The results are in!
And our verdict is this – 2012 has been a great year for games. We’ve played them all. We’ve discussed them, debated them, challenged and championed and re-examined them, until at last we winnowed down a year’s worth of casual games, in every genre on MSN Games, to just the ones we loved the most.
So now, as our lovely spokesmodel makes her stately way down the aisle with a gold-trimmed envelope on a little velvet pillow, we can finally announce the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the pick of the litter – the most irresistibly playable games we’ve seen all year!
It’s hard not to love any game whose name starts with “Free”. (Play as long as you want, for nothing? Yes, please!) But we couldn’t pick them all, so we looked for our nine finalists on monitors around the office, during lunch, in that mid-afternoon slump time, and whenever people had a few spare minutes between meetings. The final list is surprisingly diverse!
And the winner is…
You would think this game would be easy to play. It is. (Every card in the deck is visible from the start of each round.) You would think this game would be easy to win. It isn’t. (Getting one card from point A to point B can take many, many moves.) You would think this game would be easy to put down and forget as you move on to the next game. But ohhh, it’s not. It’s really, really not.
The tipping point – this game finally beat out the competition when… we caught one of our fellow judges in the office at 9pm, still playing. Turns out, the game’s name is frighteningly accurate.
Admittedly, there were more than a few after-hours hours spent enjoying our runners-up, as well:
Royal Envoy 2
By royal command, restore this kingdom! Construct, repair, and upgrade homes, mills, and more as you return Middleshire to happy prosperity.
This is the beloved classic version of Mahjong solitaire, with a wellspring of challenging layouts, and hours of saying, "okay, just one more round...”
Cradle of Persia
Match strings of gold, lumber, and other objects to collect them, then use these new resources to build an empire in the mighty desert!
A band of scurvy pirates has kidnapped the island’s innocent inhabitants. Smash groups of tiles to beat the buccaneers and free the fairies!
Each round contains two words and a clue... but the words are all spliced together! Can you untangle them before time runs out?
4 Elements II
Set the four fairies of earth, air, fire, and water free to restore power to the Book of Magic! Only your match-three skills can save this kingdom.
In this fast-paced smash-fest, you have 90 seconds to match and clear as many eggs as possible. Once the clock starts ticking, it’s a scramble to win!
Connect floral roots deep beneath the ground, and grow a healthy garden. Remember, the longer the root, the higher your score!
From the vaults of MSN Games to hard drives around the world, hundreds of new downloadable games were sampled, played, and enjoyed throughout the past year. But only nine of them could make our list of finalists in 2012, and only one could be the best!
And the winner is…
Gardenscapes: Mansion Makeover
The digital world is brimming over with seek-and-find games, so it takes a certain kind of charm to make one stand out from the pack. This sequel to the multifaceted Gardenscapes combines object-hunting gameplay with occasional puzzle quests and frequent decorating decisions, wrapping the whole thing in a charmingly improbable story that ties all the elements together.
The tipping point – this game finally beat out the competition when… we found ourselves arguing the relative merits of bookcase and flooring styles. True, it was a good-natured argument, but it was in public, and that’s a good sign we’re spending way too much time playing one game.
Especially when all the other finalists were so tempting...
House of 1000 Doors 2
A cursed and deadly gem is threatening the residents of the House of 1,000 Doors. The House needs you. Will you answer its call?
Mahjong World Contest
It’s a Mahjong showdown! One hundred unique levels await, each with its own difficulty and set of goals. Can you reach the ultimate rank?
Guide the Viking king Ragnar and his brave subjects to return color to their cursed land, defeat a great evil, and rescue the king’s sorceress daughters!
Big Kahuna Reef 3
Aloha! The latest installment of this match-three adventure features new mini-games, powerful charms, and even a Mouse Party multiplayer mode.
Big City Adventure: London
Explore beautiful and historic London! Hunt objects, collect postcards, and learn fascinating facts about this ancient city.
Work together with the renowned BAU team to hunt for clues, pursue the truth, and stop two dangerous and deadly criminal minds.
7 Wonders – Ancient Alien
Swap runes to make matches and collect resources, then watch your tiny minions build the world's great Wonders!
Solitaire Twist Collection
The classic strategy of solitaire meets wild layouts, fun power-ups and stunning visuals. Solitaire Twist will throw you for a loop!