The Best Videogames of 2012

  • Publish Date: December 31, 2012
  • Comments: ↓ 22 user comments

A far cry from 2011's heights

The Walking Dead [Retail]
Batman: Arkham City
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3) 96
Grand Theft Auto IV
Metacritic's Game of the Year
(Highest-scoring title, min. 7 rev.)

It's a good thing that 2013 looks likely to be loaded with great games, because, as we look over this year's numbers, it seems 2012 wasn't. Not even the late arrival of a great new installment in Ubisoft's Far Cry series could make up for the fact that the past 12 months paled in comparison to recent years, at least at the high end of the scale.

Just 14 console games—and 18 products overall, including PC and handheld (non-iOS) titles—scored 90 or higher in 2012. Those figures represent a huge drop from the previous year, when 23 console titles (and 32 games overall) met or exceeded the 90 mark. In fact, since we started publishing these year-end reports in 2009, we have never encountered such a low total number of great games in a single year.

We also expect some grumbling about our Game of the Year award, given annually to the year's overall highest-scoring (i.e., best-reviewed) game for any platform. This year's honoree, Telltale's The Walking Dead 95 (Xbox 360), is a terrific adaptation of Robert Kirkman's comic books. But it is also a retail repackaging (with a mere 9 reviews, at press time) of a game that was previously released online in five episodic installments throughout the year—installments which, though well-reviewed, never achieved an individual score north of 89. (There's also the issue of the retail version's reported buginess.) Still, without a solid reason to exclude it from consideration, its score qualifies it for Metacritic Game of the Year honors, even if it is the lowest-scoring such game since 2003 (when the PC version of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City topped the high score chart with a 94).

In the following pages, we'll reveal 2012's best-reviewed games for each platform. Before we do that, take a look at our quick comparison of the various game consoles:

Console Comparison - Games Released During 2012
PS3 Games Xbox 360 Games Wii and Wii U Games
70.3 Avg. Metascore
204 games *
69.5 Avg. Metascore
243 games *
68.3 Avg. Metascore
53 games *
6 Great Games **
90 or higher
7 Great Games **
90 or higher
1 Great Games **
90 or higher
6 Good Exclusives **
75 or higher
8 Good Exclusives **
75 or higher
6 Good Exclusives **
75 or higher
Best Exclusive:
Journey 92
Best Exclusive:
Trials Evolution 90
Best Exclusive:
Xenoblade Chronicles*** 92

* Games with 4 or more reviews in Metacritic's database released between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012.
** Excludes games with fewer than 7 reviews; downloadable map packs are also excluded.
*** Though released in 2011 outside of the U.S., Xenoblade Chronicles is a 2012 release in North America.
All Metascore data for this and all other tables in this report is from December 27, 2012. The pie charts reflect the percentage of all releases for each console with Positive Reviews (receiving a Metascore of 75 or higher indicating), Mixed Reviews (receiving a Metascore of 50-74), and Negative Reviews (receiving a Metascore of 49 or below). Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

And here are 2012's best-reviewed titles, regardless of platform (iOS games excluded; they're ranked in a separate article):

The 90+ Club: The Best-Reviewed Games of 2012 (Any Platform*)
  Title / Platform Publisher Genre Metascore
1 The Walking Dead: The Game Xbox 360 Telltale Adventure 95
2 Persona 4 Golden PS Vita Atlus RPG 94
3 Mass Effect 3 PS3 Electronic Arts Action-RPG 93
4 Mass Effect 3 Xbox 360 Electronic Arts Action-RPG 93
5 Journey PS3 Sony Adventure 92
6 Xenoblade Chronicles Wii Nintendo Action-RPG 92
7 Dishonored PC Bethesda Softworks Action-Adventure 91
8 Mark of the Ninja PC Microsoft Platformer 91
9 Borderlands 2 PS3 2K Games FPS/Action-RPG 91
10 Far Cry 3 PS3 Ubisoft FPS/Action-Adventure 91
11 Far Cry 3 Xbox 360 Ubisoft FPS/Action-Adventure 90
12 Trials Evolution Xbox 360 Microsoft Racing 90
13 Okami HD PS3 Capcom Action-Adventure 90
14 Mark of the Ninja Xbox 360 Microsoft Platformer 90
15 FIFA Soccer 13 Xbox 360 EA Sports Sports 90
16 Guild Wars 2 PC NCsoft MMORPG 90
17 NBA 2K13 PS3 2K Sports Sports 90
18 XCOM: Enemy Unknown Xbox 360 2K Games Strategy 90

*Excluding iOS games. Minimum 7 critic reviews. Games are ranked by Metascore prior to rounding.

Releases by platform

On the next pages, we examine the best and worst 2012 games released for each platform, including the top titles exclusive to each platform.

Comments (22)

  • JRath  

    Far Cry 3 was the Game of the Year by a mile. Not sure why its Metascore is low because in all honesty it is an instant classic. The Walking Dead, Borderlands 2, and Max Payne 3 are all my following favorite games of this year (in no particular order). All in all it really was a slow year for phenomenal games and PS3 exclusives especially. Here's hoping 2013 is more like 2011. Now excuse me while I go back to playing Far Cry 3

  • Sainto  

    So was I seriously the only I one who didn't enjoy Far Cry 3 that much? It was nice for the first ten hours but after that I just got bored. The Walking Dead definitely deserves GOTY.

  • TitaniumDragon  

    One thing that is very noticable in these roundups is that the console reviewers appear to overrate their games relative to the PC versions; the PC versions are regularly cited as the superior version of these multiplatform games, and yet they receive lower average metacritic scores on the PC than on the consoles.

    This suggests some sort of scoring imbalance between them. Maybe they should be averaged across platforms for analysis like this?

  • DutchFortune  

    I think these figures are even a bit flattering on 2012 (at least for PC Games). If you look at the userscores there were a couple of hyped releases that simply couldn't live up to the fuss. Most notably Mass Effect 3 and Diablo III. The same goes for FIFA13 and Football Manager which are (as ever) reworks of their predecessors for the full price. Adding that to the equation, that really does make 2012 look like a meagre year for PC gaming.

  • Alienware  

    The Walking Dead is amazing and is deserving of the prize of best game of the year but is laughable how after having been underrated for most of his run throughout the five episodes, most reviewers suddenly started to screaming masterpiece after it won the goty handed by gametrailers.

  • GreenHawk99  

    The Walking Dead was incredible, deserved the award no doubt

  • partyintheback  

    2011 was the best year in years. You had fantastic, memorable games like Dishonored, The Last Story, Xenoblade Chronicles, Sleeping Dogs, Binary Domain, The Walking Dead, and many, many more. Previous years were just big named sequels. *Yawn* Yes, some were good, and some were really good, but they're still sequels, which have become trite in the industry. Quite frankly, The Walking Dead was more ambitious than any other previous "Game of the Year" winner, as it's story and character truly mattered, giving consequence to every action. And the other games I mentioned, all new and fresh. Dishonored, a new IP from people who worked on Thief, Deus Ex, and Half-Life, certainly had inspiration from their prior work, but created a whole new, awesomely detailed Steampunk universe. Great art, slick and intuitive controls, etc. made it one heck of a game.

    The Last Story and Xenoblade Chronicles are quite frankly the two most important JRPGs in years, as they both brought great things to the table. The Last Story brought memorable characters and fresh combat to the JRPG, while Xenoblade Chronicles was a bit more traditional, but did it so well that it doesn't matter that it's traditional.

    Sleeping Dogs brought better movement, hand-to-hand combat system, and more things that GTA IV failed at. As it is, GTA IV is highly overrated and Sleeping Dogs is better than the 2008 "Game of the Year".

    Then you have the last one I listed, Binary Domain, which totally flew under the radar, but brought a neat science fiction universe, great combat, stellar boss battles, and compelling characters to the table. Sega's Yakuza team did a phenomenal job on this game. So yup, 2012 was the best year in years. Honestly, review aggregates aren't that important when you use Quarter to Three, Destructoid, etc. as credible.

  • Expectoner  

    Just to say that Diablo III is the game's most unloved of users and is in the top 5 pc games ... Big mistake?

  • FabioSooner  

    Thanks, Metacritic, for clearly showing what I've been noticing and saying for months: the idea that the 3DS has more or better games than the Vita is a big, lazy misconception, just a byproduct of succumbing to shallow first impressions and to Nintendo fanboyism.

    The Vita came after, received as many games as the 3DS last year, and they're generally better. That's not even considering it's a more powerful machine that receives multiplatform titles that are actually closer to the home console counterparts, something you won't see on the 3DS ever. That's why I finally decided to get a Vita this month. 3DS? Only when Shin Megami Tensei V is released, if ever.

  • 89iajo  

    Fabio, what games are you going to get for your Vita? Because it looks like most of them are crap, the other 15 are remakes of 2011 games and, lets face it, it has almost no third party support. Mean while in Japan the 3DS has outsold the PS3's LIFETIME SALES. Just sayin' The statistics point to the 3DS.

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