Every year that passes us by is remembered for its highs and lows; moments that characterize the 365 days and make it notable for years to come. 2012 featured plenty of surprises and unforgettable events, from an intense presidential campaign, to the Mayan doomsday threat on December 21st. Gamers also had an abundance to talk about with the release of Nintendo’s new console the Wii U and a combination of anticipated releases and surprise hits. Take a look at my picks for the Best Games of 2012.
10. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
While many feared the Call of Duty franchise was showing its age, Black Ops 2 successfully re-imagined the tried and true Call of Duty formula by crafting a unique near-future setting. Featuring a loads of plausible future warfare technology, from walking tanks to wristwatch controlled drones, Black Ops 2 gave us a refreshing look at combat in the decades to come. Not to be outdone, head writer David S. Goyer approached the game with a cinematic lens.
For the first time in the series, branching storylines driven by player choice added significant elements of nonlinear gameplay, and multiple endings to boot. Black Ops 2 also shined in the multiplayer arena, removing the set-in-stone character perks and equipment options. Instead, the multiplayer capitalizes on freedom and customization allowing players to edit their load out like never before.
9. Halo 4
Fans of the Halo series have witnessed an absence of Master Chief for the past few years. While games like Halo Reach and Halo 3: ODST helped to satiate our need for more alien-blasting action, they haven’t cured our need to continue Master Chief’s story. Nearly 5 years after the release of Halo 3, 343 industries and Microsoft Studios granted players the opportunity to step back into the shoes of the everyone’s favorite super soldier in Halo 4.
As the beginning of an entirely new trilogy, Halo 4 drops players into an entirely new world that is crawling with a mix of ancient warriors called the Prometheans, previous enemies the Covanent, and a new antagonist the Didact. The underlying plotline connects to previous games in the series while standing on its own as a unique story. If that wasn’t good enough, Halo 4 boasts a ton of new weapons, armor abilities, and vehicles with enough multiplayer options to keep you satisfied for hours at a time.
8. Assassin’s Creed 3
Since the first game’s release in 2007, fans have been anxiously awaiting a conclusion to the award-winning, historical sci-fi fusion that graced our presence as one of the best games of 2012. As the fifth major installment, Assassin’s Creed 3 rewrote the recipe of the long-standing rivalry between the Templars and the Assassin’s. No longer was it a clear cut, good versus evil scenario. Both groups strived to save humanity, just by different means. Ubisoft brought 18th century America to life with the addition of prominent figures such as Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington, all who aided Connor on his quest.
The conflict between the American Colonies and the British was offset by a modern struggle to prevent a solar flare from destroying the Earth. The dual scenarios offered a welcomed balance between past and present. Finally players were able to step into the shoes of Desmond and actually do something. With an interesting finale, Assassin’s Creed 3 was able to incorporate new features that kept the game fresh while remaining faithful to all that the series had built upon in the past.
7. Mass Effect 3
As a series over 5 years in the making, Mass Effect 3 marks the end of Commander Shepard’s story, and a conclusion of the trilogy. Set during the Reaper invasion, Mass Effect 3 embodies the hopelessness of utter annihilation. While Commander Shepard has faced tough choices before, players now face life and death decisions on a much grander scale. Help one faction over another, and whole colonies will fall to the sentient machines. Despite the dire reality and an impossible goal, Commander Shepard sets out to join all peoples of the galaxy to form a united front against the Reaper threat.
Mass Effect 3 is bold enough to kill off fan-favorite characters from previous games, while introducing new crewmates who are amidst the struggle of losing loved ones. No one is immune from the destruction which is something that Mass Effect 3 hits home very diligently. Despite the controversy surrounding the ending, Mass Effect 3 added enough to the franchise: more polished controls, weapon customization, a slew of DLC, and amazing multiplayer, to stand out as one of the best games of 2012.
6. Xenoblade Chronicles
In a gaming climate where shooters often dominate the market, it’s rare to see a JRPG emerge and show up the competition. Xenoblade Chronicles reminded the gaming community that the age of the RPG was not over. Released in 2010 in Japan, it wasn’t until 2012 that the open-world hit reached American shores. Xenoblade Chronicles is by far one of the most impressive RPGs not only on the Wii, but to be released in the recent years.
The game conveys the ultimate feeling of freedom. With an immense world, described by director Tetsuya Takahashi as “overwhelming, like an MMORPG” comparable to the size of Japan, players can easily invest hundreds of hours exploring the many grasslands, forests, swamps, and mountains that comprise the many environments. Boasting countless side quests, extensive character customization, and a story that builds momentum and shines, Xenoblade Chronicles is a must have for any RPG enthusiast.