Alex’s Top Games Of 2012

Alex’s Top Games Of 2012

2012 was a rubbish movie, but it was also a rubbish year for my actual playing of games, which means my top games for the year will be a little different than most.

This wasn’t the fault of the games per se, mind you; for entirely personal reasons I didn’t get anywhere near the amount of time I would have liked. My time was better spent elsewhere, but that means that many of the “big” releases of the year were ones I didn’t get enough time to assess. This then, is a deeply personal list that reflects the games that were able to dominate my scant gaming time in 2012.

Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2 was perhaps the “biggest” game of the year that I spent serious time with; while it’s undeniably just-another-first-person-shooter, it’s one that balances its humour, challenge and desire for just-one-more-point-of-damage-from-an-elemental-weapon exceptionally well.

Plus, Claptrap. I liked Claptrap so much that my wife hand crocheted me my very own Claptrap, who now wobbles precariously underneath my monitor.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

It’s the best Grand Theft Auto game. No, don’t bother arguing with me; I’ve played them all and Vice City still stands out at the top of what is, admittedly, a quality pack. Why yes, it did come out in 2002, which you might think would remove it from 2012 contention, except for the fact that the 10th anniversary edition hit Android and iOS devices late in the year. Ten years is a very long time in gaming, but where Vice City still shines is in the overall plotting and narrative, supplemented by some quality voice acting and decent challenges. The technical marvel of GTA III interested me in 2011, but the gameplay in Vice City grabbed me hard in 2012.

They Bleed Pixels

In the indie games scene, using pixelated art and making things tough is almost a pre-requisite, but few games actually managed to do it well and in a way that led to an enduring challenge. They Bleed Pixels merges pixel art, tough-as-nails-but-fair gameplay and creepy school mythos in an intoxicating blend.

Hotline Miami

Keeping on the indie track, Hotline Miami tickled my fancy and engaged my brain thinking about the violence implicit in the title; in very real terms, Hotline Miami felt like the most “violent” game I played in 2012, even though the body count was undeniably higher in, say, Borderlands 2. Plus, while I’m not as fanatical about video game soundtracks as some, the music in Hotline Miami fits perfectly

Mark Of The Ninja

Stealth games and I aren’t usually friends; while I appreciate the tension in a good sneak-em-up, I’m usually either rubbish at it, or let down by either kludgy controls or enemy AI that borders on the prescient. Mark Of The Ninja, though, does everything within a superbly realised layer of stealth and action, especially if you try to run through each level without killing people. Invariably, I give in to my more base impulses and pick guards off in imaginative ways, but I can still think that I tried the peaceful stealthy path.

Punch Quest

My limited gaming time meant that I spent a lot of what time I had with mobile casual games, outside of any writing about them. Punch Quest looks on the surface like it’s just another endless runner with a slight fantasy motif, and there were plenty of endless runners in 2012. But it’s more than that; the RPG elements within give it a combat edge that keeps on drawing me back, partly because there’s always one more sweet hat to unlock, and partly because… well, how can you not love a game where you intermittently quest as a gnome fighting giant angry bees?

Rayman Jungle Run

The other “pure” mobile title that highlighted my 2012 gaming experience was Rayman Jungle Run; proof (not that it’s needed) that simple gaming experiences don’t have to mean that the simple hook wears off soon, or indeed, that they have to look sub-par.


I like New Super Mario Bros U a whole lot, but there’s no denying that there’s a standout star in the Wii U’s launch lineup, and it’s ZombiU. It shouldn’t be possible to use a gaming trope as well-worn as zombies and make a game that’s equal parts gripping, terrifying and clever, but Ubisoft managed it with Zombi U.

Minecraft Xbox 360 Edition

Again, Minecraft isn’t the freshest of games, but with its Xbox incarnation, developers 4J Studios showed how you could take a game that seemingly only made sense on a PC work on a console — and work very well indeed. Equally, as a family man, I spent a lot of 2012 playing games with my kids, and no game got more play time than Minecraft on XBLA did, from the youngest simply digging up sand for the sheer fun of it to family experiments with killer minecarts. I totally get that the PC version offers much more modding variety, but there’s something deeply personal about split-screen gaming in front of the sofa that makes Minecraft on Xbox a real hit.

Bubble Bobble

I have a simple rule; in any list of my favourite games, Bubble Bobble is going to feature. Yes, I know it didn’t “come out” in 2012, but don’t bother me with your fancy “rules” and “dates”, man. This is Bubble Bobble; one of the purest gaming experiences ever made. If Bubble Bobble doesn’t make my personal top ten list, then something is wrong with the Universe.


    • Both of which were justified, GTA because of the Android and iOS rerelease, Bubble Bobble because it’s just so damned fun.

      My top 10 games of 2012 would no doubt have to include Arkham City (and not the Wii U release, as I haven’t played it) because it was one of the most fun games I played last year.

      • These are just direct ports so they really shouldn’t count. Persona 4 Golden makes sense since it’s a HD remake and adds more content.

  • Here’s my top ten of 2012 – now some of the games I bought were older releases that I played for the first time this year, for instance, I didn’t buy Skyrim until January 4th, so it counts as a 2012 game for me. I also bought Humble Bundles which were somewhat comprised of old games.

    1) The Walking Dead (PC) – everyone is sick of hearing about how great this game was.
    2) FTL: Faster than Light (PC) – This would be number 1 if it had a deeper story but it ranks #2 for the sheer addictiveness. Even though the scenarios get quickly repetitive, the fact that there’s multiple solutions to some problems and the game can swing rapidly between runs of good and bad luck keeps it feeling fresh. I never really know what’s going to happen and trying different strategies really pays off.
    3) X-Com: Enemy Unknown – a worthy successor to the originals though less punishing. I’ll do that Iron Man playthough one day, I swear.
    4) Borderlands 2 (Xbox 360) – improved on Borderlands 1 in most areas, but still boring and frustrating if played solo. Spent a great many hours exploring Pandora with the wife.
    5) Far Cry 3 (Xbox 360) – shallow story, silly premise, but fun characters, excellent gameplay, rewarding exploration, well done stealth. For a sandbox game, there isn’t much they could have done better.
    6) Spec Ops: The Line (Xbox 360) – The gameplay was clunky and often left me frustrated but as I’ve said, I think this deliberately feeds into the narrative and the overarching “point” of the game. I heartily recommend it, though you might want to do yourself a favour and play through on the lowest difficulty.
    7) Skyrim (Xbox 360) – fun, fairly varied, though some parts weren’t really thought through all that well. Still need to go back and polish off the DLC.
    8) The Binding of Isaac (PC) – I didn’t understand this game at first but now it’s my go-to when I have a little time to kill. One day I might even get more than halfway through it.
    9) Rochard (PC) – I didn’t know exactly what to expect for this game when I installed it, but as puzzle platformers go this one was pretty engaging. I only put an hour into it but I will definitely go back.
    10) Halo 4 (Xbox 360) – Generally a solid game, same Halo mechanics and level design, and I loved seeing the Chief and Cortana back in action, but the story was lacking, I really didn’t feel engaged, and generally the campaign was quite forgettable. I played the first two episodes of Spartan Ops and haven’t put the disc back in the tray since. I want to give the multiplayer another try, but I fear it’s too different from what I liked about Halo. Frankly I think Crysis 2 was a better attempt at Halo multiplayer than Halo 4 was.

    Games that should be on this list but arent:
    – Dishonored (Xbox 360) would probably be on this list around #6 but I’ve only played the first 45 minutes of it so it’s not really fair to rate it.
    – Anna’s Quest (PC) I haven’t gotten around to at all, but I heard good things from everyone else!
    – Journey (PS3) is a game I will absolutely get to, one of these days, it’s just hard for me to motivate myself to buy a PS3 game when I so seldomly use the console. I know, it’s a vicious cycle that leaves the PS3 gathering dust. Sorry!

    Dishonourable mentions:
    – Hunted: The Demon Forge (PC) – Hard to believe this graphically dated game came out in 2011. I liked the banter between the two main characters but the gameplay quickly grew quite stale. I do like that you can build your own adventures, that’s a nice feature to have… just not one I’m interested in.
    – Mirror’s Edge (PC) – this game would probably be good if it worked. I’m ok with having to trial and error some parts because I’m in too much of a hurry to plan ahead, and it’s massively satisfiying when you nail a section on the first try, but sometimes it just doesn’t actually work and I get tired of dicking around with it. I ragequit this so hard that it removed itself from my hard drive. Shame, because I was enjoying the story and I thought the cutscene art style was lovely.
    – Red Faction: Armageddon (PC) – Boooooring. Gameplay is ok, especially the destructible environments and demolition weapons like the maul and magnet gun, but gets old quickly. Sadly the characters, story and villain are so uninteresting that I simply can’t take more than an hour of this game at a time before I wander off to do something else. As a result, I’m about 3 hours into it.

    • Way to commit to the reply, I’m guess you’ve started back at work and most others a still away.

      I like NFS:MW, BL2, ZombiU & NSMB U honorable mention Torchlight2

  • Bingo! We’ve finally found someone who’s not being paid to specifically spruik Halo, Far Cry 3, The Walking Dead, Mass Effect 3 or Assassin’s Creed III!

    • By your logic, just Borderlands 2 and ZombiU?

      Opinions man… it’s like people have different ones or something…

      • That’s a presumptuous swing and a miss there inkk. I seem to see/read/or hear bad to mediocre reviews from different sources about games– particularly with AC III being quite buggy, rushed and badly executed, mediocre, etc, yet get nominated for a GOTY by some. I know taste is subjective, but I’m just finding it difficult to picture some of these titles as GOTY when they get mediocre reviews (between the 50-70% mark).

        • I’ll buy that premise for AC3… but the rest are games reviewed in the high 80s and 90s and yet you are shrugging them off as “paid to promote” when games like ZombiU which have had widely spread reviews apparently make your “win list”.

          My point was, diss all AAA games or none of them. You can’t pick favourites and then claim people are paid to promote titles which aren’t among them :S

          • Again with the assumptions. Not mentioning ZombieU nor Borderlands isn’t a tacit endorsement of either. I didn’t mention Black Ops II, so by that definition, I must dig that game much more than the above examples (just examples, not limited to the only the above games and nothing else)? Use several sources other than just Metacritic (otherwise known as the ‘Home of Astroturfing’) and you’ll see what I mean about the pattern mediocre the consumer reviews about some of the aforementioned products. Actual paid critics have a number binds that temper their critical reviews of products that consumers aren’t limited by. Only if you care to. I mean, I couldn’t give a shit what you do either way, you’re a different person motivated by different things, you’ll make up your own mind, as well you should.

            And it’s not at all about ‘dissing all AAA games or none of them’. Every game you see will be promoted by people who’re compensated for doing so. And you and I absolutely can pick and choose what we critique at our own discretion. Anything at all! No really, it’s not a zero sum, either/or situation. For example, I’m not going to say anything about B-lands 2because I hand played it. Didn’t care for the first, don’t care for the second, neither are on my radar. This is neither a positive nor negative thing, I’m just not interested in either. I don’t feel that I can have a critical insight into something I haven’t played. But of those I have, I can and will (it’s unavoidable for anyone) and some of those titles will be big named ones, some won’t be. This idea that you can only criticise everything, or nothing is a fallacy. You can critique anything in your experience. Otherwise, it’s just an uneducated guess.

    • I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played of ME3 — but I haven’t played enough of it yet (curses!) for it to make the list.

  • My top 3 for 2012:-

    Ghost Recon Future Solider – best squad based FPS, fun and original single player campaign

    Prototype 2 – pure fun nonsense. Lovely to jump from building to building.

    F1 Racestars – definitely flawed, definitely lacks originality, but regardless of that is devilishly addictive

    I only played 4 2012 games. Max Payne 3 didn’t quite cut it.

  • Wonder if he has Bubble Bobble Neo on WiiWare.

    It’s pretty damned good. Always loved Bubble Bobble and Puzzle Bobble.

  • Man, Hotline Miami. I’m not sure how it’s getting the reviews it is. Maybe reviewers have some special hardware I don’t have. I can’t play that game for more than about 17 seconds before my eyes start bleeding and my ears burn. I don’t know how they can get away with having such shite options on a PC game in this day and age. When you’re going out of your way to create a shitty retro look, at least give me the option to run it in a window so I can actually make out what you’re attempting to draw with those sprites.

  • This deserves 1 000+ internets for the surprise listing of my favorite game of all time at the bottom of the list

  • BUBBLE BOBBLE!!! I still have it on my NES and remember playing it when I was younger, as well as not that young… and my “young” is in the 2000s… why do I even have an NES? + Battletoads!

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