From where I’m standing, 2012 was a rather strange year for gaming. As I tried to whittle down everything I played into this Top 5 list, I couldn’t help but notice that the games that impressed me the most were the ones I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy all that much.
On the flipside, a ton of my most-anticipated games wound up being some of my biggest disappointments—Assassin’s Creed III, Dishonored, and Mass Effect 3, to name a few. This might be the year I finally learn to give up on prelaunch hype and just roll with the punches.
Josh’s Top 5 Games for 2012
#5: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Developer: Sumo Digital
Platforms: 360, PS3, Wii U, PC, Vita
This is probably the biggest surprise on the list for me. I’m not much of a Sega fan—haven’t been since the Genesis days, really—and Racing Transformed is practically dripping with fanservice. Thankfully, there’s an incredibly solid, deep, and challenging arcade racer underneath all the winking references to Sega’s catalog, and I’m only a little ashamed to admit that I poured dozens of hours into mastering every last event. It might not be the most polished or innovative racing game of 2012, but for my money, it’s handily the best.
#4: Mark of the Ninja
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Platform: 360, PC
Stealth games have long been some of my favorites, but it’s been a long while since someone pushed the genre forward in a big way. Leave it to the fine folks at Klei Entertainment to change all that—and with a 2D platformer, to boot. By abandoning some of stealth’s more frustrating aspects while staying unflinchingly true to the spirit of all things sneaky, they delivered an experience that actually let me feel like a ninja: creative, lethal, and—above all else—silent.
#3: Sleeping Dogs
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: United Front Games
Platforms: 360, PS3, PC
The exceptional thing about Sleeping Dogs isn’t that it does anything new or groundbreaking. As polished as the gunplay, melee combat, and driving mechanics are, they’re really only on par with other games in those genres—not better or drastically different. The amazing part was that United Front managed to cram all those stellar mechanics into a single experience without making any compromises. To top it all off, the game also sports an amazing backdrop, with a vibrant open world—and one of the best crime dramas in gaming.
#2: Far Cry 3
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: 360, PS3, PC
For all its flaws, Far Cry 2 was one of my favorite games of all time—uncompromising, brutal, and brilliantly ambitious. In delivering a more polished and even experience, Far Cry 3 did lose some of its predecessor’s rugged charms, but it more than made up for it with a rich, varied FPS experience that’s second to none. The gameplay and surprisingly thoughtful (if imperfectly executed) story came together with a unity of purpose that I hadn’t seen since the original BioShock and—outside of next year’s Infinite—I don’t expect to see again anytime soon.
#1: XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Publisher: 2K Games
Platforms: 360, PS3, PC
In the middle of last year, I decided I’d try out an ancient game I’d nabbed during some Steam sale or another—a little title by the name of UFO: Enemy Unknown. As someone who’d grown up as a console gamer, the experience was mystifying, with so much depth and challenge that I found it impossible to put down—or to beat, for that matter. When I finally got my hands on Firaxis’ remake/reboot/love letter, I was shocked at how they’d managed to modernize the experience without sacrificing any of the things that made the original so great. In terms of sleep and sanity lost, there’s no question—XCOM is easily my game of 2012.
Josh’s Off-Topic Awards for 2012
|Most Unintentionally Hilarious Facial Animations
The Walking Dead
|The Walking Dead delivered a pretty amazing narrative, but it did so in spite of the fact that Telltale’s animators are about on par with a 15-year-old who just booted up a pirated copy of Maya for the first time. With the distracting way Lee mugged for the camera at every opportunity—mouth inhumanly agape and eyes wider than an embarrassed anime schoolgirl—I’m surprised I managed to get drawn into the story as much I did.|
EGMNOW’s Best of 2012 Awards Schedule
|Editor’s Choice: Ray Carsillo||Dec
|Editor’s Choice: Josh Harmon|
|Editor’s Choice: Andrew Fitch||Dec
|Editor’s Choice: Brandon Justice|
|Editor’s Choice: Eric L. Patterson||Dec
|Editor’s Choice: Chris Holzworth|
|Editor’s Choice: Matthew Bennett||Dec
|Editor’s Choice: Marc Camron|
|Best of 2012: #25 ~ #21||Dec
|Best of 2012: #20 ~ #16|
|Best of 2012: #15 ~ #11||Dec
|Best of 2012: #10 ~ #06|
|EGMNOW’s Best Games of 2012: #05 ~ #01|
|Tobias Bruckner Memorial Awards|