[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]2012 has come and gone and here we are – still alive – for another year of fun and frivolity. Since the promised Apocalypse failed to arrive and take us to the next world we figured this is as good a time as any to look back at a banner year in gaming with our personal picks for the Best Games of the Year.
This isn’t a comprehensive list of the year’s best gaming treats; our editors ransacked their personal libraries and hand-picked the ones that stuck with them throughout a year crowded with digital goodies for everyone in the family. The ordering is fair – alphabetical – and we’ve included handy links to our reviews whenever possible. The favorites come first, honorable mentions second, with a few choice words about the year’s biggest disappointments because who, other than trolls, wants to talk that much about disappointments?
So here they are: our choices for the Best Games of 2012, listed in alphabetical order for absolute freshness, with a brief look at the Honorable Mentions and Biggest Disappointments.
Special thanks and gratitude to Chris Mitchell, Herman Exum, Peter Skerritt, Brittany Vincent, Chris Pandolfi, Sam Holloway, Justin, Zach, and everyone else who helped make this year in particular one to remember. Thanks, guys.
Borderlands 2 (Xbox 360, PS3)
Released: September 18th
Gearbox Software’s first-person shooter/adventure is back and better than ever in its first sequel that easily outclasses the original’s high watermarks. The cel-shaded visuals are brighter, there’s more land to cover, and the online multiplayer is a total blast – literally. But Borderlands 2 is more than just another shooter; chock full of zany humor, mature moments, and tons of customization possibilities, there’s enough depth here to keep hardcore fans coming back for years. Given how well it was received, they may not have to wait that long before the inevitable sequel-sequel pops up.
Halo 4 (Xbox 360) Released: November 6th
After a string of lackluster-to-decent middling efforts from Bungie new developer 343 Industries took over Microsoft’s flagship franchise and surprised everyone. Not only was Halo 4 one of the best chapters in the series, but one that – literally – evolved its core mechanics in necessary and fascinating ways, and featured incredible visuals that made us rethink what the aging Xbox 360 hardware is capable of. One of the year’s best shooters and a splendid return to form for Master Chief and Company. Read full review right HERE!
Journey (PS3) Released: March 13th
Proving conclusively that Flower was no fluke, Thatgamecompany’s masterful Journey was just that – an epic and lush adventure that combined spirituality and exquisite adventure like never before. Featuring some of the most dazzling and inventive visuals ever seen, Journey was and is – both figuratively and literally – one game that definitely lives up to its namesake. This is that rare game where the less you know going in, the better, so we won’t say anything more about this downloadable masterpiece: just play it for yourselves.
Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U) Released: March 6th
Not just one of the best role-playing games of the year, Mass Effect 3 was also a thrilling and appropriate conclusion to BioWare’s masterful sci-fi action trilogy. Everything from a more logical interface to well-executed action sequences rewarded longtime fans who had stuck by their gender-of-choice heroes and their endless customizable adventures. Yes, the ‘controversy’ over the game’s ultimate conclusion was just as silly as it sounds, but even false sense of entitlement gamers couldn’t take the shine off one of the best sagas in gaming history.
Pinball Arcade (iOS) Released: February 9th
While Pinball Arcade is available for other platforms, it shines on iOS with the newest tables and features as well as the ability to play anywhere. There have been occasional early glitches which hold it back from GOTY mentions, but seeing fantastic tables like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Twilight Zone, Cirqus Voltaire, and Theatre of Magic this year really made Pinball Arcade at least a must-try – if not a must-play – in 2012.
Rayman Jungle Run (iOS, Android) Released: September 20th
By mixing endless running with platform magic, Rayman Jungle Run took full advantage of its source material’s embarrassment of riches to create a perfect match of platform and concept. Rather than simply port their winning Rayman Origins to the touchscreen world, Pastagames and Ubisoft created a deliciously unique slice of Rayman pie that delighted fans as much as it amazed. Gorgeous, beautiful, and endlessly playable, this might be the one mobile game that finally silenced the naysayers, many of whom were too entranced to complain that touchscreen games weren’t real ‘games’. Read full review right HERE!!
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (PS3, Xbox 360, Vita, Wii U) Released: November 18th
Sure, it’s not Mario Kart – it’s better. Fun and nostalgic tracks populate this kart racer with several nods to classic SEGA franchises, with the real highlight being the transformations to different vehicles during each race, which keeps things fresh and exciting throughout. A marked improvement over its predecessor and the best game featuring SEGA’s mascot in years, this is the one game that proved Mario doesn’t have the track all to himself anymore. Read full review right HERE!
The Walking Dead (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, iOS) Released: April 24th (Episodic)
Telltale Games breaks the mold with their adaptation of The Walking Dead franchise, which not only helped revive interest in the point-and-click genre but proved the episodic model could add suspense and value if handled correctly. Emphasizing story and character drama over action, it also featured some of the best writing and acting of the year, creating one of the most compelling cinematic gaming experiences ever made. Yes, there’s plenty of zombie gore throughout its five episodes, but you’ll definitely feel real emotion when the tough choices need to be made.
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria (PC, MAC) Released: September 25th
Who knew that, eight years and four expansions later, Blizzard’s World of Warcraft could still surprise the MMORPG faithful? Mists of Pandaria’s obvious nod to Kung Fu Panda is evident and brilliant, as having kung fu fighting pandas collide with the other legendary races in Azeroth is nothing short of amazing. Beautiful visuals push the aging game engine further than ever before and the the whimsical one-liners and funny dialogue show the franchise hasn’t lost a beat. If this is to be our last full expansion than at least Blizzard took things out in style. Read full review right HERE!!
X-COM: Enemy Unknown (Xbox 360, PS3) Released: October 9th
For many, the best strategy game of the year is Firaxis Games’ X-COM: Enemy Unknown for the Xbox 360 and PS3, thanks to highly evolved controls that streamlined the PC version’s interface for immediate thrills. A quasi-remake of the mostly forgotten UFO: Enemy Unknown, the mixing of traditional top-down strategy with cinematic goodies worked wonders and we’re excited to see where this franchise takes us in future installments.
Angry Birds Star Wars (iOS, Android, Windows)
Rovio’s Angry Birds gets a Star Wars infusion in strange, wacky, and wonderful new ways. A big improvement over Angry Birds Space, the Force is strong with this one.
Bad Piggies (iOS, Android)
The Birds’ pesky pigs get their very own starring vehicle – literally – in this outrageous fun and whimsical build-a-race physics puzzler. Bonus: hands-down the most addictive theme song of the year! Read full review right HERE!
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC)
Treyarch teaches their aging dog a few tricks with branching paths, hot zombie action, and the best online multiplayer out there. Read full review right HERE!
Diablo 3 (PC, Mac)
It may have stumbled out of the gate, but Blizzard’s long, long-awaited sequel lived up to the hype and outlasted its surprising challenger, Torchlight II, as the year’s best dungeon-crawler. Read full review right HERE!
Dishonored (Xbox 360, PS3)
One of the year’s best and most original releases, mixing strategy with first-person adventuring in one of the most compulsively playable – and replayable – games in some time.
Kumo Lumo (iOS)
A true delight starring the most laid-back cloud you’ve ever seen with the voice of Barry White and tons ‘o smiles. “Oh yeah!” Read full review right HERE!
Minecraft (Xbox 360)
The ‘block’ buster indie sensation hit the Xbox 360 in all its pixelated glory, giving it another platform to conquer with its world-building (and smashing) gameplay.
PS All-Stars Battle Royale (PS3, Vita)
Sony’s brutally silly brawler proved to be much more than a simple Super Smash Bros. clone with tournament-ready gameplay and scads of PlayStation-themed love. Read full review right HERE!
Resident Evil: Revelations (3DS)
The best Resident Evil game of the year in a year of disappointing Resident Evil games is also the best RE game since Resident Evil 4. Read full review right HERE!
Scribblenauts Unlimited (Wii U, 3DS, Windows)
5th Cell’s whimsical dictionary-themed puzzler comes closer than ever to fulfilling its promise to make grammar fun. The Wii U version, with its Nintendo guests, was the new console’s most entertaining launch game.
Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward (PS Vita, 3DS)
The sequel to the cult-smash 999 Hours combined puzzle solving intricacy with a gorgeous visual novel flourish in one of the best (domesticated) Japanese imports of the year. Read full review right HERE!
New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)
Not a bad game by any stretch, but Nintendo’s willingness to use copy-and-paste mechanics from past games in the ‘New’ series made this Wii U debut the one thing Mario games have always avoided: predictable. Gorgeous high-definition backgrounds and God-like GamePad multiplayer still make this a “must-play”, but let’s hope Mario’s Wii U adventure is truly ‘newer’ than this effort.
Resident Evil 6 (Xbox 360, PS3)
Incredibly, Resident Evil 6 isn’t the worst Resident Evil game released in 2012 (that would be the atrocious Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City), but it’s pretty close. With this release the last bits of goodwill remaining from RE4’s franchise revival disappeared under the weight of horrible game design and non-interactive ‘gameplay’. The multiple chapters were an interesting idea, but the execution was so sloppy and misguided that such innovation was quickly forgotten. The rest of the game featured hideous controls, murky visuals, and tap-tap-tapping terrible gameplay.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss (PS Vita)
Sony’s new PS Vita portable needed a blockbuster AAA-quality “killer app”, but they sure didn’t get it with Nathan Drake’s mobile debut. New developer SCE Bend Studio seemed content to merely rearrange Naughty Dog’s leftovers, dressing a substandard adventure and poor writing with spectacular PlayStation-3 quality visuals and gimmicky touchscreen controls. Not only is this the worst Uncharted game yet, but Sony only need look at their apologist fanbase and their bizarre classification of this game as a “masterpiece” to see why the Vita is struggling to find a real audience.