DarkStation's Top 11 Games of the Year

2012 was an amazing year for video games but it's finally over, the Apocalypse didn't happen and the holidays are done. All of our writer's have posted their personal top 5 games of the year and now it's time for one last Games of the Year list. The ultimate list to conquer all lists. But enough with the melodrama. This list was complied by reordering every game that was included in our writers'  top 5 lists and scoring them based on where they fell in those lists. If a game was at #5, it scored 1 point. If a game was #1, it scored 5 points. There were a few ties and those ties were broken by how many lists the game was featured on. The descriptions below are excepts from our writers' lists which you should definitely check out, but these are the highlights, if you will. So, without further adieu, DarkStation's Top 11 Games  of the Year.

11. Spelunky

Spelunky presents an intriguing world that is simultaneously scary and whimsical, with a sense of discovery that hearkens back to the reason I fell in love with video games in the first place. -Nick

With some adorable visuals, music that's still not out of my head months later, and vastly improved controls, all was lost. A game of Spelunky can last anywhere from seconds to hours, but each session is filled with knowledge. -Schedler

10. Fez

A merely functional puzzle-platformer on the outside, it soon evolves into a devilishly obtuse and quirky puzzle game that requires a level of player thought and decryption that’s been lost in the Call Of Duty-age. Fez marked the first time I’d had to reach for a notepad and pen whilst playing a game for half a decade, and only some technical foibles detracted from what was a fascinating and finely crafted experience. -Ashley

At first glance, Fez is a simple game about a guy in a fez with a bunch of blocks to collect. In reality, the game is like a strange, simulated metaphor for science. As you explore, you discover something, and it opens new doors and broadens your horizons. But this new discovery only takes you so far, and you have to discover something new, or find a new way to use your previous discoveries, in order to progress in any way. Eventually you discover more, until you finally reach the end of your knowledge and discover that there might even be a new theory beyond what you’d been working on so far. Fez is a game that is not only a lot of fun to play, but a lot of fun to think about. -Hiram

9. Hotline Miami

Dennaton's trippy action game is one of the most internally consistent, fully realized games I've ever played, and I wouldn't change a thing about it. It's a game that's not only tough but fair, but strikes that balance in a way that more or less restricts you from doing any planning. The gameplay is rock-solid and always works as intended, but you never really know what's going to happen in a given level. You just have to breathe, open that first doorway, and use your instincts and reflexes to make it through the hellstorm that follows, knowing full well that a single attack could spell both you and your foes' doom. -Schedler

At first glance, Hotline Miami is just a highly satisfying, if deeply challenging, top-down-action game with precise controls and clever level design.  It maintains this for the entire game, but it soon becomes something more.  Hotline Miami generated some controversy for its brutal and seemingly senseless violence, but as the game goes on, it becomes clear that nothing in the game is unintentional.  Hotline Miami makes you admit that you enjoy the killing and violence and are willing participant in it.  Then it makes you look at yourself as a gamer and realize just what it is that you are doing. -Jake

8. Sleeping Dogs

As an open world game it has all of the staples you would hope for, great story missions, interesting side quests, and a world that is ripe for the taking. It may be one of the best open-world games of this generation. -Joel

Sleeping Dogs is the first game to really nail the actual gameplay mechanics that many open world games tend to gloss over in favor of immersion and scope. It accomplishes so much with minimalism, making guns a minor part of the gameplay and instead focusing on it’s Arkham City inspired melee combat that feels like it could be a major component of other linear titles. In fact, no major aspect of the game feels particularly weak. The parkour, driving, shooting, and melee are all used in enough moderation to keep things fresh, and it’s fantastic that all four prioritize fun over open world immersion. -Joseph

7. Dishonored

It’s the best Deus Ex game since the first Deus Ex. Its story maybe not be the best 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 have been too in a long time. Of every game released in 2012, it deserves a sequel the most. -Jonathan

The level design is fantastic, with so many insane possibilities and creative ways to take out each target. Dishonored gives you tools of total manipulation, and challenges you to be as creative as possible. Arkane’s desire for you to experiment with their systems is best summed up by the mantra written on the walls: “The boldest measures are the safest.” -Joseph

6. Max Payne 3

Max Payne 3 has my favorite gameplay of any game. Nothing is more fun to then diving through the air with two pistols firing at a room full of guys as I down a bottle of painkillers mid-dive. That is poetry in motion if I ever saw it. -Jeremy

Max Payne 3 is the most realistic, yet also, most unrealistic shooting game ever. Mixing the ridiculous slow motion combat, the Man On Fire style story and the Euphoria physics engine makes for an intense, ultra violent crime thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end. -Alexander

5. Journey

It’s totally secure with its length (which is so rare for a video game) because every moment in Journey is meaningful and wonderful. The visual direction (and subsequently technical execution) and the score blend into one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had playing a video game. -Mikhail

Perhaps the most significant interaction you have is with your new found partner who you can only communicate with through chirps.  You will form a tight bond as you travel towards the ends of the world.  What makes Journey so special is the feeling you get as your travel through a lovingly crafted land with a total stranger striving to reach a point of light on the horizon. -Jake

Its ambiguity may leave some with distaste, but I led Journey‘s mysterious, androgynous traveler on a number of sandy adventures throughout this year and not once was I left with dissatisfaction. In a moment of blinding white light and exhaustion, Journey typically left me wanting one more trip into the great sandy beyond. -Kyle

4. Spec Ops: The Line

By the time it finished, I felt like I’d just played something more akin to psychological horror than third-person shooter. It’s full to the brim with subtle changes in pacing and style, and gets inside the mind of the player better than every other game this year. -Ashley

I love military shooters, I’m not ashamed to say, and for that reason I tend to be pretty underwhelmed by most of the hokum that comes out year-after-year. Spec Ops is not hokum. It wants so badly for you to think it is, and just as that feint might convince you to start playing something else, it delivers one of the most memorable gut-punches in gaming since, “Would you kindly?” -Condra

In this age of Call of Duty, where war themed video games have become parodies of summer blockbuster movies or introduce half-baked narratives designed to keep the multiplayer naysayers at bay, Spec Ops did an incredible job of breaking away from the genre’s status quo. Simply put, this game needs to be played because it's different. -Allen

3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown

XCOM: Enemy Unknown surprised me thoroughly. I wasn’t expecting a rich, deep progression system that require more out of you than just killing those alien scum. I grew attached to my squad, was shocked and sadden when they died which I didn’t expect. My greatest triumph with XCOM was keeping my first squad member alive until the very end, still managing to escape from the alien mother ship. -Alexander

XCOM eases players into the conflict at a masterful pace, and zooming around between land-based skirmishes, base-building, and UFO dog-fighting quickly becomes second nature. These solid mechanics, combined with the constant emotional pressure, make XCOM: Enemy Unknown a game that is impossible to put down. -Nick

My campaigns against the alien menace have left many bodies in it’s wake, old timers and newbies alike, and each death was devastating, yet rarely did I find myself restarting a save to keep them alive. Their deaths, like nothing else in video games, are what make XCOM a humbling, awesome experience. That, and double-tapping aliens in an archangel suit from three stories up. -Brian

2.Mass Effect 3

Every significant event Shepard faced in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 were resolved in the most touching and powerful way.The game’s knack for bringing back surviving members for short missions never felt cheap, rushed or shoehorned. Given Shepard’s fate at the end of the game, getting a chance to say a final goodbye to characters that I fought alongside with for so long was more meaningful than I expected. -Allen

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 game 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. A story that spanned three games like no other has yet to. A technical marvel and an artistic wonder. -Jonathan

No other game that I have ever played has tugged at my heartstrings quite like Mass Effect 3 – featuring goose bump-inducing moments that are simply the epitome of an emotional assault. The storytelling and characterization was nothing short of masterful, and the tactile combat encounters sprinkled across all the varied environments made Mass Effect 3 the best playing game in the series. My level of admiration for this series cannot be overstated enough. -Charlie

1. The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead is at best an interactive storybook, offering little gameplay and a whole lot of linearity in exchange for some of the best character work done this year. I won’t soon forget the actions of Lee, Clementine, or even that destructive asshole, Kenny as the years go by. -Kyle

With some of the best writing, voice acting, and characters (especially Clementine) in a video game this year, The Walking Dead succeeds in creating a terrifying world where good people are forced to do horrible things in order to survive.  It’s a fantastic and emotional journey that leaves a lasting impression upon the player. -Jake

In adapting Robert Kirkman’s zombie comic book series, Telltale Games has crafted an interactive experience that meaningfully investigates player agency and bestows emotional gut-punches that you likely won’t ever forget. As video games continue to mature in storytelling ambition and scope, I can’t help but feel that we will be referencing The Walking Dead as an influence on the games of the future. -Nick


And there they are, the top 11 games of 2012. You'd be doing yourself a disservice not to check them out. But what do you think? Does our list include your top games of 2012? Let us know in the comments below.

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.