'Mass Effect 3' among top games of year so far

I don't know why the year in games (so far) gives me a case of the sads. Maybe it was my disappointment in "Max Payne 3" and "Twisted Metal." They taught me not to get excited for sequels.

Whatever. Today, I'm going to turn my frown upside-down and look at the best games of 2012 so far, since we're in midsummer.

1. I can't imagine anyone arguing against "Mass Effect 3" (Electronic Arts) for best game of the first half of 2012. It's phenomenal. I miss playing it.

It took me something like 48 hours to finish the whole thing. It's a sci-fi, fantasy, action-adventure that feels like a few novels, fused with engaging movies, all of which is very fun to game.

You portray Commander Shepard as a man or woman. Gender is your choice.

Weirdly, "Mass Effect 3's" multiple endings were awful. I played this game for 48 hours. It was incredible. Then the game sort of wrapped up, and I was happy - until there came a final five minutes of terribleness.

Fortunately, the game makers recently released a bunch of long "fix" endings to soothe angry legions of fans. But I loved "Mass Effect 3" even with the crappy initial endings.

2. "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier" (Ubisoft) is a splendid war shooter in which you portray a U.S. special op, accompanied by three comrades.

The four of you are dropped into missions on the ground in dangerous lands overrun by warlord thugs.

This is the best "Tom Clancy" game in years - or maybe ever. It's intense, difficult and finely illustrated.

3. Yes, you're about to hear me correctly: I loved "Lollipop Chainsaw" (Warner Bros. Games) so much that I played it a second time immediately after finishing it.

You portray a barely legal cheerleader who slays zombies, while her boyfriend's decapitated (but alive) head is attached to her belt, and he talks.

This game is funny, engaging, creative, silly, stupid, sexist, action-feminist, and packed with good gaming once you get past the easy beginning.

4. I don't even enjoy baseball games very much, but "Major League Baseball 2K12" (2K Sports) has perfect mechanics. It's a very intuitive outing.

I understood immediately how to pitch, field, bat, run and steal bases. It's not too hard. It's not too easy. Visuals are only above-average.

But you can play a season. You can play real-time games-of-the-day, if you're online. You can compete against other gamers online. You can hit the home run derby.

5. "Hot Shots Golf World Invitational" (Sony) is a great-looking, and silly, addicting golf outing for the new PlayStation Vita.

Yes, I could tell you to buy "Uncharted: Golden Abyss" (Sony) for the Vita instead. In fact, yes, do that.

But if you want a good Vita game to play in 20 minute bursts (a typical hand-held routine), I recommend "Hot Shots."

("Mass Effect 3" by Electronic Arts retails for $60 for Xbox 360, PS 3, PC - Plays addictingly fun. Looks great. Challenging. Rated "M" for blood, partial nudity, sexual content, strong language, violence. Four out of four stars.)

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@review journal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.