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David Jaffe's Top 10 Games of 2011

The man who brought you Twisted Metal and God of War brings you his favorite games of 2011.

No Caption Provided

David Jaffe has a long and storied history in game development, reaching back to the 16-bit Mickey Mania, with important touchstones including the creation and his continued involvement in the Twisted Metal franchise, as well as the design of the original God of War.

A man of passion who is unafraid to speak his mind, Jaffe is currently in the final stages of development on the PlayStation 3 revival of Twisted Metal.

Before I dive in, two quick notes:

  1. There are a decent number of games I’ve yet to play from this year. With Twisted Metal being in its last year of production, I didn't have the many hours needed to dive into some of the bigger games. Last thing I wanted was to get immersed in a big monster like the new Zelda or Gears 3 online and then have to quit cold turkey 'cause work got in the way. So this list really can’t be called complete until that happens. But hey, since ya asked, I’m happy to let you know the games in 2011 that turned my crank!
  2. Some of these games came out in 2010 but they are on this list cause I just got around to them this year and/or they were my favorite games of this year, regardless of when they released.

Ok, so here we go…and in no particular order.

10. Riot Rings

The game itself is a Zoo Keeper-like take on the casual hit game Zuma. But the execution and difficulty scaling are where this shines. Game designers would be making a mistake if they don’t play this title for two very important reasons:

  1. The difficulty scaling is superb to the point that I wonder if it’s not scaling based on the individual players…this matters a lot because it keeps you in that zen-like trance of it being "almost too hard, but not so hard it’s frustrating" longer than any other game I can remember…
  2. The shell flow/progress design--and the execution of that design--is fantastic because it’s literally only 1-2 seconds from winning one stage until you are right back in the next stage and playing. So many games drop the ball on this, giving players so many opportunities to get distracted and bored. But Riot Rings (at least as it runs on my iMac) never gave me the chance, and thus I found myself up way too late on many a nights with this title.

9. Storm in a Teacup

Second best platformer of the year, behind Rayman. Great bite-sized, on-the-go gaming that still managed to have fantastic puzzles and level design. Actually got excited when me and the kids went to Disneyland and there were super-long lines because it meant I’d get 10-30 min. more with this amazing game!

8. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

No Caption Provided

The holodeck. On my television. Not as immersive as the original Deus Ex but damn, damn close. The game frustrated my brain a bit cause even though I know you don’t have to listen to all the NPCs and read all the books, I felt I needed to in order to make sure I didn’t miss anything that would block advancement later (training I got from Dead Space 2, no doubt) and that made those sections of the game feel like work. But when it was just me, wandering the woods and battling in the dungeons, I was a 10-year-old kid again, playing Adventure on my Atari 2600. Only this time, the dragons were dragons…and not fucking ducks.

7. Dead Space 2

No Caption Provided

Like Portal 2, this game show’d the year’s freshest, most fun geek concepts were happening in games, not movies. Even though the first game was scarier, this one played better and was better paced. Only thing that kept it from being one of my fave games ever is this annoying obsession survival horror games have of getting you stuck forever if you have not saved up the right amount of resources. It’s a damn shame this game clung to those super dated--and super annoying--genre conventions because it could have been even better!

6. Portal 2

No Caption Provided

Great in-game storytelling. Amazing puzzles. And a fantastic title to prove to the world that games offer more creativity and fresh ideas than any other medium. When it came to the way they told the game’s story, there were a whole heaping lot of those "man, I wish I woulda thought of that and put that in MY game!" moments.

5. Words With Friends

No Caption Provided

Played this obsessively for 1-2 months. If you ever need proof that the best gameplay occurs in your mind, this is it. Amazing that a game like this generated as much--and often times more--tension and engagement than some of the most over the top, action packed, multiplayer shooters of the year!

4. Jetpack Joyride

No Caption Provided

Fantastic game that for a while was my constant pooping companion. So much so that my issues of Entertainment Weekly got jealous. When I get a break from our own game, I needs to teak this thing apart to figure out the specifics of how they nailed the ‘just one more game!’ thing better than any other title this year.

3. Rayman: Origins

No Caption Provided

Best side-scrolling platformer since Yoshi’s Island. Yes, even better than the NDS and Wii Mario Bros. games. Production value and charm through the roof, silky smooth control, and really fun level design. Only fault with this game was the price. For me, it was worth every penny of the $59.99 I paid. But this game deserves to find an audience and in this day and age, most folks won’t pay 60 dollahs for a 2D side scroller. Hope it gets a digital and retail rerelease as $14.99 so the world can discover how amazing this game is!

2. Stacking

No Caption Provided

Those crazy fucks over at Double Fine--they could not be boring if they tried. Hell, if they tried I bet their take on boring would still entertain the hell out of the rest of us. Stacking just had heart and soul and freshness, not to mention fun, clever gameplay. The length felt just right--as did the price. Nice to see in this day and age of quadruple A mega block busters, the industry still has a place for such creativity.

1. Batman: Arkham City

No Caption Provided

Legend of Zelda gameplay structure meets a wonderfully executed Batman simulation. What’s not to love?!? Perfect storm where developer--building off an already great tech and design foundation--gets and respects the franchise and thus designs a game to best highlight all the best parts of the franchise. Just a great, great experience. I wish someone would do this with Spider-Man and Indiana Jones!

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Ryan

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Edited By Ryan  Staff • 
No Caption Provided

David Jaffe has a long and storied history in game development, reaching back to the 16-bit Mickey Mania, with important touchstones including the creation and his continued involvement in the Twisted Metal franchise, as well as the design of the original God of War.

A man of passion who is unafraid to speak his mind, Jaffe is currently in the final stages of development on the PlayStation 3 revival of Twisted Metal.

Before I dive in, two quick notes:

  1. There are a decent number of games I’ve yet to play from this year. With Twisted Metal being in its last year of production, I didn't have the many hours needed to dive into some of the bigger games. Last thing I wanted was to get immersed in a big monster like the new Zelda or Gears 3 online and then have to quit cold turkey 'cause work got in the way. So this list really can’t be called complete until that happens. But hey, since ya asked, I’m happy to let you know the games in 2011 that turned my crank!
  2. Some of these games came out in 2010 but they are on this list cause I just got around to them this year and/or they were my favorite games of this year, regardless of when they released.

Ok, so here we go…and in no particular order.

10. Riot Rings

The game itself is a Zoo Keeper-like take on the casual hit game Zuma. But the execution and difficulty scaling are where this shines. Game designers would be making a mistake if they don’t play this title for two very important reasons:

  1. The difficulty scaling is superb to the point that I wonder if it’s not scaling based on the individual players…this matters a lot because it keeps you in that zen-like trance of it being "almost too hard, but not so hard it’s frustrating" longer than any other game I can remember…
  2. The shell flow/progress design--and the execution of that design--is fantastic because it’s literally only 1-2 seconds from winning one stage until you are right back in the next stage and playing. So many games drop the ball on this, giving players so many opportunities to get distracted and bored. But Riot Rings (at least as it runs on my iMac) never gave me the chance, and thus I found myself up way too late on many a nights with this title.

9. Storm in a Teacup

Second best platformer of the year, behind Rayman. Great bite-sized, on-the-go gaming that still managed to have fantastic puzzles and level design. Actually got excited when me and the kids went to Disneyland and there were super-long lines because it meant I’d get 10-30 min. more with this amazing game!

8. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

No Caption Provided

The holodeck. On my television. Not as immersive as the original Deus Ex but damn, damn close. The game frustrated my brain a bit cause even though I know you don’t have to listen to all the NPCs and read all the books, I felt I needed to in order to make sure I didn’t miss anything that would block advancement later (training I got from Dead Space 2, no doubt) and that made those sections of the game feel like work. But when it was just me, wandering the woods and battling in the dungeons, I was a 10-year-old kid again, playing Adventure on my Atari 2600. Only this time, the dragons were dragons…and not fucking ducks.

7. Dead Space 2

No Caption Provided

Like Portal 2, this game show’d the year’s freshest, most fun geek concepts were happening in games, not movies. Even though the first game was scarier, this one played better and was better paced. Only thing that kept it from being one of my fave games ever is this annoying obsession survival horror games have of getting you stuck forever if you have not saved up the right amount of resources. It’s a damn shame this game clung to those super dated--and super annoying--genre conventions because it could have been even better!

6. Portal 2

No Caption Provided

Great in-game storytelling. Amazing puzzles. And a fantastic title to prove to the world that games offer more creativity and fresh ideas than any other medium. When it came to the way they told the game’s story, there were a whole heaping lot of those "man, I wish I woulda thought of that and put that in MY game!" moments.

5. Words With Friends

No Caption Provided

Played this obsessively for 1-2 months. If you ever need proof that the best gameplay occurs in your mind, this is it. Amazing that a game like this generated as much--and often times more--tension and engagement than some of the most over the top, action packed, multiplayer shooters of the year!

4. Jetpack Joyride

No Caption Provided

Fantastic game that for a while was my constant pooping companion. So much so that my issues of Entertainment Weekly got jealous. When I get a break from our own game, I needs to teak this thing apart to figure out the specifics of how they nailed the ‘just one more game!’ thing better than any other title this year.

3. Rayman: Origins

No Caption Provided

Best side-scrolling platformer since Yoshi’s Island. Yes, even better than the NDS and Wii Mario Bros. games. Production value and charm through the roof, silky smooth control, and really fun level design. Only fault with this game was the price. For me, it was worth every penny of the $59.99 I paid. But this game deserves to find an audience and in this day and age, most folks won’t pay 60 dollahs for a 2D side scroller. Hope it gets a digital and retail rerelease as $14.99 so the world can discover how amazing this game is!

2. Stacking

No Caption Provided

Those crazy fucks over at Double Fine--they could not be boring if they tried. Hell, if they tried I bet their take on boring would still entertain the hell out of the rest of us. Stacking just had heart and soul and freshness, not to mention fun, clever gameplay. The length felt just right--as did the price. Nice to see in this day and age of quadruple A mega block busters, the industry still has a place for such creativity.

1. Batman: Arkham City

No Caption Provided

Legend of Zelda gameplay structure meets a wonderfully executed Batman simulation. What’s not to love?!? Perfect storm where developer--building off an already great tech and design foundation--gets and respects the franchise and thus designs a game to best highlight all the best parts of the franchise. Just a great, great experience. I wish someone would do this with Spider-Man and Indiana Jones!

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crusen

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Edited By crusen • 

Day 5!!

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WeepingWillow

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rockinkemosabe

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Edited By rockinkemosabe • 

Jaffe has such an unique taste in games.

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Metal_Mills

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Edited By Metal_Mills • 

Only 2 fucks? This isn't David!

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Dany

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Edited By Dany • 

@Metal_Mills said:

Only 2 fucks? This isn't David!

Haha, I did the same thing,

cmd+f 'fuck'

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Winternet

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Edited By Winternet • 

First 2 games not even in the database :) Great list Jaffe.

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Edited By Crono • 

Best side-scrolling platformer since Yoshi's Island? Ok, Jaffe just sold me on it. I knew it was a great game but was gonna wait on a sale... but with glowing endorsements like that I can't help but pull the trigger now.

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Mephiles1990

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Edited By Mephiles1990 • 

Ah, Jaffe. Such a unique taste in games. Rest assured Twisted Metal will be in my top 10 of 2012.

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Krenor

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Edited By Krenor • 

good list, looking forward to the new Twisted Metal as well

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Napalm

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Edited By Napalm • 

Glad to see this list of comprised of a pretty varied selection.

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mattjam3000

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Edited By mattjam3000 • 

I was worried David would not say fuck in the entire thing, then I got to number 2 and was all happy.

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Edited By LiK • 

Great list duder

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JazGalaxy

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Edited By JazGalaxy • 

I'd love to get the opportunity to tell Jaffa how much I'm looking forward to twisted metal and how much I wish he'd push for a new jet moto game.

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SuperJoe

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Edited By SuperJoe • 

@mattjam3000 said:

I was worried David would not say fuck in the entire thing, then I got to number 2 and was all happy.

Oh he says fuck at Skyrim as well.

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Edited By buckybit • 

glorious list! most excellent! I love the game dev top 10 lists!! shows insight - even if captured in few words.

if you guys are like me, you read Jaffe's list with Jaffe's voice in your head! :)

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ValiantGoat

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Edited By ValiantGoat • 

I always love seeing/hearing what Jaffe has to say, just an engaging opinionated guy(hell, he's even pretty damn funny).

Nice varied list with big and small titles, thanks GB and Jaffe.

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rmanthorp

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Edited By rmanthorp  Moderator • 

Batman is my GOTY! MAD RESPECT for getting Jaffe in on this! So awesome.

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RE_Player1

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Edited By RE_Player1 • 

Love me some Jaffe. Amazing list and reasons. Can't wait for Twisted Metal in 2012, only game I have pre-ordered.

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coonce

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Edited By coonce • 

For the record: I think it is f*cking awesome that David Jaffe has a top ten list on GiantBomb.

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Phished0ne

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Edited By Phished0ne • 

This list makes me have even more respect for Jaffe, although i am surprised by no MK9 or Saints Row. Figured those would be right up his alley. But! that being said, mad respect for putting Words With Friends on his list.

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Christoffer

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Edited By Christoffer • 

"The greatest of GOTY lists are personal"

I think Aristoteles said that, and it's still true. Great list David.

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UltimAXE

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Edited By UltimAXE • 

Jaffe is probably my favorite personality in this industry, and, other than Twisted Metal Black, I'm not that huge of a fan of his games. He seems so genuine and down to earth, so much so that he'll be the first to tell you that Devil May Cry is a better and deeper game than God of War. I admire that.

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Edited By 4f3f4324f342 • 

Finally someone giving arkham city the respect it deserves #1

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Slaker117

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Skogen

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Edited By Skogen • 

David Jaffe is one cool motherfucker.

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michaelfossbakk

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Edited By michaelfossbakk • 

@dr_zox: Hate to break it to ya, but this was "in no particular order".

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@dr_zox

Finally someone giving arkham city the respect it deserves #1

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Edited By 4f3f4324f342 • 

@michaelfossbakk: I died a little on the inside just then

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Edited By steelknight2000 • 

It's kinda sad that the game developers themselves have so little time to devote to video games.

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bcrt2000

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Edited By bcrt2000 • 

Really surprised at the lack of MK9

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Edited By WatanabeKazuma • 

The complaint about resource management in Dead Space 2 is a little odd, if anything I thought the game was overly generous with the drops.

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Edited By TentPole • 

@TripMasterMunky said:

"Best side-scrolling platformer since Yoshi’s Island."

Finally someone else who appreciates how good Yoshi's Island is.

My feelings about Rayman Origin exactly.

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Edited By csl316 • 

The more Jaffe in my life, the better.

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Edited By Nentisys • 

I don't know what it is about Jaffe but he scares me a little.

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Edited By Claude • 
@GeneralBison said:

Words with Friends came out in 2010...

He mentions the reasoning in his article.
 
Some of these games came out in 2010 but they are on this list cause I just got around to them this year and/or they were my favorite games of this year, regardless of when they released.
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crazyleaves

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Edited By crazyleaves • 

@Claude said:

@GeneralBison said:

Words with Friends came out in 2010...

He mentions the reasoning in his article.

Some of these games came out in 2010 but they are on this list cause I just got around to them this year and/or they were my favorite games of this year, regardless of when they released.

Yeah man c'mon read the damn thing if you're gonna reply

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shadykx125

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Edited By shadykx125 • 

@Mephiles1990: mine and yours both

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vinsanityv22

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Edited By vinsanityv22 • 

I want Jaffe to make a platformer, or another arcadey game. I mean, he clearly appreciates 'em (Rayman Origins IS his no.3 after all). Heck, he made one before in Calling All Cars. He should do one again - I know working on huge, world class hits for 3-4 years at a time is something he's not fond of. He should take a break and do something smaller, more creative, and charming. Again.

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PillClinton

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Edited By PillClinton • 

@Nentisys said:

I don't know what it is about Jaffe but he scares me a little.

Same here, but in a good way.

Nice list!

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Fjordson

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Edited By Fjordson • 

Always love Jaffe. Very cool list, couldn't agree more on Jetpack Joyride. Awesome game.

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Edited By Little_Socrates • 

Man, I bet people are gonna give you so much shit for this list, David, but it's pretty fucking awesome.

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Edited By I_smell • 

Hands up if you googled "Storm In A Teacup" and still don't know what it is.

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Edited By louiedog • 

Now I can't play Jetpack Joyride without thinking about David Jaffe pooping. Perfect.