Our site-centric awards for the first half of 2012 do not exactly reflect my personal choices in many cases, so I sat down to share my top five games from that period of time. I play a wide variety of games, and there are some others I really wanted to include. But this was the list I settled on. Let me know in the comments below what your top five are.
5. The Pinball Arcade
Early this year, I found out that I love pinball. Sure, I played Space Cadet pinball on my PC back in the good ‘ol ’90s like every other shmuck, but after playing all of the lovingly crafted real-life pinball tables in Pinball Arcade, I feel like I really understand why pinball has such significance. Whether it’s the incredibly hectic Black Hole table, which has an upside down pinball table inside of it, or the magnet-riddled Theatre of Magic, every table that developer Farsight Studios brings into the game has its own atmosphere that just feels great. Oh, and I now know why it’s so important to use “tilt.”
4. The Walking Dead: Episodes one and two
I don’t care about the Walking Dead show anymore, really. That’s because developer Telltale Games has so precisely nailed their believable characters and tense moments that make most of the player-made decisions so excruciating to make. It’s a game, lovingly painted in a texturally scratchy comic book style, that forces the player into situations where any decision seems like it can jeopardize the lives and feelings of the people they’ve worked so hard to save – or characters they thought they’d never care about at all. If the rest of Telltale’s episodic Walking Dead releases continue to match the quality of their current entries in the series, the 2012 game of the year discussion could be much shorter than last year’s.
3. Mass Effect 3
I had such a hard time putting this game down once I started playing it. This wasn’t because of the impending doom facing the galaxy, but because of the juxtaposition of the intimate moments between the characters with the sense of urgency permeating every mission and side quest. The Commander Shepard that I’d steered through so many battles and decisions in the past games was put in a situation that made me feel like I had to battle for every inch of advantage in a hopeless struggle while saying goodbye – in more than one way – to the characters I’d known and fought alongside across two other games.
Bioware may have disappointed a very vocal minority but, after I finished Mass Effect 3, all I could think about was how my decision weighed on the characters in that universe. It’s an incredible thing to feel for what many outside of our industry feel is “just a game,” and it’s a testament to how well developer Bioware has crafted their universe and the experiences in it.
2. Twisted Metal
I feel like I don’t have the language to describe how “always on” of an experience Twisted Metal is. I feel like every match is just such a glorious and fine tuned flurry of clowns and chain saws, all to the tune of heavy metal, gangster rap, and the sweet clatter of chain guns ‘n’ rockets. Of course, throughout it all, your car, truck, bike, or hybrid robot-ice cream truck is falling to pieces as the occupants can be seen firing shotguns and rocket launchers out of the windows.
The best part is that the online community is still active on weekends. The population of almost any other multiplayer game that has or has yet to be released this year can dissipate into nothingness. But if Twisted Metal ceases to have enough people online to start a match, well, that’ll be a sadder day for me than when I found out that no one was playing Mechassault 1 for the Xbox anymore. Yeah, my tastes are weird, I know.
I started up Journey before I began this article to give myself a refresher and I felt like a sensitive heap of tender emotions within minutes. There aren’t any words spoken throughout the entire experience of Journey and I realized, playing through it again, that no words can really be spoken by the people playing the game either. Developer Thatgamecompany does such a masterful job of conveying a story about life, death, and relationships through imagery and sound that to add anymore to the experience would be unfathomably disastrous.
That’s a lot of hyperbole to swallow, sure, but I stand by my opinion that anyone who holds this medium dear should give this game a try and then listen to our spoilercast.
Chime in below on your personal picks and, please, save those gripes about Mass Effect 3′s ending. Really, just let that argument die, already.