2012 has brought us some massive games and shattered sales records with merry abandon, but the fact is that plenty of deserving titles managed to slip under our gaming radar into pitiful ignominy. It's time that we championed the underdogs: the games you probably didn't buy - or even notice - throughout the last twelve months.
Before we begin, you need to understand that this list is not an objective measure of raw quality. Instead, we passed these games though a
hungover discussion on New Year's Day totally amazing top-secret algorithm that also takes sales figures and how little a splash they made in the mainstream gaming consciousness into account.
Confused art direction aside, 5th Cell's multiplayer shooter had a lot going for it. Jetpacks. Boomsticks. A persistent war fought through multiple seasons. What's not to like?
Sadly, Hybrid spectacularly failed to light up the Summer Of Arcade... perhaps because it came out scant weeks before Counter-Strike: GO. Whoops.
Dragon's Dogma gave us everything we've been missing from JRPGs: meaningful customisation that lets us truly become the main character. Then it added responsive combat mechanics, the deep Pawn NPC system and mythical creatures to stab up like nobody's business.
It charted well enough in Japan to warrant a sequel, but we feel that Dragon's Dogma deserved more recognition and sales over here.
Darksiders II ended up losing out to one of this year's underdog's done good: Sleeping Dogs. THQ had a lot riding on this one, and missing mega-hit status probably didn't help their financial situation.
One of the best tower defence games of all time also happens to be an excellent RPG with bags of additive content. From a tiny team. Underdogs rarely get more epic than this.
Luckily the brilliant Gold Edition update and a Steam release have shed the spotlight on this exceptional hybrid in recent months... and allowed us to nominate Defender's Quest as our Indie Game Of The Year.
6: The PlayStation Vita
Not exactly a game, but we reckon that Sony's handheld has had a rather awkward first year. Sensational hardware, a few standout hits and excellent PSOne titles on demand were rather overshadowed by the massive RRP, lack of a Christmas killer app and heinous third party software support.
Not to mention that there'll probably be a price cut this year.
We're not sure how many copies Dust managed to sell, but we have an uncanny feeling that the number should be bigger. Dean Dodrill spent years creating a stupendous MetroidVania platformer that ticked all the boxes: great gameplay, sumptuous art direction, memorable characters and a strong storyline that never got in the way.
Summer Of Arcade 2012 may have fizzled, but at least it went out with a bang.
ZombiU practically fell off the software charts after the Wii U launched, not helped by supply problems and seriously awful advertising. More to the point, though, Ubisoft's brave decision to focus on pure Survival Horror failed to resonate with many gamers and critics, leading to plenty of mixed reviews.
Give it half a chance, and you'll love how expertly this miserable adventure grinds you through the wringer, spitting you out emotionally numb and trembling. If you've been moaning about the lack of survival horror games these days, you might find that ZombiU gives you the fear you've been craving.
Funcom's Lovecraftian MMO was an odd proposition, seeing as its stunningly-realised game world (rife with rich visual imagery and alternate reality shenanigans) might have worked better as a tight singleplayer game. What could have been a breakthrough hit ended up totally overshadowed by Guild Wars II and Mists Of Pandaria, not helped by its archaic pricing structure.
Here's hoping that 2013 will herald a renaissance for The Secret World, especially since it's now a one-off purchase.
We hailed Vessel as an essential indie masterpiece; a truly superior puzzler that boasted exquisite quality and staggering quantity thanks to a lengthy campaign. Our job done, we then sat back and waited for our peers to do the same.
We're still waiting.
In the meantime, get on this, and hard.
Poor old Derrick never really had a chance. Released into the deep waters of PSN with almost nothing in the way of publicity, at a suicidal time of year, this papercraft oddity (fish)tanked so hard that the developers faced the threat of major financial problems.
It's a crying shame, because solid gameplay was backed up by a truly unique graphical style that was painstakingly assembled using genuine origami models and 3D scanning. Why not muster up whatever Christmas spirit you have left and check it out?