Game of the Year 2012: PC, Wii U, Wii

December 27, 2012

There were a lot of great games in 2012, but here are the best: our Games of the Year. We continue by revealing our picks on Nintendo’s home systems, as well as PC.

The English-localized PC JRPG is something of a white unicorn. A lot of people have talked about it, and there have ever been rumors of release a couple times, but due to the preconceptions of Western PC gamers, no publisher has gotten the guts to start publishing some in a long, long time. So, what better series to use to buck that trend than Ys, the JRPG series that has always made its home on PCs? I don’t remember the last time I had so much stupid, crazy fun with an RPG as I did with Ys Origin. The frantic, reflex-heavy action-RPG combat, combined with an awesome rock soundtrack and some creative level design, made Ys Origin a treat.– Chris Dominowski

Runner-up: Guild Wars 2

Not since World of Warcraft has a game come along and changed the rules of MMOs as profoundly as Guild Wars 2 has: from the gameplay, progression and the lack of a monthly fee, this is an MMO for people who usually dislike the genre, and a long-needed breath of fresh air for those of us who have been playing them for years. – Jeff deSolla

Runner-up: Orcs Must Die! 2

Games don’t have to be complicated to be fun. Give me some traps, give me some orcs and give me a co-op buddy. That’s all it takes for me to have a great time. Setting up swinging maces, acid throwers and catapult tiles to repel the orc hordes is all sorts of cathartic. Going at the same levels with a co-op buddy is even better. The player characters are both likable and funny, and while I’ve got a soft spot for the war mage, it’s hard to deny just how fun the enchantress is to play. Orcs Must Die! 2 improved on the first game in every way, and it’s clear that Robot is devoted to the title as its been supported by weekly challenges that spin the gameplay in interesting ways and DLC packs that add fun new enemies to the mix. – Justin Last

The New Super Mario Bros. series may not actually be new anymore, but it’s still the epitome of the Nintendo 2D platformer. With NSMBU, Nintendo upgraded to HD graphics while designing ever more devilish ‘co-op’ levels and worlds that any fan of Mario or platformers will love. The Miiverse integration is a nice touch, that helps make up for the lack of online co-op slightly. Add the new challenge modes, and you’ve got a ton of great Mario content. – Shawn Vermette

Runner-up: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

While Mario Kart may always be the kart-racing king around these parts, Sega and Sumo Digital have a little something to say about it. Despite its overlong title, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is one of the most finely tuned and most addictive kart-racing experiences on the market. The game is fast, handles drifting with relative ease, and has a large selection of excellent tracks that keep you on your toes at all times thanks to the vehicle transformation. Even if you’re not a Sega fan at all, there is plenty of content here to keep you busy for a long time. And, best of all, you’ll have the experience of saying you’ve played one of the best kart racers to come around in quite some time. – Andrew Passafiume

Runner-up: Nintendo Land

The Wii U GamePad is an offering of incredible potential. Like the Wii Remote and the DS before it, most developers will probably take some time before they really figure out how to best utilize it. Nintendo Land offers twelve suggestions, each basically accentuating a different aspect of what this new input device brings to the table. Some are more solid than others, but overall this is as solid a “pitch” as Wii Sports was five years ago. More importantly, almost all of these various minigames are just plain fun, especially the multiplayer offerings like Mario Chase (which might just be the best of the dozen). – Chris Ingersoll

Xenoblade Chronicles is a fantastic example of how to evolve the genre and is the first step towards a more refreshing, modern RPG experience. It takes everything I love about JRPGs and advances them just enough to make the game feel both classic and modern. And most importantly of all, it allows for you to play at your leisure. Want to tackle a ton of side quests before advancing the story? Go right ahead. Or do you want to explore, taking in every nook and cranny in each of these overwhelmingly enormous vistas? Have fun! To find that approach in a non-Western developed RPG, to me, was quite astounding. – Andrew Passafiume

Runner-up: The Last Story

While I am more than happy to play menu-driven turn-based RPGs on handhelds, when I’m sitting at home in front of a big screen and surround sound, a little more action is in order. The Last Story‘s unique cover-based take on RPG combat keeps battles interesting and engaging, while the rest of the game maintains the high quality of narrative, graphic design and music that most players expect in games like this (especially with this game’s specific pedigree). The mission-based layout is a little odd, but not everything can — or should — be an open-world sandbox, and there’s still plenty of time to explore various side quests within this structure. Hopefully The Last Story is not the last game Nintendo fans will see from the gang at Mistwalker.   – Chris Ingersoll

Runner-up: Rhythm Heaven Fever

While we’ve only received two out of the three games in the series here in the West, the Rhythm Tengoku (Rhythm Heaven) franchise has always been extremely solid and improving upon itself with every entry. With a great art direction, as well as plenty of distinct and challenging stages that are easy for anyone to pick up, it’s hard not to recommend this game. Even long after beating the game, I still go back to this and see if I can earn a medal on the Remix 10. Sadly, I’m out of practice, so I’ve just been getting OKs. – Eric Albuen