Who am I? No one important, so you may be forgiven for not giving a damn about my game preferences and experiences. But that, unfortunately, is the dilemma I find myself in. As I’m merely amateur, I can’t expect a wide circle of fans and followers to be willfully expecting a grand personal declaration of what I fancied throughout the last twelve months, but I’m also not professional enough to have played every major game of the year and thus write an official “Best Of 2012″ post without having personal bias interwoven. I decided to go with the former, so excuse me for my regrettable lack of fame. I hope I make some recommendations that you wouldn’t have thought to tried.
Yes, there are certain genres that I willfully dismissed this year, as I do every year. So no, you will not find Halo 4 or FIFA 2013 simply because those aren’t games that interest me (not that I find anything wrong with people for whom they do, of course). There are also countless games that I would have loved to have gotten to but never did thanks to time or other games’ prioritization. For example, my recently acquired copy of Dishonored sits on my shelf yet to be played. It too, along with XCOM, Sleeping Dogs, Xenoblade Chronicles and a plethora of other titles will be mysteriously absent from my list because I just didn’t get to them. And for those of you hoping to see such titles on here, I apologize. Be sure to comment with your own games of the year.
And with that, we shall begin (in no particular order, mind you).
Virtue’s Last Reward
This is clearly a strong year for the story-driven game, as the recent critical success of The Walking Dead (another game I have woefully neglected to play) has shown. This was the year I was introduced to a little DS game called 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors and was captured by its wit, depth, and ability to draw me in to the lore it fashioned for itself. It was lucky I was introduced to it so late, seeing as its sequel saw a release the same year.
Virtue’s Last Reward can, unfortunately, make a difficult game to describe to people with any shared enthusiasm. When I say “visual novel on a handheld” most groan and either imagine walls of text paired with no gameplay or an ecchi fest. This game is none of the above, and should be celebrated for its ingenious plot, clever puzzles, and charming characters.
If you’re unfamiliar with the series, please, by all means, play the original on the DS. I can’t exactly put into words what makes the games so compelling, but just know that the two games collectively pull you into another plane of existence. One in which doubt and tension are never more than a few lines of dialogue away.
I love a good space 4X strategy game, although I admit my experience does’t trace back to the golden age when such games were more widespread. And to be fair, this isn’t a game that quite topples the high standard set by the fantastic Sins of a Solar Empire from a few years back.
That being said, there are a number of things the game does wonderfully right. You’re given dynamic control over your empire (Civ style) along with a wealth of ship and planet customization options that really allow for a personal edge. Your empire truly feels like your empire, and it makes it hurt all the more when those damned Horatio freaks come in and purify your populations.
Playing Endless Space feels a little like colonizing America. You and your rivals take and take and take until the boundaries are settled and growing pains set in. It usually results in some wonky, misshapen empires as I or the other players would send out last minute colonizers to grab planets off in corners just as every stake is being claimed.
But the real joy from Endless Space comes from a strength of the genre itself. Knowing that your responsible for untold trillions of individuals in massive populations in elongated struggles with aliens satisfies the deepest of power fantasies, and I can’t recommend this game enough for that thrill.
Some time ago, I wrote a review here on Gravity Rush and my thoughts were largely positive. Yes, control problems did surface fairly quickly and the game wasn’t always as dynamic and exciting as it could have been, but what we were left with was an interesting, artistic, unique action game that fit perfectly on Sony’s newfangled Vita.
From an easily likable protagonist to a sweeping soundtrack that really deserves more attention, Gravity Rush is really one of the best experiences to be had on the PlayStation Vita. Controlled falling is not a mechanic common to games, and Gravity Rush shows what a shame that is.
It is unfortunate that the game didn’t live up to the greatness it could have enjoyed with a little more time devoted to making its mechanics smooth and its graphics a little more polished, but the player is given an enticing Ghibli-esque world to explore and a interesting story that inhabits it. So it makes it on my list.
Persona 4 Golden
This is the game I can honestly say I got the most addicted to this year. Man. What a game this is. To be fair, I was a little apprehensive about listing this title as it is merely a remake of a game from four years ago. But then I remembered just what a good game this is, even on my second playthrough.
Persona 4 Golden carries with it an astronomically high standard for JRPGs. It’s like a perfect video game cake, baked with traditional turn-flour, Pokemon creature collection milk, Sims daily life simulator eggs, and a frosting made of undeniably unique charm that overflows on every corner.
I don’t think I’ve ever been as addicted to a JRPG as I have to this one, and if you haven’t played it before you really must. Even if you don’t like JRPGs. Even if you don’t already own a Vita. Even if you don’t like video games. Even if you’re not even human and receiving this through some massive package of Earth transmission data. Get yourself a copy and enjoy the jaw-dropping depth this game has to offer.
This is the last handheld game I swear. But it deserves attention nonetheless! I bought this game mostly on a whim, as the concept intrigued me thanks to a hands-on video the guys at Queasy Games put out. I was pleasantly surprised by a game with thoughtful visual simplicity married to a fantastic musical interactivity.
Yeah, the game is short, but the stage builder and bustling community surrounding it far and away make up for any length shortcomings. And on the topic of stage editors, Sound Shape‘s is quite nice and offers all the customization options to potentially outdo the creators, if you have the right combination of musical, game design, and visually artistic understanding necessary to do so.
You’re likely at least a little sick of hearing praise for Thatgamecompany’s magnificent masterpiece, no matter how much you may believe that it’s earned it. Truth be told, even I roll my eyes a bit whenever another post on Kotaku comes up about it. But you know what? Screw your (and my) annoyance with repetition. This is an incredible game and I love it with every fiber of my being.
You can probably also spell out all the reasons why, so I won’t go too in-depth into my love for its perfect gameplay-enhanced narrative, beautiful soundtrack and art design, brilliant implementation of multiplayer…
I think you get the idea. It’s a game that made me cry on multiple play throughs and likely fits into my top 5 games of all time. So yeah. Game of the Year to Journey.
It’s been a good year in games. What about you? What toped and inhabited your lists?