Games and Gamers

2012 In Review: The Best Games Of 2012

The cover of THE WALKING DEAD. i
The cover of THE WALKING DEAD.

I'm no fan of calling one game the best, especially when perhaps 20 deserve a shot at that crown. After much consideration, I chose 10 of the finest offerings videogame entertainment can create circa 2012. It was a year when publishers continued their focus on banal sequels, but a few new additions to old franchises stood head and shoulders above the rest to become their own amazing entities. Most of the best games, though, aren't part of a series at all. If you haven't yet played them, these 10 pieces of popular art will offer you every kind of emotion the world of entertainment is likely to offer, from unreserved hilarity to abject horror.

2012 In Review: The Best Games Of 2012

  • Far Cry 3

    The cover of FAR CRY 3. i
    The cover of FAR CRY 3.


    Far Cry 3 grabs you from moment one when Lewis Carroll is quoted before the game itself begins. From that moment on, it's Heart of Darkness circa 2012 in the Rook Islands as insanity and nightmares come together to form one of the more believable open world experiences ever created – despite the lunacy that surrounds you at every turn. Here, you meet Vaas Montenegro. His monologue on insanity, voiced by Michael Mando, is among the finest written and acted in a videogame.

  • Dishonored

    The cover of DISHONORED. i
    The cover of DISHONORED.

    Bethesda Softworks

    In a sometimes ugsome, plague-filled world of violence and adventure that evokes the swashbuckling nature of The Count of Monte Cristo, you're presented with so many super heroic abilities, you feel like an omniscient kid in a candy store. The favored ability? Sneaking up to an enemy and blowing him off, say, a balcony with a mighty gust of wind. Another treat: Writer Austin Grossman's narrative is engaging, compelling and never gets in the way of the gaming in the backstabbing world of Dunwall. And the actors include Carrie Fisher and Susan Sarandon (whose Granny Rags is both creepy and memorable).

  • Journey

    The cover of JOURNEY.


    With only the sounds of a cello and the whipping wind, you find yourself in alone in the desert. You'd be terribly lonely if it weren't for your partner, who helps you move through a world that can be as naturally, beautifully vast as Ansel Adams' Sand Dune, Sunrise. There are no verbal exchanges in Journey, no quips, no exclamations, no traditional narrative. Yet its story of discovery and exploration is as affecting emotionally as a carefully-crafted poem.

  • Skylanders: Giants

    The box of the starter kit of Skylanders Giants.


    This huge-selling kids' series from Activision combines carefully detailed action figures with an adventuresome videogame. Sure, it has role-playing game elements, but the stars here are the Giants. These behemoths let players become powerful, boulder-thumping masters of their own universes. But they have to save Skylands from a mad scientist, who's actually whiny and cliched. Thankfully, the Skylanders you meet along the way aren't.

  • Max Payne 3

    The cover of Max Payne 3.

    Rockstar Games

    Absolutely no one does videogame narrative inspired by action-oriented movies and books better than Dan Houser and his team at Rockstar Games. While Max Payne 3 didn't sell as well as it deserved to, each chapter felt like you were living and breathing within in a roller-coaster ride of a blockbuster film. Rockstar included a robust online gaming element and some brilliant choices for music, like Garland Jeffries' extraordinary but generally overlooked "Wild in the Streets."

  • The Walking Dead

    The cover of THE WALKING DEAD. i
    The cover of THE WALKING DEAD.

    Telltale Games

    After the first few minutes, you can tell The Walking Dead will present you with one of the most incisive narratives you've seen in a videogame. The horror and loss you feel when characters about which you care deeply are snatched away and killed becomes terribly genuine. Game nerds like me also appreciate the fact that The Walking Dead is a tribute to the point and click adventures of yore. As much as the game is about a zombie apocalypse, it's all about the various sensations of panic and terror one feels during a disaster. Remember the brilliant performance of Mad Men's Vincent Kartheiser as Pete Campbell surrounding the Season 2 plane crash? Walking Dead catches similar nuance splendidly and never too melodramatically.

  • Diablo III

    The cover of Diablo III.

    Blizzard Games

    Whether you choose to be male or female, the character you conjure up for this fantasy full of evil and monsters looks and feels dominant from the get-go. You need that powerful pat on the back in the form of characterization because the darkness that springs forth is the best a role-playing game maker can create. Yes, the dialog is sometimes weak. But the challenges and quests are varied, and the crazily detailed, haunted demons (like The Grotesque) can be absolutely the creepiest.

  • Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?!!

    The cover of ADVENTURE TIME.

    D3 Publisher

    Based on the quirky animated show that debuted on the Cartoon Network in 2010, Adventure Time is destined to be a cult favorite. Dark, conflicted, irritated and sometimes plain weird, the game is made of indulgences and a wonderful contemplation of everything nerds like: oddball humor, characters that whose abilities seem to have come from a roll of the dice, high morals and ethics, and the constant ability to save the day. The game design isn't perfect and quests can take too long, but the funny-strange story never fails to amuse. It's a tribute to the best kind of imagination: one that is free and unfettered, even as it is controlled and concerned with a dramatic arc.

  • FTL: Faster Than Light

    Screenshot from FTL.
    Subset Games

    Subset Games

    You don't enter the world of FTL for the stunning artwork. You go to this spaceship strategy game because it makes you feel like a combination of Captain Kirk and Scotty from Star Trek. Here, the balance of power and technology is key, whether you're protecting your ship from marauders or upgrading its abilities for a potential battle. What indie designers Matthew Davis and Justin Ma have done with this inexpensive game is nothing short of extraordinary, especially for those control freaks who like to micromanage just about everything.

  • Papo Y Yo

    From a screenshot of Papo Y Yo. i
    From a screenshot of Papo Y Yo.


    Set in the colorful yet somehow foreboding favelas of Brazil, this puzzle game becomes far more than it initially seems to be. Loosely based on a game developer's difficult childhood, Papo Y Yo becomes a considered meditation upon child abuse and drinking to excess. Yes, the Monster is an easy metaphor for an addicted father. Yet there's a depth here that deals with many of the gray areas of what's real and unspoken in a young mind that digs deep into fantasy to deal with reality.



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