2012: Despite it all, look what we achieved

It has been a brutal year for nearly everyone working in the video games business.

Be you a publisher struggling to keep out of the red, a developer facing project cancellations or a retailer trying to sell games in a dramatically contracting market, it’s been one of the toughest.

But that’s why we should be proud. The boom days of 2008 may seem like a distant memory, but despite the many obstacles and challenges our industry has made 2012 a vintage. I reckon we can safely call 2012 the best year for gamers that there ever has been.

Well done us! What, you don’t agree? Well check out this list of WIN and see what you think then.

But where to begin? I’ll start with FIFA 13. Not everyone’s cup of tea, I know, but for my money it’s not just easily the best football game ever made, but arguably one of THE greatest games ever made. I could play it forever.

But there are plenty of other Game of the Year contenders, too. Latecomer Far Cry 3 is rightfully being praised from every corner of the games industry, offering as it does the best sandbox FPS experience ever crafted. Expect some to plump for the magnificent Dishonored too, which amazingly redefines the stealth experience and wraps it up in a thoroughly original and utterly compelling world.

And what about XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the game that took many of us by surprise? What a cracking title that was. On the sci-fi tip, a hearty round of applause for Mass Effect 3, please, which is probably the best RPG I’ve ever played outside of Skyrim and Panzer Dragoon Saga. A fitting end to a magnificent saga.

And we’ve barely begun, either. Diablo III, Borderlands 2, LEGO Batman 2, Halo 4, Saints Row: The Third, Forza Horizon, Max Payne 3, Sleeping Dogs, F1 2012 – all fantastic releases.

Then there are some personal additions. EA did a good job rebooting the SSX brand and, despite what you may say, I really like Syndicate‘s washed white view of the future. There’s the though provoking Spec Ops: The Line, the sleeper hit Dragon’s Dogma and – yes, I’m going to say it – Hitman: Absolution, which I thought was fecking wonderful.

Despite being thoroughly underwhelmed by War for Cybertron, the Transformers fan in me was completely won over by Fall of Cybertron‘s Epic single player campaign (Metroplex heeds the call of the last Prime”!). I also enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man, whilst the shmup devotee in me thought Akai Katana was simply glorious. And rock hard. Hell, even PES 2013 was really good this year. And I still want to play Asura’s Wrath.

If there’s one thing that struck me when compiling this list it was the number of digital releases that have impacted on me in 2012.

I’m yet to play through some of the chapters in The Walking Dead, but what I’ve played so far suggests it’s a very special game. I’ve put a load of time into FTL: Faster Than Light (without ever getting to the end, even on easy, I might add) while Hotline Miami is the sort of experience that stays with you for hours after you’ve finished playing.

Trials Evolution, Spelunky, Fez, Mark of the Ninja and Papo & Yo are all must-plays, as is Slender: Eight Pages if you think you’re ‘ard enough. I Am Alive was another under-recognised outing, I’d argue, while DayZ was rightfully recognised by the press.

Add to these lot the commercial powerhouse that is Minecraft on Xbox 360. Oh, and I keep forgetting to play Dear Esther.

There’s a Game of the Year contender in this digital list, too – Journey. What an incredible title. Ambitious, beautiful, evocative and moving, it’s everything that a bite-sized download title should be and much more than most triple-A games achieve. The Unfinished Swan was another big favourite.

Even the iPhone has some seriously brilliant releases throughout the year. Super Hexagon (which is equally as amazing on PC, it should be said) is, in my opinion, the best small game ever made. And forget the haters – Curiosity: What’s Inside the Cubeis one of the most incredible gaming projects ever embarked upon. Fluid Football is also thoroughly deserving of its success.

It was a good year for shmups, too, with Cave releasing the incredible Bug Princess 2 (known to fans of the genre as Mushihimesama Futuari) and former Windows Phone exclusive DoDonPachi Maximum.

Angry Birds Star Wars and Rayman Jungle Run both proved that big IP can thrive on a smartphone when done correctly, while Punch Quest, Plague Inc, Letterpress and Super Crate Box proved that tiny devs with new IP can fare just as well.

Look at that list. What other creative industry can lay claim to so much quality output? And if the industry can do all of this while in the grips of a ferocious downturn, imagine what it can do when things improve.

Merry Christmas!

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