Best Games Of The Year 2011 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii & iPhone/iPad
What were your GOTYs for 2011? Here are ours: Skyrim, Battlefield 3 and Portal 2, to name but three.
Published on Dec 21, 2011
Was 2011 a classic year for gaming? Yes, of course it was! But what were the best games of the year? Here, we take a look at the best games of 2011 and reveal which brilliant game is the NowGamer Game Of 2011.
Listen to the latest NowGamer podcast to hear the team talk about their games of the year.
LittleBigPlanet 2, Sony – PS3
We never even considered that a sequel to LittleBigPlanet would be necessary, let alone be as accomplished and as big an upgrade as LittleBigPlanet 2 would be.
A whole new toolset has enabled LBP’s unique community to open up a new world of gaming possibilities. Genres such as RPGs, first-person shooters, sheep-shearing…
LittleBigPlanet, and this sequel, proves that gamers, or at least some gamers, are a really creative bunch. More so, in many cases, than many of the developers who make a living out of this thing we call ‘games’.
They’re prolific too. There are over 5 million LBP levels out there, right now. What other game can boast a community like that?
Total War: Shogun 2, Sega – PC
Such is the detail in Creative Assembly’s latest Total War engine you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s some kind of high end third-person action adventure.
Pull that camera back and the truth is revealed: Shogun 2 is yet another high quality real-time strategy game from one of the UK’s best development studios.
With bigger (read: more tactical) maps, finely balanced units and combat and an atmosphere that’s dripping with feudal Japan, Shogun 2 is probably the best PC strategy game since… well, since Creative Assembly’s last great strategy game.
The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Nintendo – Wii
Finally! A game on Wii that uses the Wii MotionPlus controller as it was meant to be – as an intrinsic part of the gameplay.
Apart from that, Skyward Sword is a wonderful reminder of how great Nintendo can still be as a core-game developer; Skyward Sword shows just how much untapped potential the Wii and its control system still has.
Skyward Sword is Zelda in a classic guise, but, strangely, this is probably the only Zelda game to have been released with such a small fanfare. It’s no doubt a sign that the Wii’s on its way out, but what a wonderful swansong.
Forza 4, Microsoft – Xbox 360
The return of Turn 10’s simulation racer was a welcome one for 360 racing fans and is the best in an already excellent series.
The attention to detail in Forza 4 is astonishing – Turn10 even hired Pixar to help with the lighting – but the real win here is with the way the cars handle.
The car AI’s not bad either, as is the track design, attention to detail and overall structure of the game too. And the new amazingly-detailed Autovista mode is car porn at its most-erotic (they should’ve called it ‘Autoeroticar’) but Forza 4 never loses sight of what makes it a great racing game: the quality of the racing. Only Gran Turismo 5 can hold a torch to it.
Rage, Bethesda – PC, Xbox 360, PS3
If this was a list about the best graphics of the year, then Rage would be right up there with the cream of them. Rage marked the debut for id Software’s id Tech 5 engine and, as a showcase for the ultimate high-fidelity console graphics, it sure lived up to expectations. On Xbox 360, at least.
Rage was also a top-notch shooter as well and a real homage to some of id’s classic shooters of yesteryear. It managed to do some things in a modern way as well, mixing a (fairly) open-world driving hub with some well-designed shooting levels, nothing revolutionary but, still, had quality oozing from every pixel.
Battlefield 3, EA – PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Sorry COD fans, there’s no Modern Warfare on this list. No, please don’t moan. While Modern Warfare 3 is good, and will no doubt be still being played by thousands of you this time next year, it didn’t quite make the list.
Why? Well, this is why. Battlefield 3’s multiplayer isn’t necessarily better than MW3’s (the NowGamer team is split on this point) but it does definitely offer a viable alternative and is serious competitor to the establishment.
It’s also worth noting that the PC version of Battlefield 3 represents a new standard in realistic visuals. Not essential, we know, but seeing Battlefield 3 running at full spec is something to behold.
L.A. Noire, Rockstar/Take 2 – PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Noire by name noire by nature. We don’t even know what that means, but L.A. Noire was a brilliant James Elway-inspired period piece by the people behind Red Dead Redemption.
Well, not really. It was a developer called Team Bondi that was responsible for bringing the world of 1940s detective noir to our game screens, along with some ground-breaking facial expression tech that was vital to L.A. Noire’s core gamplay mechanic: working out if people were lying.
True, L.A. Noire has its faults but for doing something very different, in a very different setting, we applaud it. Cue applause.
Dark Souls, Namco Bandai – PS3, Xbox 360
‘Hard’ doesn’t really do Dark Souls justice. Diamond-hard would be more like it but adamantium-hard’ would be the most accurate description of Dark Souls’ difficulty level.
Dark Souls is an RPG where hours of play and progression could be wiped out in an instant, causing some NowGamer staff to ask, ‘why bother?’
Well, simply, because overcoming a challenge this great is a unique gaming experience and all the more satisfying. Also, we enjoy pain.
Gears Of War 3, Microsoft – Xbox 360
Well, it doesn’t get any more macho than this: Marcus Fenix and chainsaw-gun wielding buddies shooting the living hell out of space-aliens and high-fiving each other all the way to the end of humanity.
Okay, they’re not space-aliens, but you get the point.
Epic’s final chapter in the Gears Of War ‘trilogy’ is ballsy, blunt, brutal, and, as the best use of the Unreal Engine 3 so far, beautiful. In a kind of destroyed beauty kind of way.
But the real hero of the piece isn’t Fenix or Dom or even Carmine, it’s the guy who builds all those concrete walls. And it’s about time he got some credit and his own game.
Xenoblade Chronicles, Nintendo – Wii
While most of the games released on Wii this year were all about some Latin American dance craze, it was refreshing to see this old-school RPG making a name for itself.
Okay, it may follow the usual JRPG template: kid with a big sword, world in danger, scary bad guy trying to kill everyone, only you and your team can save the day, girl dies, you cry… But what’s good about Xenoblade Chronicles is that it also takes ideas from MMOs and throws them into the mix and makes the JRPG fresh again. Well, as fresh as that can.
It might just be the best JRPG of this generation (it is).
DiRT 3, Codemasters – PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Come on the UK! The only other driving/racing game to make our list of 2011’s best comes from the Lemmington Spa-based developers Codemasters.
But DiRT 3 doesn’t exactly look British. If you get what we mean. It’s a flashy, gorgeous-looking, foot-to-the-floor, insanely intense racing game of the highest standard.
On-the-edge handling and convincing human-like AI makes DiRT 3 the most exhilarating racing experience to be had this year.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, Sony – PS3
“It’s like a movie!” Well, maybe, a more accurate description of Uncharted 3 would be that you get to play the role of the greatest action hero in movies ever: Sully. No, wait, Nathan Drake.
Awe-inspiring movie-like set pieces abound in Uncharted 3 but it's the gunplay that’s the real star: fluid, challenging and tactical, Uncharted 3’s combat is the antithesis of Gears Of War 3.
Variety is also one of Uncharted 3’s strong points – there’s a terrific mix of gameplay styles and level design that Segway brilliantly into the game’s story.
In terms of thrill-a-minute gameplay, Uncharted 3 is about as good as it gets, people.
Dead Space 2, EA – PS3, Xbox 360, PC
If you’re looking for the most atmospheric game of the year, then switch off your torch and look no further.
Dead Space 2 is a lesson in inspiring real fear, in making the player feel like he’s in a world of pain, like he could, at any moment, be ripped limb from limb by some freakish space monster. Dead Space 2 is oppressive, relentless, terrifying and oh so enjoyable.
If gaming were a fairground then Dead Space 2 would be its ghost train.
That is, until the shooting starts. Eventually you’re given kick-ass weapons and a ton of ammo and Dead Space 2 goes from ghost train to shooting gallery and all the scary fun goes out of it.
Still, for those first few terrifying hours, Dead Space 2 has no horror equal.
Batman: Arkham City, Warner Bros – PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Creating an open-world game on the scale of Arkham City in just two years was an amazing achievement. To create one of the densest and inspiring open-worlds of this generation and retain the combat, puzzles, atmosphere, attention to detail and pure Batman-love of Arkham Asylum is just astonishing.
Batman: Arkham City is a bit like Assassin’s Creed in a Batman universe but with a whole extra game included too, with a plethora of villains, a head-spinning story and some of the best visuals this year.
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, Bethesda – PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Skyrim is probably the game to have clocked up play most hours in the NowGamer office… so why isn’t it our number one game of the year?
Well, it doesn’t quite live up to its lofty ambitions.
The Skyrim civil war doesn’t really amount to much, there’s too much repetition in the dungeons and mission objectives and the quality of the quests and story arcs are often dwarfed by the technological landscape of Skyrim itself.
Still, let’s not distract from what is an incredible achievement in terms of technology and game design and just in terms of creating a game world that it’s just great to ‘exist’ in.
If you let Skyrim into your life, don’t expect to get it back anytime soon.
NowGamer Game Of The Year 2011
Portal 2, Valve – PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac
Remember February? Well, we certainly do. It was the month that NowGamer’s Game Of The Year was released.
Portal 2 is brilliant. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.
The first Portal is gaming striped down to its sexy pants; level upon level of obviously ingenious and puzzling level design, each testing chamber a delightful lesson in what makes games so good.
Upon these foundations, Portal 2 constructs an utterly convincing yet completely insane world with a first-person story that is as much a delight to be told as solving the game’s most ingenious puzzles are. And those puzzles become are even more ingenious with the addition of multiple new elements, which fuse brilliantly with the story and… oh it’s so good.
But even more, Portal 2 adds a delicious layer of co-operative puzzle solving gaming as well.
2011: honourable mentions
The games that didn’t quite make the list – for one reason or another – but are worth talking about anyway.
Crysis Console, EA – PS3, Xbox 360
The port that Crytek said couldn’t be done was finally ‘done’ this summer and showed console owners what they’d been missing for five years. And that is a brilliantly tactical and open-world first-person shooter with some very pretty graphics.
Crytek even had the nerve to suggest that the console version was the best looking version. It isn’t but it’s still great to look at.
Ico & Shadow Of The Colossus HD, Sony – PS3
Another HD remake but this time for good reason: the chance to play two of the PS2’s best, yet least played, games in lovely HD and, with the appropriate setup, 3D.
The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time 3D, Nintendo – 3DS
Oh, and yet another HD remake, this time to celebrate the 25th anniversary of one of gaming’s great icons. Nintendo went to the trouble of giving this classic RPG a glowing makeover, updating the graphics and control system for 3DS. It was all presented in Nintendo-3D-o-vision too and promoted by Robin Williams and his actually-quite-hot-in-a-nerdy-way daughter Zelda.
Which was lovely.
Machinarium, Amanita Design – iOS, Mac
A classic PC point-and-click adventure with great puzzles, story and storybook visuals came to Mac and iPad 2 this year. If you’ve got a PS3, then you can look forward to it appearing on the PSN soon. We recommend you pick it up; Machinarium is great.
Rayman Origins, Ubisoft – PS3, Xbox 360
Another anniversary to celebrate but this time with a nod to the great 2D platformers of the past with some stunning high-definition cartoon graphics.
Jelly Defense, Infinite Dreams – iOS, Android, Mac
Tower defence games are ten-a-penny on PC and iOS and Android but what’s great about Jelly Defense adds a whole new level into the genre with towers that can only attack certain colours of enemies.
Also, it looks really cute.
Draw Race 2, RedLynx – iOS
Most racing games on iPad try to emulate the best of the genre on PC or consoles, ie 3D racing, placing the player in or just outside the car.
Draw Race 2 is completely fresh take on the genre though, showing the track and cars from above (okay, not completely new) and then requiring the player to draw a racing line for the car to follow during the race.
Once the race starts, the car follows the predetermined line as best it can, the player controls the speed and the brakes.
Simple, effective and a totally original take on what’s a pretty stale genre.
Did we miss any of your favourites out? Let us know in the comments below.