Top 10 Game of the Year Snubs
If I told you exactly 365 days ago that 2012 would be an absolutely fantastic year for gaming, you'd probably at least give me a weird look. Sure, major franchises were making big appearances, but this is a console generation that has just about overstayed its welcome. Yet there was a remarkable amount of high-quality games, whether they came from surprising places, new IPs, or those major franchises that returned for another round. Picking the best of the best seems to be near impossible, I know, and the VGAs did a fairly good job covering most of them. Still, I can't help but feel that these ten games deserved more end-of-the-year recognition than they've gotten.
10. Forza Horizon
Call me crazy. Go ahead. I'll sit here and wait while you laugh.
Now, allow me to explain why I'm putting Forza Horizon on this list: It’s a game that I just keep coming back to. While fans of the traditional Forza series are upset that the insane amount of tuning and tweaking is gone, there's no mistaking that the heart of the franchise is still there. You can still pick up the worst cars, pimp them out Xzibit style, and race them with the big boys. But Horizon succeeds because it never goes about being the successor to Forza Motorsport 4. Developer Playground Games has created their own brand, taking cues from various racing franchises on the market and combining them into one accessible and enjoyable package.
It's also really, really pretty to look at.
9. World of Warcarft - Mists of Pandaria
When was the last time you hit a level cap in an MMO and found yourself completely dumbfounded as to what to do next? In Mists of Pandaria, there was an absolutely obscene amount of content to do once you hit level 90. Sure, questing and doing dailies can be a bit of a grindfest, but at least it’s a varied grindfest. Plus, you can't fault the game for a problem that practically defines the MMO genre.
Regardless, the amount to do at the expansion's end game is pretty impressive. You can pretend you are Azeroth's Pokémon Master with pet battles, gouge your eyes out with challenge modes, act as if you’re still in the Wrath of the Lich King or Cataclysm era and zerg through dungeons, or just kill the opposing faction countless times in PVP. It seems like the same great balance that WoWers have come to expect: accessibility and challenge/things to do.
8. The Last Story
One of two Wii JRPGs localized due to an impressive fan movement, The Last Story is the latest title from Hironobu Sakaguchi. Clearly, he still employs the same naming techniques used when creating Final Fantasy. Equally clear is that the man still knows how to make great JRPGs. Yes, the stories, characters, and such are all clichéd at this point, but really, it wouldn't be a JRPG it that weren't the case.
What makes The Last Story so great is its combat, combining action and strategy. If you prefer a more laid back approach to fighting, you can switch the combat to automatic and the game will do your attacks for you. I honestly can't imagine why, though.
The Last Story is simply one of the better JRPGs in recent memory.
A mod built from ARMA 2, DayZ is a zombie apocalypse game. But actually, that description is selling DayZ pretty short.
Roaming the world with nothing but a can of beans and an axe? You’d better not find a zombie. Or a hungry player. See, DayZ runs online, meaning you'll run into many other gamers. But not everyone is friendly; the purpose of the game is to live by any means necessary. So if I were to lack any sort of firepower and run into someone with more weapons than Fort Knox, I'd kill him if he was in a weakened state. The combination of avoiding zombies while figuring out which players you can trust is what makes DayZ worthy of the hype it earns. There's a reason why it was the most talked about game this past summer and called one of the best zombie games ever.
Yet, everyone seemed to have forgotten all about it when award season came around. Shame on you, gamers.
6. Persona 4 Arena
What if I told you that Atlus and Arc System Works would join forces to create a Persona fighter? Well, they did.
The result is a satisfying, accessible, and outrageously fun fighting game that features an incredibly deep story to boot. While the campaign's "gameplay" is nothing to write home about, with fights being few and far in between, the quality of the writing resonates well with fans of the Persona series. It helps too that fighting one another is not only accessible and easy, but still features the sort of depth we’d expect from a BlazBlue or Guilty Gear title.
5. Spec Ops: The Line
When I first played Spec Ops: The Line back at PAX East, I knew it was something special. It's a game that sticks with you, reminding you of the harsh realities of war. Personally, I seem to be in the minority of gamers here who greatly enjoyed the experience. But it's the story, the action, and the horrors of war that help make Spec Ops stand above the crowd of shooters.
There's a reason why critics praised the game upon its release this past summer. It's a shame we don't continue to admire what it's done for not only the shooter genre, but for gaming in general.
4. Persona 4 Golden
Ask anyone what the best Vita game is and they'll undoubtedly say Persona 4 Golden. But not just because it's an excellent game compared to the Vita’s all-too-disappointing software lineup. It's an excellent game compared to everything else released this past year. Yes, it's a remake of a PS2 game, but hot diggity damn, is this one of the better remakes out there. While Okami HD and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge had minor tweaks to accompany their re-releases, Atlus went all out for the Vita. New character, new cutscenes, expanded dialogue, more personas. Heck, it even helped Sony sell more Vitas upon the game's release.
Full disclosure: I want to make love to this game.
Fez, the charming platformer that spent far too long in development, finally came out this year, and I just can't stop gushing about it. Every time I put the controller down, I rush to pick it right back up. Simple gameplay, slick visuals, and the usage of the rotating background mechanic make Fez not only one of the best indie games of the year, but one of the overall better games of 2012. I dare you to play through the game without cracking a smile. I double dog dare you.
2. Far Cry 3
There's only one reason I'll accept for Far Cry 3 being snubbed out of awards this year: its December release. The best-rated shooter of the year, according to Metacritic, is not only the perfect capstone to 2012, but an excellent way to end this console generation as well. The open world of Rook Island begs to be explored, with treasures and dangers lurking around every corner. The gameplay is immersive, the environments are breathtaking, and the amount of content is staggering. A full-fledged campaign, a full co-op campaign, and the traditional Far Cry multiplayer offerings enhanced by the map editor should make Far Cry 3 skyrocket to the top of everyone's best of 2012 lists.
It's just a shame the game was released after most ballots were cast.
1. Xenoblade Chronicles
In the 22 months between Japanese and North American releases, Xenoblade Chronicles gained a large fan-based movement to convince Nintendo of America to localize the game. After all, this is the latest from Monolith Software. The game was incredibly well received in Japan. Few games could match the hype and anticipation, yet Xenoblade arguably exceeded its expectations.
Its European release last year gave way to 2011 Game of the Year nominations, but for whatever reason, North American outlets seem to be forgetting about the game. Maybe it's the fact that it was released in May on a dying system. When many review outlets label it as one of the best RPGs of this past generation, including the entries we've seen on Xbox 360 and PS3, I just can't help but scratch my head as to why it's not receiving the end-of-the-year praise it deserves.
Date: December 27, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*