There’s absolutely no shame in almost reaching the top of the mountain. It’s a huge undertaking to make a Top 5 list like this, and a great accomplishment to reach slots three or two. Today’s picks are among the best games of the year. In fact, there’s only one or two games we liked better in the entire calendar year. Who knows, maybe you’ll like them better than our actual top picks!
Be sure to check out our entries for our fifth and fourth favorite games of 2012 from yesterday, and stay tuned for our top picks tomorrow!
Like many folks involved in the indie gaming scene, I was watching FEZ for what felt like decades. I mean, it was only years. Have a little patience, guys. Getting the chance to actually play a demo of the game at PAX East 2011 was awesome, and it left me quite excited for its impending release later that year. Of course the joke was on me, as it didn’t even release until 2012. That said, it ended up as one of the best of the entire year, despite the drama surrounding Phil Fish and the internet.
At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about FEZ. I’m not sure why, but I expected a platformer with an emphasis on challenging patterns that tested my skill jumping skills. Yes, even after playing the demo. Hours upon hours after delving deep in to the world Polytron crafted, I discovered that FEZ succeeds as an enigmatic cavalcade of puzzles that just happens to use platforming as a form of world navigation. There’s so much more to Gomez’ adventure than is initially apparent that I don’t even want to touch on it here in fear of spoiling it for someone who has yet to take the plunge themselves. All I’ll say is be prepared for the game to take you deeper than you would have ever imagined.
I’d like to apologize to Bootdisk Revolution for not being able to pick two number one favorite games of the year. I love Bleed with literally all of my heart and I hate that it couldn’t edge tomorrow’s list-topper. Why there aren’t more games with the same design philosophy as what’s found here is absolutely mind-boggling. Perfect and innovative controls, pixel graphics, a chiptune soundtrack… this is what a retro-influenced game in the modern era should aspire toward.
Bleed is as good as it is because it stands on its own innovations rather than leaning on its old-school trappings. Yes, everything is drawn in 2D, and yes, it’s all pixelated. But the wisely designed controls prevent it from feeling like a retread into outdated conventions. Jumping with the shoulder trigger is alien at first — you might think you’ll do better a classic face button scheme at first — but you’ll eventually find it facilitates greater control while you’re zooming through storms of bullets in slow-motion. It also frees your thumb up to use the right thumbstick to shoot anywhere. You absolutely need the expanded control if you want to defeat the bosses. Yes, they are difficult (on Hard and Very Hard especially) but their patterns, while complex and numerous, are manageable if you play with patience. If you have any interest at all in anything Bleed has to offer, you owe it to yourself to download a demo and give it a fair shot. It didn’t make number two by being mediocre.
3. 10000000 – iOS
10000000 at first glance looks like you standard match 3 puzzle game, and at it’s core that is what most of the game consists of. Luckily there is an extra layer thrown on top that adds in RPG elements and extends the life of the game considerably. Unlike many other puzzle games there is an eventual goal, to reach 10000000 points, which will free your character from the dungeon he is locked in. Only by unlocking new weapons and upgrades can you complete the challenge and make it out of the dungeon.
The thing that impressed me the most about this game was how hard it was for me to put down. Every run is essentially the same for the most part, but matching up different icons on the screen has a certain effect, and it’s challenging due to the fact that you want to save certain tiles for specific situations you encounter throughout the run. Your character is shown at the top of the screen and reaching enemies or doors requires you to match specific tiles together. This leads to many frantic situations that feel really rewarding when you can figure out the puzzle. It is incredibly easy to lose a few hours in this game and I couldn’t put it down until the very end.
2. Minigore 2 – iOS
The first Minigore was one of my favorite games on the iPhone but I always wished it had more to offer. It was a great dual joystick shooter that was incredibly polished, but lacked the content that it needed to keep me playing. Minigore 2 retains the same look and feel of the original and it adds a ton of content with more levels, enemies and weapons. Everything I felt was missing from the first game is here and more.
On top of the title offering a number of different stages, there is now a store that allows you to upgrade not only your characters, of which there are plenty, but also your weapons. Challenges are spread out throughout the level that keep things fresh by forcing you to try new things, and there are tons of new enemies to encounter as well as a number of awesome boss battles. It’s the one game on my iPad that I keep coming back to over and over again, and one that I can easily see spending a good chunk of time with this year as well. Do yourself a favor and go download it on your iPhone or iPad right away.
Creating a moving story and experience without words, background information, or dialogue is a feat of mastery and ThatGameCompany has done just that with Journey. If you’re looking for an argument that games can be art (not looking to argue that right now), Journey is certainly a shining example for what games are capable of for the medium. And that isn’t even counting how beautiful the game is with perfect lighting, and rendering of the structures and elements it makes the world feel not only living but believably immersive.
While not being a long game Journey doesn’t need to be, it is a generally relaxing experience with the right amount of tension to pull together the climax and is put together as though you should play through it in a sitting. Fortunately it’s short enough to do your first time through without poking around every nook and cranny. Going on your first Journey feels so good and completing it is something that will be hard to forget.
I was going to say that it’s rare that a game could change the way I thought a genre of games could be, but I honestly think cannot think of a game I have played that has re-written the formula for a game so positively that I could enjoy a genre I don’t typically fancy. Klei has found a way to make the clunky, plodding nature of stealth games and made it action filled, smooth, and exciting.
You actually feel like a ninja with the skills and options available to you while the game generally avoiding penalizing you for using the tricks you have up your sleeve and rewarding you for being stealthy and creative. This creates a simply enjoyable experience that ceases to slow once you pass Klei’s beautiful animations slowly unveiling a surprisingly interesting story. Mark of the Ninja could have easily been my top pick if I didn’t enjoy my number one so much, stay tuned till tomorrow everybody!