Top 5 Video Games of 2012

As with my previous top five game of the year lists, the following games are more a reflection of which titles I had the most fun with or felt were noteworthy for any number of reasons (gameplay, creativity, successfully catering to a certain genre, etc.). While these games do not exactly follow the ratings I ascribed to them, they follow more closely that some of the games I rated in years past, as each of these games earned ratings between 9 and 9.5. Also, any games that I had played in previous years were ineligible for making this list, unless they were a remake (in the case of the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection, MGS2 and MGS3 were not eligible, but Peace Walker was in the running and came pretty close to earning a spot this list).

#5Super Mario 3D Land: I’m generally partial to 3D Mario games over the side-scrolling entries, probably because Super Mario 64 was one of my first outings with Nintendo’s leading mascot. Super Mario 3D Land presents a hybrid of these two gameplay styles. None of the stages are particularly long, but they all feel fully-realized and present plenty of variation in aesthetic style and obstacles/enemies. The boss fights are perhaps the only lackluster part of the experience, but the airship stages leading up to each are exciting enough. The post-game is incredibly expansive – effectively, the number of stages is doubled, and said bonus stages are rather intense. The use of 3D allows for greater depth perception throughout, while also making a few key stages very cinematic in delivery.

#4Final Fantasy IV: Though I never played Final Fantasy IV in its original SNES release (known stateside as Final Fantasy II), I felt right at home the moment I started my journey with Cecil, Kain, Rosa, and company. Final Fantasy IV takes advantage of the DS to present a cleaner vision of the game. The soundtrack has been gorgeously reorchestrated, while the characters are portrayed as semi-chibi. The boss fights are impressively rendered and some of the obstacles require unorthodox means to overcome them - this is a large part of why I enjoyed FFIV so much; it retains the 1990s-era degree of challenge. The cast is easily my favorite from any of the Final Fantasy titles I have played to date, the battle system is perfect, and the whole experience feels genuinely rewarding.

#3Resident Evil Revelations: It’s rare that a handheld sidestory will stack up to a major release in terms of quality, but Resident Evil Revelations is, in my opinion, the best RE title since Resident Evil 4. The cruise ship setting is sufficiently creepy, while the enemy designs draw from sea creatures and round out the horror side of the experience. The game plays like the more action-heavy entries in the series, but ammo is not nearly as abundant as it is in either RE5 or RE6, forcing you to be tactical and conservative when fighting enemies. Resident Evil Revelations blurs the lines between handheld and console games, offering up what is one of the most impressive experiences on the 3DS to date.

#2Pokémon Black and White: Much like with Heart Gold and Soul Silver, I love the way that Nintendo has made the Pokémon games more user-friendly over time. Each of the new types available has its own particular use, with some being highly-specialized and others being fairly rounded, but the element of strategy is still as prominent as ever. I really appreciated the fact that the game required practically no time grinding so that I could keep chugging along through the story (which, I might add, is the best I've found in the entire series). The gym battles certainly dish out a better challenge in Black 2 and White 2, but the Elite Four battles are among the most intense and exciting portions of the games. Though Nintendo and Game Freak's decision to make direct sequels ended up having beautiful results, Pokémon Black and White gain a marginal advantage over Black 2 and White 2.

#1No More Heroes: Though I fell in love with No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle back in 2010, I actually did not play the original No More Heroes in proper until this year. While there are a few differences in the way the two play, I consider them equal in quality – though the second has better pacing and does not require Travis to complete side jobs to progress to each new ranking fight, the fights and characters themselves tended to be more memorable in the first game. Travis’ development from socially awkward otaku who wants to be number one to his eventual understanding of the gravity of what being an assassin can mean is something that gradually unfolds, and is wonderfully scripted instead of being explicitly stated to players. The gameplay is a perfect balance of traditional joystick and buttons with motion controls, the soundtrack is phenomenal, and No More Heroes is easily one of the best games to come out for any of this generation’s consoles.

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