Judging by the amount of games we expect to release this year, we already know that 2012 is going to be the biggest year yet for Xbox Live Arcade. With that in mind, we decided to ask each of our staff members to choose one game that they’re really looking forward to playing this year, and tell us exactly what we have to look forward to and why. Without further ado, we present to you XBLAFans Most Anticipated Games of 2012.

Valve’s fast and frantic first-person shooter has rocked the PC world for over ten years now, maintaining one of the most competitive communities in the gaming industry. In 2012, Counter-Strike will finally be done right on consoles in the form of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive for Xbox Live Arcade.

Instead of taking the quick and easy route and simply porting Counter-Strike: Source to Xbox 360, Valve has gone back to the drawing board for Global Offensive. For the first time since its launch, Valve is redesigning all of the game’s maps, weapons and physics system. While some fans may cower in fear at this notion, as balance and the “feel” of the classic Counter-Strike have always been integral to the experience, Valve is going to great lengths to ensure that Global Offensive feels every bit like the Counter-Strike you know and love, but also integrates plenty of new elements to keep fans playing for yet another decade.

In addition to the standard Deathmatch mode that made us fall in love with Counter-Strike to begin with, Valve has taken several popular mods created by the community and built them into Global Offensive. Global Offensive will also represent that first time that Counter-Strike has had a matchmaking system to match up players of similar skill level, quelling a problem that newcomers have had for years on PC. While we don’t currently know when the global offensive will begin, Valve’s initial goal was to release the game this spring. Given the fact that the game is currently undergoing beta testing on PC, we’re confident that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will rock your socks off sooner rather than later.

Ryan Reynolds – Reporter

Have you ever dreamed of being a superhero or even the villain? What if you lived in the same city as Batman and Joker? It would be pretty hard to shine. That’s kind of the basis for Monolith’s new quirky FPS, when the supers are away, the idiots will play.

Gotham City Imposters is a fast paced shooter, that pits you as either a fake Batman or a fake Joker. You will have a major depth of customization, allowing you to pick different builds for your character that will effect speed, health and damage. It doesn’t stop there though. Want to run around in your tighty whities, in bunny slippers and a towel for a cape? Go ahead, that’s right, you can. Gotham City Imposters will also be offering a full ranking system, giving you access to different upgrades, weapons and gadgets. Speaking of gadgets these are great giving you an amazing array of options, bullhorns that heal your teammates, bear traps that hold people in place, even ninja like smoke that lets you go invisible.

If all that wasn’t enough for you, well there adding a fully customizable calling card, this is displayed to every person you kill. It is almost like a form of built-in tea bagging, hooray. Monolith will be bringing all your favorite classic multiplayer modes, with of course there own insane twist. Add in a single player challenge mode and this should definitely be on every shooter fans list.

John Drawdy – Guide Co-Coordinator


We’ve all asked for it and Robomodo is delivering it, and they’re using Neversoft’s original code, too. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is arriving this Summer and for fans of the Pro Skater franchise, we couldn’t be happier. The game will feature fan-favorite levels from the first two Pro Skater games, including School 2, Mall, Phoenix, Venice among others.  To be able to play some of our favorite levels from the series in a widescreen, HD format, makes us at XBLAFans drool at the mouth just thinking about it.

The hidden video tapes we all tried to find in the early 00’s are back, but now in the form of DVD’s. The skater list is also modernized for the HD version, here are a few of them: Nyjah Huston, Andrew Reynolds, Riley Hawk (Tony Hawk’s son), and of course Tony Hawk. At the moment we don’t know for sure how much of the original music will be implemented, but for nostalgia factor, we sure hope every song returns.

Besides what is mentioned, not much else is known about the HD re-release. As an avid fan of the Tony Hawk games, it was sad to see the series decline over recent years. Kudos to Robomodo for trying something different and innovative. Still, an HD version of past Tony Hawk games is what fans have been clamoring for. Let’s just hope this does well enough so Robomodo will then make an HD collection of the Tony Hawk Underground series.

Bishop Tart – Contributor

Skulls of the Shogun is the inaugural game from Haunted Temple Studios set to release this year for XBLA. Founder and studio head Jake Kazdal is an industry veteran and aims to make Skulls of the Shogun one of the best XBLA games out there.

You play as a samurai, General Akamoto, who is betrayed on the battlefield and must collect skulls of Shogun (samurai commanders) in the afterlife. The game offers simple yet deep gameplay with each unit having a unique purpose on the battlefield. These units which include ghostly-samurai warriors, animal sorcerers, and other samurai generals must be utilized accordingly. Its roots are classic turn based strategy but it offers fast gameplay keeping you on your toes and interested at all times. Character art and environments are fun and have the feel of classic anime. The soundtrack should be fun as well and features “original score inspired by old samurai films and dub”.

If you really enjoy strategy games such as Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes HD, Plants vs Zombies, and Advance WarsSkulls of the Shogun  will get you really excited. The art is fresh and unique and the story looks funny and entertaining.

Originally designed as an iPhone game, Skulls of the Shogun had an target release date of 2011 but once Microsoft Studios came on the publish the game for XBLA, the release got pushed to 2012. The game will feature four player local and networked multiplayer.

Todd Pantier – Contributor

Even though GRIN is long-gone, some of the developers of Bionic Commando: Rearmed decided to move on and form a new company. That new company is Might & Delight and their new game is Pid. The game looks to be a wonderful throwback to the the great platformers of old but mixes new foundations to make the gameplay last even longer.

You play a kid in space who falls asleep riding on the bus. Only problem is, while you were asleep you got stranded on a planet you’ve never been to before. It’s up to you to find out where you are and how to get off this planet and reach home before malicious robots show up to stop you. Luckily you have some cool abilities in your backpack like double jumps and a neat floating mechanic.

The thing to take away the most from this game is the graphics. The style and art is very different with vibrant colors to the crazy monster design, everything about this game is paying close attention to what makes a game fun to play and feast your eyes upon. With no release date as of yet and being only announced last month, the anticipation is going crazy here. You just might want to go to space yourself and live the experience with Pid.

Perry Jackson – News Editor

If you’ve only played one XBLA game, it was probably Castle Crashers. The Behemoth made a phenomenal game, and fans have been quietly waiting for their next release for some time. A long, long time.

Announced three years ago as Game #3, Battleblock Theater puts you into the roles of a prisoner forced into putting on deadly plays by the giant cat overlords. The plays take form of side-scrolling levels made completely out of blocks, each with a different function. Some blow up, some spring, some move, and some just sit there. Players have to navigate each level to find gems that unlock the exit to the literal stage, while avoiding enemies  and deathtraps. Danger comes in the forms of water, spikes, robots, cats, and giant raccoons with antlers. Customization is key, as you can only have one special ability. Grenades, frisbee-mines, and electric fans all make up your potential arsenal of death. You can also customize your color and use one of hundreds of humorous faces.

Single-Player’s great, but what’s most important is the Multiplayer. The Story mode can be played with a pal, but the competitive modes are where most of your time will be spent. There’s soccer, there’s gold-hoarding, there’s block-coloring, there’s even a mode that has you steal your opponent’s souls. Multiplayer can be played both online and off. Everything is presented with the same comedic and cartoony visuals we’ve come to expect from The Behemoth. There’s no way this game won’t be worth the wait.

Nathan Bowring – Reporter

One of the biggest selling points of Xbox Live is the community, yet multiplayer games on XBLA have been few are far between. However in 2012 Microsoft looks to be re-addressing this with a plethora of multiplayer releases. One such game will be Happy Wars, a multiplayer action game with cutesy, comical characters battling in over-the-top combat arenas such as the Rainbow battlefield. Touted as XBLA’s answer to PSN’s hit Fat PrincessHappy Wars allows up to 30 players online at once in 15 v 15 matches. Players can assume the roles of Warrior, Mage, or Cleric and utilize 27 unique class skills or band together to launch team skills such as “Meteor Storm and “Charge”. There are also hints at some Tower Defense aspects with poison swamps and traps to make use of.

Developers Toylogic Inc have also revealed a neat system set up for clans where players have the option to enter text as their “tag”. People with the same “tag” are placed in a team together against players with an “enemy tag”. Communication won’t be a problem either if you want to play with people from different countries or no-mic’ers. A system for dialog and commands is provided to effectively overcome the language barrier where players can select from standardized dialog items.

Like customization? In Happy Wars you can customize your character with wide range of weapons, apparel and emotional expressions that can be obtained from playing the game. If the competition starts getting a bit too much then there’s a single player mode to enjoy too and anything you unlock in single player mode can be used in multiplayer too. The game’s tagline reads “You got a problem? Settle it in Happy Wars!” and we can’t think of a happier way to do so.

Christine Mitchell – Reporter

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II

After years in a seemingly-endless downward spiral, Sega’s long-suffering mascot seems to be moving uphill these days. Sonic Generations wasn’t the best Sonic game of all time, but it was one of the best entries of the last few years, and the often-overlooked Sonic CD has found new life on XBLA. Sega looks to keep the momentum going in 2012 with Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II, the follow-up to 2010’s Episode I.

Now, Episode I was good, but not without its problems; the physics could be a little wonky and it sometimes felt like you were playing a modern-day approximation of a classic Sonic title as opposed to a legitimate heir to the old-school Sonic throne. If statements are to be believed, Sega is addressing these concerns with Episode II, having totally reworked the graphics and physics engines. Throw in Sonic CD’s Metal Sonic as a villain and you’ve got what could possibly be the best Sonic side scroller since the Genesis era (or at least the Game Boy Advance days).

Matt Liparota – Reporter

5th Cell has gone pretty much dark on Hyrbid since they showed it off last year at GDC. That hasn’t tempered our excitement. It has been pitched as “multiplayer redefined”, which refers to the unique control scheme. When we last saw it, player movement was mapped to the face buttons (A, B, X and Y). On top of that the battles players take part in contribute to a great war between the games two factions, those being the Variant and Paladin.

It’s an interesting game to see coming from the same studio that gave us Scribblenauts. What we’re most excited about though is seeing a unique shooter like this coming out at all. XBLA has its fair share of shooters, some great ones like Section 8 and Battlefield 1943 and some not so great ones like Battle: LA and Breach. Whether good or bad these games all share a pretty similar DNA, they are pretty traditional for the most part. Hybrid looks set to try something different and we are very curious to see how it pans out.

Ross Adams – Podcast Producer

Our first thought upon seeing the initial Alan Wake’s American Nightmare screenshot that emerged a few months back was, “Why does Alan Wake look like a young Al Borland?” All joking aside, fans of the original were a little upset when they discovered that this next game in the series is just an XBLA spin-off and not a full sequel. Judging from what we’ve seen to date of Al’s second-go-round, though, it looks like somebody forget to tell Remedy Entertainment that things are supposed to be scaled back for arcade releases.

American Nightmare appears to maintain all of the graphical pizzazz of its predecessor. The dichotomy between light and dark will also return to take center stage; Wake will have familiar tools (flashlights, flairs) at his disposal for making the onslaught of ravenous Taken baddies vulnerable to his gunfire. While we don’t yet know the full arsenal that the novelist will have at his disposal, it has been confirmed that he’ll have a few new tools at his disposal.

Players will need them, too: Alan will be going up against his psychotic evil twin, Mr. Scratch, and his army of darkness. Remedy is taking a more lighthearted approach to the spin-off than they did with the first game, and Al will find himself trapped inside an episode of Night Springs (think Twilight Zone) set in the Arizona desert. Before hitting it big as the next Stephen King, Wake penned a number of episodes of the serial in his younger days. Now his scripts have come to life in chilling form, much as his book did in the first game.

The main campaign is going to feel truncated (about 4-5 hours) to those who played Alan Wake, but Remedy is trying to offset that by cramming in more action than story this time out. On top of that, there is also a leaderboard-supported horde mode to help justify the purchase. This isn’t the full sequel everyone was hoping for, but American Nightmare has the potential to be another fantastic thriller from Remedy. With just under a month left until its release, we’ll know for sure soon enough.

Nick Santangelo – Contributor

Grand Theft Auto III revolutionized the open world genre, but the first game in the series practically invented digital anarchy with a simple yet satisfying aesthetic.  Retro City Rampage is looking to play off the first GTA‘s strengths but with a style straight out of an old NES cartridge and with enough self-referential humor to make even The Family Guy blush.

Brian Provinciano, the mind behind RCR, initially titled the game Grand Theftendo and was planning to run it on NES hardware before jumping to modern day consoles.  Luckily, the game doesn’t suffer from retro shortfalls like unfathomable difficulty or limited playability.  It’s a fully open-world game containing the most authentic 80s references known to the industry.  Expect to run into a lot of familiar faces like a certain Italian plumber, anthropomorphic turtles and a barrage of others.

Critics of the GTA series complain about its repetitive mission structure of traveling from point A to point B and killing things in between, RCR hopes to avoid those criticisms by implementing mini-games to mix things up.  One such mini-game promises to play like a Root Beer Tapper tribute, another hopes to brings back memories of a certain card game in Super Mario Bros. 3.

Although this game is a long time coming, it’s clear that a plethora of passion and love for all things 8-bit is present.  Fans of the original GTA may never see a remake enter the world of XBLA, but they may not care after they play River City Ran–errr, Retro City Rampage. 

Damon Fillman – Contributor