We’re human. We don’t always get to every game before the end of its year of release. This is our way of making amends: the best games we missed out on until 2012. Because we can’t go back in time and honor them in a more timely fashion.
Andrew Passafiume: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Not having a gaming-capable PC can be problematic at times, as it means I miss out on fantastic games such as The Witcher 2. Thankfully, CD Projekt Red was kind enough to release the Enhanced Edition this year, complete with a port to the Xbox 360, meaning I finally had a chance to play this excellent RPG for the first time. I have no previous experience with the books or the original game, but based on my amazing time with this title, I can safely say the world of The Witcher has enchanted me. Brilliant writing, great cast of characters and a combat system that requires as much skill as it does patience make this an RPG that you shouldn’t miss.
Justin Last: Bad Rats: the Rats’ Revenge
By all rights, Bad Rats is a terrible game. It’s racist, the physics don’t work, the music is bad, and the whole thing is ugly. It is commonly used as a spite gift in the Penny Arcade Steam group. Why is it my game not of the year then? Because it brought together the Steam thread of the Penny Arcade forums. A challenge was made for one person to do a Let’s Play of the game. He was slow (because the game is bad). Then people started saying they would donate money to Child’s Play if the series was concluded before Steam’s winter sale started. In less than a week over $5,000 was donated to Child’s Play. I donated $25 worth of goods to my local hospital, and the whole thing warmed my heart, and I love to death that such a bad game and silly challenge resulted in so much good being done. Thank you, Bad Rats, from the bottom of my heart.
Chris Ingersoll: Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
Thanks to copious downtime between releases this year, I was able to dig back and find some great games that I missed the first time around. These included both Paper Mario (N64) and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (GCN), but the Mario-based RPG that is earning my nod this year is Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story. By taking advantage of the various features the DS has to offer, Bowser’s Inside Story delivered an RPG experience unlike any other, and it’s one worth picking up if you haven’t already.
Graham Russell: Faselei!
I’m going to bet that most of you haven’t heard of Faselei!, the venerable Neo Geo Pocket Color classic. Um, yeah, you’re excused for that one, because it’s not even that common for a NGPC game, and though I’d heard of it before, only late this year did I manage to snag an English-language version at a decent price. (The Japanese version was actually widely-distributed in U.S. blister packs, and is super-acquirable as a result.) The quick pitch: it’s Front Mission meets Robo Rally. You control a mech by queueing commands, which it will take one at a time as the enemy does the same. Will you be turning at the right time to fire at the enemy, or will you inaccurately predict the movement path and miss? It’s brain-stretching in a way very few games are, and definitely stands up after 12 years. Oh, bonus pedigree: the developer, Sacnoth, also made Shadow Hearts and Koudelka.
Shawn Vermette: Radiant Historia
Once again I played a number of games for the first time that I’m sure most did long ago, such as BioShock, Kingdom Hearts and Suikoden. However, none of them could hold a candle to Radiant Historia for me. It has a strategic turn-based combat system that emphasizes delaying actions and creating combos, a unique and well-developed time travel/paradox based storyline and pretty great music to boot. The interesting characters, and the fact that the ending changes based on what choices or sidequests you do throughout the game, are also impressive. Oh yeah, and there’s over a dozen dead endings scattered throughout the story where it just ends when you make a poor decision.
Eric Albuen: Dokapon Kingdom
I’ve been graced with the opportunity to play this with a couple of friends (and I’m still playing this with them now). Never have I been so frustrated with a game, but had so much fun with all the game’s irritating qualities. While under the guise of a party game, it manages to blend a rather simplistic rock-paper-scissors RPG with towns to liberate and invest in to get ahead of your fellow competitors. Atlus marketed the game as a game that “destroys friendships,” and I couldn’t agree more. From pranking your friends by changing their name to throwing away essential items in their inventory, the game runs deep enough to be strategic and cutthroat, all while being cutesy and fun at the same time.