At the end of every year, I find myself looking back on its role-playing games and examining the trends, highlights, and disappointments. Putting it in perspective, 2012 won’t go down as a pinnacle year for RPGs, but if you look closely, the year held plenty to love.

Operation Rainfall Comes To Fruition

Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story both coming to North America in 2012 was a magnificent feat for RPG fans who campaigned hard for their localization. Operation Rainfall formed in 2011, sparking enthusiasm across the internet for these two Wii titles, but many wondered if the dedication would pay off. Thankfully, it did, and 2012 saw Xenoblade Chronicles hit in April to outstanding praise. Xseed published The Last Story in July with plenty of admiration, though its critical reception wasn’t as unanimous as Xenoblade’s. Not only did these two titles give fans two full-scale RPGs to sink their teeth into, it proved that fans ultimately have a say if they’re passionate enough about niche games. Operation Rainfall also let gamers send off the Wii in style, instead of retiring covered in dust. That’s a feat in its own right. 

The Tales Series Lives Again

Namco Bandai’s Tales series stayed quiet in the U.S. after the Xbox 360’s Tales of Versperia and Wii’s Dawn of the New World in 2008. This stung for fans, especially considering Japan saw a steady flow of new entries. Many feared that Tales would fade away like some other favorite RPG series, but this year proved that the series isn’t going anywhere just yet. In February, an old fan-favorite, Tales of the Abyss, released for 3DS followed by a brand-new console release, Tales of Graces f, in March. Namco Bandai also announced a Tales of Xillia localization scheduled for 2013, proving the series is kicking with plenty of gusto. 

Console RPGs Take The Wheel 

Handhelds have been the preferred platforms for this generation of RPGs, but this year consoles stole the show. Final Fantasy XIII-2 started the year off with a solid offering, followed by adventures from both sides of the Pacific, including Mass Effect 3, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition, Dragon’s Dogma, Xenoblade Chronicles, and The Last Story. This year, consoles also gave some niche RPGs a place to shine – albeit with varying degrees of quality - like Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland, Record of Agarest War 2, and Mugen Souls. Playing RPGs on the big screen and having such a wide variety of them to choose from was a nice change of pace. 

Despite a few games lacking some polish, the console RPG pool was quite solid. Many questioned if Final Fantasy XIII-2 would be a disaster, due to XIII’s longer battles, awkward dialogue, and linearity. While Final Fantasy XIII-2 didn’t fix its issues with storytelling, it enhanced an already great battle system with additional speed and monster recruitment. Here’s to hoping next year’s Lightning Returns gets it in right in the story department. 

Xbox 360 owners also got their hands on The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition, which was more than just a port. It added hours of new content and many gameplay enhancements. CD Projekt RED’s story shows that Geralt doesn’t need to be a hero or a villain to be a fantastic protagonist.

Also impossible to forget is Mass Effect 3, which brought Commander Shepard’s story, a trilogy we stayed vested in for five years, to a close. The game gave us a surprisingly engaging multiplayer component that added a new dynamic to a once solitary experience. These reasons and more catapulted it to our 2012 game of the year award. Love it or hate it, it got you thinking and talking. Lastly, Xenoblade Chronicles and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning had such large scopes; both entrenched us in a vast world to make our playground, mimicking an MMO. These are only a few of the quality console RPGs to invade our living rooms; it was a solid year for consoles, indeed. 

[Next Up: Handhelds say goodbye and new ones take their place, PC loot love, MMO innovation, and where 2013 is headed]