With a brand new year of (hopefully) great games kicking off tomorrow, we thought we’d end 2012 with a bang. Sure we’ve spent all of December looking at the best games of 2012 in their respective categories, but what about the very best? What about the games that rise above genre and platform to be counted among the elite? Which one game managed to earn the coveted title of Gamezebo’s Game of the Year?
Whether you agree or disagree with our picks, we’d love to hear your choice. What was your Game of the Year in 2012? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!
#10 – Hero Academy (iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac)
There aren’t many games that master “simple, yet deep” as well as Hero Academy has. One of the best asynchronous games out there, players take turns moving their tiny armies across a grid in an attempt to dominate their opponents. With different teams, different strategies, and a perfect quick-play design, Hero Academy was the strategy-loving gamer’s equivilant to Draw Something. Start a dozen games, push out your turns, and fell your opponents on the end of your goblin blade.
#9 – Thomas Was Alone (PC, Mac)
People don’t play puzzle platformers for their story. Not usually, anyways. But then there’s Thomas Was Alone. An “indie minimalist 2D platformer about friendship and jumping,” as its developers describe it. And it might be the single most charming game of 2012.
It tells the tale of poor lonely Thomas, who quickly makes friends and explores the world around him. As you play, you’ll have a hard time deciding which you like more – the puzzles or the narration. Both are outstanding, but the real catch here is the voice work that tells Thomas’ story step-by-step through every stage. If you’ve ever wanted Danny Wallace as to narrate everything you do in life, this is the closest you’re ever going to get.
#8 – The Room (iPhone, iPad)
Winston Churchill once described Russia as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” And while that may have held true in 1939, I think that such a description in 2012 is much more fitting for Fireproof Games’ The Room. Or at the very least, a modified version: “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a box.”
Players are given only one task – open the box you find in The Room. But like all tasks in video games, this one is far from simple. Layer after layer, the box peels back like and onion revealing challenging puzzles and brain teasers if you want to open it further. Can you solve the mystery of the box in The Room?
#7 – Rayman Jungle Run (iPhone, iPad, Android)
Sometimes all you want is a platformer that focuses on the core fundamentals: speed, jumps, and top notch level design. Rayman Jungle Run manages to excel in all three categories, taking the one-touch nature of endless runners and applying it to gorgeously detailed finite levels. And did we mention that Rayman’s gameplay style changes with every world, too? As bold as it might be to say, Rayman Jungle Run might just be the perfect mobile platformer.
#6 – Angelica Weaver: Catch Me When You Can (PC, Mac)
If there’s one failing that hidden object games suffer from, it’s that too many of them try to cram hidden object scenes and stories together without any care for how they mesh. Angelica Weaver bucks this trend by making ever hidden object hunt a part of the bigger story. Combine that with outstanding production value, an engaging story, and believable characters, and you can see why this one managed to earn top marks as our Hidden Object Game of the Year.
#5 – Botanicula (PC, Mac)
When Amanita Design releases a game, just buy it. Don’t worry about reviews. Don’t worry about price. Just download, play, and enjoy. When the folks behind Machinarium have something new for you to play, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be golden – and such was the case with Botanicula.
Point-and-click adventures are usually plenty verbose, but Botanicula takes another approach. Not a single word is spoken. Instead, the story is told entirely through the action that unfolds onscreen as players explore a vibrant world – one that exists on a single tree. It’s beautiful, it’s charming, and it’s fun. What more could you want in a game?
#4 – Scribblenauts Unlimited (PC)
When it debuted on the Nintendo DS back in 2009, Scribblenauts was a game that offered an amazing concept, but had trouble delivering on the lofty goals that this concept set. Flash forward three years to the release of its sequel, Scribblenauts Unlimited, and gamers were finally given the game they’d been dreaming of all along.
A puzzle game that tests your creativity more than your problem-solving, Scribblenauts Unlimited will let you create anything just by typing it in. If you can imagine it, you can create it. And when trying to solve puzzles, that freedom can lead to some amazing scenarios. And did we mention the sequel introduces adjectives? Just a simple modifier can be a puzzle solution. Tell a beggar that they’re “clever,” and they’ll be off to solve their woes!
#3 – Marvel: Avengers Alliance (Facebook)
What is there to say about Marvel: Avengers Alliance that hasn’t been said already? Our pick for Facebook game of the year, Playdom’s superhero RPG manages to present the genre’s deep combat choices with the quick play nature that Facebook gamers demand. Want to jump into a single round with Wolverine and friends and you slash Sentinels to pieces? It’ll only take about three minutes. Would you rather while away a half hour while your boss is at lunch? It can accommodate that too.
There were plenty of RPG’s on Facebook in 2012, but none managed to get it quite as right as Avengers Alliance did.
#2 – Super Hexagon (iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac)
When I asked a friend what he liked about Super Hexagon, he told me that he’d never played anything that was so purely a game before. “It might be the perfect distillation of what a video game is,” he said. And despite the lofty weight that comes with such a statement, after only a few minutes with the game I realized how right he was.
Boiled down to nothing but pure gameplay, Super Hexagon is bare bones brilliance. With no story, setting, or characters, players just rotate left and right as they try to survive long enough to outdo their best time. You’ll never be able to put this one down.
#1 – The Walking Dead (PC, Mac, iPad)
Thanks to Telltale’s Walking Dead series, the line between “amazing storytelling” and “interactive entertainment” has officially been erased. That’s not to say that video games haven’t been vehicles for engaging stories before, but have we ever really been able to say “it’s a great story” without adding “…for a video game”? Here, that modifier simply isn’t required. The Walking Dead is a great story, period.
And while it’s set in the same zombiepocalypse as the comic book/TV show that it’s based on, prior knowledge of these things isn’t required. You’ll be following a new group of characters (though a few familiar faces will turn up) who are experiencing their own unique, self-contained story of survival in a world beset by undead.
What’s more, this great story will force players to make some tough choices. When everything is at its worst, which character will you try and save? And how will the choices you make affect how others perceive you? Telltale has done some amazing things in adventure games over the last few years, but despite how great everything that came before it was, The Walking Dead is clearly the crown jewel in their collection – and it’s our pick for Game of the Year.
With another year come and gone, Gamezebo is looking back at the best games that 2012 had to offer. Our month-long retrospective will touch on just about every type of game you can imagine – so be sure not to miss any of it! Check out our full collection of Best of 2012 articles.