There was a long moment (can moments be long?), while I was preparing to write this list, when I stopped myself and asked aloud, “What the hell did I play last year?!” My memory is so bad that I had to go check my stack of games and later look up their respective release dates (I played Dead Space this year, for the first time). Fortunately, I managed to cobble together ten games from 2012 (one may be an HD re-release) that I consider to be my favorites/best from last year.
Or, to be honest, the ten games that were left over after I filtered them through my Google-aided screening process.
Alright, let’s get the HD-ified game out of the way. It’s taking the number 10 spot on this list not because I think the other games coming up are better, but because Okami has already been released before…and one other time before that. Still, Okami is a great game that continues to hold up extremely well and even puts some other titles of 2012 to shame, especially when it comes to visuals. Okami was beautiful back on the PS2 and the Wii, but on the PS3? It’s mind-blowingly gorgeous. You can even play the game with the PS Move Controller, should you own one and know where it is.
And the ending? Yeah, I still get a little chocked up, despite knowing how things play out. It’s kind of a shame the music that plays during the credits is different now. Oh and Clover Studios is nowhere to be found.
Pokémon White 2
Yes, yes, I know. It plays like Pokémon always has, it has the same Pokémon from the last time around, and there’s nothing really ‘new’ about it. But you know what? It’s the first numbered sequel in the main Pokémon series. It’s actually trying to continue the plot in a region it established in a prior game. And I can catch wild Eevee now. Like, whenever I want. How awesome is that?!
I’m a simple guy.
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance
I’ll be the first person to tell you how dumb the title is for the most recent Kingdom Hearts game. Sure, it’s kinda relevant to what’s going on in the game, but I can’t help but think that there was a better name it could’ve used. Like, “Kingdom Hearts: This’ll Keep You Occupied, Right?”
Anyway, I’m a huge fan of the series and haven’t played a Kingdom Hearts game since 2010 (Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep). The gameplay feels like coming back home, with you pressing the standard attack button a bunch, and the Dream Eaters turned out to be a much better addition than I initially thought. Even the 3D, despite not serving any real purpose, does well to add a sense of speed and agility to the Flowmotion mechanic. And the nonsense story? Oh, it’s here in full; and it’s amazing! Imagine a giant map that has so much string attached to it, pointing this way and that, that you can just barely see the original image. That’s kinda what Kingdom Hearts is now.
All of the guns. And then more guns after that. Followed by a crap-ton more. And so on and so forth until the end of time, with a chance of continuing even after that.
Borderlands 2 is fun solo, but played co-op, it’s…for lack of a better phrase, frickin nuts. Numbers and bullets and explosions and loot and dead bodies all over the place, while you and 2-3 people you (hopefully) like playing games with hang out and chuckle at the writing. I find it odd that a game mostly about shooting and acquire stuff has writing that’s getting all the praise, but hey, there’ve been weirder things, right?
Now, all that being said, I still haven’t finished I, for one bad reason or another. It’s close to getting its third DLC add-on and I’ve yet to finish it once. That’s pretty bad, I know. Maybe I should’ve made that one of my goals for this year.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
Essentially Burnout Paradise 2 with the most dedicated cops I’ve ever had the pleasure of (literally) running in to, Need for Speed: Most Wanted was shaping up to be the racing game I never knew I wanted again. The arcady-ness of Need for Speed with Criterion behind the wheel and it’s a remake/reboot/Idontknow of the NFS: Most Wanted from years back? I’m in; I don’t need convincing. Out of all the Need for Speed titles, the original Most Wanted was my favorite, so how could adding Criterion be a bad thing? What, they might make it too fast?
Switching cars and customization aside, Criterion’s Need for Speed: Most Wanted was a great racing game that managed to bring the rare competitive side out of me. Yes, it may have cost me a bit of my rationality, but I think it was worth it. And how can you go wrong with a game that lets you jump off of a landmark in its city (and crash through the profile picture of a person on your friends’ list), land on top of a building, then do donuts until the tires explode? I’ll certainly never be able to do that in real life.
One of the few games I invested in this year that I was legitimately worried about, but came out swinging and proved that even games with its development history can still turn out great. I’ve never played any of the True Crimes games and I’m not all that into Grand Theft Auto, but Sleeping Dogs, with its Hong Kong setting and damn good combat, turned this title into one of my favorites. From start to brutal finish, I was with Wei Shen through the thick of it and even came to like many of the game’s characters; Jackie Ma, in particular. The game may not do anything special or have a message, but it is a well made, hell of a good time.
If we don’t head back to Hong Kong in a potential sequel, I’d happily settle for another game staring Wei Shen.
We can all agree that new IPs are few and far between, right? And that maybe, just maybe, it couldn’t hurt to have more of them?
Dishonored was yet another game, like Sleeping Dogs, where I wasn’t sure how well it would do. Stealth is a hard thing to do and an even harder thing to do well. But Dishonored proved itself to everyone with its world, mechanics and that creepy Drunken Whaler song (which may be found on my phone).
Furthermore, Dishonored made me do something I never thought I’d do while playing it. And that was restarting checkpoints every ten or so minutes. I’ve never considered myself to be a perfectionist, but when you playing the stealth route (read: the correct route) and a passing guard spots you, you get a little irked. The Empress’ Bodyguard, who has been granted magical powers, was easily spotted because he sucks at hide-and-seek and can’t close doors? Yeah, let’s restart and pretend as though that never happened. Must’ve been the new guy.
Short, simple, does what it has to do without overstaying its welcome; Journey seemed to be able to accomplish so much with so little. In the span of 2 hours or so, Journey manages to make you feel alone, adventurous, joy when you find another player, fear, desperation, concern and sadness. Some of you can probably recall a specific moment regarding each of those feelings with ease. Who knew sliding on pretty sand could be so fun and full of merriment?
It’s one of the few games I’ve ever played where I have no intention of playing it a second time; my initial playthrough of it is all I’ll ever need.
Mass Effect 3
I don’t have a problem with the ending. I just don’t. Is it perfect? No. Does it ruin Mass Effect 3 and, to a further extent, the rest of that series? Pfft, no.
From start to finish, I was with Shepard and the crew of the Normandy, no matter what the situation was. After two games of proving people wrong and, basically, doing the impossible, it was time to end things and take on the Reapers. I think Mass Effect 3 delivered on what it had to do to finish this trilogy. I’ve said my piece about Mass Effect 3 in the past (specifically the awesome moments), so I don’t want to go on another 800 word journey to talk Mass Effect here. Long story short: the plot, characters and combat were all top notch in Mass Effect 3. I loved just about every second of it (until people started dying), even the multiplayer that I thought was a terrible idea.
Mass Effect 3 isn’t a perfect game, no, but it’s a damn good one that does what it needed to do.
The Walking Dead
Surprise! Did you see this one coming? Of course you didn’t. No one else on the internet has The Walking Dead in their top three of 2012 games. So let me say all this original, unheard anywhere else, praise for Telltale’s The Walking Dead:
I never thought I’d like a point & click/choose your own adventure game. I’m not even sure why I tried out the demo for the game’s first episode way back in April of 2012. Maybe it was because it had The Walking Dead name attached to it and I had very little to play at the time. Regardless of the decisions that led me to The Walking Dead, I’m just glad it happened. When I first started the game, I didn’t expect to get too attached to any of the characters, but lo and behold, Clementine, one of the only two children, became the variable that was included in every decision I made.
-“Who gets fed today?” Clementine first.
-“We’re looking for a boat.” Can Clem swim?
-“We’re all going to go to this place and leave the injured guy, who may or may not turn, at this house. Do you want to bring Clem?” You’re god damn right I’m bringing her!
Every month and a half or so, it felt like I was paying $5 to get punched in the heart; and I liked it (what does that say about me?). It’s hard to talk about The Walking Dead without spoiling things, but when a game can render you speechless, almost make you shed tears and make you feel the pain of loss –without it feeling forced or out of place (and you keep coming back!)–, you have to give it the praise it deserves.
Yes, it has some bugs and the shooting sections leave a lot to be desired, but by the end of it, you’re satsified, bummed out and still worried about the well-being of imaginary characters. The Walking Dead isn’t a fluke. It earned its recognition.
Kyree didn't have an N64 or Dreamcast as a kid (so sad) and he doesn't remember finishing any of his PlayStation games, but skip to the PS2/GC/Xbox era and everything changed. He hasn't been outside to play tag in forever, but he can recall playing way too much Smash Bros. and even more Kingdom Hearts; seriously, he can recite lines from it. I think he may have a problem.
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