GOTY 2011

2011 was an incredible year for interactive systems to come together to create some of the best moments of my 18+ years of gaming. I couldn't be more proud of my hobby after delving into these titles.

Let it be known up front that I have not managed to start Skyrim, but I intend to once the major bug issues get resolved.

Now on with my list of the top games of 2011.

List items

  • Portal 2 is, in my opinion, the most complete end-to-end game. It has just additional elements to its formula (Propulsion/Repulsion Gel) to feel new without hampering on the original's laser-tight focus. But, it was the story of Wheatley that stole the show here.

    While the first game felt like a satire of the puzzle game genre, Portal 2 feels like a satire of player agency in interactive design. Ultimately, you are a lab rat that is being guided along a very linear path, but Portal 2 offered its own commentary based upon your skills through this grand rat maze. It helps that the cooperative mode is worth your time and attention. Portal 2 comes recommended from me to people with feelings in the heart no matter how numb they might believe they are.

  • Batman. Realized. This is the mature Zelda that everyone constantly clamors for.

    Everything about the presentation of this game from the mission design to the actual gameplay feels wonderful. Gliding high above Arkham City is one of the best parts of this game. My only negative is I almost want a return to the form of Arkham Asylum for a tighter, smaller sequel.

    Oh, and one more thing. My only desire for the next game is to be able to pilot the Batwing at some point. That would be rad.

  • Congratulations, Greg Kasavin and SuperGiant Games, you crafted a wholly beautiful game and world. And you managed to do it such an economy of words and interactions. Outside of that, you managed to give more justification for major video game publishers moving towards smaller budgeted, more experimental experiences. This generation of video game consoles has missed out on the quirky, light-hearted games that used to populate the arcade going experience.

    Thanks for scratching that itch.

  • I put in over 60 hours into this biome/crafting simulator. After several failed attempts to get into Minecraft, I can safely say that I enjoy the genre when it is wrapped around a layer of gameplay and equipment progression.

    This may be one of the favorite multiplayer games of the year.

  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution was played during a semi-turbulent period of my life. I was vacationing at the beach when Hurricane Irene decided to blow through my neck of the woods. Forced inside my beach house for several days, Deus Ex kept my spirits alive while our house was rocking from side-to-side.

    I have very few qualms with Deus Ex aside from a few trivial boss encounters. The fact that the game lets you approach its problems from multiple angles means that I will be able to replay this one for several years to come.

  • It seems like everyone is hesitant to rank L.A. Noire among the favorite games of 2011, if only because of the post-launch shuttering of Team Bondi's studio and the allegations that Brendan McNamara's shady business practices of overworking low-ranking employees.

    No, I remember L.A. Noire as the interactive realization of L.A. Confidential that I dreamed of for years. It felt like the natural evolution of the adventure game genre in many ways, by giving you another area to focus on; conversations. Sure, the interrogations didn't always work as intended, but you got the sense that Team Bondi just ran slightly out of time.

  • Never in a million years would I think to put a sports title in my annual top games list, but NBA 2K12 could be the greatest love letter to a sport that many thought would completely self-implode. Fortunately, if such a nightmare scenario played out, the fine folks at 2K would have the latent basketball fan's back.

    For once, creating an athlete and seeing him through the NBA drama to the finals is one of the most rewarding things to have play out in a video game. It helps that the audio commentary matches the level of sophistication happening on the court.

  • I plugged away at Gears of War for almost six days straight, which is light years more attention than I give to the almost any FPS or third person shooter moreover. Gears 3 keeps up a brisk pace while offering the most character-building seen in the trilogy. Everything from the camera to the recoil feels tweaked to perfection specifically for the 360 controller.

    It also helps that Epic has created a ton of multiplayer content on top of the excellent competitive modes aimed directly at people that hate multiplayer. Beast and horde mode were thrilling enough to satisfy any shooting urges I had in the months following Gears' September release.

  • I was a relative latecomer to Frozen Synapse, but when I finally discovered it this Christmas, I found one of the most exhilarating games of Chess, a turn-based strategy fan could desire. Playing through the campaign I got the sense that Frozen Synapse was one part Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear's planning phase and two parts Deus Ex in terms of its brooding cyberpunk atmosphere. Whatever the ingredients may be, I will enjoy heading back from time-to-time if only to experience my soundtrack of the year.

  • As a student of Shinji Mikami's game design and a fan of Grasshopper Manufacture's No More Heroes franchise, I figured that there was no way I could miss out on Shadows of the Damned. The game turned out to be the equivalent of pure video game camp mixed in with solid third person shooter gameplay.

    After the curtain call of the credits, the final scenes left me desperately waiting for a sequel that will likely never see the light of day. It was a crying shame that this game was not marketed for the delightful horror genre romp that it is. For shame, EA marketing department, for shame.