It’s all come down to this moment, folks. This is the moment we reveal our top ten games of the year, culminating in that coveted award for the very best game released in 2012.
Every year we say the same, but every year it’s true. It’s been a phenomenal year for video games. Sure, we’ve perhaps not had as many new IPs as we’d like, but the quality of the downloadable games has more than made up for that. This year, you may have noticed we didn’t have a category for download-only games, because we felt that this is the year those games transcended their distribution method, and can stand among the disc-based titles they were once so separated from.
As we run down each position, our writers will have their say on each title, telling you exactly why they think each game is so good.
Of course, we’d love to hear your thoughts and picks for this category too, so please leave comments at the end of the article. In reverse order then, let’s get it on!
10: Need for Speed: Most Wanted (EA – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, PS Vita)
Lee Garbutt: There’s a reason I gave it a full 10/10 mark. Most Wanted is an incredibly accessible, highly polished arcade racer that proves that Criterion are still at the top of their game this generation. Even after seeing all there is to see, I still come back to it for the high-octane thrills it provides.
9: Halo 4 (Microsoft – Xbox 360)
Jonny Lewis: Halo 4 saw the return of the Master Chief, and the return of one of gaming’s biggest franchises to the forefront of the cultural curve. Ignoring all the hyperbole for a second, Halo 4 delivers an outstanding single player experience, and enough replayability in its multiplayer and co-op portions to make it one of the best value purchases you can possible make.
8: Darksiders II (THQ – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
Martin Baker: I’d been eagerly anticipating the release of Darksiders II since I played through the first game in the series a couple of years ago. That was a game that I was totally not expecting to be as good as it was, so when it came to the second instalment, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. The ability to play as the most daunting of the four horsemen, Death, and take on a story that promised to be every bit as exciting as the first, were my initial draws to the game. That addition of polished graphics, RPG elements and the massive open world that we could experience were just the icing on the cake.
Vigil Games didn’t disappoint when it came to delivering a sequel. From the moment the game started to the moment it closed, you could tell that the entire development team had put everything they had into the game; and it paid off. For me, Darksiders II was an easy Game of the Year contender and while people had problems with the ending (is there any game that people don’t have a problem with the ending in?) it left me, mouth agape, anxiously awaiting the next title in the series. Darksiders III can’t come fast enough!
Lee Garbutt: Darksiders 2 was practically everything I could possibly want from a sequel to one of my favourite games this generation. Most developers would have taken the original game, slapped some new worlds and monsters and called it a day, but Vigil Games excelled themselves in looking at every aspect of the original and bettering it. In two games, it has taken this relatively new developer to do more with the action-adventure format than even Nintendo have done in the past decade (and that’s coming from a huge Zelda fan).
7: Sleeping Dogs (Square Enix – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
Jonny Lewis: The spiritual sequel to the decidedly dodgy True Crime series of games, and dropped by Activision for being “just not good enough”, you would have been forgiven for expecting Sleeping Dogs to turn out badly. Square Enix saw the light however, gave it a new name (originally True Crime Hong Kong) and the rest as they say, is history. Sleeping Dogs is an outstanding open world game that sees you playing the role of undercover cop Wei Shen as he looks to infiltrate the city’s gangs, namely the Triads. The highest praise I can heap on Sleeping Dogs is that it is better than GTA IV in all that it does (except maybe the driving experience, which is a bit woolly). The story, visuals, controls, free running and weapons are all a fabulous surprise. The surprise hit of the year!
Martin Baker: I would normally compare Sleeping Dogs to Dishonored, a new IP coming out the same year as some pretty big sequels – Black Ops II, Mass Effect 3, Halo 4, just to name a few – but that would technically be wrong. You see, Sleeping Dogs started life as part of the True Crime series of games and was going to be True Crime: Streets of Hong Kong before the idea was scrapped. However, taking a leap of faith, Square Enix purchased the rights to the game, passed the development duties over to United Front Games, and what we were left with was a magnificent open world game, one of the best of the year, and the notion that, if it hadn’t been for some clever publishing deals, we might not have seen the game at all.
The game saw the player taking control of Wei Shen, an undercover cop in the Hong Kong police force who’s been sent to investigate Hong Kong’s criminal underworld. The things that Wei Shen does as a cop are questionable, although they’re easily explained away by the fact that he’s “just keeping his cover intact”, but the game is utterly enjoyable from beginning to end. The controls feel right and the combat system, something which feels like it’s lifted straight from Batman: Arkham Asylum, makes you feel like a badass as you take on multiple enemies at a time with only your fists as weapons. It is undoubtedly one of the best games of the year and well worthy of a place on anyone’s Game of the Year lists.
Robin Parker: Sleeping Dogs manages to mix the open world mission structure and gameplay of a Grand Theft Auto title with the cultural eccentricities and touches of something akin to the Yakuza games to great effect. Taking the fight to drug lords on the dirty urban streets of Hong Kong, players were transported to a different culture, and there were some truly memorable missions and sequences to boot. Not a GTA clone, but something much, much more.
6: Dishonored (Bethesda – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
Martin Baker: I always enjoy talking about entries into the Game of the Year pile, especially when those entries are new franchises. Too many publishers nowadays sit back and churn out sequel after sequel simply because they know it’s going to sell; very few publishers aren’t guilty of this. Bethesda, however, have taken the chance, took the leap of faith, and this year have published one of the most spectacular new IPs since the first Assassin’s Creed.
Ever since we first saw some game footage, even when the game was announced, a lot of the GodisaGeek team were excited with what the game could hold. I even mentioned myself on the Godcast earlier in the year that it reminded me very much of Half-Life 2 and that fact alone no doubt added to my excitement. When the game was released we were treated to a first person stealth game that had been done right, something we haven’t had since the days of Thief. The melee combat was excellent, the powers you could use actually made you feel powerful and Corvo’s mask is as instantly iconic as Death’s in Darksiders II. Bethesda and Arkane Studios have managed to put together a game that, for a lot of people, ticks all the boxes. I know I’ll be watching to see what they do next.
Jonny Lewis: The world Arkane put together for Dishonored sucked me in more than any game since The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Its cast of characters, the story of the city of Dunwall and the plague that has befallen its people, along with its gameplay elements make Dishonored one of the greatest games this year. Part Bioshock, part Half Life, Dishonoured doesn’t necessarily do anything revolutionary, but what’s here combines to make one of this console generations finest games.
Mick Fraser: Some games just keep on giving, providing new thrills every playthrough, no matter how many times you’ve seen those credits roll. Dishonored is one such game, its free-form approach to level design ensuring that there’s always a new experiment to try, a new self-set challenge to tackle.
The story of disgraced bodyguard Corvo – betrayed, double-crossed, vengeful – might throw up only occasional surprises, but the richness of the world and attention to detail create almost accidental “wow” moments over and over again, not to mention the superbly confident combat system that mixes magic and melee to lethal effect. Dark and gorgeous and exactly as intricate as you want it to be, Dishonored is one of those rare games that absolutely deserves the praise it has garnered.
5: Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
Mick Fraser: In a year that saw Ubisoft dominate at E3 and put out a line-up of high-quality titles, we should all be forgiven for all-but overlooking Far Cry 3 prior to release. We were too excited about ZombiU, too brainwashed by the Assassin’s Creed 3 hype, too impressed by those early reveals of Splinter Cell: Blacklist and Watch Dogs, to spare much headroom for Ubisoft’s trippy paradise-gone-bad FPS, and it’s one of the biggest travesties of the year.
Far Cry 3 is astounding in its sense of scale and grandeur, presenting a tropical sandbox every inch as malleable as Dishonored’s Dunwall, casting protagonist Jason Brody into a psychedelic nightmare of drugs, guns and the battle for survival against all odds. XP levelling, skill trees and a crafting system add an element of roleplay that deepens the experience and adds context to the scores of side-quests and distractions, and the Rook Islands are alive with majesty and danger in a way many other game-worlds can only aspire to. A genuine triumph, and the game Ubisoft should have been hyping all along.
Martin Baker: Everybody knows I’m not the biggest first person shooter fan on the planet, just look back on the multitude of episodes of the GodCast where I’ve attempted to downplay the importance of the Battlefield and Call of Duty franchises. However, secretly, I’m always curious enough to get the games anyway, I own Battlefield 2 and 3, as well as the last four Call of Duty games. That same curiosity took me over when looking at trailers and screenshots for Ubisoft’s Far Cry 3. But despite my modest anticipation for what looked like a good game, could never have prepared me for what we actually got; an easy contender for the coveted Game of the Year throne.
Far Cry 3 plays in exactly the way you would expect an open world game to play. There’s no five hour tutorial sequence such as in Assassin’s Creed III, after a mere half an hour in the game you’re shown the Radio Towers, then you’re left to your own devices and given a vague direction; the rest is up to you. Through the rest of your time with the game you’ll experience what is arguably one of the best stories of the year – in a first person shooter no less – and you’ll be treated to some amazing character work from the likes of Buck and Vaas. There’s plenty to do in the game too, lots of quests and collectibles to ensure that you’re still playing upwards of thirty hours later. An utter masterpiece.
4: Borderlands 2 (2K – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
Robin Parker: If you want more looting, shooting and exploring, Borderlands is back to satisfy your needs. People said that the first game was lacking in the story department, which has been tackled a little this time around, but basically you are in for more of the same as before, but bigger, longer and harder.
Playing with co-op partners is where the game comes to life, and players can co-ordinate their attacks, carefully choosing their classes to best support one another. There are a huge amount of missions and side quests to work through, and hundreds more weapons, upgrades and mods than ever before to help you, even talking guns. The sense of humour helps carry the game, but it is the teamwork aspect that makes it a game of the year contender.
Lee Garbutt: Much like Darksiders 2, Borderlands 2 drastically improves upon the original in every way. It really feels like a complete experience. The only thing stopping this game from being higher on the list is that I had been a little burnt out of Borderlands after spending most of this year playing the original again. But that doesn’t stop it from being an absolutely stellar title.
3: Mass Effect 3 (EA – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
Colm Ahern: The ending was so-so. Now that is out of the way, I can talk about the events leading up to the polarising finalé. The culmination of BioWare’s sci-fi trilogy was an admirable one that contained some of the best moments in the entire series. The gameplay was the tightest it has been and that opening sequence on Earth was mesmerising. Side missions were annoyingly activated, planet scanning was dumbed down and some story beats were far too coincidental, but I won’t forget about my time in the Mass Effect universe any time soon.
Martin Baker: There’s no chance that Mass Effect 3 wasn’t going to make it into the Game of the Year list. The entire story has been so pivotal that I would probably dare to compare it to Star Wars in the sense of its importance to the sci-fi genre on their mediums. Mass Effect will be the tentpole for all future sci-fi RPGs, I have no doubt of that. From the very first moment that you’re in the game, when the Reapers start to attack Earth, you know you’re in for a ride, and potentially the greatest story of your video gaming life. Yes, even with that ending.
For the majority of your time with Mass Effect 3, you’ll be in awe. The world that BioWare have created is absolutely massive, and filled with characters of all kinds. Sure, the ending feels a little rushed and a lot of the important parts happen in cut-scenes but it’s important to look at the story as a whole when you’re looking at a final chapter and the whole story arc throughout the Mass Effect series has been outstanding. Mass Effect 3 is an epic for the ages and one that will surely be talked about for years to come; its place in the Game of the Year list is well deserved.
Jonny Lewis: This was my most anticipated game of 2012, and although it didn’t quite live up to expectation, it was still a brilliant extension of the awesome Mass Effect series, and a welcome trip back into the sci-fi nerds dream world of Commander Shepherd. Naff ending aside, I thoroughly enjoyed my last trip aboard the Normandy.
Mick Fraser: BioWare’s stunning threequel marks the culmination of half a decade’s worth of sweat, toil and tears as we guided our own personal Commander Shepard through an epic sci-fi adventure to determine the fate of humanity.
Calculating over a thousand variables before the game even begins, Mass Effect 3, more than any other game, is tailored to you, moulded by your choices, good or bad. Polished gunplay, incredible voice acting, stunning aesthetics and a surprisingly excellent, integrated multiplayer component combine to create one of the greatest space adventures ever committed to disc. Whether or not you loved the original ending or the one BioWare added later, the overall quality of Mass Effect 3′s storytelling – the courage, camaraderie and player-specific events – is undeniable, and make for an amazing climax to one of the great sci-fi odysseys of our time.
2: Journey (Sony – PlayStation 3)
Sean Smith: Absolutely engrossing from the start to finish, Journey is a magical experience and a defiant lesson from thatgamecompany that video games don’t have to conform to any given set of rules. You don’t know what they hell you are supposed to be doing, yet it all makes perfect sense. You interact with other gamers in the most touching, beautiful manner ever seen in a game. And you find yourself utterly immersed in a beautifully realised world that dazzles from the tiniest grain of sand to the tallest, most ominous structure.
Mark Bridle: Journey had such incredible highs. The ascension to the light, sand-surfing into the temple and feeling your way through the mechanics as you learnt the game with a silent partner. Sensational. And it is that last point that is crucial; Journey is at its best with another person, learning, helping and sharing. Journey is the game with the sprinkle of magic thanks to the wonderful, silent cooperation. A glimpse at the multiplayer of the future.
Martin Baker: The whole ‘Video Games as Art’ discussion has been passed around a lot over the years, when video games started to look more realistic, it came up, when they started to get a little bit more stylised, it came up again. All those times, however, there’s always been an argument as to why something couldn’t be classed as art that usually has as many points as the reason why it can be classed as art. When it comes to Journey, the PSN exclusive title that was released earlier this year, there can be no argument about whether or not it’s art. It is art.
You’re dropped into the game, not knowing what the hell you’re supposed to be doing, and you’re simply left to your own devices. The Journey of discovery that you experience from the moment forward is nothing short of brilliant; even more so if you go through your Journey with a friend by your side, either in the real world, or the virtual one. Journey really is more of an experience than a game (although the actual gameplay mechanics are fun to play too) and it’s no doubt something that you’re going to want to experience time and again. If you’re feeling down, stick Journey on, that’s bound to make you feel right as rain again.
Lee Garbutt: It says a lot that for a game that can be finished in little over an hour, that Journey made more of an impression on me than most other games this year. A piece of art, an experience, not a game; argue over nomenclature all you want: Journey is one of the most beautiful forms of media you’ll ever experience, and it does it without dialogue and without any sort of textual narrative.
1: The Walking Dead (Telltale Games – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, iOS)
Robin Parker: No other game this year has kept me hanging on every action, every line of speech and every cutscene like The Walking Dead. Perhaps no other game ever has had quite the emotional impact that this one did. When it was announced, people had low expectations; a licensed point and click game perhaps?
But what it turned out to be was a title unlike any other. The game is almost a moral barometer, forcing split-second dilemmas and measuring up the decisions and actions of the player. Every action had a different result and your choices really felt like they had a big impact on the outcome of the game. But it is the inter-character relationship between the two main characters that was so successful and has forever changed the emotional impact we can expect from games.
Calvin Robinson: There are many definitions of the requirements to call something art. One of the most commonly accepted ideas is that for something to be considered art, it must convey emotion. Observing or interacting with the piece must spark an emotional reaction in a person.
No video game has ever caused me to feel so many real emotions, as The Walking Dead. From start to finish, this game was an emotional journey that took me totally by surprise. It’s universally accessible, and much more of an interactive story than an adventure game. The character development and plot are second to none, and I recommend The Walking Dead not only to gamers, but fans of good stories. The Walking Dead truly is a piece of art.
Lee Garbutt: It’s been a great year for games, which made it incredibly difficult to think of the best one. But The Walking Dead fits that category for being one of the most memorable and emotive games I have ever played. The decisions you made might not have drastically changed the outcome in the end, but the journey from episode one to five is filled with so many gut-wrenching decisions and heart warming exchanges, it couldn’t be anything but Game of The Year for me.
Martin Baker: When Telltale Games first said that they were going to be creating a series of episodic games based on Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead I was a little skeptical. There were so many things working against it for me, the fact that I don’t really enjoy point and click adventure games, I didn’t really enjoy Telltale Games’ choice of art style in their previous games and I didn’t think anyone could write characters in The Walking Dead’s universe as well as Kirkman himself. I needn’t have worried though, as a plethora of fantastic writers (including Gary Whitta, writer of the fantastic ‘The Book of Eli’) were brought in to what would become a triumph of episodic gaming and one of the most magnificent, story-driven and downright emotional games of the entire year.
I got onto The Walking Dead’s bandwagon later than most but I’m almost glad I did. Starting upon the release of episode 3 I only had to experience the agonising wait for more content twice; although the wait for episode 5 was almost unbearable. The Walking Dead is less of a point and click adventure and more a game of ethics and morals, as you often have to decide who lives and who dies out of a selection of characters who you have become endeared to, not unlike in the comic. The tone of the source material, the sense of urgency and despair has been brought across to the game with aplomb and there’s a good reason why it’s the only game of its type on this Game of the Year list. It’s utterly fantastic
Adam Cook: The thing about Telltale’s masterpiece that made it so special to me, is that it transcended its medium. No longer were you only talking to “video game people” about your experiences in The Walking Dead, but you’d be talking to anyone who was a fan of a good story. But there was so much more to love, because despite everyone telling their own individual story, we all wanted to protect Clementine, it was a shared story, too.
With a beautifully understated soundtrack, magnificent voice acting and a story that brought me to tears on more than one occasion, The Walking Dead is the best game of the year, pulling and scratching at the emotions of the player. Whatever happens in season two, and whenever that may come, Telltale Games have finally delivered on the promise they always had as a studio, meaning that although I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with Fables, I’ll never forget the gang from my The Walking Dead story. Never.
And that’s it for another year, you can read all of our game of the year 2012 content here, as well as listen to the podcasts that we’ve put out for you all week. Other than that, we’d like to thank you – Dear Reader – for helping to make 2012 a hugely successful year here at GodisaGeek.com, and we’ve plenty more exciting things to come in 2013. So stay tuned!