Bits and Bytes: 'Mass Effect' tops list of best games released this year

Video game columnist Brendan Wray on his favorite games of 2012

This year has been one to remember. Between coming to Mizzou all the way from Texas and finding out that I'm colorblind during my journalism class last week, to say that 2012 has been boring would be a huge mistake. But enough about me — this year has been an exciting one for gaming as well.

With the holidays and new year approaching, here's a list of the five games that have defined the year for me. If any of these games haven't found their way inside your consoles, then get ready to add them to your personal gaming backlog.

1. "Mass Effect 3"

The Mass Effect series holds a special place in my heart, mainly because I've spent an ungodly amount of time playing the trilogy on my Xbox. So, when the final part of Commander Shepard's story came out in March, I was ecstatic. While the game arguably has a unsatisfying ending, the journey is something that I can't help but recommend. Even better is the game's way of incorporating the choices I made in the past games — for example, a somewhat minor decision I make in the first game can become important in the third.

The entire trilogy was just recently released in a wonderful boxed set. If you haven't been exposed to the world created by the team at BioWare, be prepared for an artfully crafted science fiction experience with some genuinely well-thought out characters that tugged at my heartstrings on more than one occasion.

2. "Journey"

With this column, I've been trying to bring indie games to light that aren't the typical "bro-shooters" or annualized sports games. Basically, I want gamers to expand their gaming interests. "Journey" is the perfect game to do just that. This game came out of left field for me.

Journey is a game that gives evidence to the argument that video games are art. Centered in a desert landscape with only an ominous mountaintop in the distance, players can expect to slowly become enthralled in the landscape and environment. "Journey" is a game that had me in states of happiness, shock and utter awe by the end. For any serious PlayStation gamer, this is one to make sure to play.

3. "Sound Shapes"

"Sound Shapes" was the first review I ever did for MOVE, so that alone means it's worth picking up. For those that missed my review (although I'm sure my readership is in the thousands, right?) "Sound Shapes" is the ultimate interactive DJ-set. Going through levels and listening the the music you create by picking up little orbs is wonderful. I still find myself going back and playing through the levels with original songs from Beck that cannot be found anywhere else.

Even more so, the added level creator only expands the experience. The developer, Queasy Games, has been having theme weeks for level creators, and the results have been truly beautiful to listen and look at from the community. Any PlayStation 3 or PS Vita owner should download this immediately. It's worth every penny.

4. "PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale"

Having just come out a few weeks ago, "Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale," or for the sake of space, "All-Stars," has proven itself to be more than the PlayStation version of Nintendo's wildly popular Super Smash Bros. series. What it lacks in popular characters, it gains in its unique gameplay style. Instead of flinging characters off screen a la Smash Bros., "All-Stars" relies on characters' supers, essentially a killing move with three levels of damage.

With some really great online multiplayer and rankings, I can easily see "All-Stars" becoming the go-to party game for people that aren't pretentious enough to own a Wii U.

5. "Assassin's Creed 3"

Okay, hear me out on this. "Assassin's Creed" was a letdown in my own mind, but I have friends who've told me that it wasn't as bad as I thought it was. So it deserves a place on this list just for the fact that swinging a tomahawk at Redcoats is great. It's the biggest 'merica feeling of the year.

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