Polygon's 2012 Games of the Year

The challenge, unsurprisingly, was choosing just 10 games. How do you select such a small sample to represent such a fantastic year of gaming? Our approach was a clinical one, giving each of our staffers 100 points to dole out as they saw fit (provided they awarded no game more than 25 points). Our list is composed of the 10 games that scored the highest after the staff scores were tallied. Simple, right? Of course, the clinical approach is a lot tougher to stomach when we leave behind so many beloved also-rans, so we'll be presenting some Honorable Mentions down the road. For now, here are our top 10 favorite games of the year. We'll have the first three for you on Wednesday, three more on Thursday and the final four on Friday.

Polygon 2012 Game of the Year: The Walking Dead

The idea of appointment television isn't a new one ... on television. Shows like Lost, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and yes, The Walking Dead have come to define the concept. Viewers set aside time for the latest installments of episodic media. When release schedules are measured in weeks, with some programmatic consistency, it's easy to see why the idea of appointment television is so alluring. But for video games, whose release schedules are usually measured in years and where the term "episodic gaming" means anything from the Sam & Max series to Valve's slow roll out of the Half-Life 2...

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Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #2: Dishonored

In an industry plagued by endless sequels, military shooters and uninspired copies of other games, Dishonored, for all of its bleak, post-apocalyptic steampunk flair, comes as a breath of fresh air. Inspired by classic stealth games like Ultima Underworld, System Shock, Arx Fatalis, Deus Ex and Thief (games made by Dishonored's creators), but nevertheless surprisingly unique, Dishonored is the kind of game very few thought would ever be made again: An original, stealth action-based first-person game with a deep, character-driven narrative and meaningful moral choices.

As you sneak or fight...

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Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #3: Journey

Journey's accomplishments are no small task. A team of eighteen led by creative director Jenova Chen worked for three years, simplifying and paring down its initial larger, more detailed vision into something more distilled, smaller and sharper.

Journey is an easily digestible three hours, but those hours are packed with meaning. We have come to think of "content" as meaning "more," a game loaded down with explorable areas and secret stashes of loot. But what Journey lacks in "stuff" it makes up for in its takeaway, in the notion that every player will walk away having been told a...

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Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #4: Far Cry 3

I come to bury Far Cry 3; not to praise it.

The story of a California dude bro playing white knight to an island of thinly-drawn natives is tasteless, despicable, a low-water mark in the already shallow pool of first-person shooter stories.

Male-on-male rape, female-on-male rape, forced drug usage, incest and the aforementioned racial subtext are performed throughout the story with the grace of a silverback gorilla in a tutu.

Sure, the story's wholly memorable, unlike the bulk of its competitors. And yeah, it's cogent and easy — even enjoyable — to follow. And certainly Vaas, the...

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Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #5: XCOM: Enemy Unknown

But XCOM: Enemy Unknown was also developed by the team who brought consoles and handhelds Civilization: Revolution, which took one of the PC platform's most beloved turn-based strategy series and streamlined it just enough to make it work, while adding a host of forward-thinking tweaks and changes that made it as relentlessly playable as Civilization has ever been. So maybe we should have known.

But even the highest expectations born of Civilization: Revolution's success couldn't have prepared me for XCOM: Enemy Unknown. It's a remarkable combination of meticulous strategy and the fallout...

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Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #6: FTL: Faster Than Light

Often you'll hear gamers lament about the death of tough games, and the over-abundance of the maternal hand-holder, the tutorial-laden nurturer that babies the player through every step of its multi-hour-long title. I don't normally mope over this trend hell, I'm happy to see games evolve into something that is accessible enough to drive itself into the hearts of the mainstream.

But I do love the past, and my heart will always skip a beat for reminders of gaming's history. FTL references the ethics of arcade game design as much as it does the Rogue-like titles that came before it. Indie...

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Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #7: Persona 4 Golden

In a genre typically characterized by making the player care about story or mechanics — but rarely both at the same time — Persona 4 Golden makes the two abstracts inseparable.

The more you learn about your neighbors and classmates, the stronger you become in the game's multitude of dungeons. The more the mystery unfolds in those dungeons, the more you care about what happens to your neighbors and classmates. Not that you need that motivation in either direction. Dungeon diving and Persona-collecting has an undeniably addictive progression to it, which is all the more devilish on a gaming...

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Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #8: Mass Effect 3

In a medium where narrative threads commonly go unresolved, BioWare should be commended for concluding most of the major sub-plots that were introduced in earlier games in the series. The creator-versus-creation conflict between the quarians and the geth comes to a head. The future of the beleaguered krogan race is decided. The schemes of the mysterious Illusive Man come to their inevitable conclusion. And all of it is affected in myriad small ways by the decisions you've made in the past two games — by which party members you've allowed to live or die; by who you have befriended and who...

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Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #9: Dragon's Dogma

Dragon’s Dogma has faith that you’ll wander for miles trying to unearth its secrets. It honestly believes that you’ll journey to a remote tip of an island to fight a wounded griffin and then make a return trek when the story leads you there. It’s bizarrely certain you’ll be willing to play beyond a false ending to find the best hours of the game and the weirdest ending of the year (Frog Fractions notwithstanding).

I doubt that faith was well-founded for every Dragon’s Dogma player, but it certainly was with me. I, the guy who gets grumpy when he doesn’t have a mini-game to entertain him...

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Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #10: Mark of the Ninja

Okay, maybe I'm being a bit hard on the stealth games of the world. I've enjoyed a Tenchu and a Metal Gear in my time — and I loved Rockstar's Manhunt — but generally find the challenge of hiding in the shadows a chore. I'd rather fight a foe than flee it.

That said, Mark of the Ninja forced me to rethink my affections for the stealth genre, thanks to its intelligent 2D approach.

Mark of the Ninja supplies the player a broad set of powerful tools to both slay enemies and avoid detection, allowing players to cultivate their own approach to the game's action-puzzle challenges. Playing...

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