Welcome, welcome to the first annual Golden Blophish Awards (the GBAs if you will). Here I will name what I think to be the best games of 2012. Note, that these awards only apply to games that I actually played. FIFA 2013 might be the best sports game to come out this year, and Halo 4 might hand out free candy to children in the park, but since I didn't play either of those games, they won't be showing up here. Make of that what you will. Now for the actual awards:
Best Mobile Game: Uncharted: Golden Abyss
I know some people want me to say Temple Runner, but there is no way that happens on my watch when another, much better mobile game about an adventuring archeologist comes out in the same year. Uncharted: Golden Abyss was a launch title for the Playstation Vita that launched in the US back in February, and it really impressed me when I picked it up. It looked almost as good as the original Uncharted on the PS3, and featured a long single player campaign with a lot of high quality voice acting. Uncharted: Golden Abyss could have stood on it's own as a full Playstation 3 release, yet somehow the magicians at Sony Bend managed to put it on a hand held device. Overuse of some of the Vita's gimmicks did hurt the experience a bit, but that shouldn't distract you from how awesome it is that we got a full Uncharted title that we could play on the go.
Best Game Where You Punch a Shark: Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3 was a pretty big surprise. After the lackluster shooter with questionable design decisions that was Far Cry 2, and some previews that made Far Cry three looks like another linear generic shooter, Far Cry 3 turned out to be a fantastic free-roaming jungle hunt set on a dense and fascinating island with tons of stories to tell. The island felt like a living, breathing place, where you would occasionally run into groups of pirates and natives engaged in a firefight without you having anything to do with it, then watch that same firefight end with all the combatants being consumed by a hungry pack of komodo dragons. Fascinating well voice-acted and animated characters and one of the best antagonists in recent memory didn't hurt the experience either. While the game was a bit too easy, lacking in proper survival mechanics, and contained some truly awful multiplayer and co-op modes, it was a great ride, and one that probably won't be forgotten for awhile.
Best Browser Game: Frog Fractions
There aren't a lot of “funny” games. Sure, a a lot of games include a few jokes or amusing moments, but few commit themselves to just being funny, and even fewer actually succeed in being so. Everyone has his or her own sense of humor, but I doubt that there are many people who wouldn't get a few laugh out of Frog Fractions [hyperlink to http://twinbeardstudios.com/frog-fractions]. It's a pretty simple game that also manages to be hilarious. It doesn't cost anything, and it's a flash game, so you don't have a reason not to a least check it out.
Best HD Collection/Updated Re-release: Persona 4 Golden
Well hasn't it gotten trendy to re-release old game on new platforms with (maybe) a new coat of paint for slightly less then a brand new full priced game. Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry, Zone of the Enders, and a few Resident Evil games all got the HD collection treatment in the last year with varying results (Some of those games actually ran worse on modern consoles then they did on the original platforms they came out for almost or more than ten years ago). The Persona 4 Golden for the Playstation Vita came out and reminded everyone how a proper updated re-release is made. It came with a lot of new content, some improved mechanics, and even some new anime cutscenes. The fact that it is also a really good game didn't hurt either. Persona 4 Golden included enough new content to justify it's own existence, which is pretty rare these days in the world of updated re-releases (cough completely broken Silent Hill 2 HD cough).
Best Cyberpunk Game:
Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that was really popular in the eighties and the nineties, but has sort-of died out now because most of the stuff that it predicted either came true (virtual worlds, advanced worldwide computer networks, smartphones, a sudden swing to the right in American politics, and large corporations that engage in lots of sketchy stuff of questionable legality) or just sounds silly now (any hair or clothing style mentioned in that genre comes to mind). Still, some elements of cyberpunk still have yet to be determined, such as how bad global warming is going to get, and the future of artificial intelligence. This year we got an interesting game that dealt with both of those questions by the name of Binary Domain. An attempt to make a Japanese counterpart to Gears of War by the Sega studio that made the Yakuza games, Binary Domain was a solid cover-based third person shooter with a really interesting plot that was marred by a bit of controller clunk, and a squad system based on voice commands that worked 70% of the time at best. If you were able to get over that (and I was seeing how desperate I am for anything cyberpunk) there was a fun, engaging game to be found with some of the best robot damage modeling I have ever seen in a game. Blasting robots apart and watching as the various bits came flying off never got old, and the game did feature quite a few cool plot twists near the end. Unfortunately, while it ends with an obvious sequel hook, mediocre sales mean that we probably aren't getting a sequel any time soon.
Best Ninja Simulator: Mark of the Ninja
One of the first games I review for The Blophish was also one of the best. Tight controls, flawless stealth gameplay, and beautiful 2D graphics made Mark of the Ninja the new standard for stealth games. A plethora of interesting gadgets (many of which referenced other games in the stealth genre), and multiple ways to accomplish objectives kept the game from getting old too quickly, and most important of all, the game actually made you think like a Ninja.
Best Tearjerker: The Walking Dead
Well that was unexpected wasn't it? People stopped caring about adventure games more than ten years ago (blame Gabriel Knight 3's cat hair puzzle) and pretty much the only company keeping the genre alive is Telltale Games, makers of the recent Sam and Max, and Monkey Island games. Well this year they came out with an episodic Walking Dead adventure game, and it was really good. While the gameplay was pretty basic, The Walking Dead managed to tell a genuinely moving story that reacted to the decisions you made over the course of five three hour episodes. The unique comic book aesthetic certainly didn't hurt the game, and the sheer quality of the title as a whole may well have revived the adventure game genre. Not many people expected the walking dead to be more than “good.” It wasn't just good, it was great. And yes, there were manly tears when I got to the ending. Because like in most Zombie apocalypse stories, it was pretty sad, and you get pretty attached to the characters during the twelve hours it takes to complete all five episodes.
Game of the Year: Spec Ops: The Line
The Walking Dead adventure game might have been a surprise, but that was nothing compared to Spec Ops: The Line. If you paid attention to all of the pre-release hype for the game, or just looked at the cover you would probably expect your typical jingoistic America saves the day paranoid gun wank fantasy modern military shooter consisting purely of shooting people who aren't white in countries with and abundance of sand, oil and suicide bombers. Instead we got a game that is hands down the most savage and effective critique of the modern military shooter genre available. When we look back years from now, Spec Ops: The Line will be the turning point: the game that made it clear that video games had grown up to be more then just mindless entertainment, and were starting to become an artistic medium comparable to literature and film. Spec Ops isn't happy game, but it has a really well written and deep story that really manages to get inside your head, and make you feel legitimately awful for stuff you do in a video game. It isn't a fun game, but it's a game that had to be made, and more importantly, one that has to be played.