2012 has been a fantastic year for games. The Witcher 2 (which would be on my list had it not been at the top of my list last year) was successfully ported to the 360. A new console and a handheld launched. Downloadable games reached a new benchmark. As did storytelling. Despite the rocky spots (from the Mass Effect 3 ending craziness to the issues plaguing THQ to an assortment of other things ) I think a lot of great strides have been made this year in the growth of games as an art, not just a medium of entertainment.
5. Darksiders 2
Despite what I just said, games being art and all, some games excel at simply being awesome. Such is the case with Darksiders 2. There’s no eloquent way to say it, Darksiders 2 is the most badass experience of the year. It is more Darksiders in a bigger world with more weapons and deeper lore. The game is a delight to look at, keeping the exaggerated style of the original and expanding it beyond the Earth into new locales. Whether you’re riding Despair, or hacking n’ slashing, or traversing the ruins of a long dead city, it’s simply a blast to play. It’s the purest example of video-game-fun since Saints Row: The Third. Both made by THQ. Coincidence?
4. Mark of the Ninja
Mark of the Ninja is essentially a Batman game where Batman has a sword instead of a cape. And this is easily my favorite Batman game of all time. Striking from the shadows with agility and precision, the entire game reeks of ninja. From the combat, to the story, to the cut scenes, to the art, everything in the game serves to reinforce the idea of ninja. Everything, and I mean everything, is masterfully done and never over-stays its welcome. The game is sharp. The game is fine-tuned. The game is beautiful. The game is ninja.
I was hesitantly excited about Dishonored all the way up to it’s release. Sure, one of the lead designers of Deus Ex was making it, but it was also from the studio that brought us Might & Magic Dark Messiah. But it’s is definitely more Deus Ex than Dark Messiah. In fact, I’d say it’s the best Deus Ex game since the first Deus Ex. Its story is not great and the gameplay can sometimes miss the mark, but the over all flow of combat and stealth more than make up for the few pitfalls. And it has one of the most interesting worlds I've been too in a long time. Of every game released in 2012, it deserves a sequel the most. Please, Harvey, give me Dishonored Invisible War. I need it.
2. The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead is easily the year’s biggest surprise. Coming off the experience that was Law & Order Legacies, I was ready for something horrible. But then everyone started talking about how good it was and I have to agree. It is not the most “gamey” game (in fact, in some areas it is little more than an interactive film), but it is one of the most engaging experiences I've had. Ever. It portrays characters in a video game in an incredibly convincing way. I mean, even if the game weren't fun and the story horrible, it would be on this list because of Clementine. She’s just that good of a character. The Walking Dead stands tall because it's about the people around you in a way no game has been before.
1. Mass Effect 3
When I think about all the gaming experiences I've had this year, they all seems to pale in comparison to Mass Effect 3. It’s easy to have a bad taste in your mouth after the way Bioware handle the debacle over the game’s ending. It’s also easy to be discouraged in how Bioware has changed since being bought by EA, but when I remember the game and not the politics around the game, it stands as a high mark, not just in video games, but in entertainment for 2012. Mass Effect 3 rises to the top not simply because of it's greater story, which is a good sci-fi romp, but because of all the smaller stories. The gamer is as much about Shepard's friendships as it is about robots invading Earth if not more so. Mass Effect 3 tells one of the most personal stories I’ve seen in a AAA title. It’s a story that I started five years ago when I created my earth-born, sole surviving Shepard. It’s a story that allowed me to give Ashley a collection of Tennyson because I knew she would like it. It’s a story that saw the galaxy come together and the Reapers defeated. A story that spanned three games like no other has yet to. A technical marvel and an artistic wonder. Game of the Year if there ever was one.
If you want to know how I really feel about the game, check out my review.
Honorable Mentions: Dust: An Elysian Tale, Forza Horizon, Kinect Party (i.e. Happy Action Theater 2), Hitman Absolution, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Enhanced Edition
Jonathan is the host of the DarkCast, DarkCast Interviews, and Gamers Read. He loves books, video games, and superheroes. If he had to pick favorites, they would be Welcome to the Monkey House, Mass Effect, and Superman respectively.