When it comes to downloadable video games, a wide number of them managed to grab our attention – and yours – this year. They boasted the same level of quality as most retail efforts, while being sold at a fraction of the price. And who are we to pass up a deal like that?
We here at Prima Games put our heads together and came up with an elite list of ten favorites that you shouldn't miss out on, and are currently available for purchase on both Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. (Some are even on sale for the holidays, which is a nice plus.) You'll need some room on your hard drive to download them, but we assure you that they're most certainly worth it.
Here are the ten 2012 downloadable games that you absolutely need…
Lord of the Rings: Guardians of Middle Earth (WB Games/Xbox Live, PlayStation Network)
Just in time for the release of the epic Hobbit movie, WB Games and Monolith have cooked up a great console-oriented MOBA that's sure to become a multiplayer favorite over the next few months. Featuring popular characters from the films and J.R.R. Tolkien's original story, as well as various classes and tactics to take advantage of, the game offers a multiplayer experience that very few competitors can match. And with fresh DLC coming in the months ahead, it's only going to get better from here.
Rock Band Blitz (Harmonix/Xbox Live, PlayStation Network)
And you thought you needed plastic game instruments to be a rock and roll star. Silly. Rock Band Blitz turns the way you play the series upside down, having you move across a number of tracks, hitting button icons with joystick presses and activating boosters to help get the highest score possible. The real joy of this game lies in the leaderboards, as you'll compete against friends and reap the rewards through acquiring new power-ups. This is one rock party we hope never ends.
Sine Mora (Digital Reality/Xbox Live, PlayStation Network)
For those of you that were looking for a shoot-em-up – or rather, a "shmup" – that stood out from the others in the pack, Sine Mora is definitely your game. Featuring a strong difficulty setting and a unique time-twisting gimmick that enables you to avoid deadly gunfire with ease, Sine Mora also boasts some fantastic visuals, a rhythmic soundtrack that doesn't grow tiring, and excellent 3D support, so that the details really pop out at you. For ten bucks, this one's an easy purchase.
Joe Danger 2: The Movie (Hello Games/Xbox Live, PlayStation Network)
Hello Games has outdone themselves – which is a hard thing to do considering how well the original Joe Danger fared. With The Movie, the developers went "bigger and better", with highly detailed levels, more challenges and a bunch of collectibles that will keep you coming back for more. Sure, the director's constant commands can be a bit too much to take, but overall, this is a sequel that deserves to be welcomed with open arms. Now let's see what Joe has planned for part three, shall we?
Dust: An Elysian Tail (Microsoft/Xbox Live Arcade)
Here's a neat little fact you need to know about Dust: An Elysian Tail – it's the work of one man. For the past few years, Dean Dodrill has been toiling away on this majestic adventure, one that resembles the brilliant Muramasa: The Demon Blade on the Wii with its exquisite art style and action-packed gameplay. However, its storyline is unique, and the Devil May Cry-like combat system will have you building combos you never even thought existed. It's really a stunning feat, one well worth your time.
Trials Evolution (Ubisoft/Xbox Live Arcade)
The original Trials HD was quite the test, maddening in some places yet absolutely brilliant in others with its rider-based challenges and racing action. RedLynx's sequel follows the same mantra, with mind-boggling levels that will have you fighting to get through in the best time possible, along with multiplayer events and a number of unlockable goodies that are worth discovering. The new settings are also welcome, exiting the doldrums of inner warehouses to reveal a gorgeous new world to race – and crash – through. Don't miss it.
Sound Shapes (SCEA/PlayStation Network)
Music/rhythm games aren't really new these days, but how they're developed is, and Queasy Games set a new standard for the genre with the enjoyable Sound Shapes. Featuring music from the likes of Deadmau5, Beck and other popular artists, the game has a swell interaction between the tunes and the in-game stages, changing with each rhythmic beat while keeping you on your toes as you collect orbs and unlock new items, in which you can build your own levels. This is one Sound we can definitely come back to, again and again.
Mark of the Ninja (Klei Entertainment/Xbox Live Arcade)
Very few games actually have you feeling like you're actually a ninja. The Ninja Gaiden games are good, but rely more on over-the-top carnage than using your stealthy ways. Mark of the Ninja, however, is a game that gets it right, relying on you to hide from adversaries and strike at just the right time – if at all – in order to avoid detection. Using Klei's trademark hand-drawn animation, the game boasts some killer level designs and excellent gameplay, enough for the most hardened gamer to fully appreciate.
Journey (thatgamecompany/PlayStation Network)
One of 2012's most captivating downloadable experiences, Journey is a game unlike any other. This isn't one of those stressful platformers, rather an adventure where you set out to reach a mysterious mountain in the distance, while working your way through a mystifying world, either alone or with a friend through online co-op. Featuring magnificent graphics and a wonderful soundtrack composed by Emmy-nominated Austin Wintory, Journey is a game that begs to be experienced.
The Walking Dead (Telltale Games/Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network)
Finally, we come to a game that has managed to stand out from the TV show and comic book series that it's loosely based on – and that's really saying something. Telltale's take on The Walking Dead is nothing short of magnificent, with tough decision-making throughout that'll have you thinking twice over the course of your harrowing journey, while occasionally keeping zombies from turning you into a walker. With plenty of twists and turns and emotional involvement, this is easily one of the best games of the year, if not THE best.