Arkane Studios' revenge drama combined a witty plot, crisp gameplay and an uncommonly distinctive milieu, setting a supernaturally gifted assassin loose in a gloriously decadent, steampunk-influenced city.
"Dishonored" is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC.
Credit: Bethesda Softworks
2. Mass Effect 3
No 2012 game was more ambitious than BioWare's sweeping space opera. Yes, the ending was a little bumpy, but the fearless Commander Shepard's last journey across the cosmos provided dozens of thrilling moments.
"Mass Effect 3" is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, PC.
Credit: Electronic Arts
3. The Walking Dead
This moving adaptation of Robert Kirkman's comics dodged the predictable zombie bloodbath in favor of a finely tuned character study of two survivors: Lee, an escaped convict, and Clementine, the 8-year-old girl he's committed to protect.
"The Walking Dead" is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, iOS.
Credit: Telltale Games
A nameless figure trudges across a desert toward a glowing light. Simple enough, but gorgeous visuals, haunting music and the need to communicate, wordlessly, with companions you meet along the way translate into something that's almost profound.
"Journey" is available on PlayStation 3.
5. Borderlands 2
Gearbox Software's gleeful mash-up of first-person shooting, role-playing and loot-collecting conventions gets bigger and badder, but what stuck with me most were the often hilarious encounters with the damaged citizens of the godforsaken planet Pandora.
"Borderlands 2" is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC.
Credit: 2K Games
6. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
A strategy classic returns, as the forces of Earth fight back against an extraterrestrial invasion. It's a battle of wits rather than reflexes, a stimulating change of pace from the typical alien gorefest.
"XCOM: Enemy Unknown" is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC.
A two-dimensional dude named Gomez finds his world has suddenly burst into a third dimension in this gem from indie developer Phil Fish. As Gomez explores, the world of "Fez'' continually deepens, opening up mysteries that only the most dedicated players will be able to solve.
"Fez" is available on Xbox 360.
8. Spec Ops: The Line
This harrowing tale from German studio Yager Development transplants "Apocalypse Now'' to a war-torn Dubai. It's a bracing critique, not just of war but of the rah-rah jingoism of contemporary military shooters.
"Spec Ops: The Line" is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC.
Credit: 2K Games
9. Assassin's Creed III
A centuries-old conspiracy takes root in Colonial America in this beautifully realized, refreshingly irreverent installment of Ubisoft's alternate history franchise.
"Assassin's Creed III" is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, PC.
The best launch game for Nintendo's new console turns the Wii U's GamePad into an effective tool for finding and hunting down the undead.