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Games of the Year 2011

Choosing the definitive list of best games of2011 is a fool's errand. So many deserving titles launched this year that everyone will have their favorites. I've compiled a list of the games that have resonated with me the most. Many of the items listed inspire deep nostalgic feelings for me, and it has been some time since so many games have triggered such intense emotions.

I guess 2011 is the year of intensity, and games are not excluded.

List items

  • It's almost obligatory to have Skyrim as my game of the year, but it truly deserves it. No other title has completely rended my productivity and encouraged the deepest, darkest fiber of my loot-lusty soul like Skyrim has. I've played for over 80 hours at this point and have yet to finish the main storyline....

  • I loved Intelligence Cube for the PS1. Catherine shares its maddening frustration and combines it with an enthralling, cautionary tale. I am a sucker for Atlus-developed games, but this tapped into my desire to arrange endless levels of blocks and traps.

  • For me, Portal 2 is the story of Cave Johnson. The lengthy chapter that takes Chell into the depths of Aperture Science's condemned testing labs is more an exploration of Cave's psyche than a romp through Aperture's yester years. You feel his enveloping madness with each decade of test chambers you crawl through.

    Many people list Valve's clever writing and memorable characters as reasons this game should be atop everyone's year-end lists, but the beautifully tragic journey into Cave's obsession and madness makes Portal 2 something far greater than any one piece of dialog.

  • When I set out to review Forza 4 I found myself in a lurid relationship with a Lamborghini Miura '67. I wanted to take it with me everywhere, customizing it for each and every class-specific race I participated in. I was out to prove to this flashy, overly expensive youngster cars that classic beauty would win out in the end.

    I'm several years into the racing circuit now and have yet to give up my Miura. She's bright orange and lags a bit in S-class events, but she's with me to the end. My car obsession is healthy....

  • I've longed for a classic Kirby game for what feels like forever. Return to Dreamland is a satisfying romp that is also fiendishly hard for, well, a Kirby game. It kicked my ass and I loved every second of it.

  • I never thought Skylanders would be on this list. I felt this was just another nail in Spyro's coffin and avoided it for ages. That was until Activision started releasing assets for it. My tune started to change.

    In reality, Skylanders captures the soul of the first Spyro game in a way no other entry in the series has. What I felt would be an abomination and scam turned into a delightful -- albeit expensive -- romp through a lovingly crafted world. I'm still not 100 percent okay with the toy aspect, but I've come to love my hard-plastic pets.

  • I'm afraid the controversy around L.A. Noire's development will bar it from many game of the year lists. Well, I encourage all of you to separate art from reality for just a moment and judge this title on its beauty and design. It's a rare gem in Rock Star's publishing history, unfortunately one so dragged through the mud no one remembers how good it is. That saddens me, but I will always praise the technical achievements this game made while condemning how it was made.

  • Dungeon Siege 3 brings back a lot of weird memories for me. The first game I played on the PS2 was Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. It launched in the heady times of the PS2 memory card shortage, and I was not lucky enough to procure a card with my purchase. So,I was left to play for 7 hours or more if I wanted to see the end of the game....

    Since then, I hadn't wanted to touch another dungeon crawler. I went to a preview event for DS III and was instantly ensnared. The stunning landscapes and snappy combat drew me into a special, comfy world full of swords and countless dead spiders. It felt right, and I couldn't get enough of Dungeon Siege 3.

  • Pokemon has been in desperate need of an overhaul for nearly 10 years. Black and White don't venture too far from its origins, but it does give the franchise a fresh coat of paint. The new world view, combined with new battle mechanics sets these games apart from previous DS installments.

  • I've waited 10 years for this. Innocent Sin was the game I sadly resigned myself to never playing legitimately as its subject matter made it a little too risky (supposedly) to release in the west. Well, Atlus finally gave me the game I've always wanted and it merits a spot on this list just for that. But, it's also a lot of fun if you are not completely spoiled by the combat systems in Persona 3 and 4.