It’s that time of the year, folks, time when “best of” lists crop up like weeds all over the internet. CraveOnline included. We started things off with our favorite gaming trailers of 2012, and now we’re going to be doing daily, personalized lists from all our gaming writers as we lead up to our collective “10 Best Games of 2012” list, publishing this Friday. The first up to bat is myself, CraveOnline’s resident Gaming Editor.
Below you’ll find my list of favorite games from 2012. They are in no particular order; these are just the five games I’ve had the most fun with over the past 12 months. Here. We. Go!
The Walking Dead: Season One
What is left to say about Telltale Games’ first season of The Walking Dead? The game has cleared up during award season, both online and at the Spike Video Game Awards where it took home Game of the Year. And you know what? I’m drinking the Kool-aid, too.
The Walking Dead is truly an achievement in storytelling for our medium. Every choice matters and it makes the game an emotionally draining experience, but in the best of ways. There aren’t many games like The Walking Dead. And I think our industry would be better if there were.
Furthermore, The Walking Dead, along with Journey, makes a strong case for the future of video games residing in cheaper, digital-download titles. The fact that these experiences evoke more of a response from gamers than $60, AAA titles is astonishing, and something worth noting and commending.
Max Payne 3
I’ll admit I was a little hesitant when I heard Rockstar Games was tackling the Max Payne series. Up until Max Payne 3, Rockstar had only published the titles in this series, leaving Remedy Entertainment to develop them. So the question was this: how would a company that develops sweeping, open-world epics handle a linear experience with a property they didn’t originally create? The answer: really f’in well.
Even though Max Payne 3 is the most linear Rockstar effort to date, the game shines because of its attention to detail not possible in an open-world game. Max’s world is dark and scummy, yet Rockstar made it look absolutely stunning. Need proof? Look no further than the mission where you infiltrate an enemy outpost at night during a rainstorm.
And as for Max’s patented bullet time – a gimmick that has been done to death in gaming over the last decade in Max’s absence – Rockstar made it fresh and cool again. Gruesome, too.
Max has been out of the game since 2003, but Rockstar proved without a shadow of a doubt that this old dog can still learn some new tricks. Although, he still needs to work on being such a huge Debbie Downer.
In my opinion, there is no other game in 2012 that delivered on its promise as perfectly as thatgamecompany’s Journey. The game might have been only a couple hours long, but the experience is one I won’t ever forget. Journey made me tear up as reached its conclusion. I’m not even joking.
Journey is an incredibly simple game at its core; you pretty much just wander around and collect ribbons as you make your way from the lonely desert sands to the lonely tip of a mountain. Yet, the game smartly plays its cards close to its chest by not revealing an exact narrative thread. You take away from Journey what you put into it. And it’s that sense of mystery and the interpretations it presents that make the game something that will be on your mind long after you put the controller down.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
I missed The Witcher 2 when it released last year on PC only. But as luck would have it, I was able to pick up the game for Xbox 360 earlier this year and it blew me away. In the simplest of terms, I feel like The Witcher 2 is the video game equivalent of Game of Thrones, full of the same types of political spats and huge battles that come from Geroge R.R. Martin’s books and HBO’s television series.
The scale of The Witcher 2 is massive, and it really feels like every decision you make influences the world around you, for better or worse. The fact that you can make one choice or allegiance that consequently means you won’t be able to visit an entire section of the game world that CD Projekt RED took time to create, is absolutely insane, but indicative of the passion poured into this title.
I’m also someone who never played the original Witcher, yet had no trouble jumping into its sequel and almost immediately getting sucked into it’s vibrant and lively world. By the time the credits rolled, I was ready for The Witcher 3.
Madden NFL 13
Trust me, this one is a shocker even to me. Never in a million years did I expect a Madden game to be considered one of my favorites of any given year, let alone in my top five, knocking off Halo 4 and Far Cry 3. Yet here we are.
The thing that truly earns Madden a spot amongst this esteemed company is that it’s a game constantly in my rotation. I never keep the Madden disc far from my PS3, as I’m always putting it back in to play the next game in my Connected Career, which, honestly, is a revolutionary feature as far as I’m concerned. The fact that I can keep a league going online with my closest buddies spread across the country is incredible, and a large part why I cherish the game so much. The new physics engine doesn’t hurt either, mind you.
The Madden franchise, as a whole, has been coasting on fumes for far too long, but Madden NFL 13 represents that shot in the arm the series needed. The game isn’t perfect, but it’s the best the franchise has ever seen and something I feel comfortable openly comparing to the seminal NFL 2K5.
Erik Norris is the Gaming Editor for CraveOnline. You can follow him on Twitter @Regular_Erik.