Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


This year we're doing things differently.
December 20, 2012 10:53 AM   Subscribe

This isn't just a list of awesome video games from 2012... There will be some not-so-great games listed here as well. There will be some games that didn't release in 2012, but still made a mark on the year regardless. There will even be some games that will never release.
The 50 games that defined 2012: [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5]
posted by griphus (38 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Number of said games I have played: One. (I swear I'll get to Walking Dead on my Christmas vacation!)

Man, I am terrible at games lately. I'm basically following that XKCD "five-year delay" strategy by accident.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:09 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


This list is seriously lacking in Hotline Miami-ness. Also, Lone Survivor. I would have cried foul if I hadn't at least seen FTL and DayZ. There were a number of indie titles that were very 2012-y that weren't mentioned, but since I didn't play the ones I'm thinking of, it is not for me to complain.
posted by Edgewise at 11:13 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


This list is seriously lacking in Hotline Miami-ness.

Yeah, that sort of struck me as well considering the people responsible, the hype, the content, and cactus' friendly relationship with people pirating the game.
posted by griphus at 11:17 AM on December 20, 2012


Yeah, this list did nothing but show me how little time I have to play games these days.

I did play Fez, though. I bought an Xbox just for it, and haven't played any other games on it. Guess I should sell it before the Xbox 720 or whatever it'll be called comes out.
posted by zsazsa at 11:28 AM on December 20, 2012


Even though it came out in 2011, for me, the game that defines 2012 is Skyrim. Hoo, buddy.
posted by grubi at 11:33 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Because of this post I discovered Incredipede and am laughing uproariously as I flop about a beautifully illustrated woodcut world. It's like QWOP surgically attached to World of Goo. I also enjoyed the article about it that GamaSutra linked to, especially the part where the game creator says an early prototype was a "a game where you build a brain out of birds."
posted by oulipian at 11:35 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


They mention Diablo 3 obviously, but fail to mention it's much better rival Torchlight II. That is unfortunate, because Torchlight II is not only a great game, but it serves as a perfect example of how a "triple-A" gaming company can go from dominating a genre to completely missing the boat from one release to the next.

But they do mention FTL, which fully deserves to be on that list.
posted by Vindaloo at 11:50 AM on December 20, 2012


Even though it came out in 2011, for me, the game that defines 2012 is Skyrim. Hoo, buddy.

For me, that would be Binding of Isaac.
posted by owtytrof at 11:58 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I really like this approach to the Games of the Year recap. A focus on great games, of course, but with a broader perspective that discusses the gaming industry and lifestyle as a source of entertainment as well. I hope they keep this up.
posted by Hicksu at 12:20 PM on December 20, 2012


The Walking Dead is a great game, I'm on my 4th playthrough and even though I kind of know what is coming up by now, I like seeing how the different choices play out.
posted by Renoroc at 12:36 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


As the father of seven year old little girl with dark, curly hair... Well I can't bring myself to play past about the second chapter in Walking Dead.

I'll try again in the spring maybe.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:39 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Over on Gamers With Jobs, we have a thread going where we're compiling votes for Game of the Year. Keeping in mind that there are many games I did not play this year (I can't imagine anyone keeping up with everything), this was my entry:

------------------
1. Dishonored

This one took me totally by surprise; it came out right when X-Com did, and I hadn't heard anything about it at all. Checked out the videos, and the spot in one of the promos where you open up a cathedral door to see a Tallboy sold me. (well, okay, finding out it just used Steam DRM is what actually sealed the deal.)

What's weird about this one is that it has so many problems. I've seen many criticisms of it, from many different people, and I've agreed with almost all of them. If you see someone say something bad about Dishonored, they're probably right. But it is still, in my opinion, a masterwork, even with all the things they got wrong. Most of the criticisms are absolutely true, but it's a great damn game anyway.

2. FTL

I didn't back this on Kickstarter because they were using weird demo tech, and felt bad about it, once I actually saw what was on offer. Bought it the minute I actually could. It's vaguely roguelike, in that it's a permadeath game that's randomly generated each time you play. A very difficult roguelike. It's like playing Nethack, but with only ten levels, and Asmodeus waiting at the end. Even playing on Easy, I win, I dunno, maybe ten percent of the time? If that? But the game is absolutely absorbing, even while your ship is being blasted into giant metal shards.

3. Mark of the Ninja

Grabbed this on a Steam sale because people recommended it, and wow, that was a great buy. It's too short, and the end has some issues that I can't get into without spoilers, but it's just a brilliant design. Snag this one, if you see it on sale again.

4. The Walking Dead

Best adventure game in years. Bit too linear, and there are spoilery things that I can't talk about that kinda mess it up some, but it's still awesome.

5. Stacking

Released for the first time on the PC this year. What a little gem of a game. I love Double Fine.

6. Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup

I'm cheating slightly listing this, because I noodled around with this in prior years, but I quickly died, and went on to other things. This was the first year I really PLAYED it. Super intricate, really well-balanced, and tons of different approaches. Nethack, its sorta-grandaddy, has a bunch of core mechanics that almost every character ends up using, but DCSS is so wildly different for different classes that it's almost a new game for each one. Learning each class offers a substantial fraction of the challenge of the entire game of Nethack.

7. Saint's Row 3

Just stupid, silly fun, Grand Theft Auto-ish, but deliberately ludicrous in the extreme. This one never gets even vaguely serious, except possibly the end, a little bit.

8. Far Cry 3

Only a decent game when playing the dumb story, the freeform island exploration is really cool, and the graphics engine is ridiculously good. I hope we see it used in more titles. It is just glorious.

9. XCOM

A good game, not a great one. Too heavily scripted, too heavily dependent on the random number generator, not enough real replayability. It needed more design time than it got, or at least it needed to have less stripped out of the original.


As of first writing, that's only nine. I may update or change this later, if someone reminds me of a game I loved that I've forgotten.

Disappointments:

ME3. Bioware broke their universe in my head. It's amazing how they could go from Tuchanka, which is the absolute epitome of everything that's great about game storytelling, to that disconnected, tone-deaf, busted ending. And forcing the multiplayer down our throats sucked. Bioware has been demoted from Day 0 to about Day 180 for me, and if their next game has problems this severe, they may end up at Day Never.

Note that this is not because the ending was not puppies and rainbows; I didn't expect puppies and rainbows. There have been many games with "bad" endings that I have liked very much indeed. Even if one of the three options had ended up with Shepard and Tali on a farm on Rannoch, I would have still hated it, because it so thoroughly violated the themes of the storytelling that had gone before.

X-COM. I listed it in my top 10, because it is still a good game, but it remains a terrific disappointment, compared to both the original, and the things they were showing off from their early dev work. It's merely a good game, with essentially no replayability, when it had the potential to be a decades-spanning classic. It's worthy of being in the 'best games of 2012' list, but it should have ranked much higher.
posted by Malor at 12:53 PM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


"XCOM. I listed it in my top 10, because it is still a good game, but it remains a terrific disappointment, compared to both the original, and the things they were showing off from their early dev work. It's merely a good game, with essentially no replayability, when it had the potential to be a decades-spanning classic. It's worthy of being in the 'best games of 2012' list, but it should have ranked much higher.
posted by Malor at 12:53 PM on December 20
"

I completely agree with you, however hopefully they can unlock the full potential with an expansion pack in 2013. XCOM was tons of fun, but they could have done so much more.
posted by Vindaloo at 1:27 PM on December 20, 2012


Man, I am terrible at games lately. I'm basically following that XKCD "five-year delay" strategy by accident.

I'm a Mac user. I've been in that club for a while. When this thing dies, I'll be going back to Windows, because I'm just too much of an addict. Still waiting, for instance, on that Hotline Miami port that was supposed to come out last month.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:39 PM on December 20, 2012


For what its worth, the port is done.
posted by griphus at 1:42 PM on December 20, 2012


Hurrah!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:51 PM on December 20, 2012


The Walking Dead is the best piece of media I consumed this year, let alone the best game I played. I like that it was unafraid to just be a choose-your-own-adventure movie with quicktime events. The idea that games need to tell their narratives through gameyness is an unwelcome piece of essentialism that keeps games wedded to awful video game tropes. (Cinema went through the same development: early filmmakers tried to justify their art by accentuating the features of film that distinguished it from other media, but eventually this was forgotten and people just set out to make good movies.) It's a genuinely important game and it'll be influencing games for years to come.

Hotline Miami was fun enough, but I didn't think it broke much new ground.

Also, this list needs more Cart Life.
posted by painquale at 1:58 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


And it should be mentioned that the Steam Holiday Sale is on now. There's so much DLC that's going to eat up my holiday time off...

My game of 2012 came out in November of 2011. I picked up To The Moon in the last big Steam sale. I've never, ever had an experience like that. It was astonishing.
posted by MrVisible at 2:01 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


A few thoughts. This is all PC specific (some titles may be console ports, also available for Mac, etc.)

Games on the list

-I've never been a huge fan of Borderlands. I find its forced crrr-aaa--aa-aa-zy! jokiness, cartoonish style and clumsy controls to be too much to cope with for long. It amps up the schlock-factor unrelentingly from the first second of gameplay. But plenty of my friends find it hilariously entertaining.

-Diablo III was fun for a few days. But there was nothing really compelling about it that made me want to stick around. I expect I'll still break it out for a few hours from time to time. Which, after all, has always been one of the nice things about how Diablo titles work.

-Guild Wars II really is impressive. I'm enjoying it thoroughly, even though I think I've barely scratched the surface. All the positive reviews out there are well earned. However, the world doesn't have the same....relatability?....of the design of old-world Azeroth. In my opinion. (I'm talking about the pre-expansion era here.)

- DayZ is a ton of fun. Especially just after you've first figured out the basics of it. Having previous experience with OFP and Arma probably helped me there.

-Dishonored really is a gem. Despite a few irritating achievement glitches.

-I forbade myself exploration of MechWarrior Online until after exams. I'm looking forward to trying it out now! Same story with Walking Dead, Planetside and Tribes.

2012 Games not on the list

Just a few other picks of my own from this year (at least, its PC release). Including major expansions.

-Civilization II: Gods and Kings

-Crusader Kings II -- and the Game of Thrones mod.

-Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition

-Endless Space

-Legend of Grimrock

-Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai

-Toy Soldiers

-The Secret World

-Ticket to Ride

-Wargame: European Escalation


Alpha/betas etc, and older games discovered in 2012 (by me)

-0 AD (Open-source historical 4X RTS)

-Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator

-Kenshi - "free roaming quad based RPG"

-Sintel - game adaptation of the Blender movie

-Spring RTS engine and the games for it.


It's been a good year. There are a bunch of titles I still need to try out. (I do tend to lag a bit behind the newest releases.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:15 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


painquale: (Cinema went through the same development: early filmmakers tried to justify their art by accentuating the features of film that distinguished it from other media, but eventually this was forgotten and people just set out to make good movies.)

That is the opposite of my understanding of the history of cinema. As I understand it, early motion pictures used the conventions of theatre. For example, the earliest films were often one long shot, without any editing or camera movement, and stories were structured around theatrical scripted dialogue. Forward-thinking filmmakers (say, Dziga Vertov) began experimenting with what made film different from other media, and gradually evolved the visual vocabulary of camera movement and zooming, editing, special effects, and so on that we now know as cinema.

Similarly, I would say that you're missing the point by saying "The idea that games need to tell their narratives through gameyness is an unwelcome piece of essentialism that keeps games wedded to awful video game tropes." Games don't have to be narratives. Many of the more interesting and most important games ever made are the ones that don't have any built-in narratives (Tetris, SimCity, Wii Sports, Minecraft) or just the barest veneer of one (Doom, Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter). Games are not limited to linear narrative, and can allow players to explore and find their own story. It's when games try too hard to be overly cinematic that they often fall flat.
posted by oulipian at 2:25 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've seen many criticisms of [Dishonored], from many different people, and I've agreed with almost all of them.

Can you link a few, or summarize them? Dishonored is pretty much at the top of my list of 2012 games, and I've played through it five times over and gotten all the achievements--but it's not perfect, and I'd be interested to see what other people think. (A couple of my Dishonored irritants: I hate having to return to the hub area between missions, and a few of the unskippable bits can drag on. There's one cutscene in particular towards the middle that I'll just go up and get a drink during by now.)
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:20 PM on December 20, 2012


As I understand it, early motion pictures used the conventions of theatre. For example, the earliest films were often one long shot, without any editing or camera movement, and stories were structured around theatrical scripted dialogue. Forward-thinking filmmakers (say, Dziga Vertov) began experimenting with what made film different from other media, and gradually evolved the visual vocabulary of camera movement and zooming, editing, special effects, and so on that we now know as cinema.

Vertov and other Soviet montagists are some of the early filmmakers I was referring to. Critics claimed that film was just a mechanical recording; early artistic filmmakers responded by isolating features that are unique to film, and showing that film could do things that you couldn't do in other media. (The Soviets focused on editing; the realists focused on the eye-like nature of the camera, etc.) However, now that we no longer feel that film needs to be defended as a legitimate artistic medium, we recognize that you can have a good film without highlighting features that are unique to the medium, and highlighting the features of the medium doesn't necessarily make a good film. The medium specificity thesis (i.e. good art highlights the unique features of its medium) is false, but whenever a new medium comes about, everyone acts as if it is true. There's always a period of insecurity and panic, during which time artists care too much about justifying their medium. I love that The Walking Dead is cinematic and movielike, and it simply does not care.

Games don't have to be narratives.

I agree. I am objecting to those who argue that because games don't have to be narratives, then they shouldn't be narratives.

It's when games try too hard to be overly cinematic that they often fall flat.

On the contrary, I think that many of the best moments in games are cinematic, and it's not something that should necessarily be avoided. Shadows of the Colossus is cinematic, and The Walking Dead is cinematic, and they are both amazing. You can have great cinematic games and great non-cinematic games. It's not a plus or a minus. The problem with most cinematic games is that most games have terrible writing, but that's not the fault of their being cinematic.
posted by painquale at 4:23 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, Crusader Kings II has received way too much of my time this year. It's a George R.R. Martin generator.

One game, I played as House D'Hauteville, a family of Norman nobles who ruled southern Italy as dukes. I wanted to form the Kingdom of Sicily. To do it, I would have to fight the Muslims on Sicily itself and the Genoese to my north. But first, I would have to change my succession laws. As the holder of two duchies, I would have to give one to each of my two sons unless I instituted primogeniture. You need to rule for ten years to do that. My duke was old. He died, dividing Italy's heel from its toe.

I then took control of the old duke's eldest son, who promptly set about killing his brother. The old duke's eldest was first in line to inherit his younger brother's lands. Unfortunately, his brother had a child before being slain by a gang of highwaymen. The child inherited; a regency took command; but the regent, the child-king's spymaster, hated his lord. The old duke's eldest gave commands. The baby's nursemaid smothered him in his crib. The eldest inherited the child's duchy. The old duke's land was again united.

The nursemaid, wracked with guilt, admitted that the new duke had paid her to kill her charge. Europe now knew him as a kin-slayer. Even as he crowned himself King of Sicily, his vassals refused to trust him. He died powerful and bitter.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:53 PM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


New Super Mario Bros. U for me, thanks!
posted by porn in the woods at 5:18 PM on December 20, 2012


Can you link a few, or summarize them?

Poor voice acting is probably the strongest complaint I've seen, and I think it's accurate. Now, by Arkane standards, this is amazing, incredible work; the last game of theirs I played was Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, which had voices so terrible, and writing so juvenile, that simply getting through the cutscenes was a nails-on-chalkboard type chore, and the plot was worthy of derisive laughter. (The levels in Dark Messiah, however, were effing BRILLIANT, much like they are in Dishonored, so if you can stomach the laughably terrible production wrapped around that level team's work, it's an excellent purchase.)

Compared with that, Dishonored is leaps and bounds better, but it feels like they hired names, instead of voices, and then didn't direct them well. Many are pretty lifeless, sounding like they're reading from cue cards. There's only one voice in the game that I think is truly superb, an NPC that, hmmm... you associate with frequently, is the best I can say without being spoilery. That voice, and sub-storyline, stands toe-to-toe with anything I've ever seen in gaming.

The overall plot's a bit obvious, and the ending is weak. It feels like it ends too quickly, but that may be only on the stealth track; from the sound of it, if you've been violent, killing lots of people, the ending is much more epic, and probably much more satisfying. The stealth approach left me kind of flat. (However, it adds a lot to the rest of the game.) And that subplot I just referred to? They totally dropped it. No resolution at all on what was, for me, the most interesting theme in the game, a terrible, terrible crime that was committed. I can't believe they left it where it was. (I wish I could be more specific, but I just can't without giving away too much.)

I've seen more complaints, too, but I can't call them to mind just now. What's interesting is that when I see people say "They didn't do X well", whatever X is, I usually nod and agree with them, but my opinion on the game itself remains unchanged. Despite its flaws, it is brilliant, especially if you play in stealth mode and really explore things. There's just so much texture and depth to that world that it feels very much like visiting a real place, rather than playing a game.

The overall way I describe Dishonored: it's like a combination of Thief, Deus Ex, and Bioshock, the Holy Trinity.... stealth, exploration, and setting respectively. Dishonored isn't quite as good as any of the three at their core strength, but it beats each cold in the other two areas. It has, in other words, stealth almost as good as Thief, exploration almost as interesting as Deus Ex (maybe more so, if you like the lore), and a setting that's nearly as memorable as Rapture. And it does all three at once, in the same game. It is really exceptional.

Fair warning, however: it is bleak. Dunwall, the setting for the story, is not a nice place.
posted by Malor at 5:34 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


The game of the year is Frog Fractions and I will harbor no disagreement.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:44 PM on December 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


Frog Fractions was great. I will not disagree with you on its being game of the year, but only because I'm not qualified to say which game was really the best of the whole year.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:17 PM on December 20, 2012


snuffleupagus: Civilization II: Gods and Kings? Um, Civ II was out like, a decade ago. Don't you mean IV or V?

For me the year has been defined by Mass Effect III and Skyim.

Skyrim as that is what I played most of the year, and Mass Effect III for personal reasons, watching my sick brother play it.

I haven't really found any other major games I like this year, and my brother, who has been introducing me to ones I miss, is too sick to play them. Which also renders my Christmas present to him kinda pointless.
posted by Canageek at 10:25 PM on December 20, 2012


Heh. Quite right! Civ V: Gods and Kings. I was thinking "part two of civ five."
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:22 PM on December 20, 2012


The biggest complaint I've read about Dishonored is that it is very easy to get very powerful very quickly, especially if you concentrate on one single play style. Also, even though it is sort of a stealth game, you can play it as a hack-and-slash, and apparently if you do that (and ignore side-plots and non-violent solutions to the games main missions) the game is very short, like 4 to 5 hours short.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 1:48 AM on December 21, 2012


I haven't played too many games this year, but Mass Effect III really defined it for me. The sheer brilliance of everything up to the final level, the fan reaction to the ending, the practically enforced pay-to-win mulitplayer. There are a lot of things that happened with ME3, some good, some bad, but it really sums up my gaming experience for 2012.

To be honest, if 2013 has a game that good, I won't be disappointed. If it has a game that is that bad, I may be a lot poorer.
posted by YAMWAK at 5:20 AM on December 21, 2012


Poor voice acting is probably the strongest complaint I've seen, and I think it's accurate.

Yeah, I can definitely see this one. For instance, I love Brad Dourif for his sublime weirdness, but on my second and subsequent playthroughs I couldn't skip past Piero's dialogue fast enough because it sounds like Dourif is dictating a letter instead of acting.

from the sound of it, if you've been violent, killing lots of people, the ending is much more epic

Quite a bit more, yeah. Without getting all spoilery, there are a couple more opportunities for revenge towards the end on the high-chaos path, and the final confrontation is a lot more fraught with tension. Give it a try.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:49 AM on December 21, 2012


Dishonored starts off being very promising, but I agree with the criticism that character progression is poorly paced. Also, the city itself did not feel very alive, largely constraining you to a linear playthrough. In terms of mechanics and control, I have to say that almost everything that Dishonored tried to do, with the exception of atmosphere, Far Cry 3 did better. Neither of those games seems particularly of-the-times, so I don't feel that either should be on a list of games that characterized 2012, as per the thrust of the article. But if I had to choose one of them, it would be FC3.
posted by Edgewise at 7:09 AM on December 21, 2012


Ha, Gamasutra includes Old-School RPG. The pitch for that Kickstarter was awful.

I spent most of my time playing Binding of Isaac+expansion and I'd have to put Crusader Kings II (and the Game of Thrones mod) on the list.

Btw Humble Bundle 7 is on sale.
posted by ersatz at 8:09 AM on December 21, 2012


Yeah, Binding of Isaac was the game I sunk most hours into this year. What a great game. I am really looking forward to the relaunch.
posted by painquale at 11:21 AM on December 21, 2012


Btw Humble Bundle 7 is on sale

Just got it. Thanks! Now, what should I play first?
posted by josher71 at 1:55 PM on December 21, 2012


Isaac is generally considered excellent, josher71, although I must admit I didn't care for it that much myself.

I really enjoyed Grimrock, not quite enough to list it in my top 10, but it was fun. It's pretty similar to Dungeon Master on the ST and Amiga, if you remember that very old title.
posted by Malor at 2:59 PM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Red Rogue is brilliant.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:20 PM on December 21, 2012


« Older Robert Bork, the conservative jurist at the heart ...  |  It's no secret that eleven-tim... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments