2012 has been a busy year in gaming, with plenty of high-profile releases -- Diablo III, Mass Effect 3, Halo 4 and the annual CoD and Assassin’s Creed to name a few. But like every year, for each gaming blockbuster, there's a bunch of quiet achievers lost in obscurity. MMGN takes a look at some of the most overlooked video game gems of 2012.
Released quietly in February of this year and hardly promoted by Sega, Binary Domain deserved better. It fell into obscurity early when its ill-timed release was sandwiched between the massive hype and launch of the Playstation Vita and the release of Mass Effect 3, which dashed its chances of establishing a name for itself.
Binary Domain exactly didn’t bring anything substantially new to the table, but its extremely solid squad-based third-person shooter gameplay, visually stunning graphics and intriguing storyline of a futuristic Japan engulfed by the ethical and moral realities of robotics is something to experience for yourself. The relentless robotic enemies -- from the basic droid foot soldiers to giant mechanical tanks and behemoths -- are an absolute blast to fight, and the unique squad relationship system -- where you could choose which of your quirky teammates to fight with and gain or lose favour with based on your actions and responses -- added an odd but charming element to the shooter gameplay. Binary Domain easily matches Gears of War as an extremely solid and enjoyable third-person shooter experience, and is one that you can’t miss.
MMGN's Review verdict: 7.5
Kingdoms of Amalur
Also released in February, Kingdoms of Amalur is an epic fantasy RPG that just didn’t get the attention and praise it deserved. The initial reason was the Skyrim withdrawals (or addictions) everyone was still having, which left other sprawling open-world RPGs out of the question for most gamers. However, the collapse and eventual demise of both 38 Studios and Big Huge Games also hurt the game and sealed its criminally overlooked fate.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning certainly wasn't a failure, having sold well enough and scoring high in many reviews -- it just got crowded in a market unfriendly to new IPs. Amalur is an expansive and deep RPG with a colourful art style, solid combat and crazy loot. If you’re after a grand RPG on the scale of Skyrim or Dragon’s Dogma, you would be crazy not to give Amalur a try if you’ve ignored it until this point.
MMGN's Review verdict: 9.0
Spec Ops: The Line
In a market crowded with shooters, it is understandable that Spec Ops: The Line would be mostly overlooked or dismissed as another generic title, or overshadowed by the likes of Black Ops II and Halo 4. But what could have been another dude-bro squad shooter was actually something much deeper; an emotionally engaging story about the lasting perils and fickle morality of war.
For it's story, characters and exploration of morality and humanity alone, Spec Ops: The Line deserves a chance over other typical shooters available on the market.
MMGN's Review verdict: 8.0
The Walking Dead
Telltale’s episodic The Walking Dead series may be the only game on this list which has finally received the critical acclaim it deserved -- having won the GOTY award at this year’s VGAs-- but it still is a title that is largely overlooked or ignored by the gaming community. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that many gamers expressed surprise at its win, or even knew what the game was about at all.
The Walking Dead is a prime example of the importance and depth the videogame medium can bring to story-telling. The game's emotionally engaging story, its subtle and wide-reaching reactions to your choices and strong characterisation trumps over any graphical prowess, multiplayer mode or new hardware gimmicks that would have enticed other gamers if Telltale had bowed to mainstream templates, which they thankfully did not. If you haven’t already given the game its due attention, now is the perfect time to do so as the fifth and final (heart-breaking but brilliant) episode was released just last month.
MMGN's Review verdict(s): 8.5 (Episode 1), 8.5 (Episode 2), 7.0 (Episode 3), 9.5. (Episode 5).
After five years in the making, the unique indie puzzle-meets-retro platformer game known as Fez was finally released on Xbox Live Arcade.
With impressive sprite artwork, 2D-3D spinning mechanic and clever puzzles, it's a shame that the title did not receive the major media attention it deserved, though much of its lack of mainstream success has to do with its exclusivity to Xbox Live Arcade and being an indie title -- it's just too hip for most people. But don't let that stop you now that you've heard about it -- it's a gaming experience you won't ever regret.
MMGN's Review verdict: 9.0
Other overlooked titles of 2012
Kid Icarus | 3DS
The Darkness II | Multiplatform
Syndicate | Multiplatform
The Last Story | Wii
Deadlight | XBLA, PC
Torchlight II | PC/Indie
HOME | PC/Indie
Lone Survivor | PC/Indie
Click on each for the official MMGN review and verdict.
What are some of the most overlooked or underrated video game gems of 2012 on your list?
Nathan Misa is the senior games writer, reviewer and contributor for MMGN.com and GamesFix, and way too keen on niche games for the sake of it. You can hear his ramblings and thoughts here on MMGN, Google+ and Twitter.