2012’s gaming canon: five more titles you can’t miss from a wonderful year of games
Creating these lists can be enjoyable, especially when you're not using any kind of order. We think all of these games are worth your time, and breaking them out by platform or some kind of ranking system didn't sit right with us. It's also been fun to really take our time with things across the week, and I think it adds a little bit of drama. Hey, Walking Dead was episodic, and you loved that!
Assassin's Creed 3 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
Those chase sequences were the worst, and the game's mechanics could often feel clunky and unfinished, but taken as a package Assassin's Creed 3 remains one of the most fascinating games of the year. Taking place during the American Revolution and providing insight about how and why the country became free was a bold move for an established series, but it paid off in the end. While the end of Desmond's story may have landed with a thud rather than applause, the sequences that allow you to control Connor are enjoyable, and well-written. Plus, the damn thing opens with a plot twist that left us surprised and delighted. How many giant budget games can claim that? Want to read about it? Selecting victims in Assassin’s Creed 3: These are real people, and this is where and when they died American history as a bloody, uncertain battleground: PAR plays Assassin’s Creed 3 A full-spoiler look at the story and struggle of Assassin’s Creed 3
Happy Action Theater (Xbox Live Arcade)
You can argue that Kinect Party should have nabbed this slot, and it's free to play now so you should definitely try it if you have an Xbox 360 and a Kinect, but Happy Action Theater had a year to spread its particular joy, so we're going to give the nod there. This isn't a game as much as it's a delightful toy that allows you to play in front of your television. Grab a kid, or a friend, and experience the magic. Happy Action Theater has been used to help reach children with special needs, and it has a unique ability to get people to smile, play, and open up. It's this sort of giddy experimentation and fun that is often missing in modern games, and this is something you have to at least try if you have the necessary equipment. Hell, just leave it on in the background at your next party. People can't walk by without pausing, looking at the TV, and then playing. It pulls people in, and it's welcoming to every age group and ability level. Want to read about it? Using Kinect and Happy Action Theater as therapy: how one school is reaching autistic children
Dear Esther (PC)
The question of what makes something a game, or whether something is a game or not… well, it's boring. Dear Esther allows the player to wander around a sort of audio-visual poem, and it tells you a story that is both mysterious and touching. It's another example of an experience that could only get its message across as a video game, and it forces you to slow down and take everything in at a very deliberate pace. Some people will simply enjoy spending time in a beautiful setting. Others will want to see everything the game has to offer, and dig as far as they can into what is being shown. There is no right or wrong way to play, and no way to lose. This is one of our favorite games of the year, and the lessons it teaches in storytelling have stuck with us through the year. Want to read about it? Dear Esther is a game, but you have to bend to its will to enjoy the experience
Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
Mass Effect 3 could go on this list for several reasons. It's the end to an epic-scale space opera that began in 2007. It has an addictive multiplayer component that continues to be supported with free character packs. Its original ending stirred consumer outrage so strong that the Better Business Bureau got involved. The ensuing controversy sparked a discussion about authorship of content in games, and how much the industry belongs to players vs. developers and publishers. Whatever reason you believe, Mass Effect 3 had an undeniable presence in 2012. It helped define the year, and for that, plus its high level of polish and fun game play, it deserves your attention. Want to read about it? Why the ending of Mass Effect 3 was satisfying, and worthy of the series (Massive spoilers) Mass Effect 3’s Extended Cut doesn’t fill all the plot holes, it allows you to peer deeper into them
The Walking Dead (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
The Walking Dead challenged many beliefs about video games: that games can't tell an emotionally-affecting story, that players won't respond to plot and conversation like they will to guns and explosions, and that the classic point-and-click adventure game is dead. Telltale's interpretation of Robert Kirkman's universe has been nigh-universally lauded as superior even to the AMC television show, with stellar writing and deep characters you'll come to love, hate, and protect. The episodic nature of The Walking Dead kept us on edge for weeks as we wondered what would happen next, what could possibly go more wrong. Patience was rewarded in the end, as the game's spectacular finale forced players to justify the choices they had been making, many of which were based on deciding between bad and worse. You can't be a good guy in Telltale's The Walking Dead, but you can be human. Want to read about it? The Walking Dead game is better than the TV show, not as good as the comic The Walking Dead’s Clementine is gaming’s cutest shotgun on the wall (Spoilers through Ep. 3) The Walking Dead’s Gary Whitta talks gender bias, Clementine’s role, and hints at Episode 4 We continue our march through the best of 2012 with five more games tomorrow. Until then, how are we doing?