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Our favorite games of 2012

"Dishonored" mixes the best elements of the parkour of “Assassin’s Creed” and the stealth combat of “Splinter Cell” and adds a host of interesting mystical abilities.

The past year has brought a bounty of terrific sequels, but it was a new name that turned out to be the best of the bunch.

The “Halo,” “Call of Duty,” “Mass Effect,” “Assassin’s Creed” and “Far Cry” series all came up with games that were exceptionally good — even by the high standards set by many of their predecessors. However, the game that delivered the best combination of gameplay, story and adventure was “Dishonored,” by Bethesda Softworks.

“Dishonored” sets you in an early-industrial city that’s beset by plague. You start off as the empress’ security adviser but, within minutes of the game’s opening, you stand accused of her assassination. It’s your goal to clear your name and overthrow a nasty band of coup-plotters.

The game mixes the best elements of the parkour of “Assassin’s Creed” and the stealth combat of “Splinter Cell” and adds a host of interesting mystical abilities. One of the game’s best elements is being able to match the action to your style. You can go through and kill almost everyone or you can kill no one. In addition, there are numerous avenues to take and plenty of goodies to find as you climb, leap and scurry over the vast, complex setting. This is incredibly satisfying, but also opens up the game to continued replay.

However, there was much more to the year than skulking in the shadows on the way to reclaiming your honor. Here are the rest of our top 10 games for 2012. As with “Dishonored,” most present a strong storyline and immersive action.

 ‘Assassin’s Creed III’

Ubisoft

The battle between the Assassin’s and the Templars reaches a climax as the action moves to North America. You participate in many historic events as you climb, leap and fight your way through the streets and forests of colonial and revolutionary America. New elements — fighting on the high seas and establishing a thriving settlement — build on the familiar elements of the already-stellar franchise.

 ‘Borderlands 2’

2K Games

The weird and wild denizens of the planet Pandora return in this shooter that lets as many as four gamers cooperatively search for a mysterious treasure. Game play has been tweaked, characters changed and story added to make this a thoroughly enjoyable sequel.

 ‘Call of Duty:Black Ops II’

Activision

Story has rarely been a strong point for the “Call of Duty” series, but “Black Ops II” changes the mix to come up with a compelling tale that jumps back and forth between the Cold War era and the near future. And it still delivers an excellent multi-player mode as well as a great co-op mode featuring zombies.

 ‘Far Cry 3’

Ubisoft

You must rescue your friend from slave traders on a South Seas archipelago in this deep and rewarding shooter. Exploring the islands and battling the bad guys are incredibly fun because of the smooth game play and interesting storyline. However, this game also requires a strong caution about adult content.

 ‘Halo 4’

Microsoft

After a break of a few games, Master Chief returns to the action in this science fiction shooter, battling an ancient evil as well as alien hordes. He also must wage a more personal struggle in what is probably the most compelling “Halo” yet. The game’s excellent multiplayer mode returns along with a new series of mini-adventures, called “Spartan Ops.”

 ‘Mass Effect 3’

Electronic Arts

Commander Shepherd saves the galaxy — or doesn’t, depending on the decisions you make is this sci-fi role-playing game. Despite an ending that was widely seen as disappointing, the truly grande finale of the series delivered a thrilling adventure, with an incredibly complex, branching storyline.

‘New Super Mario Bros 2’

Nintendo

With the recent avalanche of Mario spinoffs, it’s easy to overlook this 3DS platformer as just another Mario game. Don’t be fooled. “NSMB2” introduces the high-score list gamers have been waiting for since the 1980s, and it’s packed with loads of secret challenges and hidden worlds. Add in DLC support, and you’ve got the best 2-D Mario of the last two decades.

 ‘PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale’

Sony

Sure, this is a clone of Nintendo’s “Super Smash Bros.” but is a great clone. Many of your favorite characters from PlayStation titles duke it out in a wild fighting game that might be light on substance but very heavy on fun.

 ‘XCOM: Enemy Unknown’

2K Games

With all of the action-packed first-person shooters dominating the market, you’d think a slower, turned-based strategy game would be a hard sell. Not so with “XCOM,” which shows there’s still a market for a thinking man’s game, especially if you raise the bar with presentation and a really deep upgrade tree.

 Worthy mentions:

“Diablo III” gave PC-based adventurers some medieval action; “Walking Dead” offered zombie hunters a series of engaging downloadable episodes; “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier” was the ideal shooter for people who like to work cooperatively to take on foes; and, based on several extensive demos, it seems that “Zombie U,” is the most interesting game on Nintendo’s new Wii U console.

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About the Authors


Brian Bowers is Stars and Stripes’ Assistant Managing Editor for Europe and Mideast and one of its video game reviewers. He joined the newspaper in 1992 in Germany, where he worked on the news desk and the city desk. He has a wife and three children, who are always eager to help him test games.


Sam Laney joined Stars and Stripes in 2007 as a copy/layout editor and slowly convinced upper management to support his video game habit. Since then, he’s added game reviews and previews to his list of duties and moved on to the iPad. When he’s not rocking newbies in “Left4Dead2,” he covers PC and Nintendo systems.


Michael S. Darnell joined Stars and Stripes in 2013 as a reporter and quickly annoyed his bosses into allowing him to write about video games in his spare time. He's a PC gamer at heart whose life goals include buildin