As the year draws to a close, I think back to this year in gaming. It’s been a pretty interesting year and there have been some great games and a few bummer titles. Stuff like indie Kickstarter funding and the release of the Wii U continue to drive the industry further and open up new possibilities for the future of the industry.
At the risk of being a little cliché, I’ve put together a top ten list of my favorite games from this year. If you don’t see your favorite up here, bear in mind that this is just my personal opinion and I’m only including games that I had the chance to play from start to finish this year. So, if I failed to include a game you think is pretty amazing, it’s not because I hate it, it’s more likely that I didn’t play it this year.
The first section I’ll list off a few games that I enjoyed, but didn’t manage to finish.
I truly feel terrible that I haven’t take the time to finish this list of games: Mass Effect 3, Fez, Mark of the Ninja and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward. Each and every one of these games have received enough playtime from me to know that they’re something special, but I haven’t come close enough to finishing them to feel right about their inclusion in my official top ten for this year. That being said, I still wanted to give each of these games their props and let you know that they’re all worth playing.
10. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
To be honest, the first time I saw this game, I thought it looked pretty dumb. The rhythm game genre has been pretty thoroughly explored and I wasn’t interested in playing along to silly remakes of songs from the Final Fantasy series. The way that they managed to include some RPG elements and the sheer amount of content they ended up jamming in there was downright impressive. Couple that with them using nothing but the original tracks from the games and you’ve got a great entry for my top ten of the year.
9. Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack
Whenever any new console launches, you can always count on there to be a lack of really good games to play. In that time for the PS Vita, I decided to take a risk on a downloadable title called Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack. As I very quickly discovered, I had stumbled upon the best game that system had to offer at the time. This game takes the Vita and manages to use the various features the system has in smart and non-overbearing ways to offer a fun platforming experience. The game also has a great sense of humor to keep you pulled in the world and playing more.
One of the best things about playing video games is the ability to disappear into a whole other world. No other game on this list did a better job of putting together a unique and interesting world to explore. The abilities they give you then take the experience to the next level and make your jaunt through the city streets of Dunwall all the more fun. They even take the time to include a huge amount of extra readable content that you can pick up and even further flesh out the world. While the game tends to strongly nudge you in a particular direction, it’s also a great challenge to try to not kill anyone and I ton of fun to use your powers to slaughter everyone. There’s nothing dishonorable about this great game.
7. Nintendo Land
When I played this game at E3 the past couple years, I knew that the Wii U was going to be a big deal. After getting it home and putting it into the hands of my family and friends, my thoughts were confirmed: Nintendo Land is a fresh and amazing local multiplayer experience. Giving one person more or different information than the others during a multiplayer match doesn’t sound like a huge deal, right up until you’re experiencing it. Not all of the games in this compilation are a hit, but the ones that are hit very hard. This game will end up being a definite staple anytime I have friends over and stands up pretty well on its own with the single-player games.
The video games as art argument has been long and occasionally heated, but it seems like whenever this game is brought up people don’t have much of a choice but to agree. The game is beautiful every second your television has it on the screen and the soundtrack can only be described as breathtaking. Even though you can make the entire journey in one go, they give you plenty of reasons to go back and take another trip. Probably the best part of the game is the moment when you realize that the other character running around in the environment is a real person. This subtle multiplayer aspect, along with everything else mentioned, makes this one of my favorite games of this year.
5. Gravity Rush
It is a horrible shame that this game did not come out for the PS Vita right at launch. Launching players into an open world where you have complete control over the forces of gravity was an exhilarating experience. A huge amount of my time with this game was spent just flying around the world for the fun of it. That’s not to downplay the rest of the content, because I enjoyed this game so much I actually took the time to earn a platinum medal in the game. The missions, though occasionally a little frustrating, are tons of fun and force you to use the different gravity-based abilities in ways you might not on your own. It’s the best game for the Vita right now and Sony is offering it for free as a part of PlayStation Plus, so there’s no excuse to not check out this amazing title.
4. Resident Evil: Revelaitons Revelations
In a year with three Resident Evil games, I never would’ve called that the only good one is the one for the 3DS. Perhaps accidentally aided by the graphical capabilities of the portable system, the cramped corridors of the S.S. Queen Zenobia manage to add the tension that Resident Evil fans have been clamoring for since Resident Evil 4. The game’s water effects and great-looking characters and creatures makes for the most graphically beautiful title to date on Nintendo’s handheld console. If you’re a fan of the series and you’re desperately looking for a good game in the RE universe, this one will not leave you disappointed.
3. Tokyo Jungle
It’s really easy for some game developers to play it safe and release the same game year after year with some minor improvements. I have to applaud Sony for not only taking the risk of developing a game as unique as Tokyo Jungle, but actually releasing it in America. Tokyo Jungle is a game that decided what it wanted to be, focused on how to do that one thing well and nailed it. The setup for the story is hilarious and there’s something both awesome and deeply disturbing about surviving a post-apocalyptic Tokyo at all costs as a pomeranian. It’s easy to lose yourself in trying to survive and unlocking new animals as you explore the empty city. I spent probably more time than I should have just playing one more round of this amazing title for several weeks after it came out. The tight focus of this game makes it addictive and easy to call one of my favorite titles this year.
In a world full of zombie games that have you blasting around blowing undead heads off like it’s nothing, it’s refreshing to see a game like ZombiU. This game slows you down and forces you to much more carefully consider each situation. I’ve never been a huge fan of purposely difficult games, disregarding my soft spot for the Mega Man franchise, but this one managed to make the argument in a way I could really get behind. It only takes three zombies before you’re running a pretty serious risk of losing your survivor. The ability to then go back out and kill yourself, or one of your friends, to take back your stuff adds a great zombie game twist. Couple that with it being one of the first games to really prove that the Wii U gamepad can be an essential part of a single-player experience and you’ve got a first-person zombie survival-horror title that should not be missed.
1. The Walking Dead
Not in a very long time have I been as emotionally invested in a game as I was with the series over the year. When the first episode launched, I decided to download the demo just to see if it was any good. Immediately after completing the demo I ordered the season pass for the game and haven’t regretted that decision for a second since. The game has an amazing ability to really feel like you’re in control of the destinies of the characters in this story. Each decision you make in the game is really hard to make and almost every time, no matter what you do, you end up feeling like a horrible person for those decisions. I truly needed the month-long breaks the season-style release schedule afforded to recover from the intense events from these episodes. No other story told this year is as engaging and intense as the one told by Telltale Games. It holds the honor of being one of the few games I was crazy enough to stand up and applaud in an empty room. It is easily the best game Telltale has ever made and runs away as my favorite game from 2012.