After 2010 and 2011, 2012 may seem like a bit of a down year for games. When comparing it to 2011 in particular, which may have an argument for one of the best years in gaming period, that’s easy to understand. 2012 is full of breakout games and the first entries into series that still endure today, however. What will likely define 2012 the most is the group of games that tried their own unique approach to storytelling in games. Some of which, as you’ll see, we think did a fantastic job.
Keep an eye out here for every year’s list of the past decade, including an overall best 100 games of the 2010s.
The 15 Best Games of 2012
15 – Diablo III
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment | Release Date: May 15th, 2012
While it may have had a rocky start full of online errors and a terrible real-money auction house, Diablo III ultimately ended up as one of Blizzard’s better recent games. Taking the action RPG and streamlining it into something that is easily enjoyable for anyone to step into was a good move, and Diablo III combines this with some great loot drops and fantastic artwork. Add to this one of the best console ports for the genre, and you got a real winner on your hands.
14 – Guild Wars 2
Developer: ArenaNet | Release Date: August 28th, 2012
It takes a lot to get noticed as an MMO. Thankfully, Guild Wars 2 has what’s needed to get noticed. From fun actiony combat to smart party creation and community gathering ideas, to constant updates of new content, Guild Wars 2 manages to strike all the right balances for any type of MMO player. If you want to be alone or with pals, this is an MMO well worth investing into.
13 – The Walking Dead: A Telltale Game Series
Developer: Telltale Games | Release Date: November 20th, 2012
The journey of Clementine had to start somewhere, and it was here. Managing to turn a 9-year-old girl into one of the best characters in gaming, the number of storytelling chops that Telltale displayed in their episodic adventure-lite was impressive to a level we have rarely seen. It started a whole new genre and style of storytelling in games, bringing episodic games and dramatic choices to the forefront. While Telltale may not have had the happiest end, they started out in a strong place.
12 – Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Developer: Valve | Release Date: August 21st, 2012 | Game Page
Starting its life as a Half-Life mod, Global Offensive is the latest entry into the popular multiplayer FPS series. Arguably, it’s also the best. Like many games, it may have had a rocky start, but Valve has taken it and polished it to a shine. Now Global Offensive is one of the top esports titles, and you can see people playing it all the time. Why? Well, the fast-paced headshot-focused gameplay appeals to many people, and it’s no surprise. Just try to forget that really bad Xbox 360 port.
11 – Sleeping Dogs
Developer: United Front Games | Release Date: August 14th, 2012
Grand Theft Auto is fun and all, but it’s so… American. Want a chance to see a different country? Then you want Sleeping Dogs, which takes the formula and brings it to Hong Kong. Featuring kung-fu fights and car chases galore, you’ll be spending time being undercover inside of a deadly gang. Also, you hang out with Ms. Chu, who’s revenge for her dead son may still be one of the most shocking cutscenes in a game.
10 – Mass Effect 3
Developer: BioWare | Release Date: March 6th, 2012 | Game Page
Mass Effect 3 may not have hit the heights of Mass Effect 2, our top game of 2010, but that doesn’t mean it was bad or unmemorable. The gameplay was refined to be even more fun, several character arcs that you’ve been watching for years finally get dramatic ends, and the game has plenty of fantastic moments. It also came with one of the most shockingly fun multiplayer hoard mode experiences. The ending may have been bad, but it’s hard to hold the last 30 minutes against a 40-hour epic.
9 – Persona 4 Golden
Developer: Atlus | Release Date: November 20th, 2012
Many people may have doubted the PlayStation Vita, but it always had one trick up its sleeve: Persona 4 Golden. The definitive version of one of the most popular jRPGs, this version isn’t just content with looking better. It also goes out of its way to add all sorts of new content, giving fans of the original way more to play and enjoy. Really, a fantastic game getting a fantastic update may just be exactly what the doctor ordered.
8 – XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Developer: Firaxis Games | Release Date: October 9th, 2012
Another revival of a long-dead series, turn-based strategy game XCOM made a splash when it returned with XCOM: Enemy Unknown. It took all the parts of the originals that people enjoyed, such as the invasion setting and the tactical combat. However, it also made it accessible in a way that anyone can join, without cluttered UI and stat crunching. It’s nice to see all these classic franchises come back in such high form.
7 – Dragon’s Dogma
Developer: Capcom | Release Date: May 22nd, 2012 | Game Page
What happens when you take the wild success of Dark Souls and combine it with making a party and hunting monsters? You get Dragon’s Dogma. A weird oft-forgotten title from Capcom, this game seemed to hit at just the perfect time to make an impact on several groups. A bizarre rock-filled soundtrack, insane customization, and a system that lets you climb on your enemies to attack specific parts help. Also, the fact that you tend to accidentally date a blacksmith a lot.
6 – Dishonored
Developer: Arkane Studios | Release Date: October 9th, 2012
Immersive Sims haven’t really been having a great time. They don’t come out very often, and the ones that do don’t tend to do that great. However, Dishonored sought to change all that, and it managed to leave its mark. Creative powers, fun stealth, and a world that you could spend a lot of time interacting with led to something that caught many gamers’ attention. Also rats. Lots and lots of rats.
Our 5 Best Games of 2012
5 – Hotline Miami
Developer: Dennaton Games | Release Date: October 23rd, 2012
Another one of those indie darlings, Hotline Miami flooded the twin-stick shooter with neon colors and difficult but fair gameplay. Playing like one long and particularly terrifying acid trip, Hotline Miami took you to the seedy underbelly of Miami and had you somehow be even seedier. Combine it with a fantastic soundtrack and a thankfully forgiving instant spawn, and you had a really good time on your hands.
4 – FTL: Faster Than Light
Developer: Subset Games | Release Date: September 14th, 2012
Hitting right when the rougelite craze was at its peak, FTL: Faster Than Light looked to add to it by having you play not just as yourself, but as a crew on a spaceship. With plenty of strange situations for you to try to win, and difficult enemies to overcome, you had to keep moving to stay out of the way of the ever-advancing swarm of enemy ships that just want to remove you from existence. It led to a good time and many bad runs.
3 – Borderlands 2
Developer: Gearbox Software | Release Date: September 18th, 2012 | Game Page
Borderlands was good. Borderlands 2 was better. A common theme for some of the bigger releases this decade, it turns out taking an already solid idea and improving on it can do you a ton of good. So just shine Borderlands up a little, give it an interesting story and one of gaming’s best villains, provide years of DLC, and improve the gameplay exactly where it needed to be improved. Bring a few friends, you’ll have a great time.
2 – Spec Ops: The Line
Developer: Yager Development | Release Date: June 26th, 2012
If you ever wanted to consider games art, many people say this is the place to start. Spec Ops: The Line seems like a generic military shooter on its surface. However, it quickly evolves into a terrifying and weirdly meta video game about the actions you take and the consequences behind them. Have you ever once thought about the swarms of soldiers you kill, or what that would do to someone’s mental health? Likely not, and Spec Ops: The Line puts that on full display.
1 – Journey
Developer: Thatgamecompany | Release Date: March 13th, 2012
There’s something to be said about art style and what it can do to a game. In the case of Journey, the answer is “make it.” Tasking you with simply walking across a desert to get to a light in the distance, Journey has plenty of surprises along the way. You’ll start by meeting other players on the same quest as you and can find ways to communicate without ever actually talking. Then you can take in the game world, full of discoveries, beautiful landscapes, intense sliding segments, a wonderful soundtrack, and some heartbreak. It’s a lovely game, putting how fantastic games can be as an artistic medium on full display.