I'd argue that sports games haven't quite accomplished what EA Canada managed to do this year with FIFA 13: Mix in a subtle sense of unpredictability that you'd expect from the sport the game represents. FIFA 13's first touch controls forces players to calculate their decisions on the field more carefully than ever before, as one bad bounce can create an opening for your opponent. Layered with that unpredictability and an always-improving AI is the EA Sports Football Club Catalogue, which builds on the XP system pervasive throughout the game by offering players in-game rewards for their efforts. FIFA 13 is a complete game, and is unquestionably my favorite sports game of 2012.
I've lost a lot of good men while traversing FTL: Faster Than Light's galactic levels. Maybe I'm just bad at strategy games, but picking a different tactic in my ship's upgrade path each time tends to result in disaster. Sweet, addictive disaster. Managing my ship's power supply and balancing my needs mid-battle to eke out a victory over pirates and rebels, all while finding my ship is racking up hull damage, is appropriately nerve-wracking. The text adventure-style decisions between battles is always a gamble: Will I lose another crew member if I send my team down to a planet of angry, infected civilians? Would it be worth the extra fuel and money? What's impressive is that after losing your ship in this game (and that will happen), you'll find yourself attempting to beat your high score and unlock more ships. It's a simple spaceship simulator with a high replay value, and probably the most addictive game of 2012 for me.
Nintendo does an admirable job of taking existing series and using them to highlight any outstanding features of its consoles. New Super Mario Bros. U is the latest in that trend, in that a number of Wii U features such as the Miiverse and the Game Pad's touch screen become central components to the experience. New Super Mario Bros. U is never hampered by these features, remaining a fresh and fun platforming experience. Sprinkle in the game's added challenges and multiplayer modes, and this is definitely a great way to launch a system.
Frog Fractions is a free flash-based "edutainment" game that teaches players about fractions. Except it really isn't either of those things, as players soon discover after clearing a few levels of bug-catching with their frog. Without spoiling this hilarious half-hour adventure, let's just say that nothing is as it seems, and one-man developer Twinbeard Studios is a borderline mad scientist in crafting a game as thoroughly confusing and satirical as Frog Fractions. It's a short game worth checking out. Oh, and don't be fooled, it's not really meant for kids. A bonus: the soundtrack is awesome!
Social, mobile, free-to-play games are everywhere, and have some annoying quirks. That's exactly why Jellyvision's work on bringing You Don't Know Jack to Facebook and iOS/Android deserves some attention. In true Jellyvision fashion, not only does the game retain its trademark humor and ability to squeeze charm into every piece of content possible, but it becomes the perfect example for how social games don't have to be soul-draining, time-wasting apps that strongly encourage players to pony up for premium content. Sure, some of those elements do (and should) remain in You Don't Know Jack, but the trivia game is so completely entertaining that it was one of my favorite games of this year for any platform.