2012 was an interesting year for video gaming. The industry is facing a major shift in the way it works; less is becoming more, the big players are being moved aside by smaller independent studios, games no longer have to cost $59.99 to be good, and free-to-play is no longer a death knell. Gamers are no longer confined to a console, keyboard or mouse. Mobile gaming has finally come of age, and with the amount of games released in a year, this list was beyond difficult to compile.
When judging games, there are a ton of factors that can come into play. Music, graphics, story and that's not even including the actual gameplay itself. When evaluating this year, an important question came to mind. Sure games may look good, sound good, play good and may have fantastic stories, but are they fun? Frankly, isn't that why we play games? Our quest to explore other worlds, stop the evil villain, and pwn some noobs in Call of Duty all begins with a simple quest to have fun.
The following are some of the best games released this year. Some of them may not be the most expensive, the most artistic, the most perfect examples of what the gaming industry has to offer. Instead, they all have individual merits which make them stand out from the rest of the pack, and they all have one thing in common: they're all a hell of a good time to play.
While not all games could make the list, there are some honorable mentions that were highly considered: Dishonored, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Assassin's Creed III, Journey, Borderlands 2 and Far Cry 3.
And now the Top 10:
10. Uncharted: Golden Abyss.
Few games make the transition from full console titles to handheld quite as well as the Uncharted series did with Golden Abyss. Nathan Drake's first pocket-sized adventure certainly didn't feel reduced in any way, with graphics, music and gameplay feeling very much like their console cousins.
That's not to say that the game is without flaws. It depends too much on the new features available on the Vita, interrupting gameplay with DS like mini-games that require use of the touch screen, blowing into the microphone, and worst of all, using the camera to simulate a light source. It's fun the first time or two, but it rapidly becomes a simple gimmick which gets old, dropping quickly to the much hated Kevin Smith level of "Fucking Clown Shoes".
Still, the story is big, the action and adventure is truly breathtaking, and the scope of the game doesn't feel like an unwanted little brother, like so many handheld titles. It's certainly the best Vita launch title, and sadly may still be the best title for the system almost a year after release.
9. Angry Birds Star Wars.
Since its start as a humble free iOS app, Angry Birds has exploded into a franchise of unbelievable power, especially since the concept of the game hasn't changed much since the original. Before long the developers began to cash in on its marketability, and began to license the concept with things like toys, fruit snacks, shirts and so much more. It was inevitable that licensing would become the way to take the Angry Birds further, starting with the animated film Rio. Angry Birds Rio was nowhere near the best game of the franchise, but it opened a very large blast door.
There wasn't much time between the announcement of Angry Birds Star Wars and its release, but many were skeptical at best. Thankfully, the result was well worth the wait. Take the best parts of the franchise to date, throw in Star Wars based birds and elements and toss in a hell of a lot of nerd-fu and the result is an inexpensive and extremely entertaining game. It takes its source material and respectfully throws a giant wad of comedy at it while still feeling like Star Wars. A great game for little investment.
8. The New Super Mario Bros 2/New Super Mario Bros U.
Whenever I feel the need to relive a little bit of childhood, I fire up the Super Mario Bros 3. Playing The New Super Mario Bros 2 is like playing a modern version of Mario 3, and that is a wonderful thing. Mario 3 was easily one of the best NES games released, and revisiting its concept just shows why Nintendo is still making games after so long.
There is nothing new or particularly amazing about New Super Mario Bros 2 or U. Both offer the same Mario-style gameplay we've come to expect from Nintendo; they just do it a little bit better. It's that level of consistency and simplicity that warrants the accolades for these games, as both, while essentially the same games, play incredibly well and are entertaining for all ages. I doubt that there is a gamer anywhere who wouldn't at some point crack a little smile while playing these, they're just plain fun, and isn't that what really matters?