With 2012 coming to a close, game of the year discussions are starting to surface, with more than a handful of awesome titles vying for first place.
But for all the great triple-A sequels made this year, there were plenty of great smaller games that might have slipped under your radar. Sure, they might not be as big as the major releases this year, but they’re no less important or impressive, and certainly warrant some of your time before we head into the very busy Q1 2013. For your convenience, here’s a list of great games you might have missed from 2012.
Faster Than Light (PC)
This Kickstarter project-turned-Steam game was one of the most creative and interesting games I’ve played this year. It’s a mostly text-based space game that tasks you with escaping enemies, all while exploring the universe and making tough decisions during randomly-generated encounters. Permadeath and a punishing difficulty make the game a challenge, but it’s nonetheless one of the most rewarding downloadable games you’ll play this year.
To The Moon (PC)
This was the first game I’ve ever awarded a 10/10 review score to, and for good reason. With interesting visuals, and an amazing story, the game is one of the most unique experiences you’ll ever have, and certainly one that needs to be tried firsthand, especially if you’re a gamer who loves narrative-driven games. It follows the exploits of two doctors helping a dying man alter his memories in order to die happy, all while bringing up issues of morality, memory, and the value of real experience.
(For a review of To The Moon, click here)
Sleeping Dogs (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
We ring the bell for this game a lot here on Leviathyn, because the game deserves a good amount of praise. After a troubled development, Sleeping Dogs managed to pull together in a way that not only made it a competent open world game, it’s one of the most engaging and interesting open world games to be released in years. Combat is fluid, driving is fun, there’s plenty to do by the way of side missions and challenges, and the overall narrative is compelling and interesting. If you’re looking to scratch your open world itch this year, Sleeping Dogs is the way to go.
(For a review of Sleeping Dogs, click here)
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (PC, Xbox 360, PS3)
Everyone heard plenty about it after the debacle that was the 38 Studios closing, but I can’t help but feel like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning isn’t getting the right attention it deserves. The game was a fantastic action RPG with a beautifully realized world and rich backstory. Combat was fluid and satisfying, and there was plenty to see and explore in this game that made it one of the more compelling fantasy titles to be released this year. Unfortunately, it’s unclear what’s going to happen to the property at this point in time, but you’ve still got the opportunity to pick up copies of Amalur itself. Do it. You won’t regret it.
Rayman Jungle Run (iOS, Mobile)
iOS games have gone through a major shift in the past year or so, with a majority of them moving from a paid to free-to-play model. Opinions on this differ, but one game that stayed true to the paid formula was Rayman Jungle Run. It’s a platformer with intutive touch controls, great visuals a la Rayman Origins, and plenty of replay value to keep you engaged for hours. Best of all, there’s no gimmicks or in-app purchases; what you see is what you get with Rayman Jungle Run, and it’s a game both the casual and hardcore crowds will enjoy.
(For a review of Rayman Jungle Run, click here)
Sure, plenty of people have played it already, but it’s worth mentioning it again. Thatgamecompany’s Journey is undoubtedly one of the most important downloadable games of the year, on par with the likes of Mark of the Ninja and The Walking Dead. With a beautiful visual style, seamless multiplayer integration, and an interesting story, it’s an artistic experience that captivated many and shouldn’t be overlooked this year.
Spelunky (Xbox 360, PC)
A remake of the original PC title, Spelunky is a tough-as-nails 2D platformer that will chew you up and spit you out, all while laughing in your face. It successfully captures the challenge of old games, coupling it with a neat art style to keep it up to date in our modern age. If you’re a fan of challenging games with a retro feel, Spelunky is the game for you.
(For a review of Spelunky, click here)
There’s no genre as troubled as the horror genre these days, particularly in the triple-A market. Where games start out as true survival horror games, they eventually morph into action horror shooters like Resident Evil 5. Not so with Slender, an independently developed horror game-turned-phenomenon.
Slender is based on the mythos of the Slender Man, a tall, thin apparition who first made his appearance in internet memes and culture. In Slender, you’re dropped in a dark woods and tasked with finding eight pages of creepy drawings featuring the Slender Man. As you collect more and more pages, you’ll start to see the his ghastly form stalking you. It’s game over if he manages to catch up to you before you collect all the pages, making Slender one of the most involved and true horror experiences this year. And it’s free! Who doesn’t love that?
(For a review of Slender, click here)
Mark of the Ninja (Xbox 360, PC)
One of the truest-to-form stealth games of the year, Mark of the Ninja released rather quietly, and for that, I feel like it’s warranted another look. It’s certainly one of the best 2D stealth games released in a long, long time, and one that longtime fans and newcomers of the genre can mutually enjoy. You’re a ninja with a power-granting tattoo, sneaking around and completing objectives in order to bring down your enemies. Different weapons, abilities, upgrades, and situations all make for a challenging and satisfying game that doesn’t disappoint. Mark of the Ninja will make you feel like a ninja, and for that, it definitely needs to be checked out.
(For a review of Mark of the Ninja, click here)
Torchlight II (PC)
The follow up to the original clickfest Torchlight, Torchlight II sees a return to the same gameplay style with more options, better UI, a bigger world, and many more side quests and tasks to take on. Visuals are impressive, gameplay is fun, and there’s nothing better than playing around with the different class upgrades and abilities while slaughtering enemies and picking up endless amounts of loot. If you’re coming off of your Diablo III high, or even just looking to jump in on a seamless RPG, Torchlight II is definitely worth playing.
(For a review of Torchlight II, click here)
Got any suggestions I might have missed? Give us your list of great games from 2012 in the comments below!