It's that time of year again. We're approaching the end of another year in games (which can't come quick enough in my book). One that has been relatively quiet compared to past years thanks to the transition to the next-gen hardware coming in from Sony and Microsoft next year, as well as the recent launch of Wii U.
But its still been a hell of a year for games releases. And we're blessed (or cursed, depending on how you view things) to have such a packed first-half of 2013 around the corner, with games like BioShock Infinite; Tomb Raider; Grand Theft Auto V and a shit-ton more lined up for the first six months of the year.
But this year has still thrown up an amazing array of titles, plus the hardware launches of PlayStation Vita and Wii U. So as its that time of year again, I've picked my top ten games of 2012 with some honorable mentions at the bottom. There's no Wii U games on the list due to a lack of Wii U.
Otherwise, here we go.
10 - Gravity Rush
It was one of the main reasons why I wanted a Vita day one along with Uncharted. And lo and behold, it is brilliant. If you're buying a Vita any time soon, I can't recommend it enough.
9 - XCOM: Enemy Unknown
I'm not a strategy nut. Never have been. But XCOM: Enemy Unknown made me feel right comfortable in the confine of my strategy noobness, playing it on the master race with a controller. Firaxis made a cracker here.
8 - Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
DON'T SHOOT THE MESSENGER. I've grown awfully tired of Infinity Ward's efforts as of late. And Treyarch's attempts, at least since Black Ops 1, have tried something significantly different with the series at least. And with Black Ops 2, they deserve some credit for that for having the best multiplayer the series has had in years at least.
7 - Sleeping Dogs
From Black Lotus to True Crime and then to what its known as today, Sleeping Dogs was never going to usurp GTA or even Saints Row from their respective open-world crime genre thrones. But it never needed to because, in its own right, Sleeping Dogs is quite excellent in its own way. Plus, it made pork buns cool again.
6 - Max Payne 3
I've never been able to finish the first two games of the series from Remedy, but Rockstar Vancouver made a sequel that was easily one of the most competent of the year. Its story was easily one of the best in games this year and its gameplay wasn't too shabby neither.
5 - Trials Evolution
This is one of those rarities where the difficult second album is better than the debut. Evolution is miles and beyond better than HD. And that, in itself, was a great game. Much more fleshed out, leaderboards even more competitive this time round and a UGC aspect that allowed you to build you own game outside of a racer. But outside of that, just a terrific racer.
4 - Forza Horizon
This is the best racer this year bar none. Probably even one of the best this generation. We all needed a replacement for Test Drive Unlimited following its online closure earlier this year. Placed in the hands of a studio besides Turn 10 for the first time in the IP's history, Playground's debut effort had everything great about it: a buzzing open-world, an incredible selection of cars and the best licensed soundtrack in games in a long time.
3 - Mass Effect 3
That ending. Some of the boss fights. It really soured for me what was, until those points, a fantastic game (and it still was a great game, but kind of felt watered down after experiencing said fights/ending). In fact, it wasn't even in my top ten for the year after dropping out thanks to numerous games. I recently replayed it and I actually had a much more fun experience for it (not to mention, the Extended Cut actually made me sympathise with the ending). Not my GOTY - unlike its predecessor - but I'm really glad I replayed it.
2 - The Walking Dead
Point and click. I've never played them in my life, so I have (am) missed (missing) out on games like Pirate Island and Grim Fandango, as well as a few others, I'm sure. But Telltale popped my P+C cherry in probably the most dramatic, emotional and gripping way possible. It was an adventure game open to everyone, set in a well established multimedia IP. Add in one of the greatest stories of gaming not just this generation, but in the past decade, and you've done something right. Something that raises the bar. Something that other developers keen on storytelling in games should take note of.
The fact it overthrew Journey as my GOTY late in the year when I only bought the series in October when I expected Journey to run away with it speaks volumes of how much an amazing job Telltale did. If you haven't, please play The Walking Dead. For you. For Telltale. For Clementine. I was all but certain this was going to be my Game of the Year without so much as a challenge from any other game in the same vein that Mass Effect 2 was my GOTY when it released in 2010 (despite Heavy Rain and Alan Wake coming out that year - and those two games are some of my favorite games this generation!). But despite no longer being being on top of the mantle, I can't praise Journey enough. I was a big fan of Flower, but even I didn't expect Journey to blow me away the way it did by the time I played the beta last year. It's enchanting in so many ways. And speaking to its director in Jenova Chen remains a personal career highlight for me. Please, you owe yourself to buy this - it's one of the best games of the generation.
Honorable Mentions: Street Fighter x Tekken, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, The Witcher II 360, Spec Ops: The Line, Wipeout 2048, FIFA 13, FIFA Street, Alan Wake's American Nightmare, The Unfinished Swan, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Sound Shapes, Borderlands 2, Joe Danger 2: The Movie, Thearhythm: Final Fantasy, Dishonored, The Darkness II, Motorstorm RC, SSX, Hitman Absolution, Far Cry 3 and Halo 4.
[Note - December 20, 2015: So those who'll have read this blog before will spotted that The Walking Dead's first season was my game of the year for 2012. So why has it changed now retroactively to Journey?
I've said before that, as great as The Walking Dead was (and it really was great), since I posted this, I regret not giving Journey the award. It felt more of a meaningful experience to go through, both in how the game unfolded and the emotional depth of the game. It felt like a true experience. And while The Walking Dead was certainly emotional times, Journey felt natural in the way it delivered those emotional beats.
As time passed on, I regretted it further and further, moreso when writing of it two years ago - a year after Journey's release. The final nail was the release of the PlayStation 4 version this past summer, upon which I realised I had actually found a game that could fill out my top three games of all time - The Last of Us, Metal Gear Solid 3, Journey. At that point, the lightbulb went on. Was The Walking Dead really as good in the year it came out as one of my favourite games ever? No.
So with that, I rectified a wrong earlier in the year, but it's only now I'm writing about it. So there. Journey's number one now.]