I’ve been putting off my games list to the last minute as I thought I would have the time/money to play through some of the big games of 2012. Compared to last year where my list was full of AAA releases, I have barely played any this year, so games like ACIII, Dishonored, Journey and Far Cry 3 won’t make an appearance. That said, here are 10 games I will remember fondly from the year just gone.
10) Final Fantasy XIII-2 – PS3/360
The fact I have had to include Final Fantasy XIII-2 in my end of year list stresses the point I made above. XIII-2 isn’t a bad game in the slightest, in fact it’s the best FF game released since the PS2 era, but does it really deserve to be here alongside such classics? With main heroine Lightning taking a backseat, it’s her sister Serah and new character Noel that drive the narrative forward here. The time travel concept makes for an interesting journey meeting up with familiar faces and locations for those who made it through the first game. XIII-2 fixed most of the issues I had with the original game, which is why it finds itself kicking off my list.
9) Virtue’s Last Reward – Vita/3DS
You’ll notice a trend of Vita games appearing on my list, and while Virtue’s Last Reward has a lot of problems it’s one of the games I’ll remember from 2012. One of the most bonkers concepts I’ve ever heard of, this is a point and click adventure game where your decisions rely on how much you trust the other characters. It’s a unique and enjoyable experience and one I will remember from my first set of Vita games. (Full Review)
8) Gravity Rush – Vita
I am yet to complete what most regard as the essential Vita launch game, but I have enjoyed everything I have played so far. With a likable heroine and an intriguing narrative, Gravity Rush is a much more complete experience that I expected it to be. The gravity bending gameplay holds everything together extremely well, making it one of the most interesting and inventive launch titles ever seen on a handheld.
7) Papo & Yo – PSN
A title that is sure to be overlooked in end of year lists, Papo & Yo tells a heartbreaking tale of abuse and how a person you love can become a monster so quickly. It may not have the same high production values of some other indie games from 2012, but Papo & Yo sets out to tell an emotional story and succeeds where so many fail. A memorable moment in games in 2012. (Full Review)
6) Need For Speed: Most Wanted – PS3/360/PC
The latest game to make it onto this list, I have a love/hate relationship with the latest Need For Speed. In some respects it is my favourite racing game since Race Driver: GRID, the incredible technical achievement in graphics and sound accompanying what should be a flawless driving experience. Sadly the cops that make an appearance in most events go from troublesome to plain frustrating within seconds, making you feel like control over how well you drive has been taken from you. Most Wanted should be much higher on this list, but unfortunately I can’t shake the problems it has.
5) Borderlands 2 – PS3/360/PC
I’ll admit, I don’t play Borderlands 2 properly. I have played through both games completely alone, rather than play with co-op partners online. I know this is missing the whole point of the experience, but that’s exactly the point, it’s my experience. No one has mastered the perfect mix of shooting and RPG stats as well as Gearbox have with Borderlands 2 (Not even a certain other RPG still to come) and it was definitely one of 2012’s essential games.
4) Uncharted: Golden Abyss – Vita
I suppose there were people who expected Nathan Drake’s first handheld adventure to be on top of my list. It’s obvious that I’m a little bit obsessed with the Uncharted series, and Golden Abyss was certainly the main reason I wanted a Playstation Vita. The game didn’t disappoint. This is a fully fledged Uncharted game, and while the set piece moments are smaller in scale, it’s another rollorcoaster of drama and action that puts it just ahead of the first game in the series in my books. Having Drake with me on the go was brilliant, showing that the Vita can match up to its home console counterparts.
3) SSX – PS3/360
This game is the reason it has taken me so long to finally put this list together. I have played no other game as much in 2012, and nothing else on any of these lists has provided the highs that SSX has. Storming down Serenity stringing together a ridiculous trick combo is the gaming equivalent to hearing that bit in We Found Love right before everything goes off in a club where people around you start going mental jumping up and down. It’s possibly the greatest piece of gaming I experienced in 2012, but as I mentioned in my review of the game on release, the deadly descents spoil what would have been a otherwise perfect game. In so many ways it’s my favourite game on PS3, better than SSX3 and my defining game of the generation. It’s broken though and these frustrations prevent it from being my game of 2012, even if I know it’s the one I’ll be playing well into 2013 and possibly even 2014.
2) Mass Effect 3 – PS3/360/PC
Let’s ignore the elephant in the room, as most people will remember Mass Effect 3 for those closing few minutes. I choose to focus on the 30 hours of incredible space RPG that came before, featuring some of the most dramatic, exciting and emotional moments I played in 2012. Characters you have grown to love through the trilogy, as well as the consequences of choices made in the earlier games make for an incredible final chapter. Your Shepard has some difficult decisions to make here, some of which are sure to bring a tear to the eye of even the most hardened of gamers. My personal journey across the galaxy came to an end in 2012, and the most memorable moments took place in the final game. Bioware may not have gotten that ending right, but taken as a whole Mass Effect 3 is an epic experience that rounds off one of the industry’s most revered franchises in tremendous style.
1) The Walking Dead – PSN/XBLA/PC/iOS
Part of me really wanted to award SSX top honours for the sheer joy and huge amount of hours I’ve sunk into that game. Another part of me knows that Mass Effect 3 is a technically astonishing achievement and one I’m sure to return to for years to come. But when it came down to it, no game affected me, or has done in a few years, as much as The Walking Dead. Avoiding every problem that I have with the otherwise brilliant TV show, The Walking Dead keeps things honest, simple and brutal throughout its 5 episodes. Each section has its own peaks and troughs, the excellent pacing within the separate sections giving the game a unique and innovative philosophy of how you play it. It works much more effectively taken over a series of days, much like the TV itself, with the instant connection to these emotive characters turning even the smallest of choices into major internal battles. Choosing whether to give food to a starving child, or the selfish guy in order to build a bridge with his daughter is the sort of decision that can cause major repercussions down the road. Dealing with these consequences is part of the experience, seen no greater than in the innocent eyes of your companion Clementine. Nothing was more heartbreaking in 2012 than seeing her look up at you with a disapproving, slightly terrified look reminding you that she will remember your actions. In gaming there are few finer examples of character design than Clem, forced to grow up to survive in a changed world, it’s her innocence that will eventually save her, as well as break your heart. No game has made me cry like The Walking Dead did, which given how many have actually brought me to tears is saying something. Because it was my journey and my decisions with these characters, it made the connection impossibly strong, something no other medium can even come close to achieving. The Walking Dead is a journey, a story and a game I will never forget and so is my choice for the Best Game of 2012.