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Top Ten Games of 2012 (Except Not)

1/2/13 1:30am
tl;dr

This is not a normal end-of-the-year list. It feeds off my ego, slowly sucking at my soul, chipping away at my very person. It will continue doing so until I am just a shell of the man I once was. Then, when I have lost the last sliver of hope...then, my cries for mercy shall be answered.

In other words, this is not a normal list.

Man, what a year we’ve had! I thought that I’d cap it off by giving you my list of the Top Ten Games of 2012!!!

...but then I realized that I played a total of two games that were released in 2012. Both of them were free. Erp.

And as much as I liked Punch Quest and Slender, I don’t think that I could write an entire blog about those two games. So, I think I’ll take a more personal route.

Welcome, now, to:

The Top Ten Games That I Played In 2012


Let’s get started, shall we?

10. Banjo-Kazooie

One of the patterns that I noticed throughout the year was that I played a lot of open world/non linear games. This is kinda big for me. I’ve always been much more attracted to linear games than non-linear. But a lot of the games that I played in 2012 have made me reconsider that opinion.

Banjo Kazooie is one of those games. It made me realize how rewarding just exploring an interesting world can be. Gruntilda’s Lair and all of the levels are extremely well-designed, and quite simply, fun to mess around in them. The game encouraged me to look for notes, jiggys, those little animal things, and Patrick’s dirty socks, and I had a blast doing so.

What I learned about non-linear games from Banjo-Kazooie is that, while linear games craft an adventure for you, these games allow you to have your own adventures. They don’t force you to hit specific story moments at specific times, they allow you to create those moments by yourself.

Speaking of which...

Favorite Moment: Treasure Trove Cove is my favorite level in this game, and the one thing I love most about it is the lighthouse at the top. I’ve always loved heights in video games. Not sure why, but I do. This place is also possibly the most atmospheric location in the entire game. While I absolutely love the soundtrack, the total lack of music up there is fucking brilliant. In fact, Banjo-Kazooie has fantastic musical theming throughout the game, and this area is the exception that proves the rule.

9. Batman: Arkham City
 
 
Like I said, open-world games were a theme.
 
Arkham Asylum was a fantastic game (the eleventh best one that I played all year, in fact), and I was a bit disappointed to find out that Arkham City had an open-world structure, as opposed to Arkham Asylum’s Metroidvania structure. But, after playing Arkham City, I had to admit that the game’s structure makes it feel more like a BATMAN game, as opposed to a Batman GAME. It’s not a video game that just happens to star Batman, it seems more like a game built around Batman.
 
Much of that has to do with the open world structure. The game gives you an entire city to do nothing but simply be Batman in. Spider-Man 2 (another great game I played this year) did this as well, and both games are better because of it.
 
It doesn’t hurt that Batman: Arkham City was also just a flat-out good game. The stealth portions are interesting, the gadgets are cool, the voice acting is top-notch, the graphics are pleasing to the eyes, and the story is interesting. And while I wasn’t a fan of the ending, it does a good job continuing the Joker/Batman conflict from Arkham Asylum (much of that has to do with Mark Hamil’s amazing voice work).
 
Favorite Moment: Boss battles were the biggest weak point in Arkham Asylum. They were boring, generic fights, while the rest of the combat was centered on intelligence and observation.
 
It’s ironic, then, that the best moment of Arkham City is, in fact, a boss battle. The Mr. Freeze battle focuses, in fact, on intelligence and observation, and that what makes it great. You are given a certain number of ways to surprise and attack Mr. Freeze, but you can never use the same method of attack twice. This forces you to constantly change up tactics, leading for a tense and rewarding fight.
 
8. Sonic The Hedgehog (2006)

I’m totally fucking serious.

People watch bad movies for enjoyment all the time. Yea, that's right! I’m saying that Sonic 06 is to video games as “Plan 9” or “Troll 2” are to movies. Between the sloppy controls, the confusing level design, the shit story, the love triangle between 2 hedgehogs and a fucking human girl, there’s something quite charming about this game.

Did I say charming? Ha! I meant FUCKING HYSTERICAL.

This might be the funniest game ever made. I’m compelled to play it solely because I want to see how fucked up it can get. It’s surreal how this game continuously digs itself deeper and deeper into the abyss of suck.

Best Moment: Wave Ocean, the first level of the Sonic campaign. Somehow, Sonic 06 manages to give you an excellent overview of all that is wrong with this game in the first motherfucking level. It's like the designers were doing it on purpose.

P.S. Has anyone noticed how awesome the music in this game is? Seriously, what the hell? How did that slip in?

7. Shadow of the Colossus

I’m tired of talking about how great this game is. No, seriously, I’m fucking tired. It’s late at night, I just don’t want to praise this game for the third time in one of my blogs.

I’ve talked about the atmosphere, the boss battles, the moral ambiguousness, and everything else I like about this game. I’m done. Adios.

Best Moment: No. No I won’t do it again. I won’t do it. I WONT, FUCK YOU.

6. Minecraft

Alright, I went to bed. All better now.

Oh, yea, I almost forgot! This was the year that I got sucked up into Minecraft. And I don’t regret it at all.

This is the last open-world game on this list, and that’s because this was the best open-world game I’ve played all year. It perfectly does what I think an open world game should do best: it drops you into an interesting world and dares you to explore it.

Minecraft does these better than most games, because it give you little to no direction. You don’t know how to do anything, what you have to do, or even if you have to do anything. I absolutely love this about Minecraft. It forces you to use the community to your advantage. It’s the first game that I’ve played in a while where, when I didn’t know when to do something, I asked my friends. It’s a shared experience, and it’s much better because of it.

Best Moment: See, this is what I love about Minecraft. There is no way in hell that my favorite moment is the same as your's, or anyone else’s.

I’m actually having a hard time coming up with mine...let’s see, there was the time that I tried to leave my tundra environment, got lost, and found a lush jungle. There was also the time that an Enderman ransacked my house while I stood still, terrified. There was also the time that I took a break from building my house to experience the beautiful snowfall, then got back to discover that creepers had destroyed everything...well, actually, that one kinda sucked.

But, when I really think about it, my favorite moment of Minecraft would have to be my first one. More specifically, my first night. Hiding out in my tiny dirt house, while a zombie moaned and groaned outside my house, was absolutely terrifying. It was the first time that the game made me feel something, and from that moment on, I was hooked.

5. Half-Life 2: Episode 2

Half-Life 2 is on this list later on, so I’m going to save most of what I want to say about Half-Life for that entry.

Half-Life: Episode 1 was fine and dandy and all that, but it focused a bit too much on getting Gordon and Alyx out of City 17. Like, seriously, that was the whole game.

Episode 2, however, progressed the story in interesting and exciting ways. Moving the setting from the city to the more rural areas was a change of pace, and a good one at that. The story follows Alyx and Gordon as they make their way to White Forest, a resistance base, while attacks from Combine forces continue.

First of all, Alyx Vance is a fantastic character, one of the best in gaming. Her personality and relationship with Gordon is perfectly executed in Episode 2. The story as a whole is also amazing, with the highlights being G-Man’s monologue, the introduction of the Advisors, and the heartbreaking ending.

The gameplay, like in every other Half-Life 2 game, is top notch. In fact, Episode 2’s battles made me feel like a total badass. Speaking of which...

Best Moment: I called Half-Life 2’s final battle the best final battle in all of gaming, and I stick by that. In fact, I feel confident in calling it the best moment in all of Half-Life 2.

4. The Stanley Parable

Do you own Half-Life 2? You do? Good.

Here’s the link to The Stanley Parable’s download page.

http://www.moddb.com/mods/the-stanley-parable/downloads

I sure as hell ain’t telling you about it. It’s fucking free. Play it yourself.

You’ll thank me later.

Best Moment: The Ending. trollface.jpg

3. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

This was the first game that I played in 2012, after getting a PS3 for a Christmas present, and subsequently beating the Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. And, holy hell, do I love this game.

With all of the open-world games that I played this year, I find it pretty funny that most of the games near the top of my list are very, very linear.

Let’s go back over to past Mr. West:

"What I learned about non-linear games from Banjo-Kazooie is that, while linear games craft an adventure for you, these games allow you to have your own adventures. They don’t force you to hit specific story moments at specific times, they allow you to create those moments by yourself."

It’s kinda ironic, really.This “flaw” that I pointed out about linear games is actually why I like them so much. It forces you to hit specific story moments at specific times, and it forces you to complete the adventure that was planned out from the beginning.

This can be a very good thing when the story moments, pacing, and overall adventure are actually, you know, good.

So, in conclusion, when a linear game is good, then it’s good.

Uncharted is very good at hitting these story beats and moments, because it has the same story structure as a blockbuster movie.

While this is true for a lot of games, Uncharted’s gameplay actually supplements this cinematic feeling. The action scenes and set pieces are unique and exciting, the puzzles seem like the could have come straight out of Indiana Jones, the climbing is fast-paced and tense, the stealth mechanic is very satisfying, and the in-game dialogue is very impressive.

This is one of those games where I can just go on and on about how much I love it. I can pick it up at anytime and enjoy it, no matter how much I’ve replayed it. It’s pure, simple fun.

Best Moment: Train Level. Like, duh.

2. Half-Life 2

I’ll just say this now: I robbed the shit out of Half-Life 2. It should be number 1. It’s the best game that I played in 2012. So why isn’t it number 1? Well...I’ll get to that.

This is the champion of my opinion on how linear games should be made. It has some pretty damn fantastic story moments, and countless other fantastic moments that aren’t necessarily connected to the main plot. The pacing is perfect. It seems like something new is introduced every 5 minutes.

But most of all, this game excels at being an adventure. Gordon Freeman is most definitely the best video game hero of all time, because Half-Life 2 so perfectly puts the player in his shoes.

People often praise video games for being more immersive than  movies or other forms of entertainment, and no game has lived up that promise like Half-Life 2. From the moment you step off that train, you are Gordon Freeman.

The story is presented in real time, and never leaves the first person perspective. You never really feel like you’re watching someone else’s story, but that you’re a part of that story. The art direction, three dimensional supporting characters (see: Alyx Vance), awesome gameplay (see: Gravity Gun) and level design that introduces something new every 5 minutes makes the adventure one that you want to be a part of.

What I’m saying is that Half-Life 2 takes you inside it’s world, and never lets you go for a second. It’s possibly the best video game that I’ve ever played.

So why isn’t it Number 1?

Best Moment: The Intro. Much like Sonic 06 (didn't think you'd see that comparison, didja?), the way that Half-Life introduces you into its world is spectacular.

Honorable Mentions

I thought that I might mention some other games that I enjoyed this year, only to make you guys see what these ten went up against:

Halo

It’s fine and all, but it focuses way too much on the gunplay, and not enough on the fantastic setting.

Spider-Man 2

It's a fun game, and the real reason that it's not on the list is that I haven't gotten around to getting really into it.

Slender

This game made me piss my pants everytime I played it. Which is a good thing for a horror game, but a bad thing for my quest for peaceful dreams.

Uncharted 3

I dunno. They really did try something new with Uncharted 3, and that’s totally respectable. I just liked Uncharted 2 better. I dunno.

Half-Life 2: Episode 1

The best thing about this game is the character development of Alyx Vance. Everything else is good, but not quite as jaw-droppingly amazing as Half-Life 2 or Episode 2

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Like I said, it’s Number 11. I loved the Metroidvania structure, and I hated, hated, HATED the ending.

Groove Coaster

I’m a sucker for rhythm games, and this one is one of the best I’ve played. It’s, like, a dollar on the iOS App Store. Give it a try.

Kirby 64

This is probably my favorite Kirby game. I don’t know why, but I really love the slower pace as opposed to games like Super Star.

Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic

This would have made the list, but I started playing it, like, 2 days before the year ended. It’s good. I’ll probably include it on next year’s list.

 

 

I played 2 games that were released this year. So why the hell did I make a Top Ten Games of 2012 list?

It’s because I had so many amazing personal gaming experiences this year that made me realize that video games can be portals to new and exciting worlds, worlds that are custom-made to be explored and appreciated, worlds that contained immersive and engrossing adventures within them, worlds that help change the way I think of things. It really made me respect video games as a form of entertainment even more than I had already.

But, any experience that a single individual has is even better when shared with others.
This is why my favorite game that I played in 2013 was...

1. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice For All

This might need some explaining.

I was interested in playing the Phoenix Wright games for some time before I finally manned up and bought the first one on iOS. It was fantastic. The story was one of the best I’d ever seen on a video game, and the cast of characters was certainly the best. The courtroom battles were intense, and I just couldn’t put it down.

When I finished it, I instantly wanted to get the second one. But, it wasn’t available on iOS, and the cheapest option was to get it on the Wii. And that's exactly what I did.

So, when I started playing it, some of my family walked in and out and asked me what I was playing. They stayed around and watched me for a bit. And wouldn’t you know it? My family got as interested in the game as I did.

This might not sound like much to anyone listening, but my family has been historically fairly anti-video games, with some odd exceptions. My mom and my sister are huge fans of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, my dad really enjoyed Zelda and Portal, and my brother is really into Minecraft...in fact, he was the one that bought it. Nevertheless, seeing them get invested in the game that I was falling in love with? It was mind blowing! MIND BLOWING!

I shared the story moments with them. I shared the twists and turns of the plot with them. I shared the feeling of accomplishment with them. I shared the game with them.

But probably what made it the best experience of 2012 for me was when I saw my sister had actually downloaded the original game, and was playing it on her own. I was truly astounded.

Best Moment: As a game, Justice For All was not as good as the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. The cases were fine in the second one, but nowhere near the brilliance of “Turnabout Goodbyes” or “Rise from the Ashes,” which are still two of my favorite video game levels in history. Still, there is a clever twist in “Farewell, My Turnabout” that takes the premise of defending your client and turns it upside down. So that probably is my favorite moment.

 

 

By the way, we just finished the first case in Trials and Tribulations. That was such an awesome tutorial! It totally...well, actually, I better save that for next years list.

 

Thank you for reading! And have a Happy 2013!

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