I played a ton of games this past year, ranging from great to bad to everywhere in between. It was actually kind of difficult to come up with a five favorite list, especially when I knew that I'd have to leave a worthy title or two somewhere along the line. But, after making a comprehensive list of pros and cons for each of the games I've played (and may have flipped a coin or two,) I managed to narrow things down. So without further ado, here are my five favorite games from 2012.
All right, all right, I can already picture some of you typing away a grumbling response, and yes, I can understand some of the mixed feelings about how Mass Effect 3 ended. But you have to admit, everything up to those last few minutes of the game? Absolutely phenomenal. From start to finish, Mass Effect 3 was a terrific adventure, and I enjoyed every galaxy-saving mission in the fight against the Reapers. I loved seeing all my favorite characters from the previous two games return for one last hurrah, and a lot of the new faces really grew on me even though their screen time was short. Love it or hate it, Mass Effect 3 was one of the biggest and best games of the year, and in my opinion a fitting conclusion to the trilogy.
I spent many an hour struggling through this addictive sci-fi themed rogue like, where you're given command of a small, barely armed starship and sent on an important mission to save the Federation from the Rebel Empire. However, you've got limited resources, basic weapons and there are eight, mostly hostile sectors of space to cross through, and each jump carries the risk that it might be your last. It's a tricky game to master, even on the easy setting, and even the simplest of mistakes or missed opportunity early on can come back to haunt you in a big way towards the end. As challenging as it is, I really liked fighting off superior starships with well-coordinated missile strikes or trying to repel hostile boarders by venting my entire ship into space. Plus, with all the bonus starships and secret missions you can unlock, I found myself coming back to FTL again and again for just one more mission - often thinking "Okay, maybe this time the brave crew of the USS Laserblast XIII won't meet a fiery death."
3. Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3 was hands down my favorite shooter of the year, and I honestly have to say I don't remember having this much fun playing an open-world title since, well, Skyrim! I was surprised with its opened ended game play and its flexible approach to combat, and the pirate lord Vaas is by far one of the best and most unforgettable antagonists I've seen in ages. Whether it was hunting sharks, shanking pirates, exploring underwater caves, collecting herbs, blowing up cars, climbing radio towers, soaring around the sky in a hang glider or torching mercenaries with a flamethrower, I was impressed with the sheer number of things you could do just by wandering around Far Cry 3's dangerous tropical paradise. I would heartily recommend it for anyone looking to play an action shooter that promotes outside the box thinking and rewards those who creatively weaponize wild animals.
One of the weirdest and most unique titles I've played all year, Hotline Miami's narrative of a nameless hitman who carries out gory rampages while wearing animal masks is an incredibly surreal but enjoyable experience. Brutally difficult and almost disturbingly violent, Hotline Miami really put my reflexes to the test with its fast pacing and intense combat, and although there were multiple times I almost quit the game out of frustration, I kept coming back again and again just to see if maybe I'd be able to find the right sequence of moves to eliminate all of my opponents before they put an end to my day. I also especially loved its 80's electronica inspired soundtrack, which even if the game doesn't sound particularly appealing, everyone should check out. Seriously, if anyone at Devolver Digital or Dennaton Games is reading this, please, please put it up on iTunes already!
I'm usually not one for adventure games, but after hearing all the good things about TellTale games' The Walking Dead from my colleagues; I figured I'd pick up and give it a try. And holy crap, was I woefully unprepared for the kind of emotional punch this five part series delivers. The whole zombie apocalypse thing may be done to death (no pun intended) but The Walking Dead breaks the mold by having a complex narrative that's focused on characters you'll quickly come to care about and heavy moral choices that'll really make you question every decision you make. I often found myself debating if I made the right call or if I'd made a serious mistake I'd regret later down the road. It's such a well written and designed game that once you hit those final moments of Chapter 5, you'll do your best not to get misty eyed at it all. But chances are you'll end probably end up crying anyway. A lot.
And there we have it, my top five games of 2012. Don't forget to check out the rest of our favorite games of 2012. You can even take the Five Favorites Quiz for a chance to win sweet prizes like a Limited Edition Far Cry 3 Engraved Gaming PC from iBuyPower and a Devil 13 Dual GPU from AMD!