Game of the Year awards are actually some of my favorite things to work on, and that’s not just because they’re easy to write. I love to reflect on the experiences I’ve had throughout a year, and since joining nJoystic, it has only become more fun for me. Working with/against Steve to decide what was the best of the best was hardly a chore. It was nice to think about all the things I enjoyed from gaming this year and compare it to his 2011.
But something else I wanted to do was give you my personal take on the year, without having to compromise with that miserable fool (He’ll never read this, guys. Don’t worry. He’s watching college football or something). So it’s my pleasure to list off my personal Top 10 Games of 2011. Of course, feel free to compare it with your own, or tell me why I’m wrong.
Number 10: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
This one came in at the last minute to take a spot on my list, and honestly, nobody’s more surprised then I am when it comes to how much I enjoyed it. I was pretty harsh on Uncharted 2, after all. That was mainly due to its inability to develop any of these wise-cracking characters into anything beyond that, as well as the many frustrations that came with the very cinematic gameplay the series is known for.
Uncharted 3 doesn’t fully fix a lot of the problems I have with the series to be honest, but damn if it isn’t a blast to play all the same. While it doesn’t go as deep as I would like, they do dig further into the characters we’ve come to know, and the variety in the gameplay somehow still manages to really keep me from ever feeling bored. Also, the adrenaline I feel when I need to pull off another one of Drake’s daring escapes is something that no other game series can really bring out in me.
So even if the characters never shut up when you want them to, and even if enemies can hit you with a grenade right between your eyes every single time they throw one, Uncharted 3 proved to be an adventure I’ll remember fondly, even if both me and Nathan Drake have a few spider-related nightmares for our trouble.
Number 9: Sonic Generations
Sonic still has a ways to go in terms of polishing, but the blue hedgehog is still bringing a platforming experience unlike any other, and in Sonic Generations you get two different, enjoyable spins on it. Whether Classic or Modern, you’ll be thrown into some well-designed levels with plenty of more skilled routes to discover, not to mention plenty of surprise twists from elements of previous games.
Even when it took a wrong turn into Sonic 2006 territory, I enjoyed this trip down memory lane. I had a lot of fun with this game, and that’s really all Sonic was ever about for me. The fact that he’s actually back to that level is a truly great surprise.
Number 8: Rayman Origins
This game won two of our awards this year, so I’ll keep it brief here. The game is beautiful, it’s gameplay is crazy and polished, and it’s absolutely one of the most satisfying collectathons you could play.
But you probably didn’t play it, did you? Did you?! Well, you really should have, unless you don’t like the idea of being repeatedly destroyed by the game’s pretty steep difficulty. But who doesn’t love a good ass-whooping from a game every now and then? Rayman Origins sure dishes out one of the best.
Number 7: Killzone 3
Like I said when the game won our Biggest Guilty Pleasure of 2011, this is the most fun I’ve had with any FPS multiplayer ever. It’s fast-paced, but demands that you keep your wits about you as well. It’s a shooter that’s just my speed, and it also offers you giant robots and jet packs which pretty much seals the deal for me on any given day.
It was a game I dipped my toe into back in February, and that quickly led to me getting totally absorbed by it. I feel like it may have been forgotten a bit with the absolute barrage of shooters that have been released since, but this one was the real “threequel” that won me over this year.
And, I’ll just say that menu music is amazing.
Number 6: Bastion
Bastion impresses me in so many ways. Of course, there’s the narrator who we all love and also proved to be a direct, but incredible way to tell a story. Combine this with the constant, great soundtrack and colorful look of the game, and suddenly you have a game that proved to be one of the most interesting atmospheres of the year.
The fact that the action of the game can be approached with a huge variety of moves and weapons, and that it’s so fun to play for something that seems so basic, it’s almost impossible not to fall in love with this game.
Number 5: Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat didn’t just bring the series back to a time when it was good. In my opinion, it’s never been better than it is here, making it a shining example of what a reboot should be. The controls are incredibly accessible compared to most fighters, but they will still suck days of your life away as you learn how to make the most out of each character’s arsenal of combos and special moves. There’s also plenty of variety to go about your over-the-top bloodbath, including a story mode that’s surprisingly enjoyable.
Even that bastard Shao Kahn couldn’t keep this game from being the single best fighting game I’ve ever played. He certainly did try, though.
Number 4: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
I didn’t realize how much I loved Deus Ex: Human Revolution until the credits started rolling. I was enjoying the game up to that point, of course, as the gameplay provided a good variety of approaches, and this meant I got to enjoy one of more satisfying stealth experiences in my collection of games.
But I was surprised by how the game really stayed with me. The setting was this amazing picture of a world that seemed to have all the tools needed to become a technological paradise, yet it continues to move in a very ugly direction with seemingly no end in sight. This is helped by a story that tackles an issue that only gets more complicated the deeper you go, and really forces you to explore it from different angles.
By the end of the game, my position had drastically changed from what it started as, and I was amazed at how conflicted I felt. I can’t say many other games had brought such a serious response out of me. It made sure my first experience with a Deus Ex title was one I would remember.
Number 3: Batman: Arkham City
While I do feel Arkham Asylum was structured better, Batman’s move to a sandbox setting was truly awesome and it supported my opinion that Rocksteady handles the world of Batman better than anyone. Even characters who I thought were lame before somehow quickly became some of my favorites with Rocksteady’s interpretations of them, like Mr. Freeze and the Penguin for example.
They make the setting appropriately grim, and then put you in the shoes of the one man who can clean up the whole mess, which you’ll do as you pummel legions of different henchman in the way only Batman could, and take on the many villains who have their own, unique plans for Arkham City.
With one of the best combat systems in games (as well as some of my favorite boss fights of the year) and plenty of exploration to be had, taking on the challenges of Arkham City was so much fun to do, that I replayed it immediately after my first play-through.
Number 2: Portal 2
From its characters, to its writing, to its clever and fresh-feeling puzzles, to its absolutely amazing ending, I can’t think of any real problems I had with Portal 2. It felt like it really perfected everything put in place from the crazy experiment that was the original Portal. I personally can’t think of one thing that really wasn’t improved from the beloved first game.
To put it plainly, Portal 2 is nearly perfect for what it is, and it’s one game I will be sure to come back to numerous times over.
And the co-op stuff makes for a great time as well.
Number 1: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
This wasn’t the most original number 1 pick, but it really is that good, folks. Even after playing so many Bethesda games, Skyrim feels like such a huge step forward, and even technical issues couldn’t change how amazing of a game it is to me.
But I’ll spare you another speech about it, as I’ve reviewed it already and we didn’t even have to argue at all when we chose it as the nJoystic’s 2011 Game of the Year.
So congratulations to Skyrim, and with that, we move forward. All I can say is, let’s get this 2012 crap out of the way fast. Mark my words, folks, 2013 will be where it’s at!Posted in Best of 2011 by Ben Matlock on December 31, 2011