Every year in video games is filled with exceptional games, some years have better games than others, but overall there is always a collection of standout game titles that turn out to be must play games for any true gamer. Here is my top 10 games of 2012.
As a grown adult who truly embraces the video game medium as immersive entrainment, I’ve found it harder and harder to pull myself away and play games less. Video games continue to evolve as game developers excel at creating immersive gaming experiences through the entire spectrum of games. The combination of great story, engaging character development, stunning visuals, full audio scores, intuitive gameplay, deep well constructed level design are all key elements to a great game.
This years collection of games excels on almost all of these area, while all the games are great, I don’t know if they beat my Top 10 Games of 2011, those were some really exceptional games. My choices here are based solely on the single player campaign. While I enjoy some good multiplayer action, I tend to get a lot more out of games from the single player campaigns. One thing to note here, these not in my 1 to 10 order, instead they are simply listed in alphabetical order.
My Top 10 Games of 2012
- Assassin’s Creed III
- Borderlands 2
- Darksiders II
- Far Cry 3
- Halo 4
- Hitman: Absolution
- Mass Effect 3
- Max Payne 3
- The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
- Honorable Mentions
Assassin’s Creed III
The Assassin’s Creed franchise is fantastic. I’ve been hooked on it since the first and completed each one. Assassin’s Creed III introduces many new updates and elements to the core formula. While many gamers in the gaming community were disappointed with the game for vering off too much from the formula of the past games, however for me, I didn’t focus on the bugs or missing elements, instead I embraced the all the new elements that made this Assassin’s Creed game a completely fresh gaming experience for me.
The scope and scale of this game is massive and even amid the bugs and issues gamers experienced, it still was exceptionally well done and made for some fantastic gaming. The combat and controls were tight and fun, providing lots of tactical options that kept things fresh and fun. The story is well thought out with strong character development that spans several decades of time.
In the end, I think Ubisoft bit off more than it could chew, all the new stuff shines here while the classic gameplay and latter half of the story falters a little more than it should. Still, I’m happy with the new direction and fully enjoyed everything the game had to offer. Let’s hope they don’t react too much to the negativity and strike a balance in the future releases. Read my full Assassin’s Creed III review.
Video: Assassin’s Creed III Launch Trailer
- Assassin’s Creed III on Amazon
- Read my full Assassin’s Creed III review
- Official Assassin’s Creed III site
- IGN review (8.5)
- Game Trailers review (9.2)
- Game Informer review (9.5)
The first Borderlands was a huge hit for many gamers, however I could not get into it, I fell for the hype and didn’t ending up in believing it. I gave it a good try but the game didn’t stick with me. Yet when Borderlands 2 came out, I wanted to give the series a chance. It looked like the developers made some adjustments to improve the gameplay and pacing. I’m glad I did try it this time around as the game hooked me in and turned out to be a fun and crazy ride.
This time around everything seemed to be improved, stronger characters with improved perks, the games pacing kept you in a steady stream of action and exploring for loot, and the story was borderline ridiculous and nutty making you chuckle and laugh regularly. While the game encourages to play co-op, I played mostly alone and a little co-op with Ryan.
You choose from four characters to play the game, each offering different tactical style and special abilities or perks in addition to personalities, I went with Axton, the commando who’s special ability is to throw out a turret. This time around leveling up your character had resulting impact that you could experience right away, your character always felt empowered and constantly growing from the deep leveling options. You could easily replay the game again with a different character and have a very different gameplay experience. All in all, Gearbox Software‘s tweaks to the games formula made Borderlands 2 one of the best and most fun shooters of the year.
Video: Borderlands 2 Launch Trailer
- Borderlands 2 on Amazon
- Official Borderlands 2 site
- Gearbox Software
- IGN review (9.0)
- Game Trailers review (9.2)
- Game Informer review (9.75)
The original Darksiders game was new game that incorporated God of War inspired action and platforming gameplay set in the apocalypse, with the player taking the role of War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In the sequel, players take the role of Death who is out to save his brother War. This time developers at Vigil Games heeded the feedback from of gamers and dramatically expanded upon all aspects of Darksiders II.
The action focused combat offered a solid blend of melee and magic combination tactics to clear out rooms of enemies. Enemies varied from your standard minions to massive colossus sized enemies with everything in between. Throughout the games levels you almost always encountered a new original boss at the end, each requiring different tactic to learn before you could take them down.
Looting is big in this game, from the loot that enemies dropped to the chests and secret rooms throughout the levels you were constantly picking up new weapons, armor pieces, and abilities. Almost everything you picked up offered better stats, thus making you use them right away. This added a lot of freshness to the game as you were constantly using better weapons and armor as you got them.
Set in massive world levels that lead into tons of dungeons to explore, platform, and battle through. Plus large-scale open areas that acted as a hub to everything else provided allowed for some battles to happen on while riding your horse Despair. The overall story was a little thin, the characters you interacted with through your journey were well thought out. Visually the art direction is pretty sweet, a distinct vivid and dark blend of graphic novel and comic book style sets the atmospheric tone. Overall a fun action-adventure game to be enjoyed, I only hope that with THQ folding, that Vigil Games is able to survive and continue to make a future Darksiders release.
Video: Darksiders II Launch Trailer
- Darksiders II on Amazon
- Official Darksiders II site
- IGN review (7.5)
- Game Trailers review (8.5)
- Game Informer review (9.0)
Dishonored is one of the few original intellectual properties for 2013. Arkane Studios took a risk and it paid off big. The end result is an incredibly imaginative game that is dripping with stylish character that separates it out from all the other games on the market.
While playing through Dishonored I was feeling refreshed and excited to experience something completely new and original. Visually the game looks and feels like a living breathing oil painting. A unique art style that hasn’t been seen in other games and it works exceptionally well here, giving Dishonored a very distinctive grimacing tone. It provided an immersive and believable experience that supports the strong revenge focused story.
The gameplay encourages going the stealth route as much as possible, but the most fun is when you unexpectedly get discovered by the patrolling officers and all hell breaks loose. It is at these times when you panic a little, yet utilizing a blend of your powers and weapons, you feel empowered to take on the overwhelming situation. It makes for some fun gameplay situations and keeps you on your toes. This is one of those original games that leaves a lasting impression. Easily one of the best games of the year. Read my full Dishonored review.
Video: Dishonored Launch Trailer
- Dishnored on Amazon
- Read my full Dishonored review
- Official Dishonored site
- Arkane Studios
- Dishonored on Facebook
- IGN review (9.2)
- Game Trailers review (8.7)
- Game Informer review (8.75)
Far Cry 3
The last big AAA game released before the end of 2013. I’ve been a long time fan of the Far Cry games and was eagerly anticipating the release of the third major release in the series. Far Cry 3 is first person shooter at heart set on vast open world tropical island. A very living and breathing island loaded with local natives, pirates, mercenaries and exotic and very dangerous wildlife. The island itself has a great character, offering lush green jungles, mountain ranges with spectacular 360° views, swampy grasslands, deep dark caves, to rich sandy white beaches surrounded by crystal clear ocean waters.
Have I ever told you the definition of insanity? This is the foundation of the story and a few of the main characters in Far Cry 3. The game features a solid story and unforgettable cast of characters with one of the best and most believable villains I’ve seen in a while in video game stories. From your first interaction with Vaas as you start this journey you are distraught by how insane he truly is, I only wish that there was more of him in the game.
As with most open world sandbox games you are given the freedom of choice in accomplishing your objectives. For the most part I tended to go the stealth route by snipping from a distance while hiding in the bushes to sneaking up close to takedown enemies one-by-one in a brutal and gruesome style. Even more fun is sitting back and watching the dangerous exotic animals take out your enemies for you. By the last third of the game I was going for full chaos with guns blazing and loads of explosives. There is a lot to experience in Far Cry 3, from the stellar campaign, fun co-op and multiplayer to the extensive map editor, there is something for everyone. Read my full Far Cry 3 review.
Video: Far Cry 3 Launch Trailer
- Far Cry 3 on Amazon
- Read my full Far Cry 3 review
- Official Far Cry 3 site
- IGN review (9.0)
- Game Trailers review (8.6)
- Game Informer review (9.0)
You knew that even after Bungie left Microsoft and their exceptional Halo franchise behind that Microsoft would not let the cash cow go. They had to and will always continue to publish Halo games as long as gamers keep buying and playing them. Who could blame them? The Halo games have established themselves as on of the best sci-fi first person shooters in gaming history. Not only for the stellar campaigns but the addictive multiplayer that keeps gamers playing for months and even years after a game is released.
The concern with Halo 4 was that Bungie had been the driving force of the series since the beginning, but no more, so when 343 Industries got the opportunity to develop the next Halo game, they knew they had some extremely high expectations to live up to. Fortunately they were very familiar with the franchise as they had just completed Halo Anniversary edition, a remake bringing the original game into high-definition. It was one of the games I played in 2012 and it was fantastic to experience the original Halo again, but this time with a fresh coat of paint.
I must say that 343 Industries did an exceptional job with Halo 4. While I don’t think it is the best in the series, Halo 3 and Reach are hard to top, it is damn good. This release continues Master Chief‘s saga down a new path allowing for the journey to continue with new worlds, enemies, weapons, and story. Through Halo 4, the view of the UNSC Marine Corps world has been greatly expanded ensuring that we will get many, many stories (and games) from the Halo franchise.
The game continues where Halo 3 left off, Master Chief and Cortana drifting off in space. Their journey quickly takes them into a new Forerunner planet to fight a new enemy with new alien weapons and a new threat to the human race. I won’t dive into the story here, but I will say the one thing that was exceptionally well done is expanding upon the character development and relationship of Master Chief and Cortana, this time you really felt their emotions and by the end you were emotionally distraught by the unfolding events.
Gameplay and pacing is tight and fluid as you work your way through a wide variety of levels fighting the new Forerunner enemies along with the Covenant. In addition to the your usual arsenal of weapons, including the return of the classic and deadly pistol, the new Forerunner weapons are fun and they keep things fresh. Visually the game is absolutely stunning, the new engine is spectacular and provides a wonderful cinematic level of detail and atmosphere. Then toss in the well established multiplayer gameplay and the new episodic Spartan Ops mode with new episodes being released regularly to keep us engaged and returning to the Halo world regularly.
In the end, hats off to 343 Industries, they did a fantastic job with Halo 4. While there are clearly a few things that have changed giving the game their own style to differentiate it from Bungie‘s style, it looks like the franchise is in good hands and we can expect to see a whole lot more of Master Chief and other UNSC Marine Corps Spartans in the years to come.
Video: Halo 4 Launch Trailer
- Halo 4 on Amazon
- Official Halo site
- IGN review (9.8)
- Game Trailers review (9.0)
- Game Informer review (9.25)
I never played any of the previous Hitman games. They have a bit of a cult following for the bad ass bald Agent 47 character and unique gameplay style. For some reason the previous entries get my attention. However I was excited for Hitman: Absolution, it felt different and it does not disappoint, it pretty much does everything right on a massive scale.
You are encouraged and rewarded most when playing stealth, but you can go with all action or a blend of the two. I would definitely say this is one of the better stealth games in recent years, closest on par with the Splinter Cell games. Each level offers a wide variety of options to tackle your objective and targets. Through exploring each level you discover many different solutions from disguised unsuspecting assassinations to spectacular accident kills.
Visually the game is stunning, deep rich saturated colors and details that oozes with sultry cinematic atmosphere. The story is solid and entertaining, the characters and voice acting are top-notch. I must say I was really surprised by how good Hitman: Absolution was. Even after completing it, I went back and replayed some levels completely differently to see how they would play out. I sure hope that the same IO-Interactive team works on the sequel to this game because Hitman: Absolution turned out to be one of the great games of 2012. Read my full Hitman: Absolution review.
Video: Hitman: Absolution Launch Trailer
- Hitman: Absolution on Amazon
- Read my full Hitman: Absolution review
- Official Hitman: Absolution site
- Hitman: Absolution on Facebook
- IGN review (9.0)
- Game Trailers review (6.9)
- Game Informer review (8.75)
Mass Effect 3
Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved the Star Wars saga, particularly the original three movies (not so much the new ones). Ask any adult these days, who doesn’t love them. Nothing has ever captured or topped those movies in cinema. Well for me, the Mass Effect trilogy is the closest thing I’ve experienced to Star Wars saga in the video games, nothing has come close to the unparalleled greatness that these three games have offered. A massive saga that stretches across the galaxy to unite all civilizations, both human and alien, to fight for their lives against an ancient evil that has returned to wipe them out of existence.
The story of this saga concludes in Mass Effect 3, everything you did through all three games, the decisions you made, the friends and foes, they all connected throughout the games to decide the fate of the galaxy. Throughout the games you made many choices, either to do the right thing for the greater good of humanity or just be a selfish asshole looking out for number one. The choices were all yours.
Much of the gaming community were in an uproar and disappointed with the endings, even the extended endings, but me, I ignored all the bitching and moaning and followed my path as I had throughout all three games, my character made almost all paragon (good) choices. Slight spoiler: I ended up with the ending where all living things and technology were combined into a new world. I find its best to not jump on the hype train of the gaming community and simply enjoy the game for what it has to offer. Never the less, the cohesive story through all three Mass Effect games is fantastic, loaded with gripping emotional and well-developed characters whom you build strong relationships and care about. Which makes many of the games decisions that can change the fate of not only those relationships, but their entire race and civilization, all the more impactful.
The third person shooter gameplay is action packed with good pacing over a wide variety of missions. Choosing from several different character classes would set the combat style you choose to play. Combining tight gunplay with special biotic powers made you and your team a force to be reckoned with. The series offered a plethora of RPG leveling options your character and team AI characters. You usually had two additional team members that you commanded with you on missions. For the most part, the support AI was spot on, instead of being a dumb and useless as is often the case in other games with support AI.
Visually the games are beautiful, Bioware established a very unique yet familiar science fiction art style that works incredibly well to set the tone and atmosphere. The production and creative direction is unparalleled. You could easily believe that this is how life in space will be in the future. Some parts felt like a true utopia, while others were a wasteland, in shambles, or overrun by criminal underworld. Yet they all felt connected to the galaxy as a whole.
These are not short games, I easily spent 50-70 plus hours on each one completing all the story and side missions as well as the planet mining. Bioware developed an amazing saga that, much like the original Star Wars saga, will stand the test of time. All aspects of the games shine, the epic story, deep characters, intense gameplay, and fantastic visuals make it one of the great games and one I’ll certainly remember for years on end. I could easily see going back to play these games again in 10 to 20 years.
Video: Mass Effect 3 Launch Trailer
- Mass Effect 3 on Amazon
- Official Mass Effect site
- IGN review (9.5)
- Game Trailers review (9.5)
- Game Informer review (10)
Max Payne 3
Gotta hand it to Rockstar, after so many years since the original Max Payne game they go out and bring the game back to life in a full on reboot. I have to admit, at first I wasn’t sure that they were going to pull it off, but after completing the game, impressively enough, they pulled it off and knocked it out of the park. They retained the classic elements while elevating the game with stellar action driven gameplay and a remarkably good story to keep you captivated through to the end.
Overall I was delightfully surprised by Max Payne 3. It is a polished gaming experience, not only does Rockstar stay true to the series but they also take risks by breaking into new territory to rejuvenate the series franchise. The campaign felt like a dark 15 hour action packed movie with stellar gameplay and solid story that made for one hell of a fun ride which kept me captivated and fully engaged from beginning to end. Read my full Max Payne 3 review.
Video: Max Payne 3 Launch Trailer
- Max Payne 3 on Amazon
- Read my full Max Payne 3 review
- Official Max Payne 3 site
- Rockstar Games
- IGN review (9.0)
- Game Trailers review (7.6)
- Game Informer review (9.25)
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
I wasn’t anticipating The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings until it was almost out. It wasn’t on my radar as it was originally a PC only game released in 2011. However it caught my attention as I kept on catching news about this amazingly deep and mature RPG PC game. Every time I saw something about The Witcher 2, it was always in high praise of its mature well written story and challenging gameplay. I was intrigued about the game once I learned an enhanced edition was coming to the XBOX 360. At the time of its release I was ready for a new challenging game.
You play as Geralt of Revia, one of the few remaining witchers in the world. A witcher is a genetically enhanced human trained to fight monsters they have special powers and abilities including alchemy, magic, and swordsmanship. Your memory is lost and you’re trying to figure out what happened while stopping a plot to kill all the kings of the land. There is a deep mature branching story here, you have to play the game twice (or at least two-thirds from a save point) to experience everything the game has to offer in gameplay levels and story. There is a strong cast of characters and top-notch voice acting and animations that help develop the deep immersive story.
At first the gameplay feels off, like something is wrong, but it’s not broken, instead you need to plan and prepare before you go into battles. Have a strategy and don’t just go off button smashing in hopes that you’ll get through it…you won’t, you’ll die a lot. However by preparing with the right potions, putting in some thought and strategy before you go into your battles combined with good timing on the controls, you’ll make it through each of the challenging battles. Probably not on the first try either, but by the second or third. Early on you’ll think twice before taking on some battles, saving them until you’ve leveled up and strengthened your abilities, and bought or crafted better armor and swords.
Visually the game is majestic, oozing with atmosphere. Rich with deep colors and detailed textures set in dark cinematic medieval times. After completing the game twice I walked away thoroughly impressed, there isn’t anything else that I’ve played that compares to The Witcher 2. It is refreshing to see CD Projekt Red take the risk develop a mature strategic and challenging game. Sure they will alienate some gamers for making it too challenging and offering a complex story, but at the same time we have too many easy games with dumbed down stories, so its refreshing to have a real adult game to experience. I think more game developers should throw caution in the wind and develop deeper games that make us think. If they are anything on par with this, I for one will certainly play them. I only hope that CD Projekt Red, primarily a PC developer, will work on releasing their future games on consoles too.
Video: The Witcher 2 Launch Trailer
- The Witcher 2 on Amazon
- Official Witcher 2 site
- CD Projeckt Red
- IGN review (8.5)
- Game Trailers review (9.3)
- Game Informer review (9.5)
There were a few other great games that I enjoyed in 2012, but they didn’t make the top 10 list, but are worthy of mentioning here. Two of which are arcade titles, Deadlight and Mark of the Ninja, both are side scrolling action platforming games. Deadlight, while very short, is exceptionally well done with a gritty dark zombified art style. It was perfect playing it after watching an episode of The Walking Dead. Then Mark of the Ninja is pure stealth on a whole new level. This is what a ninja game should be like. The other games were also well done and worthy of contention.
- Mark of the Ninja
- Need For Speed Most Wanted
- Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
- Crysis (released to consoles in 2012)
As with each year, there are always more games to be played than there is time to actually play them. There are several games released in 2012 that I have yet to pickup and play, but will eventually. The ones I’m most eager to play include Journey, Fez, and XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Everything I’ve read about XCOM is fantastic and I look forward to embracing that type of strategy turn based gameplay. As for the rest, I’ll eventually get around to renting them or picking them up cheap and blasting through their campaigns.
2012 Games I Still Need To Play
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown
- Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
- Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
- Spec Ops: The Line
- Resident Evil 6
- Sleeping Dogs
Then looking forward there are some potentially outstanding games coming in 2013. A few I’ve already touched on from my 2012 E3 report back in June. Some of these games look to raise the bar and set a new standard for gaming experiences. Most notably The Last Of Us, Bioshock Infinite, BEYOND: Two Souls, Grand Theft Auto V, and if released this year, Watch Dogs. Each of those titles are introducing something new that will set the benchmark for future games to follow.
Anticipated Games for 2013
- The Last Of Us
- Bioshock Infinite
- Metro Last Light
- BEYOND: Two Souls
- God Of War: Ascension
- Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
- Tomb Raider
- Crysis 3
- Grand Theft Auto V
- Aliens: Colonial Marines
- Dead Space 3
- Gears of War: Judgement
- Splinter Cell: Blacklist
- Star Wars: 1313 (not yet confirmed for 2013)
- Watch Dogs (not yet confirmed for 2013)
It is expected that we’ll have new XBOX and Playstation consoles by the end of the year, along with a few new ones too. I supported the OUYA Kickstarter project to launch an Android based console, so I should be getting my OUYA console this spring. Then you’ve got Valve working on releasing their own console in the near future, currently known as Steambox. The market is going to change and it should be great news for gamers in the end. This year is going to be loaded with spectacular games that will blow us away while keeping us endlessly entertained.
So there you have it. I know this is a little late as I should have posted this about 4 weeks ago after the new year. This turned out to be a hell of a lot longer than I anticipated. I didn’t remember it taking so long when I wrote my top 10 games of 2011. Writing about 10 of your favorite games for the past year all at once can be a bit daunting. A few got so long that I ended up breaking out their own review page. Still I’m happy that I got it done and to be able to share my thoughts on my favorite games of 2012. I realized that I barely touched my Playstation 3 in 2012, it was all XBOX 360. The other thing is, other than Dishonored, they are all sequels. While Hitman and Witcher were first time for me, they too are sequels. I think the gaming industry needs more original games and less sequels.
I hope you enjoyed reading my top 10 games of 2012. Were these games in your top 10 for 2012? Do you agree with mine? Please feel free to share your thoughts or feedback in the comments below. I love getting feedback and thanks again for reading.