Alright, let’s get something out of the way before I ever say another word: this is going to be a list full of niche games.
If you’re looking to EGM staffers to gush about Far Cry 3, Halo 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Assassin’s Creed 3, Sleeping Dogs, Dishonored, or any of the other mega-blockbuster releases that hit this year, we’ve got nine other editors that’ll be covering games such as those as part of their Best of 2012 awards.
As for me, I love the smaller games, the weirder games, the games that sometimes go un-appreciated and under-loved, or the games from outside the usual circle of big-name Western developers. Last year, I dedicated my list to those types of games, and by Santa’s beard, I’m doing it again this year!
When it comes to the year itself, it was an odd one; it was clearly evident that we’re in a period of transition for our industry. Everyone is still waiting for the launch of the next generation of high-definition consoles, and until that happens, we’ve all been put into a holding pattern. The biggest excitement for me were handhelds—not necessarily because the 3DS or the Vita had the best games, but because they were providing me with the freshest experiences.
Then there were the games that didn’t win me over enough to make my list, yet were special enough to have made the year that was 2012 better for me. Dragon’s Dogma is high up on that list; I still don’t like the whole Pawn system, but man was that a surprising and enthralling game otherwise. I also received Persona 4 Arena in 2012—proving that crazy fanservice-y fever dreams really do come true sometimes!
Eric’s Top 5 Games for 2012
#5: Style Savvy Trendsetters
We’re not even past my first entry yet, and I can already sense the bewilderment you hold for what you’re reading. Yes, I said it: Style Savvy Trendsetters, as in Nintendo’s 3DS game about the world of fashion and fashion shop-management. I’ve always had a fascination for all of the elements of design and imagination that exist in the world of fashion, a fascination that was only multiplied due to my time living in Japan. (If you’ve ever seen Japanese street fashion, you’ll understand.) I also have to give credit to any game that can actually make working retail seem like a fun and rewarding experience—something my brain tells me is a damn dirty lie. Sure, for many of you, simply looking at screenshots of Style Savvy Trendsetters will send you into fits that can only be cured by a healthy dose of fragging opponents and teabagging noobs—but for those who love exploring games that offer up new and different experiences, this under-appreciated handheld adventure in virtual dress-up from Nintendo might offer you far more fun than you’d expect.
#4: Xenoblade Chronicles
Developer: Monolith Soft
Different people have different opinions, and I am mature and rational enough to understand that just because the opinions of others might conflict with my own at times does not mean that they’re wrong. Except in cases such as Xenoblade Chronicles—where the entire staff of EGM outside of myself are unequivocally wrong. I was the only person in our offices who enjoyed Monolith Soft’s epic Japanese RPG for the Wii, and that makes me nearly as sad as the moment I hear Sarah McLachlan’s voice singing “In the arms of an angel…” coming from my television. How could I not love Xenoblade Chronicles? In so many gameplay-related ways, it felt like a spiritual sequel to Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XII—and given that that’s my second-favorite Final Fantasy game ever, more RPGs like that are exactly what I’m hoping for.
#3: Tokyo Jungle
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: PlayStation C.A.M.P., Crispy’s
I love Tokyo Jungle—not just as a game, but also as a concept, and as a symbol of the creativity that can still exist in our industry. When people ask why I’m still such an ardent fan of the Japanese gaming industry, projects like Tokyo Jungle are what I point to. It’s simply impossible to play this game and not constantly have a huge smile on your face due to its sheer ridiculousness—and the pure, simply joy of Tokyo Jungle is a wonderful escape from the flood of other games that demand so much of our time, commitment, or attention.
#2: Persona 4 Golden
Platforms: PS Vita
Persona 4 is one of the best role-playing games to ever come from Japan. Typically, when making sweeping statements such as that, I tend to wonder if I’m being a bit hyperbolic—not in this case. Its gameplay is exciting; its system for fusing and leveling your spiritual supports called Persona engrossing. More so than any of that, however, Atlus really came to understand what it takes to makes players connect with and care about a game’s cast of characters. In Persona 4 Golden, nearly everything that was good about the original PS2 release was improved, enhanced, polished, or smoothed out. Sure—there are a few elements of fan-pandering that I would rather have done without—but as a complete experience, Persona 4 Golden is the definition of what a fantastic role-playing game should be.
#1: Gravity Rush
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: SCE Japan Studio
Platforms: PS Vita
I always stress over which games to put on lists such as these—what to be sure to include, what I should leave off, what goes where, all of that. From the very moment I knew I’d be doing this list, however, I knew that Gravity Rush would be my top game. No other title released in 2012 had the effect that Sony’s gravity-bending adventure had on me. Kat is a fabulous addition to Sony’s stable of home-grown heroes, and even hours and hours into the game, Gravity Rush‘s flight mechanics still felt as impressive and immersive as they did at its beginning. This is reason enough to own a Vita—but even in saying that, Gravity Rush is as epic and exhilarating as any console game you could put it up against.
Eric’s Off-Topic Awards for 2012
|The “Didn’t I Used to Love this Franchise?” Award
|I’m not going to be one of those people who take glee from trashing Mass Effect 3 because it’s currently the cool thing to do, but something has definitely changed in my attitude toward the series. I loved the original Mass Effect; I enjoyed—but didn’t like nearly as much—its sequel. And now, with the final chapter in the trilogy of Commander Shepard, I haven’t been able to stay interested for long enough to beat it. I miss what the game was, back before it became so mainstream and action-oriented. I miss exploring alien worlds that existed simply for exploration. I miss the sense of discovery that’s been lost over time. I think Mass Effect 3 is a fantastically-produced game—but it’s a shadow of the experience that the original Mass Effect was.|
|The “I Love You, I Hate You” Award
Silent Hill: Downpour
|I could not—in good conscience—give a slot on my top five to Silent Hill: Downpour. I thought some parts of the game were broken, other parts under-developed, and still other parts simply terrible. And yet, at those times when it wasn’t doing something that drove me crazy, it was giving me a gaming experience that was one of the most fantastic I had throughout the entirety of 2012. I have no idea where my beloved Silent Hill franchise will go from here—but if there’s any justice in this world, it’ll be a project that takes everything done right in Downpour, while leaving behind those elements that worked hard to pull the game down.|
| Topic of the Year
Women in Gaming
|At this point, I don’t even totally remember how the topic of women in gaming started up this year—just that it became a huge, hotly-debated, and at times frighteningly messy conversation. It’s an issue that our industry absolutely should have dealt with more than it has by now. Unfortunately, seeing the pushback by some in the community against the idea of even bringing up such topics clearly showed why there haven’t been more serious discussions on how we can make the industry a better place for women both real and virtual—and how far we still have to go in that regard.|
| Most Surprising Gaming Experience of the Year Award
Old Spice Dikembe Mutombo’s 4 1/2 Weeks to Save the World
|While the rest of the EGM staff are off enjoying some hard-earned holiday vacation, I’m sneaking into the inner workings of EGMNOW and cheating by adding a fourth award to my list! I just couldn’t help it; given that they just finished up yesterday, I have to do so now that I’ve played and experienced the entirety of Old Spice’s series of Flash-based games. Dikembe Mutombo’s 4 1/2 Weeks to Save the World is a collection of short games—each produced in around five days’ time—meant to promote a line of deodorant. However, they were also some of the funnest, funniest, and most charming gaming experiences of the year. The talent and care on display here is nothing short of phenomenal; if you haven’t played them yet, head over to http://www.oldspicesavestheworld.com and do so!|
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|