Game of the Year 2012: 3DS, DS, Vita, PSP

December 24, 2012

There were a lot of great games in 2012, but here are the best: our Games of the Year. We’re starting off with the portable systems: the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS, PlayStation Vita and PSP. It’s been a transition year for all four, but there are gems on each.

Professor Layton didn’t make a seamless transition to the 3DS, and the movement and exploration are a bit awkward thanks moving the action to the top screen, but the story and puzzles are as interesting and brain-teasing as ever. Add in the fact that you get a peek into the childhood of our favorite English gentleman, and this was one of the standout games of the year for the 3DS.– Shawn Vermette

Runner-up: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy

Music and Final Fantasy have always gone together well, and the biggest surprise from Theatrhythm is that Square Enix waited until 2012 to make this game, as it feels like something that should have happened back when rhythm games were just starting to take off.  For a Final Fantasy fan, this is a must-have. The soundtrack is (of course) outstanding, even before considering the available DLC. – Jeff deSolla

Runner-up: Kid Icarus: Uprising

To me, this represents Nintendo at its creative peak. I can imagine that the team working on this game hardly scrapped a single idea, and instead made everyone’s ideas work. It’s a superb portable action game filled with content and replayability, thanks to a difficulty slider, tons of hidden items to collect, a pseudo-achievement system (something the Big N has been toying with for almost a decade), online play and Nintendo-sponsored tournaments. It also is a nice tech demo for the 3DS’ visual capabilities, due to its eye-popping detail and fluid, fast animation. Uprising is quite a way to restart an old franchise, and I totally expect to see Pit again in the near future. – Chris Dominowski

In my review, I favorably compared the latest iteration of the Pokémon franchise to Pokémon Gold and Silver, and I stand by that claim. Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 might just be the best version ever, thanks to the crazy amount of things you can do beyond the main story and the largest-ever National Pokédex to provide more options within that story than ever before. Whether you want to shoot movies, stage musicals, compete in the many different events in the PWT, become the master of the Battle Subway, manage your own strip mall or hunt down medals like an achievement fiend, Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 will let you do it. It will be very hard for Game Freak to top this one.– Chris Ingersoll

Runner-up: Pokemon Conquest

Where Black 2 and White 2 refined and iterated on the traditional formula, Conquest tried something new. Somehow, it succeeded, taking a tactical approach and a historical aesthetic and running with it. There’s a deep well to Conquest that isn’t made apparent until you finish the first campaign. It’s probably for the best, as it makes a very large game much more accessible. – Graham Russell

Runner-up: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2

I really want to go out of my way to thank Atlus for localizing its SMT games. It’s clear that it does it first and foremost because it loves its fans, not because it believes each game will be a record-shattering hit (although a fair share of them deserve to be). Devil Survivor 2 is a sequel to the critically-acclaimed Japanese SRPG a few years back. All the polish, brutally difficult combat and deep customization that are hallmarks of the SMT series are here in full force, not to mention gorgeous 2D graphics and artwork that simply shouldn’t be possible on the humble DS hardware. – Chris Dominowski

This game is about as close to perfect as any game can hope to get. Taking the already-sublime Persona 4, adding a new coat of paint, some connectivity features, new story elements and a whole bunch of other specifically-targeted tweaks make Golden the Vita’s best game so far, and probably its best game for a long, long time.– Chris Dominowski

Runner-up: Sound Shapes

Much like a concept album, Sound Shapes is the result of a small and dedicated team with a strong vision given the tools and time to see it through. It’s nothing like anything you’ve played before, with its rhythm-themed levels that play like traditional platformers and suite of creation tools that are accessible but allow for interesting mechanics. The appearances of Beck and Deadmau5 are nice bonuses, and certainly the PS3 Cross-Buy and Cross-Save functionalities help, but it’d be a great package without any of those things. – Graham Russell

Runner-up: Lumines: Electronic Symphony

Oh, Lumines. You’re the puzzle game I love the most. Electronic Symphony continues the series tradition of combining an addictive, devious puzzle game with some stellar music to create a title that stands out from the rest. Sure, it’s essentially more Lumines, but when the base game is so entertaining and the small additions, such as the World Block mode, has you coming back for more constantly, you’ll see why it’s such a delight. This is a game that every Vita owner should have in their collection. – Andrew Passafiume

It was a relatively light year for the PSP, as it gave way to the Vita (in the West, at least) and began its fade into history. It’s surprising, then, that a system with such impressive tactical RPGs could get a new member of the royal family so late into its life. It did, though, as Wayfarer of Time has the depth and narrative it needs to stand out in a particularly-crowded field. It’s a game out of time, really, but its refinement of the types of mechanics most prevalent in the PS1 era make it refreshing now and very tightly-crafted for future players to discover. – Graham Russell

Runner-up: Gungnir

Good ol’ PSP, you’re still hanging in there. In its twilight years, the system has become a haven for JRPGs (and a lot of SRPGs in particular). Gungnir is Sting’s latest romp into delightfully-mad creativity, and keeps the subgenre fresh by adding a bunch of new and interesting tweaks. Gungnir may not be the PSP’s swan song, but it’s still a pretty great send-off. – Chris Dominowski

Runner-up: Unchained Blades

Unchained Blades is a niche game in a niche genre on a niche system, but it delivers a great dungeon-crawling experience, and a surprising amount of story for its genre. With names from Lunar, Grandia and Final Fantasy contributing, along with art designs from well known anime and manga artists, Unchained Blades has a lot of talent behind it and it shows. – Jeff DeSolla