can be had for around $20 or less and includes the similarly trance-inducing Flower and the more action-oriented Fl0w along with OSTs, art and commentary tracks for a playthrough of each game. There’s also a sweet documentary on the making of Journey and three short mini-games made during the 24 Hour Game Jam included alongside some nice reversible cover art focusing on Journey and Flower.