My Top Games of 2011 Part One: The Obligatory Top Ten

GOTY 2011

My ten favorite games of 2011

1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Skyrim embodies almost everything I love about video games. Its vast open world encourages exploration and discovery, its rich RPG elements form a satisfying backbone to support the lengthy adventure, and there's always a new and interesting quest to discover. How Bethesda could've made a game so vast, yet so great, is beyond me, but I'm sure glad they did.

2. Bastion

I never expected this much out of Bastion and its handful of developers. Not only is this the best indie game I've ever played, it's also one of the most moving games I've ever had the pleasure of putting my hands on. Everything about Bastion - the beautiful artwork, the superb writing, the breathtaking soundtrack - blends seamlessly together to create a whole that can only be described as stunning.

3. Batman: Arkham City

Take one of 2009's best action games, add an open world, dozens of hours of side quests each backed by a cool story, and tons of memorable villains, and you have the recipe for the perfect brawler. The atmosphere in Arkham City is so menacing, so hopeless, that it made for a truly unique and thoroughly frightening experience. The fact that you have so many options for navigating and brawling through this urban wasteland is just the icing on the cake.

4. Saints Row: The Third

Saints Row: The Third knows that we play video games primarily for fun, and it delivers on that promise better than just about any game I can think of. Brash, loud, violent, and above all utterly ridiculous, Saints Row: The Third is easily deserving of a spot in my top ten.

5. inFamous 2

Everything about Infamous 2 was an improvement over its predecessor. The city was vibrant and gorgeous looking, the powers were more fun to toy around with, and the gangs of enemies more varied and interesting than ever before. Coupled with a great story (even if it does kind of jump the shark in the end,) Infamous 2 is a big improvement. But the real fun in this game comes simply from moving around, as Cole's movements and powers feel incredibly fluid and natural. It hasn't been this much fun to just run around in a game for a long time.

6. Rayman: Origins

Rayman Origins proves that the classic 2D platformer can still destroy other genres in terms of quality, even if it didn't exactly light up the sales charts. With pixel perfect controls and some of the most fluid animations and catchiest music around, Rayman Origins is a treat for the eyes, ears, and fingers.

7. Gears of War 3

I didn't like Gears 2 all that much, but this conclusion to the trilogy just feels like a better thought out product. The story is better, even succeeding in its few attempts to hit home some emotional resonance. The multiplayer is great fun and more balanced than it's ever been thanks to the inclusion of dedicated servers. But the real triumph of Gears 3 is its revamped Hoard mode, which supports up to five players online. There's nothing quite as intense as facing down those high level opponents with a team of dedicated players. It's absolutely fantastic.

8. Bulletstorm

Bulletstorm is the antithesis of the modern shooter. Placing a firm emphasis on combo chains and so-stupid-they're-clever dick jokes that wouldn't be out of place on a third grade playground, Bulletstorm certainly knows how to have fun. Couple the rock solid combo-based gameplay with a bright and gorgeous world, silky smooth controls, and a surprisingly good story, and you've got one of 2011's surprise hits.

9. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Really? I know. No, really, I know. I don't like Activision's business practices any more than you do, but the fact of the matter is that Infinity Ward and the army of studios at their disposal have crafted on hell of a shooter this year. The campaign alone is enough for me to recommend this one, thanks to its plethora of jaw dropping setpieces. But even after that's done with, the new cooperative Survival mode is enough to drain hours out of your life. It's fast, addictive, and fun.

10. Dead Space 2

Although I was a bit disappointed by Dead Space 2's reliance on action and jump scares over straight up horror, there's no denying that this is still one of the most polished third person action games on the block. The aiming and shooting controls are nothing short of perfect, and the graphics are stunning even almost a year later. This game had me on the edge of my seat more times than I dare to count, and I think that's worthy of placing it in the top ten.

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