Let’s not pull any punches here…2012 was one of the most disappointing years for video games in quite some time. I don’t know if it was the hangover from 2011’s rousing successes or the fact that Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft have transitioned, or planning to transition, to their next generation of consoles, but 2012 was bleak any way you slice it. Several major publishers and developers are struggling mightily to stay afloat.
Still, as grim as 2012 was we still had some great games to pass the time, just not as many as in previous years. So in our first Level Up of the new year it’s time to take a look back at 2012 and give out our awards for the best games of the year. Keep in mind that these awards are solely for console based games or handhelds, and not PC based games.
Best Racing Game: Need for Speed Most Wanted (Electronic Arts) Part racing game, part RPG, Need for Speed: Most Wanted features great visuals, a well-designed narrative and brilliant game physics, not to mention a strong multi-player mode make this the best entry in Need for Speed in years.
Best Action/Adventure Game: Dishonored (Bethesda). There have been other games like Dishonored, but there has never been anything EXACTLY like this immersive first person adventure from Bethesda. A Steampunk adventure set within an alternate version of Victorian London. Its landscapes and set pieces are completely original. The voice acting is also superb. In a time when originality in games is so low, Dishonored shines bright!
Best Strategy Game: XCom Enemy Unknown (2K Games). XCom: Enemy Unknown brings back the tactical, turn-based strategy game in all its glory, and adds in RPG elements to boot. Guide your multi-national task force of 4 – 6 soldiers as they defend the planet against an alien invasion.
Best Fighting Game: WWE 13 (THQ). Perhaps a wrestling game isn’t everyone’s idea of a fighting game per se but tough it’s my column! WWE 13’s inclusion of the Attitude Era game mode of the mid to late 1990s, arguably the most important era in the history of the WWF/WWE. Relive the Rise of DX, Austin 3:16, the Brothers of Destruction, The Rock, Mankind, and WrestleMania XV. Mix this in with a robust campaign mode and a large roster of superstars and this is one great game!
Best Sports Game: Madden NFL 13 (EA Sports). Madden 13 is the first Madden game in years that truly feels like a new game in all facets…from the gameplay to the presentation and from the graphics and sounds to the gameplay broadcast. More than ever, Madden 13 feels like watching a true NFL TV broadcast. If you haven’t purchased Madden in recent years, run out and get Madden NFL 13. If you bought Madden last year, run out and buy Madden NFL 13! It’s that good.
Best Sci-Fi Action/Adventure: Mass Effect 3 (Electronic Arts). Despite the overblown claims…i.e. whining…that Mass Effect 3 did not have a enough of substantive conclusion, the final part of the trilogy more than lived up to the grand expectations. It is a game that promises to tax you on an emotional level unlike any game before it because the decisions you make, no matter how well-intended, lead to outcomes where you may find yourself forced to turn your back on longtime allies. Its taut, many-layered storyline, fantastic characters, great gameplay, and long campaign make this a near perfect game.
Most Humorous Game: Lollipop Chainsaw (Warner Bros.) A hot cheerleader in a skimpy costume killing zombies with a chainsaw? Count me in, damn it! Lollipop Chainsaw is loud, rude, lewd…laced with profanity and brimming with overt sexual innuendo…and I have not had this much fun playing a game in a long time! I don’t think I’ve ever played a game where cleavage bounced this…realistically!
Best Shooter: Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft). A fantastic immersive story, dazzling open world environment frought with danger, a wild an eclectic cast of characters, and outstanding game mechanics vaulted Far Cry 3 above Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and every other shooter in 2012. The game’s incredible unpredictability makes playing it a true joy every time you boot it up.
BEST GAME OF THE YEAR: Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft). Despite the dearth of great games this year, this decision was not easy. Mass Effect 3, Dishonored, and even Sleeping Dogs got some consideration but ultimately the unbelievably rich open world of Far Cry 3 earns it our top game honors for 2012!
Tim Janson is a columnist and reviewer for Mania Entertainment. He writes Level Up, the weekly look at videogames and the horror dedicated column, Tuesday Terrors. Tim has written for Fangoria, Newsarama, City Slab Magazine, Twitch Film, and Cinefantastique. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). Be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter.