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Top 10 Xbox 360 Games of 2012

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2012 was a good year for the Xbox 360 with lots of solid game releases, which makes finding 12-15 titles worthy of recognition in an end of the year article like this easy. Figuring out which one title deserves Game of the Year, however, is a little harder. After a couple of days of deliberation and research (actually playing stuff again), we came up with a winner. Here are our picks for our favorite retail Xbox 360 Games of 2012.

You can also see our picks for the Top 10 Xbox Live Arcade Games of 2012 as well.

1. Dishonored - Xbox 360 Game of the Year

Bethesda
  • Publisher - Bethesda Softworks
  • Developer - Arkane Studios
  • ESRB Rating - "M" for Mature
  • Release Date (U.S.) - October 9, 2012

I have always said that I am a huge fan of games that give you the tools to have fun and then get the heck out of the way to let you actually enjoy them. Dishonored does that. Technically, it is a stealth game, but it isn't ever too pushy about how stealthy you should be. Kill no one. Kill everyone. Whatever. Unlock a bunch of crazy super powers. Or not. You can beat the game either way. Silently stalk through the sewers. Jump over the rooftops with awesome teleportation powers. Barge in through the front door. Sneak in a back window. Whatever you do is totally up to you, and pretty much no matter how you decide to tackle a situation, it is going to be a lot of fun. Dishonored is fresh and unique and a thoroughly enjoyable experience that is our 2012 Xbox 360 Game of the year.

2. Lollipop Chainsaw

Warner Bros. Interactive
  • Publisher - Warner Bros. Interactive
  • Developer - Grasshopper Manufacture
  • ESRB Rating - "M" for Mature
  • Release Date (U.S.) - June 12, 2012

    Just about everything in Lollipop Chainsaw appeals to me. On a basic level, it is a game where an attractive cheerleader kills zombies with a freaking chainsaw! But there is more to it than that. I love the combo based gameplay. I love that you unlock new moves and combos as you play, and the gameplay actually gets better on a second or third playthrough (if you played through it just once and put it aside, you did it wrong). I love that there are unlockable costumes you actually have to work for. I love that the core of the game is a totally oldschool high score chase. I even love the raunchy, over the top humor the game uses at every turn. When I think back on the most fun, most memorable games I played on Xbox 360 in 2012, Lollipop Chainsaw is usually right at the top of the list.

  • 3. Sleeping Dogs

    Square-Enix
    • Publisher - Square Enix
    • Developer - United Front Games
    • ESRB Rating - "M" for Mature
    • Release Date (U.S.) - August 14, 2012

    Sleeping Dogs is far from an original entry in the open world crime sim genre, but it takes the bits and pieces it borrows from everywhere else and executes them just a little bit better. The result is a solid game all around. In a genre where most games do one or two things well, Sleeping Dogs does pretty much everything well. It also stands out by featuring hand to hand kung fu fighting as the main form of combat instead of using guns, and it is very well done and satisfying to play. By taking place in Hong Kong, the game also has a unique and fresh feel that will revive your interest in the genre if you're one of those (like me) who is getting tired of being a crime lord in Anytown, USA. Sleeping Dogs, along with 2011's Saints Row: The Third, are solid proof that Rockstar isn't the only company that can do a crime sandbox right.

    4. Far Cry 3

    Ubisoft
    • Publisher - Ubisoft
    • Developer - Ubisoft Montreal
    • ESRB Rating - "M" for Mature
    • Release Date (U.S.) - December 4, 2012

    Far Cry 3 is one of the best shooters of the year thanks to a fine balance between realism and playability, great presentation, and a satisfying sense of progression as you play through the game that really makes you feel like your skills are improving the deeper you get into the experience. The way you play the game at hour 20 is vastly different from how you play at hour 5. Not so much because you have improved specs or powers, but because you as a player have learned how to survive. It is crazy satisfying. With a better story (though Vaas is a great villain) and maybe the option to repopulate outposts with enemies (clearing outposts is easily the best part of the game, but once they're done they're gone for good ...), Far Cry 3 would have been near perfect. As it is, though, it is still pretty darn great.

    5. Borderlands 2

    2K Games
    • Publisher - 2K Games
    • Developer - Gearbox Studios
    • ESRB Rating - "M" for Mature
    • Release Date (U.S.) - September 18, 2012

    Sure Borderlands 2 offers a million bazillion guns and hours of shootbang combat, but what I remember most about it is the characters. Handsome Jack is a wonderful villain. Tiny Tina and Claptrap are hilarious. The cast of the first game having a major role here is awesome. Moxxi is incredible. Top that off with great presentation, tons and tons and tons of content (with some solid DLC as well), and fun gameplay with great co-op, and Borderlands 2 is pretty darn amazing all around.

    6. Akai Katana

    Rising Star Games
    • Publisher - Rising Star Games
    • Developer - CAVE Interactive
    • ESRB Rating - "T" for Teen
    • Release Date (U.S.) - May 15, 2012

    The Xbox 360 has a lot of solid shoot 'em ups (shmups), but Akai Katana is the best of them all so far. With complex gameplay that is more than just dodging through bullet hell and trying to survive, Akai Katana's two unique scoring modes are among the most addictive and satisfying the genre has to offer. In a genre notorious for being difficult, Akai Katana deserves praise for being among the most accessible. It is still crazy hard, but at least with some nice visuals it is easier to see what is actually going on and the razor sharp controls make weaving your way through the hail of multicolored bullets a little easier than it is in most shmups. I've played a lot of shoot 'em ups on Xbox 360, and Akai Katana is by far my favorite.

    7. Halo 4

    Microsoft
    • Publisher - Microsoft
    • Developer - 343 Industries
    • ESRB Rating - "M" for Mature
    • Release Date (U.S.) - November 6, 2012

    The first Halo without Bungie at the helm turned out better than just about anyone could have hoped. Developer 343 Industries didn't just try to maintain the Halo status quo, it actually made numerous tweaks and changes to improve the experience, most of which paid off. It still definitely feels and looks like a Halo game, just better. A solid campaign. Great co-op. Awesome multiplayer. The great Forge level editor. Halo 4 has it all. And on top of that, it is also one of the absolute most stunningly great looking games of the year, a feat no other Halo game ever managed to accomplish (they looked good, but not "best graphics of the year" good).

    8. Mass Effect 3

    EA
    • Publisher - Electronic Arts
    • Developer - BioWare
    • ESRB Rating - "M" for Mature
    • Release Date (U.S.) - March 6, 2012

    Mass Effect 3 was very controversial this year, but my stance has always been that five minutes of a bad ending does not nullify the thirty hours of great gameplay that preceded it. And Mass Effect 3 was great. The core shooting gameplay is by far the best in the series. That crazy spaceship battle at the end is one of the best large scale sci-fi space battles ever (yeah, right up there with anything from "Star Wars"). Say what you will about the story or how our choices didn't "really" matter in the end, but meeting up with characters from past games and looking back at everything we had done was rewarding and satisfying even if the original ending was a letdown. The journey was fun, even if the destination was a disappointment. And that is what I will remember about Mass Effect - the 100 or so hours of fun gameplay across the whole series (Mass Effect 1 review, Mass Effect 2 review) with great characters in a wonderful sci-fi universe. Mass Effect 3 was a fine cap to that experience.

    9. Final Fantasy XIII-2

    Square Enix
    • Publisher - Square Enix
    • Developer - Square Enix
    • ESRB Rating - "T" for Teen
    • Release Date (U.S.) - January 31, 2012

    Call me crazy, but I genuinely liked just about everything about Final Fantasy XIII-2 and it has been one of the few games I played this year that actually stuck with me. The battle system is awesome. Going back and forth through time to thoroughly explore all of the levels and find secrets was fun. The monster system was fun. The presentation was very nice with great visuals and an awesome soundtrack. Yeah, the story was bonkers, but I still like the cast. And, honestly, I really like Lightning as a character and can't wait for Lightning Returns. Any game with more of her is always going to get my attention (yeah, I played Dissidia Duodecim on PSP). At the very least, we can all agree FF XIII-2 was better than FF XIII, right?

    10. Forza Horizon

    Microsoft
    • Publisher - Microsoft
    • Developer - Playground Games
    • ESRB Rating - "T" for Teen
    • Release Date (U.S.) - October 23, 2012

    Pretty easily the best racing game on Xbox 360 in 2012, Forza Horizon put a new spin on the Forza franchise and opened the doors to what will, we assume, be a pretty awesome series of racing titles on the next-gen Xbox. Forza Horizon showed that the franchise can keep its core intact - sim-style gameplay (Forza 4) with great physics and awesome realistic presentation - but skew a little towards approachable arcade-style racing and even rally racing and be just as great. Forza Horizon was an absolute joy to play with a fun world to explore, a fantastic sense of speed, plenty of races with a lot of variety, and lots of cars to customize and drive. This is a great racing game.

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