Feel free to list your top whatever. One... three... eighty...
I shall go with my top ONE. The one game that truly blew me away this year...
Yes, Spelunky is fucking awesome. It is the only thing stopping me from storming MS headquarters with a burning pitchfork. I've always been fascinated by the idea of the Roguelike, the endless promise of a procedurally-generated game, as well as the fascinating emergence that comes from overlapping many simple systems together to create a satisfying, challenging whole.
Well, Spelunky takes all of that and encases it in a scrumptious arcade action shell. I actually waited for this game to go on sale before grabbing it. Subsequently, the demo (which covers about a fourth of the game!) became one of my most-played games of 2012. Spelunky is hard as fuck, but it always keeps you coming back for more. You go back to zero every time you die, but, in classic Roguelike fashion, your personal skills and strategies 'level up', which allows you to get a bit farther each game. It's a great feeling. And when you die (over and over), instead of getting discouraged and (virtually) shelving the game, you just jump right back in for another go. Partially because death in Spelunky (as in Smash Brothers) is almost always hilarious, and partially because you're not REALLY playing to win or to unlock anything. You're playing for the sheer joy, the sheer nail-biting thrill of playing. Almost like a classic coin-op game. Except this one is RANDOMLY GENERATED, so the fun can theoretically go on forever!
I seriously can't say enough good things about Spelunky. 2012 was a year when narrative received an incredible amount of attention, but Spelunky excelled by being the gamiest game in Gametown. It's just so pure. Like fucking Everclear.
Spelunky is also available for free on PC, but I wouldn't really recommend that version, since it lacks the refinements that really put the XBLA version over the top. If you have the means, here's the motive: Go play Spelunky!!
Feature-filled, content-packed, all wrapped up in fantastic graphics, phenomenal musical score, top-notch voice acting, and a storyline that kept you guessing. And despite popular belief, spot-on fantastic controls. This game knocked it out of the park, and is hands-down the best game to come out in 2012, IMHO. Nothing else even comes close for me. This is an action game done RIGHT.
I have to go with The Last Story for this year. I picked up Xenoblade and The Last Story and have played The Last Story more because I like the story and also the battle system seemed more fun and strategic. I also need to play more of Xenoblade to explore it more.
Well, to go with the theme of being surprising, I'd pick Mario Party 9. Though it does have some problems, it was nice to finally see a real shake up to the series, and I'm looking forward to seeing where they go from here.
Xenoblade is great too of course, but I already knew what I was getting into before I played it. However, it actually wasn't as good as I'd thought it be, as all the hype about it being "modern" made me think that some things about it would be a lot more streamlined and smooth than they actually were.