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Game critics collective top 10 games of 2012

4:00 PM on 01.14.2013 // Allistair Pinsof

You probably can guess #1

My insatiable hunger for tracking and displaying the most revered games of the year will not end. I blame Metacritic. I also blame Metacritic for not doing a proper job in aggregating the best games of the year. While the site does an impeccable job of putting together film, TV and music critics' best of the year lists, the site ignores videogames -- offering up only a very confused list containing the highest scoring games, which includes maligned ports and games with only ~5 reviews.

I suspect Metacritic’s reluctance to gather all game critic’s best ofs has to do with a couple factors: most publications don’t post their lists until late December/January, most settle for unranked awards instead of lists, and putting all this together probably goes against some of Metacritic’s policies. Metacritic is a smooth operating machine and there is no way to smoothly pull of a list of 38’s sites' game of the year winners and nominees. While this list I made isn’t perfect -- nor could a perfect one ever exist -- it should give us all a better sense of what games meant the most to critics at the end of 2012.

The Process

Each site’s game of the year receives 3 points. In the rare case that there were two winners (ugh), those 3 points were split (i.e. 1.5 points each). I split 4 points among nominees, cutting off nominees to four entries where possible. In the cases where nominees were unranked, I included all nine (or whatever number) and split four points between them (rounded to .4 points each). If a site had more than nine nominees, I didn’t include them at all because having 20 nominees is just silly. In the case that two games had the same number of points, I favored the one with more votes (i.e. those that appeared on the most lists).

Finally, I must point out that some sites were left off this list because I couldn’t find their list or they opted out of doing one this year (see: 1UP).

The List

15. Black Ops 2: 2.4 (3 votes)
14. Spelunky: 2.4 (4 votes)
13. Guild Wars 2: 2.8 (4 votes)
12. (tie) Spec Ops: The Line: 3 (1 votes)
12. (tie) Xenoblade Chronicles: 3 (1 votes)
11. Trials Evolution: 3 (3 votes)

10) 6.7 (5 votes)

"Can you remember when you first found out that the game was going to be set during the American Revolution? There was a good chance that sales of adult diapers skyrocketed as a result. Ubisoft, we salute you." - Complex

9) 7 (5 votes)

"It's a perfect, wordless sci-fi parable - and an elegant comment on the development of video games themselves, expressed in a way only a game could articulate." - Eurogamer

8) 11.1 (9 votes)

"Halo 4 showed that a fresh set of hands couldn’t hurt a franchise so strong and so loved." - GameRevolution

7) 13.5 (13 votes)

"In a medium where narrative threads commonly go unresolved, BioWare should be commended for concluding most of the major sub-plots that were introduced in earlier games in the series." - Polygon

6) 16.7 (14 votes)

"If you are up for a good laugh while shooting things in the face, Borderlands 2 is a worthy game to add to your collection. Soon enough, you'll see numbers popping above people's heads in real life and will feel compelled to search every Porta Potty on the street for cash." - Destructoid

5) 19.6 (16 votes)

"Every part of Dishonored works in exquisite concert, every system complementing the others with a graceful cohesion that speaks of Corvo himself, and of the generosity in freedom and participation Dishonored extends to its players. Few games burst as fully formed from the ether – perhaps Dunwall’s most remarkable achievement is that it feels so inevitable." - Edge

4) 20.6 (15 votes)

"A multiplicity of tactics and paths provide the player with a sense of true psychosomatic and terrestrial exploration. Far Cry 3 is a intrepid sequel that eschews the series's previous mistakes and leans on its strengths with the relish of a practiced hunter." - Slant Magazine

3) 28.7 (17 votes)

"I could accuse developer thatgamecompany of obvious manipulation, warping the environment and the very light to instill emotions within me, but isn't that the point? To master the language of the medium, to be evocative and to make us walk a steep path and then let us savor the views from its peak? In Journey, world building, writing, and design feel like they're the same thing." - Joystiq

2) 29.9 (19 votes)

"The game is deep but intuitive. It rewards planning and focus, it penalizes failure. It requires patience but can still be exciting. It's an easy game to start playing and a tough one to stop. Plus, that music when you're going into battle, always gets us pumped." - Kotaku

1) 38.9 (23 votes)

"I want back the hour of my life I wasted on this game.

First, this isn't a game. It is an interactive movie. It is one of those inane "push the right button when it flashes on the screen" snooze fests. It is about 90% cut scenes with the occasional button push. If you like CoD type games or open worlds, you will HATE this "game".

Second, even for the genre it is terrible. The game has two modes: 1) an easy mode where it gives you hints about what is expected of you; and 2) a hard mode where there few if any hints. Not knowing what to expect, I opted for the hint mode. I would have actually been better off going it on my own.

The first time this barely interactive cartoon lets you do anything, you have to get out of a car, get off your handcuffs, and deal with a cop-turned-zombie. After you have crawled to where your back is up against a police car, the screen starts flashing "look at cop". Ok, I look at the cop. The character says something and the zombie keeps coming. So I look at cop again. Same result. The screen says again "look at cop". So I look at the cop again. And he jumps on me and eats my brains -- "You are dead" says the game. After it reloads, when it tells me to look at the cop, I DON'T look at the cop, but look to my right and left and find a shotgun with a shell. Then I get to shoot the zombie. So what you actually have to do is the exact opposite of what the hint on the screen is blaring at you to do.

And this is the VERY FIRST TIME you interact with the game. It does not get any better. I thought this style of game went out of vogue 30 years ago with the old Dragon's Lair quarter eater of the 80s. Sadly, it appears that this particular developer is going retro.

If you are a fan of the Walking Dead and this review makes you mad (as seems to be the case based upon the feedback I have seen on the negative reviews), after you get done downvoting me, download it for free, realize I was absolutely right, and go spend your money on the next season of the Walking Dead TV show or some other merchandise. I PROMISE you that you will thank me for it. If you buy this game you will be throwing away money that could be used to actually satisfy your Walking Dead fix and entertain you.

Don't say you weren't warned." - Angry user reviewer Gary, who did not factor into our ranking

The Rest

FTL: 2.4 (3 votes)
Mark of the Ninja: 2.4 (3 votes)
Super Hexagon: 2.4 (2 votes)
Max Payne 3: 2 (2 votes)
Sleeping Dogs: 2 (2 votes)
Hotline Miami: 1.4 (2 votes)
Diablo 3: 1 (1 votes)
FIFA 13: 1 (1 votes)
DOTA 2: 1 (1 votes)
Tribes: Ascend: 1 (1 votes)
Awesomenauts: 1 (1 votes)
PlanetSide 2: 1 (1 votes)
BlackLight Retribution: 1 (1 votes)
Zero Escape: .8 (2 votes)
Hitman: Absolution: .7 (1 votes)
Crusader Kings II .4 (1 vote)
Papa & Yo .4 (1 vote)
The Unfinished Swan: .4 (1 votes)

The Oddballs

Xenoblade Chronicles received rave reviews, accumulating to a Metacritic score of 92. Yet, it only appeared on one list: Slant Magazine's, which gave it game of the year.

Likewise, Mark of the Ninja and Trials Evolution have 90+ Metacritic scores but only managed to appear on 3 lists.

The biggest shock is our #10 and #9 entries. Assassin's Creed III divided critics almost as much as Resident Evil 6, but still managed to make this list (mostly due to receiving top honors on at least one list). Fez, on the other hand, is one of the most well received games in 2012 in terms of reviews and social media buzz (I can't think of many other games discussed so fervently on Twitter.)

The Sites

Kotaku: XCOM
    Noms: Super Hexagon, Crusdaer Kings II, Journey, Papa & Yo, Spelunky, Walking Dead, Zero Escape

Polygon: The Walking Dead
    Noms: Dishonored, XCOM, Journey, Far Cry 3

Joystiq: Journey
    Noms: Super Hexagon, Walking Dead, XCOM, Fez

Games Beat: Walking Dead
    Noms: XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Xbox 360, PC)Journey (PSN)Borderlands 2 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)Far Cry 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)Halo 4 (Xbox 360)Dishonored (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)

Gamespot: Journey
    Noms: Dishonored, Guild Wars 2, Halo 4, Mark of the Ninja, Mass Effect 3, Spelunky, Walking Dead, XCOM, Zero Escape

Machinima: Halo 4
    Noms: Borderlands 2, Black Ops 2, Dishonored, Mass Effect 3, Walking Dead, XCOM,

Game Informer: Mass Effect 3

XPlay: Borderlands 2
    Noms: Journey, Halo 4, Assassin’s Creed 3, Black Ops 2, XCOM, Hitman,

IGN: Journey
    Noms: Borderlands 2, Hotline Miami, Guild Wars II, FTL, Dishonored, The Unfinished Swan, Mass Effect 3, The Walking Dead, Halo 4

Game Spy: XCOM
    Noms: DOTA, Guild Wars 2, Planet Side 2, Borderlands 2

GameFront: Walking Dead
    Noms: Dishonored, XCOM, Tribes, Borderlands 2

Yahtzee: Spec Ops: The Line
Noms: Dishonored, The Walking Dead, Far Cry 3, XCOM,

Total Biscuit: Journey
    Noms: Awesomenauts, PlanetSide 2, FTL, BlackLight Retribution

Lazy Game Reviewer: Far Cry 3
Noms: Sleeping Dogs, Dishonored, Mark of the Ninja, Borderlands 2

EDGE: Dishonored
    Noms: Trials Evolution, XCOM, Spelunky, Super Hexagon

Complex: Walking Dead
    Noms: Journey, Far Cry 3, Assassin’s Creed 3, FIFA 13

Game Planet: Far Cry 3
    Noms: Borderlands 2, Walking Dead, Mass Effect, Guild Wars 2

Game Focus: Dishonored

OXM: Walking Dead
    Noms: Trials Evolution, Mark of the Ninja, Fez, Mass effect 3

Dark Zero: Journey
    Noms: Halo 4, Mass Effect 3, Walking Dead,Borderlands 2

The Guardian: Dishonored, XCOM
    Noms: Journey, Borderlands, Far Cry 3,

EuroGamer: Fez

Rev3: Journey

Telegraph: Walking Dead
    Noms: Journey, Dishonored, XCOM, Far Cry 3

GameRevolution: Assassin’s Creed 3
    Noms: Halo 4, Far Cry 3, Mass Effect 3, The Walking Dead

Slant Magazine: Xenoblade Chronicles
    Noms: Journey, Walking Dead, Borderlands 2, Far Cry 3

Thunderbolt: Walking Dead
    Noms: XCOM, Hotline Miami, Far Cry 3, Max Payne 3

Gamestm: Borderlands 2
    Noms: Dishonored, Fez, FTL, Halo 4

GameCentral Video Games: XCOM
    Noms: Journey, Dishonored, Mass Effect 3, Spelunky

Digital Spy: Walking Dead
    Noms: XCOM, Far Cry 3, Mass Effect 3, Trials Evolution

Dtoid: Walking Dead
    Noms: Borderlands 2, Dishonored, Journey, Mass Effect 3

Giant Bomb: XCOM
    Noms: The Walking Dead, Far Cry 3, Fez, Journey Halo 4
    Noms: The Walking Dead, Max Payne 3, Borderlands 2, Mass Effect 3

Gamesradar: Walking Dead

Action Trip: XCOM
    Noms: The Walking Dead: Season One (Telltale Games), Diablo 3 (Blizzard Entertainmentl), Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft Montreal), Assassins Creed 3 (Ubisoft Montreal).

EGM: Far Cry 3
    Noms: Borderlands 2, XCOM, Walking Dead, Sleeping Dogs

GameTrailers: XCOM
    Noms: Assassin’s Creed 3, Black Ops 2, Journey, Mass Effect 3,

3DJuegos: Dishonored

Allistair Pinsof,
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