Games I Finished in 2011

This list is comprised of games I finished in 2011, not necessarily released in 2011. I do realize this list doesn't have many 2011 games in it, but as a broke college student, time and money are big factors. I wouldn't be able to buy food if I was buying newly released $60 games. Ranked from best to worst.

List items

  • Coming off the heels of the first Assassin's Creed, Assassin's Creed II blew me away. It's the story and the characters that truly make this game something special. Ezio Auditore Da Firenze is one of the funniest, most charming, and most likable protagonists to appear in any video game, and the trials and tribulations he goes through are what make the story so enthralling. The story does a fantastic job of creating an emotional attachment between the player and Ezio, and I wanted nothing more than to make those Templar bastards pay for what they did by stabbing them in their faces. I also love the Desmond segments, where you're able to walk around and talk to Lucy, Rebecca, and Shaun. (Although Shaun's kind of a dick.) And oh yeah, there's that gameplay. The breadth of new tools Ezio is able to utilize in comparison to what Altair had at his disposal is staggering. Killing random guards in a menagerie of ways is just plain fun, as every new weapon and gadget was fresh and exciting. The score in this game is excellent as well. The theme that's played when the title card is shown is beautiful. I also love how little things are explained, such as why the characters sometimes speak in Italian. (Apparently there is still a bug in the translation software for those that didn't know.) The fact that Ubisoft paid that much attention to such minute details brings a smile to my face. This game was the complete package.

  • Deciding which game should be number 1 between this and Assassin's Creed II was like choosing which testicle to cut off. It was not easy. Consider this 1a rather than number 2. Red Dead Redemption is simply a grand masterpiece. Controlling the rugged, tough John Marston through vast and sprawling locations such as Mexico and Blackwater is awesome. It's hard to think of another word when you're riding your trusty steed down a barren and dusty path towards the sunset. The gunplay in this game is satisfying as all hell. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to slow down time and methodically paint my X's over every single one of those bandit's faces, and then witnessing Marston pull off those rounds like the skilled marksmen he is. Although I still don't really understand how dueling works, there was nothing more exhilarating than blasting someone stupid enough to challenge me multiple times in his grill. The random stranger tasks were also great. Seeing strangers need your help as you're riding from town to town made it really feel like a living, breathing world. Many may pass these off as mundane side quests, but all of them were backed up with surprisingly interesting story lines that sometimes take unexpected turns. But what really made Red Dead Redemption an incredible game is the tale of John Marston. Divulging into what makes Marston's story so amazing would be robbing of anyone who hasn't experienced it for themselves. Contributing to the great story is the outstanding soundtrack. The moment that music starts playing when you first reach Mexico...wow. If I could travel back to the past just to relive that moment one more time, I would do it in a heartbeat. Also, the amount of time I spent playing poker and Liar's Dice would probably make any normal person sick to his or her stomach. And to top it all off, Red Dead Redemption has the greatest ending in any video game ever. Ever.

  • It amazes me that in this day and age, a puzzle game can be filled to the brim with so much humor, intelligence, and downright insanity. It is also astounding that, as a puzzle game, Portal 2 is most memorable for its characters and story. Don't get me wrong, the obstacles you have to complete are a ton of fun. The way Valve can create these rooms that have you feeling like a bumbling idiot in one minute, and then still like a bumbling idiot in the next minute because you realized how easy that puzzle actually was, is ingenious. But it speaks to the quality of the writing and storytelling to say Portal 2's greatest strengths were its characters. The interactions between Chell and GLaDOS are still great, but newcomers Wheatley and Cave Johnson really steal the show. The transformations that each character undergoes is not only hysterical, but also sometimes completely unexpected. And it's all done with such superb writing that manages to stay hilarious throughout. Valve also somehow threw in cooperatively play into the mix and managed to make one of the most exciting and challenging cooperative experiences. The levels they crafted for co-op integrated two players in such a smart way that me and my friend very often looked at each other in disbelief and said, "Did we just actually do that?" Those puzzles were nothing short of genius. I wasn't really sure how a sequel to the original Portal would turn out. Now, I am even more baffled at how a potential Portal 3 could ever top this one.

  • What did I want from Batman: Arkham City? More Batman: Arkham Asylum. What did I get from Batman: Arkham City? Exactly that. And I couldn't have been more pleased. The combat is still one of the most unique experiences in any action orientated game. Personally, I see it almost as a combat puzzle. All I care about is getting that combo bonus as high as it can. Once you start getting in a groove, the satisfaction you get from bouncing from one thug to another, just pummeling them over and over, is unmatched. The crunching sound of each punch, the way your controller vibrates violently on each kick, and the distorted faces the thugs make after falling unconscious all contribute into making the combat look seriously painful. All this violence is set against the dark and gritty backdrop of Arkham City, where the villains have taken the reins and it's Batman's job to end this madness. And because this is the Batman universe, all of the villains are completely insane. Special props must be given to the voice acting: Mark Hamill is still at the top of his game and Nolan North is unbelievable as the Penguin. It's amazing how the voice of Nathan Drake can pull off such a thick, menacing British accent. The ending is also a complete shocker, and if Rocksteady decides to stick with it, I wait with a bated breath for the sequel.

  • Wait, why is this on my list? Bastion sucks...I'm just foolin'. Bastion definitely didn't have the biggest budget, but without a doubt had the most heart, emotion, and soul. It really shows the power and influence of writing and dialogue when there are only four characters, and among them only one actually speaks. The gameplay is no slouch either. The different, unique weapons are all blast to use. Sometimes when a game gives the player too many weapons with a lot of variety, a couple of them become clear front-runners in terms of viability and usefulness. But Bastion side steps all that and makes every weapon combination practical. You wanna go all range with pistols and a bow? You go right ahead. All the upgrades are meaningful and choosing between which one you wanted was a tough decision. And finally, its music. Music goes a long way for me in video games, and Bastion's soundtrack is one of the most memorable scores in a while. I also need to give a shout out to one of the tracks, A Proper Story. Most people remember Zia's Theme and the End Theme, and they are indeed fantastic, but A Proper Story is my favorite. Gets the blood pumping like no other.

  • Dead Space knows what it wants to do and it executes that to the highest degree. Visceral Games used the "less is more" approach; rather than trying to throw in the kitchen sink, they focused on a few aspects and made it excellent. Apart from Resident Evil 4, I can't remember a time when third person shooting felt this good. Every weapon had different ways to murder aliens, whether it be severing limbs, burning them with fire, or just blowing them away to kingdom come. The sound design is top notch as well, as every horrible screech and every disgusting crunch of Isaac Clarke stomping on alien bits sent shivers down my spine. Also, while I tend to shy away from horror movies, I have a inexplicable attraction towards scary games, and Dead Space fulfilled that desire...maybe a little too much.

  • As a sucker for games with detective work and sleuthing, L.A. Noire was a match made in heaven. Although the gunplay is decent, the crux of the game is observing clues and interrogating suspects. There may not be a lot of variety, but those two facets are extremely detailed and well-executed. Although each case is a self-contained story with a beginning and an end, the game does a good job of connecting those cases together to create a story arc that completes itself over the course of the entire game. But by far the most impressive aspect of L.A. Noire is the technology behind the facial expressions. The graphical quality and fidelity of all the faces are second to none. It's almost scary how realistic the expressions look, and after L.A. Noire, faces in other games feel old and antiquated. I also love the 1940's L.A. setting as well. As a southern California boy, driving around the streets of Los Angeles and recognizing landmarks that I've personally been to and seen was a gleeful experience. One of the landmarks, the Good Samaritan Hospital, is where I was born. How awesome is that?!

  • I don't remember exactly what happened at the end of Bayonetta. I can vaguely recall the sun, outer space, giant gods...and dancing! If I were to sum up Bayonetta in one word, it would be: "What?" The pure ridiculousness of the things that would happen on the screen left my mouth agape and my tiny little brain fried. It's refreshing to see such a wild and crazy game, especially in an industry that usually doesn't reward such lunatic tactics. But this stupidity would be all for naught if it wasn't backed up by solid gameplay. Bayonetta wasn't about rote memorization of combos but rather the timing of each attack that dictated the flow of combat. One could simply could go through the game mashing buttons, but the variety of ludicrous moves that Bayonetta can pull off, such as summoning a humongous black high heel shoe made up of hair out of another dimension to kick an angel in its face, evaporating it instantly, is definitely worth seeing. But my favorite part of the entire game had to be the end of each boss battle, where you just rack up those giagatons to see some random animal bite the head off anybody who dared to get in Bayonetta's way.

  • I absolutely adore challenging 2-D platformers. So the minute I saw the quick look to this game, I knew I had to own it immediately. VVVVVV utilizes one button (and if you're pressing something other than the v key, you're doing it wrong) which makes your protagonist, Viridian, flip to either the ceiling or the floor. That's literally the only gameplay mechanic, but the level design is so well-thought out and meticulous that it still managed to keep me enraptured beginning to end. The game is only a few hours long, but may stretch to longer lengths as some puzzles get deviously challenging. VVVVVV truly tests your reflexes and accuracy, and I'm shocked my v key hasn't fallen through the keyboard, as I have pounded that thing out of anger many times. And where would an old-school style platformer be without its catchy soundtrack? Catchy isn't the only way to describe the chiptune soundtrack, as it is downright amazing. Once you listen to soundtrack, cleverly called PPPPPP, there is no doubt you will be instantly hooked.

  • Sometimes, this game really pissed the living snot out of me. The wonky controls from Grand Theft Auto IV really bore its nasty head a lot of times throughout both episodes. And most of the times I would be mercilessly gunned down as a result. However, even with questionable controls, my love for the Grand Theft Auto IV universe cannot be denied. Both The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony did superb jobs of integrating itself into the original GTA IV story. To see how the storyline of each protagonist perfectly intermingles with the greater fiction is astounding. It's also really cool to see many missions in the DLC fill in some of the story gaps in the original game. There are also a ton of just seemingly innocuous things that give a wink and a nod to those who have beaten both episodes. Rockstar again shows why no other developer crafts better stories and characters in video games. Actually, Yusuf Amir alone makes this one of my favorite games this year, warts and all.

  • One doesn't go into Gears of War 3 expecting brand new ideas or radical gameplay changes from the previous two games. One goes into Gears of War 3 to witness Locust guts splatter across the screen by way of a chainsaw bayonet. If you didn't like Marcus Fenix's prior exploits, then Gears of War 3 probably won't change your mind. But if you're like me and immensely enjoy the Gears franchise, then this game is just pure fun. And in a game where the bro-fueled testosterone is practically oozing from the screen, I thought the emotional sections were effective. These were characters I've come to know and love across a span of three games, so I had a deep investment in the universe. I am extremely pleased to see Marcus Fenix and the rest of Delta Squad receive a fitting coda to one hell of a trilogy.

  • I think me liking Assassin's Creed II much more than Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is a direct correlation of me playing all 3 Assassin's Creed games in about 3 months. As I was nearing the end of Brotherhood, I just kinda burned out. Brotherhood being a lot lower than Assassin's Creed II is definitely not indicative of the quality of the game. This is just how I felt as I was playing it. Don't get me wrong: Brotherhood is still a spectacular game. The first time you call in an assassin and he comes out of nowhere to stab an unsuspecting fool in his neck is a moment I will never forget. But many aspects are still similar to the second one. There is no doubt questioning of the greatness of this game; it was just a victim of bad timing and Assassins' Creed fatigue.

  • Due to the fact I was a mere child in the nineties, I was unable to play all the classic point and click adventure games that Sierra and Lucas Arts made. As a result, I didn't really have a vested interest in this genre. But my unremitting love for the Back to the Future movies is what propelled me to try my first adventure game, and I could not have chosen a better one to start with. The story feels like a very natural fit into the Back to the Future universe; if this story was a script to Back to the Future 4, I'm convinced that it would've been better than the third one (don't get me started). Although you can almost hear the oldness in Christopher Lloyd's voice, the overall voice acting is solid, and A.J. Locasio as Marty McFly is so spot on that it's scary. I know some people had issues with some of the puzzles and their seemingly arbitrary solutions, but as a newcomer into the adventure game genre, I thought the puzzles were creative and challenging.

  • Torchlight deserves recognition because not only was it my go to game when listening to the Giant Bombcast, but also because it had one of the most useful gameplay mechanics of all time: being able to sell anything whenever you want. I am a person who hoards everything in these kinds of games. The fact that you can use your pet to sell your loot at any time in a dungeon is probably the single most important reason on why I enjoyed Torchlight so much. If I can get rid of encumbrance in every game I would, but Torchlight circumvented that problem by allowing the player the freedom of commerce, regardless of how many floors you were deep in a dungeon. But I don't want to dismiss the meat and potatoes of the game either. The loot driven dungeon crawler takes most of its cues from the Diablo series, but that's one great franchise to take some inspiration from. The basic action of clicking on enemies may be simple, but the desire to find that next powerful, purple-text weapon is what kept me coming back to Torchlight over and over.

  • If I had friends that had Borderlands with Xbox Live, there is no doubt on my mind that this game would be much higher on this list. Unfortunately, I have almost no friends who play games and as a result, Borderlands was mostly a single player experience for me. That's not to say that Borderlands wasn't a fun game, but I believe I would've enjoyed it much more playing alongside buddies. But even as I was going lone wolf through the entire game, I still enjoyed my time with Borderlands. I'm not really an MMO guy, but if you wrap an MMO experience in a first person shooter context with small dancing robots, you can count me in. Similar to Torchlight, Borderlands kept me on its leash by triggering my lust for loot. The anticipation that bubbles within me when the treasure case is doing its opening animation... I think I might have a problem. Another aspect of Borderlands that I think doesn't really get mentioned all that often is its visuals. I recall looking at screenshots early in Borderlands development cycle and being not too impressed, but the cel-shaded look that was used in the final product was awesome.

  • Deciding where Limbo should be on this list was definitely the most difficult choice. The package surrounding Limbo is without a doubt its greatest strength. The haunting atmosphere the permeates the entire game really sticks with you. The lack of a color palette emphasizes that sense of dread and hopelessness that gives Limbo a great, moody feel. But the core game was somewhat lacking for me. The puzzles given to the player didn't make the player think strategically and try new approaches to a given problem, but rather, the challenges were solved through mostly trial and error. As long as you banged your head enough times against the wall, you would eventually progress. Regardless of the gameplay, the striking visual aesthetic is definitely one of a kind, and that alone deserves recognition.

  • If I had to come up with one word that describes this game it would be quirky. The art style, the voice actors, and the setting are really charming, but it's done in a slightly off-beat fashion that screams quirkiness. As a huge fan of the film Fargo, the Minnesota accents were absolutely delightful. The story also had some surprisingly dark undertones, and a few moments genuinely freaked me out. The puzzles were not always interesting or clear in their directions, but the plot and the characters were enough to make me appreciate this peculiar little game.

  • This game would most likely be higher on this list if I had not played the sequels, but only slightly. Assassin's Creed sets a great foundation for the franchise, and the next two games knock it out the park. But the first one is definitely a deeply flawed gem. Repetitive missions, lack of subtitles, and a completely unrelatable protagonist are the main reasons why the first entry does not even hold a candle to the later games. Also, why does Altair speak in a perfect American accent? Isn't he supposed to be from the Middle East?!

  • Catherine is definitely the game that I had the highest expectations for, only to feel let down by the entire experience. The block puzzles are what ruined my enjoyment of the game. In my opinion, a block puzzle is something that should be relegated to a mini game, not be the focal point of the entire gameplay. Personally, when I play a puzzle game, I like to go slowly and ponder about my next step. However, the boss battles, of which there are plenty, add a time limit, which needlessly adds a sense of urgency. That time constraint makes the player rush, and thereby forego any sense of strategy. Regardless, there are several redeeming qualities, such as the superb voice acting and art style. Although the story does take some weird twists and turns near the end, the overall plot was intriguing, as most games don't even delve into topics such as sexuality and infidelity.

  • Why this game morphs into an RTS in the middle of the game completely baffles me. If this was a character action game a la God of War or Devil May Cry, I would have adored this game. Take rock music, Jack Black (I don't know why so many people hate this dude), and a metal-infused story line, and you got a game that I can't help but love. But once the strategy and management aspects kick in is when Brutal Legend totally lost me. I felt like I was fighting with the controller because an Xbox game pad is not meant for RTS elements. I actually had to turn the difficulty down to easy for the final boss battle because at that point, I just wanted to finish it as quickly as possible.