Pretty much every game on this list I chose because yes, they were some of the most memorable experiences in games I had in 2012, but also because of the atmosphere that they produce, the aesthetics found within and each game's unique visual style. All of these 6 games are very different, yet they are tied together by the fact that they are interesting, unique, and above all fun to play. Some of the games, Dear Esther for example, give a sense of unease to the player, making them feel like something just isn't quite right, while never saying it outright. The game isn't scary, it's just rather unsettling and sort of ominous. While in contrast Lone Survivor is suprisingly disturbing, due in part to it's sound design (jesus those monsters sound scary) and it's cool visual style and representation of the slow but apparent decay of the main character's sanity (shown through visual tricks such as seeing double of things and screen flickers etc). Botanicula and Fez bring about a sense of wonderment, joy, and discovery as you journey through the fantastic worlds presented in them. Spelunky takes the exploration and excitement in discovery found in Botanicula and Fez and combines it with the extreme difficulty of FTL: Faster than Light and Hotline Miami, making for an enjoyable and challenging experience.
One of the most charming games I played in 2012, Botanicula is a joy to play. The game is a point and click adventure game by Amanita Design, of Machinarium fame, who have some excellent credentials when it comes to point and click, and Botanicula is no exception. The game focuses on a small group of critters, and you'll end up using each one to solve different puzzles throughout the game. Like I said, the game has it's charms, such as a part fairly early on in the game where a genie grants all of the bugs a wish which plays out in a sort of mini-level. The sound design in this game is amazing. From the buzzing of bees, and the wizzing of assorted insects, the game really captures the sounds of nature. In a similar fashion, the art is like nothing I've ever seen. Combine all this together and you get a fantastic, unforgettably charming game that is hard to put down.
Some may see the perspective flipping mechanic as a gimmick, I on the other had think it is a very interesting puzzle mechanic and put to good use throughout the game. Pretty much every adventure game penalizes you for dying and has enemies you have to deal with, taking away from the actual adventuring. Fez does a great job with focusing on the adventuring by having no enemies and doesn't penalize the player for dying. Not to mention the music and pixel art are fantastic, however the map system is overly confusing and generally unhelpful. Despite that minor flaw, I would say it was definitely worth the five year wait for this indie adventure/platforming gem.
Lone Survivor is creepy. Sure, it's a 2D side scroller, but it is CREEPY. This side scrolling psychological survival horror game by British game developer Jasper Byrne harks back to the proper survival (and not action) horror games of old such as the original Silent Hill. The game forces you to scavenge for things such as food, ammunition, and batteries for your flashlight. It's nice to see a survival horror game that puts an emphasis on the SURVIVAL aspect as well as the horror, and doesn't just let you run around and shoot everything *cough* resident evil 5 *cough*.
This game oozes cool (and blood). This hyper violent top down action game is set in an alternate universe 1980s Miami, Florida, and the over the top killing is accompanied by a wonderfully bizarre story (you go forth on a murderous rampage at the behest of voices on your answering machine) and a pounding electronic soundtrack that fits perfectly in tune with the fast paced combat to make for an exciting, trippy, and adrenaline-fueled experience.
I've heard many say that Dear Esther isn't "an actual game". Sure, it doesn't have actual gameplay persay, other than walking around, but I think this game represents a new way to see games. Games don't necessarily have to have intricate gameplay to be enjoyable. Where Dear Esther succeeds is in it's ability to tell an interesting story. Not only that, but the island in which the game takes place on looks fantastic. The player has no clue where they are exactly, but there certainly is an ominous feeling about this mysterious island. Also it gets my vote for best socks in a video game. Yep.
Spelunky takes the exploration and excitement in discovery found in Botanicula and Fez and combines it with the extreme difficulty of FTL: Faster than Light and Hotline Miami, making for an enjoyable and challenging experience, as you explore different worlds from the mines to the jungle to even Hell itself, collecting gems and gold, stealing golden idols, and rescuing damsels in distress. It's a quick, fun, tough as nails permadeath adventurer that is a great joy to play.
This rogue like spaceship sim is a kickstarter success story: It garnered a huge following and got a ton of money during its funding time on kickstarter, and the developers delivered on their promise: an extremely difficult but addicting and fun space rpg. The game has you captain a space ship through 8 different sectors with the rebel forces right on your tail, meaning you will have to watch your back and hurry as you explore each sector.