2011 was a good year for games, some might even say a great year for them. For my part, I had a lot of fun with the games I played. Sure, some were stinkers (Homefront) and some left me rather disappointed (Uncharted 3, Mario Kart 7) but, there were more games that left me in a state of utter satisfaction.
I finished 45 games this year (down from 60 last year) and the overall quality of what I played seemed to be greater than last year; considering last year had Mass Effect 2, Halo: Reach, and Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, well… I think you get my point. There are of course games I still haven’t played (Saints Row 3) or had enough playtime with (Star Wars: The Old Republic) but regardless, it is all subjective in the end, so without wasting any more of your time, here are my top 10 games of 2011. Leave your favorites in the comments down below.
I will admit it, the preview coverage of Bulletstorm made it look like a Duke Nukem wannabe and if it hadn’t come packaged with the ability to play the Gears of War 3 multiplayer beta I may have overlooked it. I am glad I did not overlook it because it was a fun, albeit somewhat crassly written, take on the first person shooter genre. It might have been inspired by Duke Nukem but it does Duke better than Duke did himself and playing with the leash was some of the most fun I’ve had with a weapon in a game this year.
9. L.A. Noire
L.A. Noire is deeply flawed. It features an open-world that has no purpose. It has a weak back half. And worst of all, the interrogation system (which much of the game is centered on) is inconsistent and often frustrating. But it is also a great example of how the adventure genre can still be relevant to today’s gamers. The narrative was solidly crafted and a wonderful attempt to bring film noire to games. The music was some of the best in a game this year. And graphically, the game took things to a new level with its facial animations.
8. Dead Space 2
I loved the original Dead Space, it was a great attempt to reinvigorate the survival horror genre. Dead Space 2 is not a survival horror game, it is a shooter and a damn good one at that. Nearly everything in Dead Space 2 improves upon its predecessor and I loved nearly every minute of it. To me Dead Space is Ridley Scott’s Alien, whereas Dead Space 2 is James Cameron’s Aliens. Both are great but Dead Space 2 (much like Aliens) is more my cup of tea.
7. Batman: Arkham City
Arkham Asylum was a great game and probably the best Metroid styled game I’ve played in years. Arkham City is something different and it took me a bit of time to get used to that but once I did, everything fell into place. Arkham City is a great experience, even if I do not like it quite as much as I like Arkham Asylum.
6. Dark Souls
Dark Souls engaged me in a way that I didn’t think possible, especially considering I did not enjoy Demon’s Souls all that much. People claim Dark Souls is hard, I don’t know how much I buy into that line of thinking. The game forces players to be patient and learn how to approach each encounter. Failure to do those things will surely result in a quick death(s) but like many other games, Dark Souls has its own rules and it is unwavering in its adherence to them. It is a game unlike any other.
5. Alice: Madness Returns
Alice: Madness Returns is a platformer with just serviceable platforming, so how did it end up this high on my list? Artistically, no game was able to create a sense of place like Alice did for me. American McGee’s twisted version of Wonderland is truly something special. Additionally the story of Madness Returns is something that really stuck with me all year long. It is a story that touches on some very heavy material and for me at least delivered the best ending of the year.
Bastion was a game that had caught my eye early on in its development. It had a very interesting art style and the action role-playing gameplay seemed to be right up my alley. What I wasn’t expecting was a story that captured me with its organic deliver method and a soundtrack that still has me in awe of it. Bastion just goes to show that sometimes the best stuff comes in small packages.
3. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim is awesome, but I have a feeling you already knew that.
2. Super Mario 3D Land
I have had my complaints about Nintendo this year, and I am sure they will continue into next year as well but when it comes to Mario, they have their stuff screwed on right. Super Mario 3D Land is without a doubt the reason to own a 3DS. Sadly, in my opinion, it is the only reason to own one and I can’t recommend spending $200 or so to play this game but if you have a 3DS and don’t already have it, what are you waiting for.
1. Gears of War 3
Epic hit the ball out of the park with Gears of War 3. The single player campaign, which is also playable in co-op, is the best in the series and actually delivers some emotional characterizations to characters thought to have no emotion. Horde mode was drastically remodeled and delivers one of the best co-op experiences this year. Beast mode is an incredibly fun reversal of the Horde formula. And the competitive multiplayer is deeper, more balanced and more fun that it has ever been. The game controls better than ever, the new weapons are a ton of fun, and it looks better (and more diverse) than any Gears game to date. In fact everything about Gears 3 feels incredibly polished. No game offered the complete package that Gears of War 3 did but most importantly, I had more fun playing Gears 3 than I did any other game this year.