I played a lot of games this year, and sadly, most of them were forgettable. It's just been one of those years.
Luckily, not everything landed between the ranges of "awful" and "mediocre". Some games landed between "pretty good" and "fucking incredible".
Like these ten which, in no particular order, are my absolute favourite games of 2012.
It's a world whose hideous design is so thorough it's beautiful. And one in which the powers of stealth, so often something to be dreaded or thrown against a wall in frustration, were empowering.
This shouldn't have been the game it was. It should have been a disaster. But somehow, Firaxis did it. They not only brought the old girl back, they dressed her up in the latest fashion, and got the balance between old and new just right.
Mark of the Ninja
Very similar to Dishonored, in that it turned stealth into a weapon, not a means of escape. It's a simple game, but one so complete in its design that it's what I call a "perfect 8"; it may not aim to be a AAA blockbuster, but what it does aim for, it absolutely perfects.
Crusader Kings II
Sure, there's war. But most strategy games have war. This one has people. People you can marry, murder, throw in jail and banish. There's sex, politics, betrayal and dwarfs. It's as complete a Game of Thrones simulator you can hope for (especially if you take things a little more literally).
Far Cry 3
Oh, the story. And the missions that propel it. Were it not for those horrors this game's sandbox battlefield would have made it one of the game's of the decade, let alone year. Why? Komodo dragons, that's why.
Assassin's Creed III
I want to hate it. I should. There are more than enough reasons to. But the things it does well, it does well. If I'd really hated the game, I wouldn't have spent 30 hours over a few days blazing through it. Maybe I'm so critical of it because I wanted so badly for it to be better.
Did exactly what was needed to spice up the whole sandbox criminal GTA-like genre. I'm glad Square Enix had the courage to release a game like this set somewhere other than the USA, and that the developers made the smart move to ditch guns in favour of some good old-fashioned fisticuffs.
Mass Effect 3
Most people have forgotten that before the game ended—the 29 hours you spend before the last one—it was a great game. Maybe not hitting Mass Effect 2's highs (probably because it copied that game's "loyalty mission" scheme), but still a great game.
I haven't forgotten.
Max Payne 3
It's too hard. But damn it, it's so stylish. I've never been a globe-trotting drug addict, struggling through a bullet-riddled mid-life crisis, but if this is what it's like, sign me up.
The Walking Dead
Seeing as I hated Telltale's previous games with the heat of 1000 burning suns, the fact I enjoyed The Walking Dead so much was quite the shock. But then, it's hard to hate a game that puts human interaction, and not violence, as its core focus.