Come awards time and end of the year wrap ups you can usually hear the faint sound of a minority of people saying, “this year wasn’t that great of a year for games.” Which is completely crazy because every year is a great year for games. As long as games keep coming out year after year those years will be great years for games. Without a doubt this has been a great year for games. Be it indie titles or big budget retail titles, some fantastic games have come out in 2012 with more than a few that ended up being wonderful surprises. I haven’t been able to play all of them, but here are the ones that were the best and most memorable for me.
#5. Persona 4: Arena
Persona 4: Arena walks the fine line between offering all the fan service Persona 3 and 4 fanatics could ask for, while also being an approachable yet complex 2D fighting game. I went into Persona 4: Arena looking forward to the continuing Persona 4 story and ended up enjoying it immensely. I found the combat to be fast, fun, easy to pick up, and downright crazy in some spots. Whether you are a Persona fan itching to reconnect with the memorable cast and see where the story goes next, or a hardcore fighting game fan interested in checking out what Arc Systems’ latest title has to offer, you’ll find Persona 4: Arena to be downright impressive regardless of what side you’re on.
#4. Sleeping Dogs
Considering the troubled development this game has had it’s impressive that it ended up actually seeing the light of day, let alone being totally awesome. Sleeping Dogs managed to be one of the biggest surprises of 2012, and for good reason: All the ideas it borrows from other games have been refined and streamlined making it easier to enjoy the beautiful setting and the surprisingly engaging story that the game tells. Without failing to be an open-world game with lots of content to see, Sleeping Dogs brings well-thought out mechanics and tight systems that make it fun to explore and see everything the game has to offer. City-based crime games are nothing new in a post Grand Theft Auto 3 world, but Sleeping Dogs brings just enough new and refined ideas to make your entire experience worthwhile.
Here is your argument that video games are art! This is the moment you have been waiting for. Even if that moment ends up only lasting about 2-3 hours… Journey is nothing short of brilliant. It learns as much about you as you learn about yourself. The different ways you can interpret this game can easily leave some enthusiasts grinning from ear to ear as they step back and try and see the big picture Journey tries to show. In the end it almost doesn’t matter because Journey is such a beautiful experience. If you haven’t played Journey yet you are missing out on what is one of the most unique experiences of the year, and also one of the best.
#2. Spec Ops: The Line
The best thing I can say about Spec Ops: The Line is that after I was done playing it I sat back and said “Wow.” I knew right then and there that I felt absolutely horrible and guilty for what had happened in the game. This is without a doubt the most important shooter to come out in a long time. Not because of its great gameplay, and not because of its addictive multiplayer, but because of its story and moral choices. There are some story beats and choices in this game that are so horrifying, intense, and meaningful that you might as well not bother creating stories for your shooters any more. The way this game presents its characters, explores them, and reflects on itself is fascinating, and despite the mediocre gameplay you will not want to put it down. When you eventually do, however, it’ll most likely be because you crossed the line.
#1. The Walking Dead
There is no fun to be had during the zombie apocalypse. Just sorrow and heartbreak. What’s so crazy about The Walking Dead is that it barely focuses on gameplay enough to even be considered a game. It instead zeroes in on telling the most personal, masterful, and emotionally destructive video game story ever. I was a bubbling mess of emotions once the credits rolled and that’s more than I can say for any other game I played this year. Unless you’re a zombie, there is no reason to not play The Walking Dead. It is amazing because it isn’t the dead you end up needing to worry about, it’s the living, and once you’re done playing The Walking Dead, make sure you go up to someone you love and give them a hug. Trust me, you’ll need it.