My top 10 favorite games of 2012

So, I play a lot of games.  I wanted to make a list of the best games I played this year, mainly because this year was one of the best gaming years I remember.  One note before I start is that I work in the industry, namely at DICE in Stockholm, which is a part of EA and that I was credited on games this year (Medal of Honor: Warfighter and Battlefield Premium).  I’ll leave EA games out of this mix because of that.  However this was not the year of the big name publisher.  This was the year of indie games and smaller studios doing excellent stuff.  We’ll take this wave back next year for sure!  Also of note is that I haven’t played some games or played enough of them to evaluate….namely Mark of the Ninja, Far Cry 3, Endless Swan, Halo 4 and Black Ops II.

10. Super Hexagon

Terry Cavanagh made the perfect mobile game.  Extremely difficult but you can still get 50 or so satisfying games in on a short bus ride.  Awesome music.

9. Botanicula

I loved Machinarium but I loved Botanicula more!  I don’t know why it works, it’s so childish in its humour but it’s so well crafted that it comes together in a feelgood explosion.  Great art style and great music.

8. Dear Esther

An interactive poem?  I was ready to put Dear Esther in its place when I started playing.  I thought before hand I had figured out exactly what it was, but I was wrong.  What I got was 2 hours of some of the smartest narrative I’ve ever seen in gaming.  Dear Esther really evolved gaming to another place by introducing something new.

7. Endless Space

I like 4X games but there hasn’t been a space one that really rivals Civilization.  Sure GalCiv does it well, but Endless Space does it in a way that makes the genre very accessible.  It’s basically the Master of Orion III we all wanted.

6. FTL

A perfect example of designing a small scope for a game and sticking to that vision.  FTL works because the scope is small in a way that makes it take 1 minute to learn but hours to master.  I’ve always wanted a game where I can manage my own spaceship on a great trek through the universe.  FTL didn’t do the long term persistence but rather did 10-30 minute short games where you ended up with some epic stories of survival after each playthrough.  Awesome music and art style!

5. Xcom: Enemy Unknown

Finally the best PC game of all time got its proper sequel.  Xcom got everything right and was accessible while doing it.  Best part was how attached you would get to your squad.  I still can’t imagine playing through that game without “Nightmare”, my pretty blonde alien killing sniper heroine.

4. Dishonored

Thief 2 was until this year my high watermark for stealth games.  Dishonored was basically the evolution of Thief 2…with magic!  I loved the dark steampunk setting and I loved that you could go through the whole game without any killing.  The special abilities were so fun to play with.  I hope the Thief 4 team is taking notes….and really the Assassins Creed team should to.

3. Journey

The most perfect 2-3 hours of gaming you will ever find.  Everything about it was gorgeous and everyone with even just a passing interest in gaming should play it.  It’s kinda amazing that there were games this year I felt were better..

2. Fez

Fez is a gorgeous 2D game. The most interesting thing about it are its exploration (there are no enemies) and the fact that its optional puzzles are really quite different, breaking the 4th wall between the game world and the actual world on occasions.  This game was an obsession for cryptography fans and the internet had to attack it with all its brainpower in the end to complete the last puzzles, but it still took time.  Also it was just a soothing and fun experience.  I still haven’t gone beyond the 32 cubes into total craziness but I absolutely plan to.  The soundtrack sounded like 8-Bit Boards of Canada and was just as good as that description implies.

1. Hotline Miami

Nothing about Hotline Miami seen from the outside seemed like it was for me.  It looked a hyper violent and vile mess of a game.  Yet there was no game this year I obsessed over as much as this one and the adrenalin rush it gave was something that is very rare in gaming.  Almost a puzzle game by nature and a very difficult game…but never unfair because it all felt like it was by design.  The gameplay was great but it wouldn’t work as well without the amazing music and great story.  It was more than a little inspired by the movie Drive in theme and tone and it had a dark and disturbed vision it carried out flawlessly. No game this year made me get so lost in it as Hotline Miami and for the 10 hours it took me to finish it I was absolutely obsessed with it.  Also in a year of amazing gaming soundtracks (Fez, FTL, Super Hexagon, Dear Esther) the Hotline Miami soundtrack was the best one.  Play it!

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