My Non-Officially-Sanctioned 2011 Game of the Year List

Since I'm guessing the site space that would have been dedicated to user GOTY posting was instead diverted to make room for Patrick's list (hard drive space is precious, y'all), and my not being a forum guy means I missed the community list compilation, I'm saying "Screw it!" and making my own personal list. What was stopping me from doing this anyway? Eh, nothing, really. I just like the usual feeling that my picks are being tallied into something more impactful. But whatever. If you've made it this far, I'll reward your diligence with (a list of) some damn games.

CAVEAT: Something that happens every year is that I don't go buying every single big new game that gets released alongside high review scores. Quite a few, and enough to be happy, but not all. This year was no exception. What I played was a mix of games from this year and those previous. However, when I think back on what I played in 2011, these are the games that I'll think of; to me, that's the entire point of this list.

List items

  • I'll describe The Game Formerly Known As 'Trenched' with three F's: Fun, Funny, and a F***ing great time with your friends. I normally play games by myself or anonymously on multiplayer (see #3), but TGFKAT made me pressure my friends to play it, too, and we mastered the whole game, loving it all the way. I feel this game deserves a salute, but I just don't know which one.

  • I went into this game scared, some might say mortified. From what I'd heard, it was out to make me suffer for the simple fact that I'd payed money to play it. The reality? Dark Souls expects more. That's it. All it wants is your time and attention. From Software created a vast, seamless open world for you to explore, and if you're not willing to do that, then maybe you really don't deserve to see it all. And if you're also not inclined to take every single enemy seriously, then how would you enjoy encountering them anyway?

    That said, it does leave a bit too much out. Sure, I don't need to be guided everywhere, shown everything I can do, but if I just had a better idea of some of the most core mechanics, it would be so much more fun. Perhaps they want you to feel like you really are your character - not knowing what's around the next corner, who's friend or foe, that sort of thing. It's commendable that a company still makes a game like this while expecting to turn a profit. They just have yet to really strike the right balance.

    I think it's obvious that I've had fun with Dark Souls and continue to do so, but one quick word of advice: Play in offline mode. You can still summon NPCs to help you, and there are too many jerks out there waiting to invade.

  • I made my choice pretty early on - Battlefield 3 was going to be my modern military shooter of 2011. Actually, it was half the point of building my desktop last year. I wanted something that could play the latest, greatest-looking things, and Battlefield 3 is just that. Sometimes I just lose myself staring at it; it's beautiful. The sound is spectacular, and it plays just as well. Battlelog is addicting, and getting better at flying a helicopter with a mouse & keyboard is pretty darn rewarding. Now that I've basically repeated everything said about it on the Bombcast, I'll just say Battlefield 3 was one of the funnest times I had this past year.

    Maybe I'm crazy, but I like the campaign, too.

  • Not since Sam Rockwell have I been so excited about the Moon. Also, more puzzles with more frustration, more rewarding relief when you finish said puzzles, and more humor that makes you burst out laughing while seeming to not even try. Portal 2 is one of those games that the Guinness guys sum up so well: Brilliant!

  • I've gotten at least halfway through Shadows of the Damned, and I must say I've rather liked it. While the writing more than the story or gameplay is what drew me to it, the shooting isn't all that bad and the levels have enough variety to keep it interesting (at least for me). Hearing that the ending is crazy in a good way, I'm hoping to finish it sometime soon.

  • Too often, parody games don't work. They try to poke fun at a formula by using that formula themselves (I'm thinking of Eat Lead here). What makes Cthulhu Saves the World work? It isn't one of those. It's really a competently made game that looks and feels a lot like RPG's of old. I'm too young to have played many of those, but it reminded me of the ones I have. It's cleverly written and fun for anyone who's a read a bit of Lovecraft. The battle music is always the same, but I never got tired of it, which is hard to say about most games.

  • Ken Block's Gymkhana Triangles! I mean, DiRT 3! The second DiRT game is probably my favorite racing game of all time. I played a lot of it over a good bit of time, and I got pretty good at using the fast cars and loose surfaces to my advantage. But what I really liked about it was the tone, the mood it set with music, menus, and voiceovers. I had high hopes that DiRT 3 would be more of what I loved so much. Sadly, that wasn't the case. Alt-rock has been replaced with more ambient tracks, yet for some reason they failed to replace Dudebro Announcer with someone less grating. I know that was a big part of the previous game, but it was much more tolerable. Gymkhana stuff is fun in that Tony Hawk's Pro Skater way. DiRT 3's biggest problem for me is that it leaves too much from DiRT 2 behind. Racing is still racing, and new tracks are cool; I would have liked to see some of my old favorites in there. DiRT 3 doesn't have enough of the fun I'm used to having in these games.

  • To be perfectly honest, I haven't finished Gears 3. I got to somewhere in the third chapter before deciding that I'd had Shadows of the Damned for long enough and if I didn't start it soon, I ran the risk of not starting it at all. But enough about that game. Gears seems like more Gears. I know that had I finished it or even just played more, it would be higher on this list; I didn't, and the early parts didn't grab me.

    If I may say something, having characters simply presented with no reason as to why I should care about them is a peeve of mine. I know it's been years since Gears 2 (both in-game and out), but a simple up-front explanation of where these random people (i.e. Australian chick) I'm fighting alongside came from. Again, I'm sure I just didn't play enough, but when the characters I know seem to care about these others, give me some reason to as well.

    It's the same reason I actually kind of hated that dude Ty or whatever his name was from the second game. No context = no care.

  • This is technically my "2011's 2009 Game of the Year." I bought it off Amazon for a steal and played through all six seasons. Gaining and optimizing new cars is fun, and the meta-game that is beating your best lap time made longer races a bit more tolerable. That is, if it wouldn't disqualify almost all of those laps.

  • This is here just to give me ten games, and because it actually is a 2011 release. It is a disappointment, to be sure. I haven't finished it, either, and I'm not sure I want to. I got stuck on the Queen Bitch boss and gave up. Maybe I'll try again just to get to the strip club. I need some sort of reward for playing through the rest of it.