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Best of 2011

Another year, another Top 10 list + more.  This is a work in progress.

List items

  • I have romantic feelings for The Elder Scrolls franchise that are hard to articulate. Slow moments, such as simply buying a room at an inn, can be filled with a level of atmosphere other games never approach. Often, I'll pause what I'm doing and simply marvel at my surroundings, taking it all in. No games are as immersive as this. Skyrim is a masterpiece.

  • While it can be played as a shooter, Human Revolution is best approached as a stealth game. The fun I had sneaking around far surpassed most games that dedicate everything to it, like Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid. Add in an inspired black & gold cyberpunk aesthetic, pair it with a beautiful techno-y soundtrack... I can't wait for Thief 4.

  • I've always been a huge MK fan, and this game felt like a love letter. I never in a million years thought I'd play through a compelling story in a fighting game. The game features an enormous roster of characters, all given a unique and compelling flavor. This would have been an easy GotY winner if it had only not so royally screwed up online multiplayer.

  • I've earned my MMO stripes from years of EverQuest and World of WarCraft. When this game launched, I hit it hard. My Republic Vanguard hit 50 within three weeks of launch. I was compelled to play because SWTOR offers a storytelling experience never seen before in the MMO genre. I was glued to my seat not because I wanted to reach endgame, but because I was immersed in the world. Time will tell if I want to play this game further, but my first month was worth the price of the game.

  • Portal 2 is a class-act. Who doesn't love Wheatley, Cave Johnson, or Glados? The single-player campaign was hilarious and a joy to solve. The co-op mode was terrific to share with my sister split-screen too.

  • I never got the hang of the combat system in Arkham Asylum, but it finally clicked for me in Arkham City. Stringing together combos can be an incredibly satisfying rush. The story in Arkham City also satisfies in ways that Asylum didn't. Rocksteady had balls to resolve the story at the end of City the way they did.

  • The Dragon Age franchise is as close as it gets for a single-player, MMO group combat simulator. You have a tank, you have a healer, and you have two DPS. Your tank has to manage threat, your healer keeps everyone alive, and your DPS rains down death in a variety of ways. With the micro-management necessary to succeed, some of my victories in DA2 were the sweetest I tasted all year.

  • I played this almost an entire year ago. I remember liking it a lot. There was a level where you go back to the ship from the first game. That was cool. At some point Issac gets stabbed in the eye? That was weird.

  • The zeitgeist around Dark Souls would lead you to believe that this series is the epitome of video games. It's not (and I've beaten the game to qualify that judgment). The game has a multitude of flaws that I won't dive into here. What Dark Souls does well though is create a thick atmosphere of constant tension by pitting your relatively weak character up against seemingly impossible odds. To cut through that, to achieve victory over genuinely brutal encounters, feels like an amazing achievement.

  • Is it weird that I prefer my Mario games on handhelds? Super Mario 3D Land knows perfectly how to make the most of the 3DS, and is one of the most fun and joyful Mario games I've played in many years.

  • Uncharted is the king of cinematic video games. Just shy of making my Top 10, the single-player campaign surpassed my lukewarm expectations. Had Naughty Dog not screwed up the shooting controls, and maybe removed a few hundred pirates from the ship graveyard level, this game probably would be enjoying a spot higher up the list.

  • Cutting through the endless green tide of Orks provided one of the most viscerally satisfying games of 2011.