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. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz
(PS Vita, Amusement Vision)
One the most commonly heard complaints about the PS Vita is its lack of games. This list, which contains three of the console’s releases, should prove that statement false. Front-loaded as the launch was, many fantastic titles trickled out over the next nine months with few duds, including the sadly over-looked Super Monkey Ball Banana Splitz. While the series is certainly past its prime and the 3DS outing did nothing to prove otherwise, Banana Splitz is certainly the best Monkey Ball to be released since the original Gamecube entries. Not only is the level design inspired and hilarious (jumping between pterodactyl wings), but it offers a true challenge that will frustrate even seasoned Monkey Ball rollers. At a paltry $29.99 (the game can now be had for under twenty), it’s a puzzle game that deserves a spot in every Vita owner’s library.
9. Gravity Rush
(PSVita, SCE Japan Studio)
Seven months after release, Gravity Rush remains the premiere killer-app for the PS Vita. Generic cover and logo aside (seriously, this game looks like second-rate puzzler at first glance), it’s one of the most unique handheld experiences to come around in a long time — and one that makes perfect use of the Vita’s functionality. Simply tumbling through cities collecting gems is worth the price of admission alone, but the beautiful cel-shaded graphics, jazzy soundtrack and intriguing (and adorable) heroine Kat make it an experience worth savoring long after release.
8. Super Hexagon
Even I’m surprised by this one. Had you asked me if “Super Hexagon” would be one of my favorite games of the year in early November, I would have laughed in your face — literally. Yet, after being “persuaded” by James (who gave the game a perfect 5/5), I begrudgingly spent the $2 and bought it. I didn’t sleep that night and for many nights after, a quick “round or two” turned into three hours with my unblinking face pressed against the screen. All of this from a game where a triangle is moved around to avoid lines that form hexagon-like shapes. It’s one of the few modern games that truly understands what made classic gaming so fun and will be the best ___ you ever spent. Need proof? We liked it enough that a Hexagon from it was almost nominated as “Best New Character” — a decision I’ll always regret not making.
7. Resident Evil: Revelations
Even though it came out way back in February 2012, Resident Evil Revelations remained one of the best 3DS games of the year — including our and my personal favorite. Not only was it the first game for the console to truly show off its power, but delivered a console quality (or better, if we’re counting 6) Resident Evil experience that felt at home with the early tone of the series. Setting it on an abandoned ship made for the perfect survival horror setting and led to some genuinely frightening moments — difficult for a handheld game. While the game was better with the Circle Pad Pro (seriously, Nintendo needs to admit their mistake and release a 3DS with a second slider implemented in it), exploring the Queen Zenobia was one of the best Resident Evil experiences in a long time.
6. Lumines: Electronic Symphony
(PS Vita, Q Entertainment)
As stated in my review, it’s frustrating that Lumines is still not considered a “must-own” franchise. When a new entry comes out, it sells well enough and everybody to enjoys it, but there’s hardly any pre-release buzz and there’s a general sense of “surprise” that it’s a good game. In reality, there hasn’t been a bad title carrying its name since the series inception on the PSP and Electronic Symphony may be the best one yet. Even though it has 2D visuals, it remains one of the best showcases of the Vita’s graphical capabilities simply due to how beautifully the colors and lights pop off the OLED screen. The mechanics are as strong as ever and the game comes complete with perhaps the series’ strongest soundtrack yet, including tracks from Goldfrapp, The Chemical Brothers and LCD Soundsystem.
In the past two months, Journey has gone from “that awesome indie game” to feeling like The Artist. It’s won multiple game of the year awards, has been nominated almost across the board and even managed a Grammy nomination. It’s sort of impossible not to love this game (I’d fear ostracization had I put this below Lumines) at this point, but unlike some award darlings (like The Artist), at least this one is well-deserving of the acclaim. Completing (“beating” seems like a dirty word to use here) the game in a night, it left me emotionally drained like nothing before it. Even though many have now played it, it remains a very personal experience that inspires at every turn. It’s not near long or replayable enough (it’s the sort of beautiful experience I never want to experience again in fear of tainting it) to garner serious GOTY consideration, but it’s something that every gamer need experience before Thatgamecompany conquers Thatnewconsole.
4. The Walking Dead
(Multi-platform, Telltale Games)
The weird thing about The Walking Dead is that it didn’t feel like anything special until the final episode (I’m not alone as individual episodes averaged in the 4/5 range, but the overall package received many perfect or near-perfect scores). That’s not to say it’s not a great game before it — the understated cel-shaded graphics, top-notch voice acting and excellent writing were apparent from the minute it started. But the game just felt like another good point and click adventure. It wasn’t all that hard and there wasn’t any one element that made it seem game of the year worthy. When the last episode hit, however, was when you realized just how attached to the game you had become through the prior four episodes. You cared about these characters — you felt like you were Lee (the protagonist) and felt his emotion from the unbelievable odds he had overcome. The final few frames of the games leave you speechless — overcome with a almost beautiful, personal melancholy. It’s not often a game leaves an impact on your psyche (Indigo Prophecy, Journey and the Metal Gear Solid series are the only ones that come to mind), but The Walking Dead managed to accomplish just that.
3. Hotline Miami
(PC, Dennaton Games)
Hotline Miami is another game that snuck up on me during the waning months of 2012. A colleague was going on about how much it reminded him of the 2011 film “Drive”, one of my all-time favorites, so I finally had enough and rushed to Steam to buy it. Quite frankly, it was one of the best gaming decisions I ever made. This feels like a game designed for me. Not only is it influenced by said film, but it contains a brave story, retro graphics, awesome art design and one of the best soundtracks of the year filled with truly indie synth artists. An exercise in surrealism, Hotline Miami is a dream-like experience that I still haven’t completely figured out after completing. Screw Mars, we need to send a probe into Jonatan Söderström’s brain.
2. Assassin’s Creed III
Assassin’s Creed III is what I like to refer to as a “bandwagon game”. Even though it received top marks (by critics who had a few weeks of lead time, mind you), the general consensus about the game soured quickly. All it took was a few negatives and not receiving perfect scores across the board and the some in the gaming community jumped on it and continued to spew negativity. Truth is, there’s a secret want many have for successful things to fail, and when one of the biggest series of this generation has a few issues brought up, people twist it into whatever they want to. Yes, it has a few negatives that were fleshed out by mob to seem daunting, but the same can be done for most great things. In reality, Assassin’s Creed III is a beautiful, inspiring game that feels important throughout the adventure. Not only are there bevy of things to do, but expertly designed environments to do them in. It can be a hunting game, a naval game or an action game depending how it’s played. There’s not a minute it’s not captivating and the scope of the affairs are a great indication for what’s to come next generation.
1. Far Cry 3
It’s rare that one of the best games of the year is released in December, but that’s exactly what happened with Far Cry 3. We all had our favorite releases firmly cemented and a fine picture of what 2012 had to offer, but December 4th rolled around and everything had to be reevaluated. While the first two Far Cry entries are great, Far Cry 3 takes everything great about the series, enhances it, tosses the malarkey away and sets it an gorgeous environment. There’s a lot going on here. A play session can involve liberating enemy camps, setting off on a hunting expedition or searching for radar towers and feel like a wholly rewarding experience. But Far Cry 3 does that plus offer an intriguing main campaign that features one of the best conceived video game characters to come along in a while. Vaas is right — insanity is doing the same exact bleeping thing over and over again and expecting bleep to change. Far Cry 3 is a playground; be free.