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About the voting:
- Voting ran from Dec. 19th, 2012 through Jan. 19st, 2013.
- 964 ballots counted
- Full stat download, affinity data and recommendations available in post #4.
- Listen to 2012's best soundtracks as voted by GAF: GAF's Soundtracks of the Year 2012! (presented by Nert and GhaleonQ)
- 2012's voting thread
- Previous awards threads: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004
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Notes & Thanks:
Thanks to Cheesemeister and his parser which simplifies the tallying process dramatically. And always, thank you to everyone who submitted a ballot with thoughtful comments on their selections. It made the voting thread a pleasure to read.
GAME OF THE YEAR
01. Journey = 1080 points, 14 honorable mentions
I played through Journey six times and each trip was better than the last. Each time was different due to the fact that you get thrown into this world with a random person you know nothing about. The person could abandon you and go their own way, fall down a cliff never to be seen again, or stick by you until the end. The game made me feel curiosity, excitement, fear, sadness, and ultimately a bitter sweet joy. Despite being a linear experience, the game still manages to provide a sense that you are exploring a world and civilization that is bigger than you are. This, along with wonderful music and visual design, has made Journey my game of the year.
An awe inspiring piece of work and one that moved me more than any video game has since my childhood. Journey is expertly paced, has a beautiful artstyle, fitting and gorgeous music, and simply is a delightful package from beginning to end. Also, the experience more than makes up for the simple gameplay and I am enthused that something like this even exists.
The sliding sequence made me go "Weeeee!" out loud in my living room. I believe my unknown companion was doing the exact same thing in front of his tv.
02. The Walking Dead = 1063 points, 30 honorable mentions
At the end of the day, the things I feel about The Walking Dead are simply beyond what I feel about other games this year. If we want to make the argument that video games can be art, it is not about being obtuse and pretentious and demand that a TV screen with Braid play on a loop sitting on a wall in the Museum of Modern Art. It is about looking at games like The Walking Dead and seeing that the experience of a video game can be every bit as valid as other forms of art. I chose The Walking Dead as my game of the year because it is an experience that other titles, simply being video games, could not match. To put it another way, The Walking Dead is game of the year by being everything that title has never meant.
The most compelling story ever told in its medium. I'm not a big fan of games that put story before gameplay altogether, but this one was an exception. So much maturity in the way it handles its characters. Clementine is the most convincing and realistic depiction of a child in any video game. The sense of choice is powerful, even if it's usually smoke and mirrors. At one point I actually thought I caused someone to die, before realizing there was no way to save them. I've never cried because of a video game before, but I cried because of this one. This game prompted me to immediately watch all the episodes of the TV show and read the entire comic series in less than a week. They're good, but they're not even close to as good as this game.
One of the best adventure games i've played. I love the books and the TV show and the game does a great job of creating another worthy story for the franchise. The characters and writing are fantastic and provided some of the most shocking and emotional moments I've had as a gamer.
03. XCOM: Enemy Unknown = 689 points, 25 honorable mentions
What else is there to say that hasn't already been said? The formula works as good now as it did back in 1996. I dumped dozens of hours into this new game and I still get just as exhilarated and anxious every time I start a mission. Sadly, there just isn't enough quality turn-based strategy out there these days and I'm super thankful this game was made.
I feared the worst, I hoped for the best. I was so excited for XCOM to finally hit, and when it did, I and tons of friends were completely sucked in for weeks. There are very few games that hit this level of design. It's fantastically well made, and if it wasn't for some lacklustre art, a few bugs and a few mechanical choices, I'd want to call it perfect. As it is, I don't think we could have gotten a better XCOM remake. It is absolutely the best game of 2012, hands down.
In a recent video game climate that has often been about evolving the medium, XCOM was a return to classic video game mechanics. The top-down strategic gameplay is very nearly perfect. Yes, there are some bugs and I've been frustrated by my share of them. There is very little story to speak of, and in fact the most effective narrative will be one you create yourself. The attachment I developed with my soldiers over the course of the game was almost embarrassingly strong, and on several occasions I was nearly despondent over their deaths. XCOM is simply one of the most solid video games I've played in years, and when it comes to gameplay there aren't many better experiences you could have had this year.
04. Sleeping Dogs = 566 points, 17 honorable mentions
The game feels like every one of my favorite HK movies. Combat is the Arkham-style combat of counters, but the moves you pull off and string together look so cool and punishing. The main character is slick as hell and the open-world environment is great.
Succeeds where all other open world games fail, by making each of it's core mechanics as fully realised as those in games where they're the sole focus. Every aspect of the game benefits because of it. A few rushed/glossed over areas in the narrative, and a slight lack of meaty side content are more than made up for by the great Hong Kong environment, and a hugely likable protagonist in Wei Shen. It all works together to make a whole greater than the sum of it's parts, giving Sleeping Dogs it's own unique feel that I absolutely loved.
Sleeping Dogs had an excellent blend of open world driving, hand-to-hand combat, shootybang bits, and story, to the point that the game had a "just one more mission" quality to it that kept me playing for hours on end. A rare achievement in modern games.
05. Dishonored = 521 points, 18 honorable mentions
The artstyle is amazing. The world it creates is superb and leaves you wanting to explore more of it. The gameplay manages to get rid of common annoyances in the stealth genre in very satisfying ways. The powers are genuinely fun to play around with and make you change the way in wich you play games of the genre. It really does feel like a playground at times in wich you just play with the game's systems , wich is something I really missed in games. The gameplay allows the perfection of your skills. This is a game where you actually get noticeably better as you keep playing, and I know it sounds silly but you rarely see something like this in today's empowering games. The ability to pull off crazy stunts/moves once you get really good at it is super satisfying. It also encourages replayability and I had as much fun in my second, non-lethal, unseen, blink-only, low chaos run than on my first one; maybe even more.
Dyni Crippler said:
It's a steampunk Deus Ex, to put it simple. Level design is superb, powers are incredible and the freedom given to the player is simply amazing. Combine that with the combat system, which plays like Dark Messiah meets Riddick, and the unique stealth based on exploration rather than avoiding guards and you've got yourself the greatest game of the year, at least for me.
Deus Ex meets BioShock meets Thief meets Half-Life meets my wallet.
06. Mass Effect 3 = 513 points, 20 honorable mentions
The fact that the ending to this game got as much vocal hate as it did proves something. It proves that throughout the entire length of this series, Bioware has done a hell of a lot right. If Bioware wasn't hitting the right notes in all of this, nobody would have cared. Mass Effect 3, despite the ending, still manages to be the best campaign in the series. I became very emotionally invested in this universe and the characters of this series, and for very good reason. Because it's fucking good.
The horrible ending couldn't destroy all of the fun I had in the previous 30 something hours. All of the little character moments and resolutions to some of the series long standing dramas were awesome. Some nice missions and a fun multiplayer made me forget the lack of hubs and questionable animation system .
07. Borderlands 2 = 486 points, 10 honorable mentions
- Guns, guns, guns! What a great improvement over the last game. It's like Gearbox went through a giant fan wish list and granted nearly. The developers really showed a great attention to detail for this game, and also the gave the universe much needed context to benefit the future of the series. Also, put me the group that really loved Tiny Tina.
Most fun I've had playing a Co-op game, we laughed, screamed at each other for not sharing weapons but most importantly had a blast with it at the end of the day. The writing in this game was amazing IMO, I can't remember the last game that made me laugh out loud more than once.
08. Kid Icarus: Uprising = 472 points, 11 honorable mentions
Sakurai's still got it. Once the controls click, the whole thing becomes sublime: lots of variety/content, hidden depth to the mechanics, great music, endearing story and characters. And the whole game keeps finding ways to escalate, which makes it hard to put down. Probably the first Nintendo game since Galaxy that's blown me away.
Snowden's Secret said:
Easily the best game released not only this year, but maybe this decade . I haven't played anything as sharp or fresh in a long, long time, and I was hooked beginning to end. Fiend's Cauldron is brilliant--I played each stage numerous times before advancing just to eke out better gear and see how insane 9.0 could get. The dialogue is witty and endearing, characters are endlessly introduced and fleshed out, and Sakurai pulls off the Okami hat trick of including the game's sequels but this time it doesn't feel like padding. 10/10 Masterpiece game.
09. Far Cry 3 = 402 points, 21 honorable mentions
The Jason said:
Despite the various issues that always seem to attend open world games, FC3 delivers an incredible experience. An open world game that combines stealth, survival, strategy, shooting, and exploration is just too good. Maybe I'm not as jaded as most gamers but FC3 does so many things right, it leaves me in awe of how far game development has come.
Far Cry 3 is by no means perfect but when everything comes together just right it is some of the most fun I have had in a open world game. I also think it has the best stealth melee system of all time. Looking for opportunities to chain your combos together was deeply rewarding. Excellent characters and voice acting rounded out a really great game.
10. Hotline Miami = 399 points, 21 honorable mentions
A psychedelic ultra violent trip, fashionably drenched from head to toe in blood and style, Hotline Miami is the quintessential example of the many components and qualities of video game design coming together in perfect unison. Its confident, self aware identity panders to no focus group, market, or specific taste. Every element, whether it be the retro electronic soundtrack, neon pixel graphics, visceral twitch gameplay, or schizophrenic narrative, brilliantly toes the line between self serving aggression, and co-operation with its companions. It's like the best cocktails; acidic, volatile liquors and spices entwined to manifest a flavour you can't quite describe yet won?t ever forget. You're never sure which part of Hotline Miami you like the most. As the sweat beads down your forehead you're not even sure if you're really 'enjoying' yourself. Is this experience fun? Is this entertainment? The answer is irrelevant. What matters is you cannot put the controller down, and all those blockbusters you've played this year, gluttonously padded with their mulit-million dollar budgets, lay twitching in a pool of crimson at your feet.
This takes the cake for the most fun I've had with a game this year. Hotline's fast-paced arcade gameplay coalesced with the trance-inducing soundtrack and neon-drenched visual presentation to create something altogether unique and engaging. It was a real shame that the game was released in such a buggy state, but the core game here is what shines despite the technical hiccups. The feeling of blowing through multiple floors of white-suited Russians without breaking my combo is priceless and hasn't been replicated by any other game this year.
11. Halo 4 = 364 points, 6 honorable mentions
Pitch perfect controls and gunplay, a staggering achievement in audio and visual work to realize the world of Halo, and a wealth of multiplayer options including Spartan Ops. The game is incomplete, and not everything added or changed pays off, but the core gameplay is still so damn good and moment to moment encounters satisfy more than most shooters can ever hope to. 343 has a long way to go to finish the fight, but the core is true to Halo.
While I liked the previous Halo games this gen, I've never really been hooked to them. I would basically stop playing them after only a few weeks. Halo 4 breaks that chain. I'm highly addicted to the multiplayer. On top of that, the game looks absolutely amazing for a game running on a seven year old console. It's really the only game of a "AAA" nature that was released in 2012 that actually met & exceeded my expectations.
12. Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward = 328 points, 3 honorable mentions
make a story in a video game, and it damn well better have a purpose. a common dilemma is how game design and story don't get along. instead, virtue's last reward intricately weaves the story into the game design. it's playful with video game tropes, and all more worth the while for it. virtue's last reward is not the game its predecessor was- the story isn't as unique, nor are the stakes as high, but it's still one of the best examples of how you can tell a story in a game where dialogue and game design can ally with and not betray one another.
The game improves upon it's predecessor quite a bit. The way they tied the gameplay in with the story felt seamless through the use of the flow system. The story might not be as memorable as 999's, but it's still a crazy ride with twists galore.
13. Persona 4: The Golden = 321 points, 13 honorable mentions
So many great things to say about this game. Story is the best that I played this whole year. Battle system is fun, short, and simple. The one thing that can feel bad about the game is that sometimes it feels like you're spending time doing the wrong social links on the wrong dates, which caused me a bit of stress worrying about it. Overall a great experience and a must own for any Vita owner.
This is the salt of the earth JRPG. Nonsensical convolution pursued by archetypes spouting platitudes is replaced by a liberal variety of interesting character dialogue, interaction, and development. This is the best game that I've played all year.
14. FTL: Faster Than Light = 316 points, 14 honorable mentions
I don't think I've ever had a game where I dropped this many hours into it, haven't beat the final boss, and am still having incredible amounts of fun. I really do feel like Captain Kirk, ordering my dudes around the ship, and generally commanding well. I've led my Kestral into some tough situations, not all of them I've survived, but it feels good to destroy an enemy ship without taking any hull damage or anything. I'm just too giddy about this game, to put it into words accurately.
Probably the most inspiring game I have played since Minecraft. There's no filler in this game at all yet it manages to create a lovely retro sci-fi atmosphere. The gameplay design is fresh, truly addictive and of the highest quality. A masterpiece.
15. Xenoblade Chronicles = 299 points, 14 honorable mentions
Wow. GAF was right. This is the best JRPG I have played since the glory days of Squaresoft on the SNES and PS1, and it might be the best one overall that I've ever played. An RPG of this scope is all too rare a thing these days, and Xenoblade offers the player and absolute embarrassment of content. While the sidequests are mostly boring fetch-quests, every other facet of this game's design is tailored to iron out the long-remaining quirks of JRPG gameplay. The combat is fast and engaging, exploration is encouraged by rewarding the player with XP, the penalty for death is minimal, the writing and voice acting is well above average for this sort of game, and the game's world atop two warring titans is without a doubt one of the most well-realized in game history.
An expansive RPG with a great sense of adventure. Its battle mechanics are a great mix of old and new, and digging through what is possible is rewarding as certain characters become particularly useful. Xenoblade feels like an SNES RPG that took a few battle system cues from FFXII. In other words: it's excellent.
16. Mark of the Ninja = 289 points, 10 honorable mentions
Chairman Yang said:
Brilliant, highly-polished, and the best stealth game in a long time. In terms of pure mechanics, and disregarding things like setting and atmosphere, this IS the best stealth game of all time. It's also an excellent example of how transparent game mechanics are almost always better than unclear, but "realistic" game mechanics.
17. Max Payne 3 = 285 points, 9 honorable mentions
Being a longtime Max Payne fan, my anticipation and excitement reached a fever pitch before Max Payne 3's release. When I finally played it, it was one of the most engaging shooters this generation. The feedback and inertia during a firefight was intoxicating, while some people were bothered with the amount of cutscenes and transitions, the fact that they covered up almost all loading screens made the game feel smooth and lucid. The direction Rockstar went with Max's character and the performance given by James Mccaffrey is stellar.
18. Dragon's Dogma = 250 points, 5 honorable mentions
In my view, this is the best damn game I have ever played. I love the character customization, I love the combat that allows me to climb up on top of huge monsters and hack them to death, I love the ever-present sense of danger, I love the progression, I love the music, I love the pawns, I love almost everything about it! Like I've said before, it's as if someone made a game just for me. My dream game, in other words. I am VERY eagerly awaiting the expansion. It'll take a lot of work for someone to knock this game off its throne for me.
19. Gravity Rush = 248 points, 7 honorable mentions
Moving around the different parts of the floating city of Hekseville by literally bending the laws of physics is so much fun that it's all too easy to forget that Gravity Rush features both a genuinely likable heroine and and an interesting story with more than a few twists and turns. Gravity Rush remains a very divisive game but it's unique take on the open world formula kept me hooked from start to finish. It's easily my favorite game of the year.
20. Spec Ops: The Line = 243 points, 16 honorable mentions
This was a real surprise. I thought everything about this game was excellent and well-crafted--the shooting, the graphics, the soundtrack. Then it goes ahead and layers on a story that's truly unexpected and fresh in a military shooter. Personally, I think this game makes Medal of Honor and Call of Duty kind of an embarrassment.