It’s been a great year for video games, and now it’s celebration time. MultiplayerGames breaks from its usual multiplayer-only style just once per year, and there is no better excuse than a best of list. Celebrate the best 2012 offered us all before the stacked 2013 gaming year kicks off (and if you’re nostalgic, revisit the best video games of 2011!)
For the problems the Vita would find in its debut, there were a few beacons of light to squelch the hate. One of them was a loaded Hot Shots Golf title. Beautiful (and dangerously difficult) course design brought this series into a new portable era. Gone was the toned down, PS One-esque PSP entries, Hot Shots renewed by mimicking the brilliance of Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds on the PS3. Fully featured – rare for any launch title – there remains life in this one even now. Boot it up and head online for a great, accessible golfing ride.
Where did this come from? Klei Entertainment almost made this list via Shank 2, but Mark of the Ninja is 2D, stealth brilliance. That line was written by someone who doesn’t even care for stealth. Levels bring with them options, ways to sneak around like a true ninja and feel totally superior. A clever, simple control mechanic means stealthy kills are not guaranteed, but stressful. After a trek through roofs and vents, being caught is a debilitating feeling, and with Klei’s stunning art style, this one takes on a life of its own.
While the engine may be waning, the closing moments of Black Ops II’s campaign is enthralling. The US comes under attack in spectacular fashion, with crumbling buildings and the economy thrashed underneath them. It’s unforgettable scripted design, with scale only matched by the most bloated Michael Bay blockbusters. Tack on the (almost) best-in-class multiplayer that plays with the normalcy of the franchise via individualized loadouts (plus a wacky, bus riding zombie expansion), it becomes hard not to play along.
A mixture of superior tower defense and RTS design merge to create a stunning blend of style, tension, and leveling. Players trek across alien-infested landscapes, battling their forces with a train of human technology. Making it through to the end means keeping each element of the vehicle train alive, which isn’t easy against such ferocious forces. New elements are consistently introduced to throw new wrinkles into what were growing, static strategies. Anomaly doesn’t allow comfort, and it’s a genre mix that needs more entries.
A homage to everything 8-bit ( and even things that aren’t) Retro City Rampage is exhaustive when it comes to references. Hardly a screen passes by that doesn’t offer a glimpse into something an ’80s child will relate to. Catching them all is all but impossible, but sharing what you did with friends makes it worthwhile. A retro-fied Grand Theft Auto, this one is all over the place in terms of structure, but the core mechanics are shooting and driving mayhem. It works remarkably well and the pacing is breathless. Video options mimic vintage PC games, Game Boy screens, and even the Virtual Boy. It’s hard to tire of something that never slows down.
A blistering sense of speed makes for one of the best Criterion titles ever. Need for Speed’s arcade side has never been done better, with thrilling open world chases, tight friends list integration, and ridiculous crashes. Most Wanted is a return to form after disappointing entries like The Run. While car unlocking will weirdly break the pacing, consider it a moment to catch your breath. It’s also worth noting the mobile edition is a blast too, and even if it ditched the open world mechanics, furious pacing cannot be ignored. A superior product launch across all platforms, and that deserves notice.
Woe be the person who did not give Double Dragon Neon due. Despite an outward appearance that says otherwise, Neon has a ton of meat on these vintage, beat-em-up bones. A crafty dodge system rewards the player who pays close attention, and in true vintage style, you have to learn patterns. Neon cannot be truly conquered until every enemy is dispatched using proper methods. Leveling through cassette tapes is a joy, and in co-op, Neon shines. It’s wacky, it’s funny, and it’s mechanically sound. WayForward pays total respect to the source, and all the while having a blast as they pay respect to a genre that deserves a comeback.
Under the radar as it was, Binary Domain is as good a third-person shooter as you’ll find. Some of the most satisfying shooting mechanics ever combine with a unique partner system that leads into multiple endings. Players war with rogue robots while trying to keep a steady hand as the situation deteriorates. The graphics engine loses nothing even as the screen swarms with enemy robots, and their unrelenting attack ensures no two encounters are the same. While voice commands are inconsistent, the d-pad can pick up the slack and ensure you stay on the right path. You’ll learn quickly how important relationships are to Binary Domain’s style, and seeing it through to the wildly goofy finish it worth it.
Best. Multiplayer shooter. Ever. That’s right. Better than Counter Strike. Better than Team Fortress. Better than Call of Duty. Halo 4’s mesmerizing first-person gunplay is the perfect balance of challenge and satisfaction, revitalizing a series on unsteady legs after a tired Halo Reach. New developer 343 Industries puts their all into this one to give the series a new look, fresh faces, grand story rooted in lore, and versus play that is as wild as ever. Weird things happen in Halo because they can, meaning each match can create something memorable. To maintain that open-ended feel while tweaking everything is an achievement worth celebrating. Halo 4 feels completely new, a refresh that sparks this franchise back into top contender status, right where fans (and Microsoft) wants it to be.
Halo 4 is not forever. We will play it now, have fun, but then move on to Halo 5, certainly praising all that it does right. By design, it’s destined to be passed over. Journey won’t be.
You cannot outright discuss Journey. To say what it means and what it stands for is to void the title of its ultimate discovery and beauty. Finding random, unspoken online strangers is more than a gameplay element, it stands for something we all experience. Rolling sands create the feeling of an open playground, something to explore before entering catacombs and deserted structures, all of which will be interpreted for years.
The key is that Journey is about more than, well, the journey. Sprawling landscapes are a joy to progress through, while sliding and falling is appropriately uncontrolled. There are scares, there are highs, there are lows, and there are moments of simply stunning beauty. If you have avoided the already weighted call of the media and PlayStation community, you’re only cheating yourself. Take the journey.