There's one word to sum up the year in video games: disappointment. Several promising games failed to live up to expectations. But that's not to say there weren't great games.

Some surprised me more than others; despite their flaws, a few hyped titles did enough to impress with their scope and detail. But as visuals become less of an issue, the need for inventive ideas and better storytelling becomes more important. Developers must create characters that players care about and level design that captures players' imagination.

The best games did those things in some way or another. Here are my Top 10 for the 2012:

In this screen shot provided by Electronic Arts Inc., a scene from Mass Effect 3, is shown. Game makers are crafting more sophisticated story lines and
In this screen shot provided by Electronic Arts Inc., a scene from Mass Effect 3, is shown. Game makers are crafting more sophisticated story lines and creating characters that evolve based on their experiences within a game. It s an attempt to interest new customers and reverse a decline in video game sales as the maturing business fights for people s attention in the face of new devices such as the iPad. (AP Photo/Electronic Arts Inc.)

1"Far Cry 3": Arriving without much fanfare, this sequel fulfills the promise of the underrated "Far Cry 2." It polishes a solid formula, bringing a great stealth system and unpredictable environment to a shooter. But what puts it over the top is a compelling story that takes players to the darkest parts of an island jungle and back.

2 "Mass Effect 3": The finale of the sci-fi trilogy lives up to the hype -- mostly. The ending brought up controversy, but the fact that BioWare worked to satisfy fans shows the malleability of the medium. The feedback and response that changed the ending produced a game that was better than what was first released.

3"Halo 4": Microsoft's flagship franchise needed a fresh take, and 343 Industries exceeded expectations. The developer crafted a heartfelt kickoff to Master Chief's new trilogy. The team also brought the multiplayer modes up to speed.

4"Borderlands 2": Gearbox Software's sequel improves on the original in every way. It fleshes out the original set of heroes while introducing new ones. It also offers more variety to the beautiful world of Pandora.

5 "The Walking Dead": This was the biggest surprise of the year. Telltale Games shows the power of narrative in this adventure game based on Robert Kirkman's zombified world.

6"Dishonored": Arkane Studios creates the year's best new property. It takes ideas from games like "Deus Ex" and sets them in a steampunk city. The result is a compelling experience that lets players choose how they want to save an empress' daughter.

7 "Assassin's Creed 3": The finale to Desmond Miles' story takes players to the American Revolution, where they take on the role of Connor, one of his ancestors. The game has its flaws, but it's offset by the historical detail that Ubisoft puts in the world.

8 "XCOM: Enemy Unknown": The revamp of this classic turn-based strategy game updates it with contemporary visuals and online play. The addictive game will test players' smarts as they command an international agency tasked with saving the Earth from an alien invasion.

9"Fez": This indie title brought puzzle-solving to a new level, challenging players to put together a strange cube and figure out some intricate levels. The problem-solving is inventive and requires solutions that often are outside the box.

10 "Binary Domain": Developed by the team that did Yakuza, this third-person shooter was one of the first games to use voice control. Although it doesn't work all the time, the innovation shows the potential that it can add to the gaming experience.

Contact Gieson Cacho at 510-735-7076. Read his blog at http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei.