With the year all but at an end (and the world apparently still in one piece), it’s time to cast a critical eye over the last twelve months in gaming. It may seem a little egotistical for a small blog with perhaps a handful of transient readers to publish GOTY lists, but screw it – we’re going to do it anyway. Because it’s fun.

First of all, this piece will serve as an introduction to Mr Dan “The Marathon Man” Bushell, a good friend of mine who will hopefully be contributing to the blog a lot more in the coming year. Anyone who has watched my ‘Unboxing The Sky: The Art of Final Fantasy’ video should already be somewhat familiar with him, and this list of his favourite games of the year should give you a better insight into the man and his gaming habits. I’ll be publishing my list in a couple of days, and I encourage any readers to leave a comment and let us know if you agree or disagree, or even give us your list.

So, without further ado, I’ll hand over to Mr Bushell to detail his games of the year:

So here we are, the end of the year, and it’s time to reflect back on some of the gold the gaming industry has given to us in 2012. Unfortunately I don’t have huge amounts of money with which to buy every title I wanted, so first off I’d like to mention a couple of games that I think would stand a chance at making my list had I been able to get my hands on them, both of which I managed to get my hands on when I went to this year’s Eurogamer Expo at Earls Court.

FarCry 3
I only managed to get a fifteen minute demo of what looks to be a much improved game from FarCry 2. Straight off the bat, it gave the feeling of freedom and there appeared to be a lot to explore. It handled very well and felt like I knew the controls from the start – it’s been a while, but they seemed to be much the same as the previous game. It was hard to get an overall impression from such a short demo, but it certainly gave me enough to want more – imagine playing a fifteen minute demo of, say, Skyrim – it couldn’t hope to do any justice to how big the game really is, and this is the impression FarCry 3 gave me. It’s a huge game this year and looks like it’s doing very well for publisher Ubisoft.

Assassin’s Creed III
I was also lucky enough to play the demo of AC3. I am a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed series and am looking forward to spending some quality time with the new release. With a new character and new surroundings I hope this will give the series a bit of much-needed freshness – by the time I finished Revelations, it felt like I had already played it a couple of times before. This didn’t stop me from loving the stealthy series, but I’m hoping that with a new start, Assassin’s Creed 3 will have greater impact.

There’s also a couple of other games that I am eager to play and add to my collection, most notably Borderlands 2 and The Last Story. In the case of Mistwalker’s The Last Story (which, being a massive Final Fantasy fan, I really must get my hands on), this one came out fairly early in the year, but a combination of lack of funds or other games that I have had a higher craving for mean I am a bit behind the release schedule. Which leads me nicely onto my top five games of 2012. Strap yourself in, people!

Dan “The Marathon Man” Bushell’s top five games of the year!

5: Call of Duty: Black Ops II
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Truth be told, before release I was hoping this would not make my top five. I have something of a love/hate relationship with the CoD series, as recent releases haven’t been that great. Don’t get me wrong, they have all been well made games but they just haven’t really done much for me. It never takes long before people start hacking the game and using lag switches, making the experience… well, not much of an experience at all.

Then Black Ops II arrived. I wasn’t very excited about this sequel, but jumped on the band-wagon as I knew the majority of my online friends would be playing. Happily, Black Ops II is a very well-made game. I was honestly a little shocked when I first loaded up what I thought was just going to be another CoD. I was wrong! It plays extremely well, and the excellent maps help the game flow at a good pace. I have found myself lost, playing for hours at a time, and losing huge portions of the day. For this reason, it’s propping up my top five.

4: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
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Ah, Final Fantasy, the famous game series that made me the gamer I am today. This of course is not a standard Final Fantasy game, but Theatrhythm gives you the joy of reliving all the greatest pieces of music (and some of the visuals!) that the main ‘numbered series’ titles have given us from the franchise’s early days up to the recent Final Fantasy XIII. I have been a huge fan of all the music from over the series, and could not ignore this title. I have lost entire days on this game, playing songs to try and beat my previous score, or even just to hear some of the fantastic music featured on the cart. There’s also a huge amount to unlock, from playing cards, to songs for the music player or even videos, so it’s safe to say you get your money’s worth with this beautifully-made game, and the hours you can spend on it can easily stretch into dozens.

3: Tales of Graces f
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I mentioned above that Final Fantasy has had a massive influence on my gaming habits, so you’ve no doubt guessed that I’m a huge jRPG fan. Tales of Graces f, a PS3-exclusive title from Namco-Bandai, is my first experience with a Tales of game, and with the impact it had on me, I couldn’t exclude it from my list. With solid characters that all are very different in personality, and an extremely fun combat system this game is a must for fans of the genre. It offers you laughs, tears and much, much more besides. I am already massively looking forward to next year’s release of Tales Of Xillia.

2: Dishonored
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Right from the announcement of this game all the way up to its release I was pretty much glued to it and it turns out my anticipation was well-rewarded. Dishonored offers so much, in gameplay terms – if, like me, you enjoy being sneaky and stealthy in a game then Arkane’s latest is pure gold. With so many different options for making your way through the game, from liberating heads from bodies all over the shop, to not killing any one at all and sneaking through unseen, you’re spoilt for choice in developing your own play-style. The story is as solid as the gameplay, and you can certainly get a lot out of Dishonored –  I’ve already played through it twice and am now contemplating a third playthrough. Few games have grabbed me to the extent that I’ve restarted it as soon as the credits have rolled, and this is a good sign that, for me, Dishonored is one of the year’s best games.

Aaaand, drum roll please…

1: Mass Effect 3
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Yes, my game of the year is Mass Effect 3. Even with its controversial ending I don’t think this game could have done much wrong. I do have to admit that it’s not the strongest of the trilogy, but it’s still an absolutely fantastic game. I was a bit late in coming to the Mass Effect games (I had never played any of them before this year) so playing them all for the first time one after the other, I felt I got the full emotional effect from the trilogy-closing Mass Effect 3. Like the previous two games in the trilogy it offers much in terms of gameplay, and the story has to be one of my favourites of all time, be it from games, books or film.  There are so many moments that can choke you up in this game, and with the knowledge that everything is coming to an end, you realise even more how powerful the characters and their relationships are, and how amazingly-written the story is. For anyone who hasn’t played the Mass Effect trilogy, I demand you to stop what you’re doing and start it now! It’s even easier now, as BioWare and EA have recently released a trilogy boxset for those that are a little behind the curve. Go get it!

So those are my top five games of 2012! It’s been a great year for games, and next year is already looking to be a whopper. With titles like The Last of Us, Ni No Kuni,  Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider reboot, a new Splinter Cell, Beyond: Two Souls and many more, next year’s list may wind up being more of a challenge than this year’s! Until then happy gaming!

Dan Bushell

Thanks Dan! I’ll have my list up in a couple of days, and we’ll be seeing more of Mr Bushell in the new year. Please feel free to leave a comment below and let us know what you think of Dan’s selections, and be sure to tell us what you’ve been playing this year.

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