It was a weird year for games in 2012. A lot of highly anticipated triple-A titles got delayed into 2013, and although a lot of great games still came out, there wasn’t a clear-cut winner for me this year like there was with last year’s Batman: Arkham City.

Thus, the deliberations between the voices in my head continued deep into the year, coming right down to the wire. It was neck-and-neck between a handful of titles, but when the chaos finally settled down, a Top 5 list emerged of what are—in my opinion—the best games of the year. These are those games—enjoy!

Ray’s Top 5 Games for 2012

#5: Sleeping Dogs

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: United Front Games
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Mixing Batman: Arkham City’s hand-to-hand combat with Assassin’s Creed–style free-running, Grand Theft Auto–inspired open-world mechanics and gunplay, and Need for Speed’s driving sequences sounds like the ultimate videogame Frankenstein’s monster. However, unlike Mary Shelley’s rotting, mindless beast, Square Enix created an Adonis of a game with Sleeping Dogs. Although there may be little left to the imagination in terms of gameplay, developer United Front Games wove these aspects seamlessly together with an original, engaging plot—and that made Sleeping Dogs one of my must-play games of the year.

#4: XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Firaxis Games
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

It’s never fun to die in games. But in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you must get comfortable with the concept of making sacrifices if you ever hope to complete it. In fact, the game kills most of your team right away in the tutorial just to help get this initial shock out of your system. After all, if humans were actually fighting a war against a superior foreign invader, losses would be commonplace. But even through all that failure, I still had tons of fun as I worked to save Earth from aliens.

#3: The Walking Dead

Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Platforms: XBLA, PSN, PC, Mac, iOS

It’s not easy to make a comic or TV show into a videogame—especially when your fanbase is as rabid as the zombies they read about or watch. The Walking Dead, however, successfully captures the spirit of Robert Kirkman’s original comic while introducing us to an entirely new slice of life in that crazed, zombie-filled world. The young heroine Clementine is arguably the best new character gaming’s seen in years—especially considering the emotional range she’s forced through—and the story’s branching paths afford dozens of playthroughs. The Walking Dead lets you know that adventure games are back—and in a big way.

#2: Borderlands 2

Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, OS X

I’ll admit that I don’t like to play games with other people. They slow me down—or I kill them too much, and they get frustrated, and it just ends up a mess with thrown controllers, slammed headsets, kids crying to their mommies, or me sleeping on the couch. One game is the exception to this rule, though: Borderlands 2. It’s got so many moments where you just wanna go “DID YOU SEE THAT?!” and you need to share that with someone. And if you do play alone, the game doesn’t suffer for it. Throw in probably the best all-around script of the year, and this should be on everyone’s Top 5 list.

#1: Assassin’s Creed III

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC

The new naval battles perfectly balance the addictive gameplay and historical accuracy for which the series is known. The plot has more twists than a Twizzler, keeping you hooked the whole way through. The new Wolf Pack co-op mode helps strengthen an already impressive multiplayer suite. Oh, and did I mention you can now stab people in the face more fluidly than ever before? By the time you get to the fifth entry in any franchise, it’s damn near impossible to continually raise the bar. And yet, Assassin’s Creed has done it so spectacularly that I can’t help but give Assassin’s Creed III my game of the year.

Ray’s Off-Topic Awards for 2012

The People’s Champ Award
Street Fighter X Mega Man
Mega Man X Street Fighter - Header This year marked Mega Man’s 25th anniversary…and yet, we didn’t get an official game. For some reason, Capcom cannot remove their collective heads from their asses long enough to be bothered with a new title starring the Blue Bomber. It was Street Fighter’s anniversary, too, and that got a game (even if it was a piece-of-garbage crossover with Tekken). Well, Capcom may not care about Mega Man anymore, but the fans do, and one devotee in particular—a Singaporean designer named Seow Zong Hui—honored Mega Man with his own Street Fighter–infused take!
The Marlboro Man Award for Most Unhealthily Addictive Casual Game
Marvel: Avengers Alliance
I rarely play casual or browser-based games, but when I heard about one based on the Marvel Universe, I figured I’d give it a shot. Any good comic nerd would! Now, nine months after its release, I find myself breaking the level-70 barrier with my custom-created character—and I’ve compiled a true dream team of superheroes. All while devoting far too much free time (and occasionally money) to this free-to-play Facebook addiction, as I continue my quest to save the universe from the element ISO-8!
Popsicle’s “The Colors, Duke! The Colors!” Award for Most Colorful Game
Dust: An Elysian Tail
I gave this award out last year, and I feel compelled to do so again—because it would be an indignity to not mention the stunning visuals of Dust: An Elysian Tail. Its hand-drawn animation left me in awe, and when you compound this breathtaking art style with the fact that it was created entirely by one man—Jazz Jackrabbit veteran Dean Dodrill—you can’t help but admire his extreme talents in crafting this intense labor of love.