The final years of any console generation tend to be when we see the very best games. Developers have had years to figure out the hardware and maximize every bit of power under the hood. Thanks to the magic of cheap, downloadable games, this particular generation has also seen a rise in smaller, independent titles, many of which bring their own brand of originality to the table. We’re right on the cusp of a new console cycle, but it’s clear that studios are still putting all they’ve got into their current releases, which has led to a great year for gamers everywhere.
Whether you’re a fan of big-budget shooters, fast-paced action titles, platformers, sports games, cinematic adventures, or artistic journeys, 2012 has seen something for everyone. But which were the titles that stood above all others and need to be acknowledged as the best of the year? That’s what you’re about to find out.
In this week’s Masonic Gamer Podcast, we spent a few hours discussing all of our favourite releases of 2012 and decided which ones were the best. We broke them down into various categories, such as console exclusives, indie titles, and publishing studios, and agreed upon one winner for each category. This all led up to the final award – Masonic Gamer’s Game of the Year 2012. If you’d like to hear discussion about any of the titles, feel free to check out the show.
However, we understand that not everyone has that kind of time, which is why I’m condensing our decisions down into a single article. I’ll tell you which games we chose as our winners and give a brief explanation as to why they were picked. It’s safe to say that every one of these titles is a must-play, and if you’ve missed any of them, you really owe it to yourself to give them a go. So without further ado, I now present Masonic Gamer’s top games of 2012:
Biggest Disappointment – Assassin’s Creed III
Yeah, we started with the biggest disappointment of the year, which went to Assassin’s Creed III. The original Assassin’s Creed was also a major disappointment, but Ubisoft seemed to figure things out by the sequel. AC3 was hyped so much this year, and looked utterly fantastic, but between repetitive missions, frustrating mechanics, and a list of bugs so huge that a series of massive patches were released post-launch, it just didn’t live up to expectations. There may have been worse titles released in 2012, but we weren’t expecting nearly as much out of any of them.
Best Nintendo Exclusive – Kid Icarus: Uprising
Between the Wii U and the 3DS, we’ve seen a number of Nintendo exclusives this year, but Kid Icarus: Uprising was the best of the bunch. Fans waited for years for Pit to enter the world of the third dimension, and much like the transitions of Mario, Link, and Samus before him, they weren’t disappointed. With stunning visuals, unique controls, and a fantastic difficulty scale, Kid Icarus: Uprising is an experience that can be enjoyed time and time again. Even the awkward Circle Pad add-on didn’t stop this title from making it to the top of the list.
Best PC Exclusive – Prison Architect
This choice may be controversial, as Introversion Software’s Prison Architect is still only in Alpha, but it shows so much potential that we named it our favourite PC exclusive. While the PC has seen other great exclusives this year, Prison Architect managed to win us over with its addictive gameplay, cute visuals, and genuinely sad plot elements. Evoking the same type of thrills as Sim games of the past, Prison Architect’s unique spin on the genre gives you a laundry list of new things to consider as you attempt to create a fully functional prison, complete with cells, showers, canteens, and, of course, death row.
Best PS3 Exclusive – Journey
The PlayStation 3 didn’t have a large number of exclusives this year, but one title that definitely deserved attention was thatgamecompany’s Journey. Most games these days can be described as “Game X” meets “Game Y”, but Journey broke the mold and delivered a truly unique adventure that can’t really be compared to any other. Thanks to its gorgeous visuals, wonderful score, and original online functionality, it rose to the top of our PS3 exclusive list. Between this and The Unfinished Swan, the PS3 was certainly the place for arthouse games this year.
Best Xbox 360 Exclusive – Halo 4
Is it any surprise that Halo 4 earned our title as best Xbox 360 exclusive of 2012? Well, if you consider the fact that Bungie are no longer involved, then yes, I suppose it is. What 343 Industries managed to do was take the long running franchise and breathe some new life into it. Much of its style harks back the original Halo, but the emphasis on story was something new, and gave us a better insight into the mysterious protagonist known as the Master Chief. With addictive gameplay, beautiful graphics, and a great YouTube prologue series, Halo 4 reminded us all why we love this series so much.
Best Indie Game – Mark of the Ninja
There have been a ton of great independant games this year, but Klei Entertainment’s Mark of the Ninja snuck in and took them all out. Stealth games have been around for a long time, but taking a traditionally-3D genre and bringing it to a 2D game was no mean feat. There are so many wonderful things to say about Mark of the Ninja, such as its excellent presentation, unique use of sound, variety of paths to victory, and wonderful controls, but the sheer joy it brings as you sneak around the levels is really the only thing that needs to be mentioned. This is how stealth should be done.
Best Developer – 343 Industries
Of course, we shouldn’t praise the games without remembering the studios behind them. This year, the company that surprised us the most was 343 Industries, who took the aging Halo franchise and managed to make it fresh once again. We weren’t the only ones who were worried when Bungie gave up on their flagship series, but 343 managed to bring something new and wonderful to the tale of Master Chief. I have a feeling that, going forward, 343 Industries will be considered a top-tier company, and one to pay attention to.
Best Publisher – 2K Games
This category was a tough one to call, but in the end, we chose 2K Games as the best publisher of 2012. This decision really came down to just two games – Borderlands 2 and XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Borderlands 2 perfected the cel-shaded, loot-heavy RPG shooter gameplay of the original, and XCOM: Enemy Unknown brough a classic PC title into the modern age. Both games have appeared in many best-of-2012 lists, and the studio that released them definitely deserves credit. Well done, 2K – keep up the good work!
Game of the Year – Mark of the Ninja
Yes, this is it – Masonic Gamer’s Game of the Year 2012. In some ways, this was the toughest category to decide upon, and in other ways, it was the easiest. Crowning a game as the best of the year takes thought and consideration, but of all the titles we played in 2012, there was really only one that could have made it. Trying to explain what makes this game so good is a futile endeavour, as there’s no way to imagine the tense and thrilling experience without trying it for yourself. We see so many sequels, remakes, and clichéd titles hitting shelves each year, but this one shamelessly tried something new, and pulled it off perfectly. If you’ve ever felt that this generation was getting long in the tooth, and original games had gone the way of the dodo, you need to check out Mark of the Ninja. 2012 saw so many great releases, but in the end, nothing compared to the new king of the stealth genre, which means we’ll be paying very close attention to everything Klei Entertainment releases in the future.
So that’s it. We’ve seen so many great titles this year, but in the end, the cream of the crop rose to the top. Again, if you want the full story on how we chose these titles, listen to our recent podcast. We also discuss our readers’ favourite game of the year, and look ahead to our most anticipated titles of 2013. And don’t forget that you can always send us a message letting us know which were your favourite games of 2012. We’ll be featuring a listener segment on next week’s show, so let your voice be heard!
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