2012 Game of the Year Awards: Aaron's Honorable Mentions

We've made it through another year in gaming! As relieved as I am, this is the first time in four years I've really struggled to talk about my "honorable mentions," those titles that didn't exactly make the top 10 cut. Does that mean there were fewer quality games out in 2012 than previous years -- that, somehow, there really were only 10 great releases all year? No, I think it means that our staff was on the same page, more than we've ever been. We methodically selected the most worthwhile experiences over 12 months to share with you, and, short of two exclusions, I'm damn happy with our votes.

Below you'll find my own small band of misfit games. They may not have made the list, but they're still fantastic experiences.

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Dishonored

October 2012Arkane Studios360, PS3, Windows

Dishonored is a game about whales. Well, not exactly, but whaling is the chief industrial product of Dunwall, the faux-Victorian city in which Corvo plots his revenge. It's so ridiculous that I laughed when the game told me turrets and disintegrating force fields were powered by distilled, magical whale blubber.

And yet, it makes a lot of sense when played in-context.

Stealth-action games are great, sure, but Dishonored risked coming out half-baked despite Arkane Studios towing the line of the Thief franchise. To be blunt, we're lucky that this fresh property didn't suck. And while I didn't care about the plot (outside of rescuing the abducted princess), something about the mysteries of Dunwall and the empire of Gristol kept me playing. I found myself entranced by a world so defined, so rich with culture borrowed from our world, yet its greater myths were obscured by the plot. Even so, the mythology of Dishonored made it one of the best new games in years.

I want to read wiki entries about Dunwall and The Outsider, the supernatural being who grants Corvo his other-worldly powers. Go play Dishonored if only to absorb the insanity of an alternate world, one that never moved past stovepipe hats and laced collars.

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Pokémon Black 2 and White 2

October 2012 | Game Freak | Nintendo DS

All I can say is I've clocked nearly 200 hours with the first sequel to a core Pokémon game. My ridiculous time commitment didn't happen because Nintendo revised its formula to the point that Black 2 and White 2 bring back the exhilaration of selecting your very first starter (tip: always bet on Bulbasaur). I can attribute such dedication to the fairly drastic streamlining and the incorporation of a legitimate plot to the obsessive compulsive catching and battling.

If you've tried Pokémon in the past 14 years, you'll feel at home with Black 2 and White 2. But never before have you been so encouraged to keep playing after the Elite Four are bested. The ease with which you can complete the Pokédex (compared to earlier games) caused me to contract the "catch 'em all" fever for the first time since Red and Blue. Let alone the insane amount of post-game battling thanks to the Pokémon World Tournament, Battle Tower and Battle Subway, you'll always find something to do in these conventional sequels.

Pokémon isn't a name synonymous with ingenuity these days, but I'd encourage anyone with a DS to give the series another chance.