Last year I was certain that 2011 would go down as one of the best years for gaming and 2012 would be hard pressed to top it. Looking back across the year though, I quickly realized how many amazing games came out. There's a few other games that I'd still happily recommend that didn't make this list and at least half a dozen more that could have made it, but I simply didn't have time to play everything.
Honorable Mention: Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition
The Baldur's Gate series has been in my favorites for the past decade and change already.
As one of gaming's biggest genres it's no surprise we saw a lot of shooters released this year. Big franchises like Halo, Call of Duty and Medal of Honor all got new games, but none of these were my favorite. No, my favorite shooter released this year was Tribes: Ascend. Its unique movement mechanics really set it apart, as players can rapidly rocket themselves around the map with a combination of their jetpacks and proper usage of momentum. Just traversing a level in Tribes can be a joy before you even consider shooting each other out of the sky, and Tribes blend of rapid movement and projectile based weapons leads to a game where you can often feel truly skillful. The game is also free, so if you're at all intrigued by this go check it out.
While a lot of games love to include stealth elements, levels that require going unnoticed or just incorporate sneaking as part of a multi-pathed gameplay structure, Mark of the Ninja is a stealth title to its core, and every gameplay mechanic is finely honed to support it. The game manages to strike an oh-so-perfect balance between making you feel absolutely unstoppable badass while you're successfully sticking to the shadows, but also incredibly vulnerable should someone spot you. It's a subtly lost on many stealth games where fighting your way through is often a little too viable an option to promote staying unseen. Mark of the Ninja even takes it a step further by challenging you to be truly ninja-like and slip past without slitting any throats or every being seen.
For me, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is all about the moment to moment stories that you and the game create together. Whether it's that time that your sniper missed a key 90% odds shot that got your team wiped out or when your assault survived an onslaught all alone with an uncanny combination of skill and luck, it's that key element of randomness that's thrown into the mix that keep subsequent playthroughs entertaining. At its core, XCOM is a tactical strategy game with a global strategic element, and that alone gets me excited since it's rare to see such AAA support thrown behind what's rapidly becoming niche genres. I like FPS's and such as much as the next person, but variety is the spice of life and on top of that XCOM: Enemy Unknown reinforces that you can still create a modern remake that's true to the original.
Alright, so a quick story. FTL was one of the first games to come out after receiving crowd-funding on Kickstarter. I had missed the window to support it then, but I'd been keeping my eye out for its eventual release. Unluckily enough, FTL came out quite literally in the middle of our Escapist Expo, but despite being absolutely dead tired late one night, I still loaded up my first plunge into this little spaceship simulation rogue-like. In my sleep deprived stupor I don't recall how far I even got - I suspect not very - but I was thoroughly hooked. FTL challenges you to weigh all your decisions against your vastly dwindling resources, and while outwardly it might appear quite simple there is some very satisfying complexity here. You can play it for 5 minutes or 5 hours, but beware that destruction of your ship sends you back to the start.
1. Guild Wars 2
And my finally favorite game of 2012 ... Guild Wars 2. What drew me in most about Guild Wars 2 was how the game managed to instill a sense of adventure, exploration and camaraderie that's been sadly absent in many modern MMOs. While many of the familiar MMO trappings are present, the developers delivered them in new manners or with new mechanics that really change nature of the world and your interactions with other players. It's a game that rewards players for working together even outside the traditional confines of a party. How many times have you been tracking down a quest only to see that someone else has started the boss fight already? In Guild Wars 2 there's nothing stopping you from jumping in to assist and you'll still get the experience, loot and quest credit that you normally would. The whole game is filled with these brilliant little changes and they all contributes to a setting that feels more like an actual living and breathing place.
And there you have it my five favorite games of 2012, you should check them out, in fact you have to because not only is it Christmas but it's also my birthday so I get to make demands today. Happy Holidays everyone.
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!