10. Journey (PSN)
Clocking in at only two to three hours, Journey may be short, but the experience that it provides is entrancing and haunting. It's gorgeous, poignant and unforgettable, and it'll be the best $15 you spend this year.
Persona 4: Golden is a sweet update that satisfies many fans, even if it isn't of the same scale as some past Atlus PSP ports. At the very least, the game is something to behold in its higher resolution.
The Last Story bravely asks those who believe the JRPG genre has nothing left to offer to take another look. Beneath its surface, it bears little resemblance to its peers. At the same time, it's in good company as another entry on one of the most intimidating resumes in the video game business.
New Super Mario Bros. U provides all of the hallmarks of classic 2-D Mario gameplay: level design, lots of content, and gameplay balance. It may not push any boundaries, but it's more visually appealing and is one of the must-have Wii U titles of the year.
Torchlight II eagerly empowers the player with many of the things that made classic ARPGs great, and then it builds even more into the formula. It's perfect for an hour of your time or an online weekend binge with friends. Like many of the things in this game, it's up to the player on how they want to play it. For those who are still looking to fill their pockets with coins, collect mysterious weapons from a faraway land, and carefully craft their avatar, adventurers can't go wrong with Torchlight II.
Xenoblade Chronicles is an amazing RPG. In some ways, it's like a single-player MMO that effortlessly blends together advantages from both JRPGs and Western RPGs. Despite its linear, but deeply entertaining, story and its decisionless dialogue, the gameplay makes such shortcomings easy to forget. In as much as the Monado has given one of its heroes, Shulk, the ability to see the future, perhaps the same can be said of what Xenoblade Chronicles has brought to the table for JRPGs.
Overall, Borderlands 2 takes what wasn't broken and builds on it, but it does so in a way that feels very much like the original game. At the same time, the gameplay is different enough to not feel like a retread, as practically every area of the gameplay has been tweaked to some extent. Despite a few flaws, Borderlands 2 is another fantastic trip back to Pandora, and it's packed with the same level of humor and action that made the original so memorable.
Calling Sleeping Dogs something like an "open-world crime" game does it a disservice, as it invokes thoughts of simply shooting and carjacking yet another major metropolis. Sleeping Dogs is a more refined take on how an open-world game can play out, sacrificing the over-the-top content for a much more focused experience. The game does cut loose, and the melee combat is certainly a blast. Ultimately, Sleeping Dogs manages to marry open-world gameplay with an extremely engaging plot.
All of it is entertaining, and it gives you a sense that the island is little more than your plaything — a feeling that's only emphasized as your skills increase and you become a badass cross between Turok and Rambo. It's for that reason that Far Cry 3 comes across as a fresh experience and ranks up there as one of the best shooters of 2012.
As an adventure game, The Walking Dead is a hand-holding exercise in railroading and occasional tedium. As an experience, however, it's one of the most affecting and moving pieces of fiction available as a game, arguably in the history of the medium. Each episode has its own little five- or 10-minute pain in the ass, just to remind you that you're still in danger, and it's infuriating how certain major story beats occur with or without you, but The Walking Dead is probably the single highest-priority must-play game in 2012. It's well ahead of the TV show at this point, and it's neck-and-neck with Robert Kirkman's comic; it's that rare licensed game that is almost certainly going to surpass its source material.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown isn't just a pretty remake of an older game but a throwback to games that presented you just enough information to enter the cycle of attempts, failures, learning, and finally succeeding. By not holding your hand and letting you fail, even during the course of a pitched campaign, it really sweetens your successes and gives you a sense of personal ownership that many modern games lack. From its tough yet fair challenge to the way that all of the systems interconnect, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is an absolutely fantastic game and somehow balances what could have easily been an overwhelming palette of gameplay elements into one ridiculously engaging package.
Dishonored is an easy contender for the best game of the year. It does so much right, and the level of freedom and detail is absolutely staggering. There are few games that just point you at a target and tell you to get 'em. The world may be smaller than your Skyrims and Fallouts, but the gameplay is top-notch, offering fun combat and even more enjoyable stealth. Dishonored is a must-play game.