Hey guys, let’s make a deal. The headline is “MY Favorite Games of 2011.” So please do not tell me that x is missing or that I should really check out y because we’re not here to validate your opinions on things. That is the unbridled joy of no longer being a game journalist and putting together these lists. I don’t have to pretend to care about things I do not care about.
This was also a very busy year for me so there are a lot of “small” experiences on my list. If a certain game didn’t hook me immediately I would cut my losses and go back to playing iOS games on the toilet or something. There was a lot of toilet time this year.
I’d also like to say that, for the record, my 2010 Game of the Generation, Bayonetta, totally slays everything on this list. C’est la vie..
10. Batman: Arkham City (Xbox)
Let’s revisit something I wrote in 2009 about Batman: Akham Asylum-
“Arkham Asylum is a tightly wound piece of design that incorporates so many different elements and play styles that it almost feels as though it’s about to burst at any moment, yet it always remains in control with a laser-like focus.”
Arkham City is the exact opposite of its prequel. Rocksteady just sort of vomits up content at you and you’re expect to sort of catch it with a shoddy bucket. Or not. Hardly any of it is mandatory but they make sure you can’t ever forget it. Still, Arkham City is more of Rocksteady’s Batman and that’s a very good thing, it’s just also a very distracting thing that I slowly slogged my way through 20 minutes at a time.
9. Gemini Rue (PC)
This was the year I rediscovered my love for wonderfully abstract adventure titles and Joshua Nuernberger’s Gemini Rue stuck with me the longest. Its cyberpunk setting and suspenseful action sequences recalled some of the best moments of games such as Snatcher and Flashback, with a solid, intriguing plot to keep you hooked. Chances are you already bought this by accident via a Steam sale so you should go check that out.
8. Tiny Wings (iOS)
The other bird game that spawned a million clones.. Tiny Wings EVERYWHERE! On the toilet, in the car, standing on the commuter train when you only have one hand. Waiting in line for groceries, waiting for the trailers to start.. on the toilet at work. If you have 2 minutes or less to waste and you want to play an honest to god vidya game, Tiny Wings will make time for you.
7. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (iOS)
No one wants to make video games anymore, or at least get caught making a video game. They want to make experiences. The problem is that the word “experience” to most game developers somehow always translates to “quick-time event.” Sword & Sworcery is what a gaming “experience” should be. You cozy up in your bed, you put on your headphones and you basically shun the outside world and become immersed with the one inside your iPad. All the elements work together to create an experience that can not be emulated or recreated on any other form of traditional media. Best of all, no quick-time events.
6. Jetpack Joyride (iOS)
Halfbrick are the masters of mobile gaming. You know them best by their work on the Fruit Ninja series, but its their Barry Steakfries games that hold my interest year after year. Using the gameplay of Monster Dash as their foundation, Halfbrick powers Barry up with a customizable jet pack and all the obstacles he could ever hope to avoid. A very smart monetization and upgrade system keeps you addicted while you feverishly collect coins and slot machine tokens for your next fix. It is the iOS game I came back to the most and I still continue to play it regularly.
5. Orcs Must Die! (PC)
Let it be known that I hate tower defense games.. not because I don’t get it, but because I am positively awful at them. That said, Orcs Must Die! kept me firmly planted in my desk chair for days. What sets Orcs Must Die! apart from its tower defense cousins is the power of the player character. Armed with crossbows, swords and spells, you can make up for your poor planning with some well timed spells and headshots, all of which are extremely satisfying to perform. Now we just need a sequel with some co-op and I’ll never go outside again.
4. Saints Row: The Third (PC)
Saints Row: The Third is a game that makes me happy for a number of reasons, primarily for all the insane shit you can pull off along with the trademark humor of the series always surprising me with a laugh. But as a fan of Saints Row since the beginning, it’s great to see Volition finally, and without question, step out of the shadow of Rockstar’s GTA series with their own identity. I’d argue all their games have been better than Rockstar’s this generation, but I really don’t have to anymore. Saints Row: The Third is the proof.
3. The Binding of Isaac (PC)
Edmund McMillen is a sick dude. I think we all knew this after Super Meat Boy but the Binding of Isaac is on a whole other level. As disgusting as it is cute, however, McMillen and Himsl’s Zelda-inspired roguelike from Hell as as incredibly tight as it is infinitely replayable. I think Chris Remo said it best this year: “The Binding of Isaac has become something that I don’t just play, but something that I do.”
2. Minecraft (PC)
Oh stop, it was officially released in 2011. Minecraft is one of mankind’s greatest inventions, and I say that mostly without hyperbole. On a more personal level, Minecraft is also one of the only games I was able to play with my girlfriend and it quickly became one of the most powerful tools for expression in her artistic arsenal. I’ve seen first-hand how Minecraft can practically change lives through games and for that, it is one of my favorite games of the year. Oh, it’s also pretty fun.
1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PC)
FUS RO DUH! I sort of hate myself for Skyrim being my favorite game of the year, but it’s also the most obvious choice. Skyrim represents the mistakes made in Oblivion, the lessons learned from Shivering Isles while bringing the best of the past (Morrowind) together with the best of their most recent efforts (Fallout 3) into one package that, for a Bethesda product, feels strangely whole. Yes, the community is still fixing massive issues with the game through mods such as the horrible PC interface (Skyrim was obviously built with consoles in minds) to massive performance increases, but out of the box it’s wholly playable in a way no other Bethesda game has ever been. For once, we are to reward them not for the promise of their titles, but for the actual execution of the product.
Honorable Mentions: King of Fighters XIII, DiRT 3, Battlefield 3, WWE All-Stars, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Bulletstorm