If you read my last post on the top games of 2012, I think you’ll see my point when you see what I picked for my favorite games in each “genre” or “category” this year. I’ll admit the categories are pretty much just based on what genres actually had enough new releases that I played this year.
Hotline Miami is the only action game this year — actually the first action game in a while, where I had a ball even as I died repeatedly. It’s a tough game, likely one of the toughest this year, but when the basic gameplay loop is as fun and immediate as this, that doesn’t really matter. Its top-down gameplay style brought things back down to the accessible basics and its unique combat mechanics brought freshness to that mix. I haven’t felt like this since playing a new action game for the first time back in the old days before the genre was so tightly codified.
Actually, the shooter that’s sucked up the most of my time this year is Far Cry 3 with its veritable mountain of content. I feel like the only reason Hotline Miami didn’t suck up more of my time though was because of its brevity. It may have been a mere five hours, but for those five hours it was the one game to which I kept coming back.
I just could not break this one down between the two games. They’re opposite sides of generally the same coin but are excellent for almost all the same reasons. The Walking Dead just manages to resonate more with mainstream America than the obscurely Japanese Virtue’s Last Reward.
Both games are excellently-written in my opinion with characters that work. Both games feature storylines that excel in the tension department. You could maybe argue that Season 1 of TWD costs around half as much as VLR, but VLR is also probably twice as long, so even the value proposition evens out. You could maybe argue that VLR’s text makes for much slower pacing than TWD, but that’s all preference anyway.
Yes, I’m counting FTL in the RPG department. Nowhere have I actually seen it described as an RPG (other than its status as a roguelike), but that’s what I felt as I was playing it. Traveling to different areas, managing resources between maintenance or character/ship development, even the battles feel like a kind of RPG battle. What matters to me is that when I think of what I go for when I play RPGs, the best of those qualities this year came from FTL. It’s another game that kept me crawling back despite its punishing difficulty. It’s what I wish Mass Effect’s space exploration element was like.
Torchlight II is probably right behind it, at the top of the great heap of loot-gathering RPGs of 2012 for me. I mildly enjoyed the first Torchlight, but something about the sequel just hit all the right notes for me: how different it looked from the first game (especially color scheme), the way the new melee class fit my play style without looking like a generic knight, even the sound effects gave me just the right feeling of satisfaction. Xenoblade is probably the console JRPG I’ve been waiting the last few years for, but sadly I didn’t get to play enough of it.
Oh my God. A non-Japanese developer actually put out a really good 2D fighting game. That in itself was definitely a part of the initial shock of Skullgirls. Well actually, I’m shocked overall we even had so many new fighters in 2012. I’d expected this console generation’s fighting game renaissance to have extinguished itself by now.
By the way, Skullgirls also get’s my “Favorite Game That No One Else Liked” award this year. Even I was down on the game from the time I first saw its art to even months after its release. Like everyone else I saw it as an American grab at Arcana Heart and the moe trend in general. Then I actually saw it played at Otakon and realized it was a serious fighting game with beautiful graphics and the most personality I’d seen in a character cast since Guilty Gear or something. When you think about it, a new fighting game this full for around $15 is kind of an insane value proposition.
Man, I’m just glad enough stealth games came out this year for me to even be able to do this category. It’s one of my favorite genres and I’m just happy to see that plenty of developers know how to do it right. To be honest, most of the stealth I’ve been invested in this year has been in Far Cry 3 and Dishonored. Despite that, I can see that Mark of the Ninja has done the most to actually push the genre forward.
Oh I won’t deny what Dishonored does for stealth games either. Its gameplay mechanics solve a lot of the genre’s very old problems and it definitely feels like the guys who made it knew what they were doing. MOTN however takes all the main conventions of stealth gaming expands upon then in utterly logical ways. More than ever, while playing that game I feel like I’m getting all the information a ninja needs to have and exactly the tools a ninja requires.
- If you still aren’t sure about Hotline Miami, this image describes it:http://shar.es/hkpxb