Posted December 24, 2012 by Zeth in Features

2012: The year downloads ruled the roost?


2012: The year downloads ruled the roost? Surely not. Surely the big budget blockbusters proved once again that downloadable tiltes are cheap experimental or niche products for short plays? Hell no!

This year, more so than any other, I think it’s clear to see the quality gap closing between what we consider a “retail” release and a “downloadable” release. So many massive budget Triple A titles have stumbled this year. So many have failed to make the impact they should have. In contrast so many digital only releases have just knocked it out of the park. This may well be one of the final years we distinguish retail and downloadable-only titles as they become every bit as essential as retail.

Here’s a short list of this year’s downloadable stars for you to consider… and then go download!

The Walking Dead

Telltale have taken a whole new direction with this release of the comic book sensation. Borrowing heavily from Heavy Rain and wrapping it up with their own unique story telling and design style they’ve created more of a next level interactive storybook than a game. The whole thing hangs together superbly. From the stomach-clenchingly fraught moral choices against the clock to the deep attachment you form to Clemetine. The game is like no other and deserves to be played by anyone who even remotely likes games.

Hotline Miami

An 80’s styled retro top-show beat-em-up stealth title with loud music and neon infused visuals. Should all be dreadful but the game is just superb. Great fun for a quick blast of just kicking back to this PC title is great fun and an essential indie purchase.

Hotline Miami

Trials Evolution

Trials Evolution. Man I’d like to kick it’s arse! The game is truly fantastic. A real fine tweaking of the already well honed Trials 2/Trials HD formula that add masses of ludicrous antics and scenarios in to the mix. It’s also responsible for several bouts of uncontrolled rage and many hours of lost time. The game has a massive “one more go” hook that will eat away at your soul it’s that impressive! Yet another essential downloadable purchase this year.

Dear Esther

More interactive story book than a true game, Dear Esther offered us up a creepy and compelling short tale. Fawned over by “games are art” crazies, clucked over by critics, the experience needs to be one taken first hand to appreciate it’s impact.


Oh Journey. A game that’s just beautiful in so many respects. A game where the actual deeper meaning behind the playing of it is your own personal “journey” through it. Almost everyone you will talk to will tell you the same thing at the end of journey – “That is changed them a little bit and made them really feel something”. That Game Company really managed to produced something of significance with their final Sony exclusive title.


The Unfinished Swan

Giant Sparrow managed to take a blank screen and make it feel like discovering the world for the first time. The paint-ball mechanic might have seemed a little gimmicky but as the game progresses and new methods of exploring the world appear you can’t help but feel a real sense of genuine discovery and wonder. Like Sony exclusive stable mate Journey, The Unfinished Swan manages to do something truly unique in the gaming space.


Many years in the making but Phil Fish’s Fez title finally came to light during the XBLA Summer of Arcade. Setting some pretty mind-melting puzzles in a seemingly retro and simple world left the game feeling fresh, challenging and little bit special.

Rock Band Blitz

A bright and brash reworking of Harmonix’s older Frequency title brought us the superbly addictive and accessible Rock Band Blitz. Using the controller you can finally make use of the masses of Rock Band songs you downloaded but can’t be bothered to get a platic guitar out for.

Mark of the Ninja

Redefinition of stealth seems to have featured prominently in recent titles, no more so than in Dishonoured and downloadable nugget Mark of the Ninja. Taking a side scrolling look and feel and rolling in a superbly intuitive and responsive stealth mechanic the game just drips atmosphere and class. Many will be put off by it’s “stealth” label but, as a non-stealth fan, I can say I’ve enjoyed it greatly.

Mark of the Ninja

Retro City Rampage

Part homage and part parody this game serves as a great open-world action adventure title. Fusing pop culture and retro gaming it offers up a unique and truly fun take on the various genres it lampoons.

Torchlight 2

Torchlight managed to fill a gap in the market left by Blizzard not getting Diablo ready in time. Who cold of expected that Torchlight 2 would actually be BETTER than Diablo 3 when the two of the launched earlier in 2012. With a tweaked engine, neater graphics and more loot-based refinements than you could wave a halberd at this game is an essential addition to any serious gamers library.

Sine Mora

A bullet hell shooter in 2012? Surely you must be mistaken… and it’s by Grasshopper Manufacturer (they of Lollipop Chainsaw, Mad World and Shadows of the Damned fame). The game was received very well, looks gorgeous and outperforms even the most classic of bullet-hell shooters. That said it seems to have failed to gain much traction. Maybe because the market is not there.. or maybe because the names a little abstract… who knows? All I can say is that the title is superb and play like a charm – well worth a download!


Subset games managed to capture the essence of the much maligned Rogue like series of games and put it in to a package that appealed to the masses. FTL is a space flight simulation title at it’s heart but it involves so much more beside. Trying to balance the delicate nature of ship life with making your deliveries across the galaxy is hard enough but a persistent ship and a rock hard level of difficulty make it a challenging and rewarding experience too. Well received by all critics, it’s the budding star ship captains dream come true.

Dust: An Elysian Tale

Dust was a massive gamble for sole developer Dead Dodrill. He made a brave design choice with his style of visuals that has both paid off and limited it’s appeal. Many dismiss Dust: An Elysian Tale as a cutesy or kids title – it’s far from it! This superb action RPG can give you hours upon hours of pure enjoyment if you can look past the colourful visuals to the core game beneath. That said the visuals are superbly realised and personally I really love them. The game had a hanful of small niggles with combat tightness and some poor voice work but for a game made by one single dude.. you have to give it utmost respect.

Dust: An Elysian Tale

Sound Shapes

A unique title for a new platform. Sound Shapes was supposed to be a massive attractant for PS Vita purchasers. A quirky sound based side scroller with music from people like Beck and Deadmau5. This all went a little south when it was announced for PS3 as well but the fact still remains this is an intensely fun, unique and satisfying downloadable title that should be experienced by the masses. You do much worse than to spend a few PSN coins on this one.

And I’ve not even include IOS/Android titles here. We could easily double that list if not triple it by adding things like SongPop, Draw Something, Jetpack Joyride, Temple Run, Bad Piggies, Angry Birds Star Wars etc.


Zeth is our EU ninja and Editor in Chief. He's been writing about video games since 2008 when he started on BrutalGamer. He's pretty old and has been a gamer since he played Space Invaders as a young boy in the 80's. His genre tastes lean towards platformers, point-and-click adventure, action-adventure and shooters but he'll turn his hand to anything.