My favorite games of the year, in no particular order:
This was my most anticipated game of the year and it didn’t disappoint. Great mix of stealth and BioShockish combat. Fantastic controls. Unique art direction. Story is nothing spectacular, but it’s hard to find fault with anything else.
Better in every way than the first, but especially in the writing. I didn’t expect some of the year’s funniest and most poignant moments from a Borderlands.
The Walking Dead
Maybe the best written characters and scenarios in any game ever. I’m still not done with this one.
I’m also not done with Spelunky and may never be, because it is fiendishly difficult. But that’s part of a Roguelike’s addictive appeal, and this is the most fun, polished, and accessible that a random/permadeath game has ever been. It’s my Desert Island Game of the Year 2012.
I logged more hours in 2012 on FTL than anything else, but that’s mostly because I kept it open at work so I could jump in and take a few turns during long compiles. Like Spelunky, it’s a pretty lightweight and accessible game with roots in the Roguelike genre, but it runs in a different direction with less chaos and more meaningful choices.
Far Cry 3
I had mixed feelings about Far Cry 2—it seemed like a great game that actively hated the player for being a part of it—and I understand why some critics are disappointed that Far Cry 3 is a more colorful, easier, and less meaningful take on the same premise. But it just works for me. Sometimes I just want to play a stupid game where I can punch a shark in its sharky face, and this is that game. Far Cry 3 also gave me some of my favorite emergent moments of the year, like when a tiger wandered into the camp I was sneaking around and caused a fantastic and unexpected diversion.
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition
This is cheating, because Dark Souls originally shipped in 2011, but I replayed it on PC (and about 2/3 through again in New Game+) and probably spent more actual time in it than any other game this year. Fantastic design and world building. Minimal yet significant narrative. Incredibly tense and rewarding multiplayer component.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Firaxis did a great job maintaining the spirit of the original while modernizing and streamlining the controls and interface. Its relative commercial success is a good sign for the industry, because everyone said turn-based strategy games couldn’t sell in 2012. Now that they’ve been proven wrong, maybe we’ll get more games like this and Valkyria Chronicles.
Mark of the Ninja
Not my favorite stealth game this year (that’s Dishonored), but a beautifully executed deconstruction of the stealth genre. Stealth games should be taking pointers from this game for years to come.
I didn’t play much of this, but the few hours I did play were some of the most engaging and tense hours of sitting quietly I’ve ever done in a video game. It’s got a whole lot of rough edges, but the experience is something special. I hope the standalone version fixes the big problems and pulls me back in.
Shrug. It’s Fez. Deal with it.
Incidentally, 2012 was a huge return to PC gaming for me. I played every one of these games on PC except for Mark of the Ninja and the XBLA-only titles Spelunky and Fez.