Top Ten Tuesday 01

My Top Ten Games of 2012

Disclaimer: There are many top ten lists, but this one is mine. If you think a game is missing here, I either didn't play it, didn't have any interest in it, or I just hate you.


Welcome to the very first edition of a new regular weekly blog post. Every week I'll be presenting a new Top Ten list with various categories and parameters, but all involving video games or video game related things.


Pre-List Notes

Since I'm kicking off this Top Ten Tuesday in the beginning of the year, this first list will be my favorite games of 2012. As I mentioned in my 2012: Year in Gaming blog post, I played a crapton of games last year, which made forming a Top Ten List fun but agonizing.

First I thought it'd be fun to look over my Most Anticipated Games of 2012 list from last year (no post to link to, sorry):

  1. Diablo 3
  2. Mass Effect 3
  3. Grand Theft Auto 5 (least likely to be released in 2012)
  4. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
  5. Borderlands 2
  6. DarkSiders 2
  7. Torchlight 2
  8. Bioshock Infinite
  9. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
  10. South Park: The Stick of Truth

Three of those weren't even released last year, and are expected in 2013: GTA 5, Bioshock, and South Park. Kingdoms of Amalur I just got for Christmas and haven't cracked open yet (it was originally released the same week my daughter was born, so I was a tad busy at the time). The remaining six games I did play, so read on to see if they made The List.

Top Ten Games of 2012

10) Legend of Grimrock (PC)

What happens when four independent developers from Finland pay homage to classic first person dungeon crawling games of the 90s using modern technology? Well you get one long lead in sentence, but you also get a fantastic experience that proves some of these perceived old school game mechanics are still incredibly enjoyable when combined with an intuitive user interface and beautiful engine. The fixed 13 floor dungeon offers over a dozen hours of clever puzzles, horrible traps, and pulse pounding monster fights. Even after all the secrets have been found and you've mapped every floor into your mind, they soon released a level editor allowing anyone to create their own dungeons, offering limitless replayability.


9) Transformers: Fall of Cybertron (XBOX)

Anyone that knows me knows that I carry a pretty big torch for anything Transformers. The video game world had been fairly bereft of anything decent using the brand, until High Moon Studio's breakout hit War for Cybertron in 2010 showed that not only could they make a game full of fan service and references, but also a solid third person shooter set in their world. The sequel squeezes in the last few days leading up to the final exodus from the dying planet of Cybertron, but the real set piece is the final action packed mission on the Ark spaceship as you jump in and out of various characters on both factions, culminating in an epic battle between Optimus Prime and Megatron as the ship hurtles towards a wormhole. Oh, and "You Got The Touch" during the credit sequence? That's almost Game of the Year stuff right there.


8) FTL: Faster Than Light (PC)

One of the biggest surprises of the year, FTL is a simple rogue-like dungeon crawler. Except it's in space, and you control a spaceship, along with individual crew members, and have to operate separate systems like shields, weapons, and oxygen, allocating your limited power where appropriate. Every jump to a new destination offers the possibility of a battle, or a choice driven text adventure that could lead to riches or disaster. The graphics and interface are incredibly simple, but that is part of its strength. Easy and addictive to get into, but mastery will take countless lives and run throughs. Add in additional ships and achievements to unlock, and you can't ask for much more in a $10 asking price. Also, amazing soundtrack.


7) Torchlight 2 (PC)

Torchlight 2 has been on my Most Anticipated list for the last two years, which tells you two things: 1) I was really looking forward to this game and 2) It's been a long time coming. The original Torchlight was released in 2009 as an unapologetic Diablo clone...made by the same crew as the first two classic Diablo games. It had pretty much everything a gamer would want from an ARPG, except the glaring absence of multiplayer. Torchlight 2 finally rectifies that while also improving upon the formula, expanding the world, and generally making everything even better. You could argue they made a huge misstep releasing a few months after the granddaddy Diablo III, or that they released during the already incredibly busy Fall season, but Torchlight 2 should not be missed by any fans of the genre.


6) The Walking Dead (XBLA)

If you follow me on twitter, you've seen me mention this game quite a few times. If you follow the game industry at all, you know it's won a ton of awards, including many Game of the Year awards. A licensed, episodic adventure game would seem to have everything stacked against it, but what the game gives you is an emotional journey in a choice driven game the likes in which I've never experienced before. Lee Everett's story begins at the outbreak of the infamous zombie apocalypse in the popular The Walking Dead world, and soon finds a little girl named Clementine. Their adventures together, and the emotional gravitas that comes with protecting this little girl against the myriad of dangers found in a world gone to *** is nothing short of gripping. Moments that cause you to yell and scream, or quietly put down the controller are commonplace. While I wish there were more actual gameplay moments and puzzles, everyone needs to experience this incredible tale of human survival.


5) Spelunky (XBLA)

On the opposite end of the story/gameplay meter is a surprising gem of an action platformer that was quietly released on XBOX Live Arcade over the Summer. The game was originally programmed as a Free PC game, but the Arcade release saw a complete overhaul in graphics and design. This was the first permadeath game that really worked for me, as a complete run through of the game takes about 30 minutes. Each level is designed to take only a few minutes, but traps, monsters, and death await at each turn. The tight controls and randomly generated dungeons and loot are uniquely rewarding and frustrating. It's one of the few games that I really practiced at and got pretty damn good. Forty hours later, I've still only successfully completed it a handful of times, and there's even extra bonus levels that I've yet to access. On top of all that, the game even offers online and local co-op, which is like adding a whole additional frustratingly funny difficulty. Oh, and the SNES/Genesis era soundtrack is pretty amazing too.


4) XCOM: Enemy Unknown (XBOX)

If not for Spelunky, XCOM would've been my surefire Surprise of the Year. This remake of a classic tactical strategy game was barely a blip on my radar until I began reading previews, seeing videos, and finally the stellar reviews. I swiftly traded in my Most Disappointing Game of the Year (Darksiders II) for this masterpiece. It was a game I didn't even realize I had been craving: a customizable squad with individual missions and random maps that played out like a glorious digital board game. If you keep up with my blog, you know how much I love this game as it inspired me to write several blog posts about my triumphs and failures. One of those games that the moment I completed it, I couldn't wait to dive back in.


3) Diablo III (PC)

Blizzard caused a lot of controversy during the last year or so of this long awaited sequel to 2000's Diablo 2, widely considered as one of the greatest PC games ever made. Things like a real money auction house and restricting the game to online only caused ripples throughout the community, and many folks began hating on the game well before its rocky release. But if you can see past these controversial aspects, Diablo III is a rock solid Action RPG that did not disappoint. An immersive world dripping in classic gothic themes, Blizzard also created five distinct and fun classes, as well as a new skill system that allowed one to choose their optimal loadout as they unlocked new abilities rather than potentially "screwing up" a character on each level up. I got dozens of hours of hack and slash enjoyment playing solo and especially tackling the denizens of hell with friends. Diablo III hits all the right notes, long as you don't mind playing on their terms.


2) Borderlands 2 (XBOX)

I've been playing Gearbox's fantastic sequel fairly consistently since its release in September through the time of this writing, and don't see myself stopping in the near future as I've just started playing through the first of four downloadable content packs. Borderlands 2 is an example of the perfect sequel - take everything that was right about the original game (random loot drops, seamless co-op multiplayer, funny and unique characters and setting) and make it even better, and eliminate or re-work the stuff that didn't work as well (class skill trees, storyline). Then go ahead and add some cool new concepts like Badass Rank and True Vault Hunter Mode and you've got yourself a winning formula. A unique experience in that I abandoned playing it solo as all my play time was going towards multiplayer with my wife and/or friends.


1) Mass Effect 3 (PC)

Turns out my Game of the Year was also the first new game I played in 2012. Bioware had crafted an amazingly rich science fiction universe over the course of three games, rivaling that of Star Wars and Star Trek. But it's the combination of solid third person shooter gameplay with riveting choice driven, emotional storyline and complex characters that makes it my favorite gaming experience of this generation. Is giving the third game so much credit akin to the Academy Awards giving all those Oscars to Return of the King a decade ago? Maybe, but that shouldn't take away from the great game that is the final installment in Commander Shepard's story. All controversy surrounding the ending, the critically important DLC, and addition of a multiplayer mode be damned - it's a testament to the greatness of this game and of the entire franchise that gamers grew so passionate about it, one way or the other. If all big budget AAA titles could reach that coveted marriage of gameplay and storytelling present in Mass Effect 3, we would reach a golden age of gaming. Here's hoping it's just the beginning.


Wrap Up

There you have it, my favorite games of 2012. I do want to mention one special honorary award. Inspired by GiantBomb's category of Favorite <last year> Game of <this year>, I'd like to award Deus Ex: Human Revolution as my Favorite 2011 Game of 2012. Really surprised me with how much I enjoyed the stealthy approach in that game, as well as multiple options to handle any given situation. Not to mention the super cool cyberpunk motif and nifty soundtrack to go with it.


As for the Top Ten list itself, picking the 10 was actually the easy part, while trying to rank them against each other was damn near impossible. For example, how do you compare an almost entirely story driven, emotional game like The Walking Dead with a purely gameplay driven experience like Spelunky? Or games I enjoyed almost entirely for their cooperative multiplayer like Diablo 3 and Borderlands 2 versus a game where I never even touched the minimally tacked on multiplayer like XCOM? In the end, I made my choices and I stick by them, but only time will tell which games will continue to stick with me.

To recap:

1)      Mass Effect 3

2)      Borderlands 2

3)      Diablo 3

4)      XCOM: Enemy Unknown

5)      Spelunky

6)      The Walking Dead

7)      Torchlight 2

8)      FTL: Faster Than Light

9)      Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

10)   Legend of Grimrock

Next week I'll put up my other beginning of the year annual list - My Most Anticipated Games of 2013!