2012 Year in Review: My 5 Favorite Games

I’ve never been that fond of Game of the Year lists; I find that the vast majority of gamers and gaming outlets tend to focus on the same popular titles that, in all honesty, I have absolutely no interest in. On the other hand, some people out there do have good taste, as is evident by Journey receiving a slew of GotY praise, so not all hope is lost… and I can definitely understand the appeal of rounding up one’s favorite games from any given year for the sake of comparison, so to that end I’ll be joining the bandwagon (albiet rather late) by naming my five favorite games of 2012. But don’t expect any Walking Dead or Mass Effect 3… This is Chic Pixel, after all!

A quick caveat before I continue: This list, of course, only contains games I’ve actually played. There are probably many more titles I’d probably consider including if I’d had the opportunity to play them over the course of the year! 

Also, I have to give props to Tiny Cartridge for inspiring me to add silly gifs (when available) for my picks. I take no credit for the idea! 

Pandora’s Tower
I really hesitated putting this on my list since it only came out in Japan and PAL territories, but it was by far one of my favorite games of the year, so I’ll make an exception. The story, which really only focuses on three characters and centers around the relationship between the protagonist Aeron and his cursed love interest Elena, is a breath of fresh air from epic RPGs spanning continents and have dozens of people to keep track of. Gameplay, while occasionally hair-pullingly frustrating (particularly the boss battles), makes great use of the Wii’s motion controls for Aeron’s chain-whip weapon, which is both used to fight enemies and traverse through the environments. Add in the fact that there are even some mild dating sim elements that had me raising Aeron and Elena’s affection levels in order to unlock a variety of endings, and I can confidently say that Pandora’s Tower will go down as one of my favorite action-RPGs of this generation.

This gif never gets old (source)

Style Savvy: Trendsetters
Oh, Style Savvy: Trendsetters. I may have only started playing this game mid-December, but it quickly rose to the top of the 2012 release pile. Who ever thought a fashion game could be so fun? Style Savvy: Trendsetters is a beautifully polished game with a wide range of customization options that will delight any aspiring fashionista or fashion-conscious nerd (that would be me), but it also injects a healthy amount of shop management into the mix to keep prolonged gameplay compelling. Not only that, but the localization is surprisingly good, and I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion! Style Savvy: Trendsetters may not be an epic RPG or artsy social commentary, but it’s chock full of content and by far one of the most fun games I played all year. Really, what’s more satisfying than convincing a customer to buy a horribly ugly outfit that just about breaks their budget? (What? That’s how it’s meant to be played, right?)

When I first played Journey for review earlier this year, I started out very skeptical. Early reviews applauded it as this mind-blowing experience, but when I got to the part about it being only two hours long, I just couldn’t believe it. How could a two-hour game change anyone’s life? Well, after giving the game a go, I can definitively say it has not changed my life in any way, but it has definitely opened my eyes to the impact a succinct, purpose-driven experience can be. Countless articles have been written about Journey already, so I don’t feel the need to ramble on about this particular pick, but suffice it to say I’ve played through the game three times, got my white cloak and first platinum trophy (okay, it’s not that hard), and cried every single time I’ve reached the summit of the mountain with a companion. Sure, I may be an over-emotional sap at heart, but I think the fact that Journey remains such a compelling, thought-provoking experience even after multiple playthroughs truly speaks to the beauty of the game.

No spoilers here, I just couldn’t resist using this gif

Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward
I was late to the game when it came to 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, but when I finally played it, it immediately became one of my favorite DS titles. The gripping storyline and intriguing characters kept me right on the edge of my seat all the way to the end, so when I heard there was going to be a sequel, I couldn’t be more excited. Though sequels don’t always improve on the established formula, Virtue’s Last Reward fixes all of the issues I had with the first game while maintaining the same suspenseful story and interesting dialogue that made 999 such a joy to play –– in fact, I may even like Virtue’s Last Reward‘s story more than 999‘s! I certainly wouldn’t complain if we saw more entries in the series (I believe they’re already working on a 3rd game), as I’m confident Chunsoft will be able to up the ante even further in future installments.

Tokyo Jungle 
Tokyo Jungle is, by far, the strangest game I played all year. If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be playing a game in 2012 that involved all manner of animal from Pomeranian to dinosaur running around the streets of a post-apocalyptic Tokyo killing and being killed, I would’ve called you crazy, but I’m happy to say that’s exactly what Tokyo Jungle delivers. It’s certainly not the most polished game on this list, but it wins major points for originality and downright awesomeness of concept, as well as being the most engaging multiplayer game I played in 2012. There’re few things more fun than taking down horses with cats and trying to outrun lions with a troop of beagles, and while the survival mode and its roguelike elements may have gotten slightly repetitive had I played it alone, being able to team up with my husband was an absolute blast. The fact that games like this are still being made gives me hope that there will always be a place for weird and whacky titles alongside the Call of Dutys and Halos of the world.

And with that, I can say I’ve officially brought 2012 to an end! Though I can’t speak for the more “mainstream” crowd, fans of the niche and odd really had a great selection of titles over the course of the year. Of course, if my “12 Games I Still Need to Play from 2012” list is any indication, there’s still a lot left for me to play! Thanks for sticking with me and putting up with my weirdness over the course of the year, and here’s to a grand new year filled with blogging, video games, and manga! (hopefully a little more manga)

Feel free to weigh in on what you think of my picks from 2012, but keep in mind that I am Very Serious about this topic and will not accept any opinions that are different from my own! Just kidding.

About Anne Lee

Also known as apricotsushi. Anne can be written with the kanji for apricot (杏), and sushi was the most quintessentially Japanese thing I could think of when I was 13, resulting in my goofy, albeit memorable, nickname.