Top 10 Games of 2011

Posted by: on Dec 29, 2011 | 5 Comments
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Terry Majamaki

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On December 29, 2011
Last modified:July 29, 2013

Summary:

I play a lot of games, constantly. They are so immersive, engaging, and damn addictive. Here are the 10 best games that I enjoyed in 2011.

Top 10 Games of 2011After writing up my Top 10 Music Albums of 2011, I thought it might be a good idea to share My Top 10 Games of 2011. I play a lot of games, constantly. They are so immersive, engaging, and damn addictive. In today’s age of technology game development teams have moved into the realm of great stories, visuals, sound design, and gameplay that creates for amazing experiences and entertainment. Often far more entertaining than movies as games are now up to the cinematic quality of block buster movies but leaving you in the driver’s seat to control, lead, and sometime determine the path to the end result of that experience.

When I look back at 2011 I played and completed over 20 games, which is a lot of gaming time. Mind you, I don’t just pickup a game, play it until I get stuck or bored, I play it to complete it. All the games I play, I will complete the main story campaign, and on many, I will make an attempt to fully complete the game to 100% by doing all the side quests and exploring for all the collectables.

At the same time for this year I have put in very little time into multiplayer games like Call of Duty, Battlefield, or Gears of War. I’ll play some, but I haven’t been hooked into multiplayer this year enough to pull me away from great single player campaigns. These picks are based on the single player campaigns of the game.

My Top 10 Games for 2011

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim SunsetThe Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimAt the time of writing this, I’ve played Skyrim for about 110 hours and I think I’m only about a third of the way into the game. Skyrim is absolutely epic on every level of video gaming. It has so much to offer that you can easily become overwhelmed with all the freedom you get. You can do what you want, when you want, how you want. Every gamer that plays this will have a unique experience, gameplay style, and path that is different from everyone else. It’s fun to talk to other gamers about the game to learn about their gameplay style, choices, and experiences.

When I wrote my first Skyrim post about being Lost in the Nordic Wonderland of Skyrim, even then I didn’t realize how big the game would be. The sheer size of the game world is remarkable and daunting at times. Even after 100+ hours I’ve yet to visit all the main cities or towns. I think last week I just discovered my 100th location and I’ve read there are over 300 locations to be discovered and explored. It is so big that I decided to write a post about all the Skyrim Maps I could find online. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the ultimate action, adventure, role-playing sandbox game. The best made to date and likely the only thing to top it will be the next Bethesda Softworks game.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Dragon FirefightEven thought I’ve yet to complete the game, I suspect that’ll be at least another 200 hours before I’m close to completing everything the game has to offer, it is easily my Game of the Year for 2011.

Video: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Launch Trailer

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Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Uncharted 3: Drake's DeceptionUncharted 3: Drake's DeceptionThe Uncharted series is a fantastic journey and one that is worth experiencing from beginning to end of all three Uncharted games on the Playstation 3, Uncharted: Drakes Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception. Naughty Dog has excelled in their ability to create the perfect action adventure game with a fantastic story with believable compelling characters, tight game play, incredible animations, amazing level design, and an uncanny attention to every detail that creates the ultimate gaming experience. This is on par with any big hollywood blockbuster movie, except that your controlling that movie and enjoying it for over 10 hours per game.

After completing Drake’s Deception I wrote up my thoughts on the overall experience in Drake’s Uncharted Adventures, basically my review on one of the best game series that I’ve experienced. If it wasn’t for the introduction of Skyrim into my life, this would be my Game of the Year and it certainly is my Game of the Year for 2011 in the Action/Adventure genre.

Video: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Launch Trailer

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Portal 2

Portal 2 GameInformer CoversPortal 2When the first Portal game came out, it completely changed how we look at games, it literally gave us a whole new perspective on puzzle gaming. The concept created a new gameplay style and broke new ground in the gaming industry. Portal gave us gamers that magical moment of bliss you get when your playing something that is so incredibly special and refreshing that you can’t put it down. When you do put it down, you can’t stop thinking about it and you’ll want to play it again, soon.

Even though the first Portal game was short, it was an amazing ride that you’ll never forget. It gets your mind thinking in creative ways about how you can experiment with the puzzles and challenges. Portal 2 takes that ride even further down the rabbit hole by introducing many new elements into the mix. These will challenge you to think outside of the box for some creative solutions to figure out many of the puzzles, and when you do get it, it’s a big “Ah ha!” moment that you’ll love.

Portal 2The developers at Valve introduced even more crazy fun and depth with co-op mode in Portal 2. It’s like getting two campaign in one game, the single player and two player co-op. Just when you think solving the games puzzles in the single player are crazy, the co-op takes it to the next level with challenges that require team work and tight coordination to solve some crazy levels.

To top it all off, the commentary, dialog, and songs in both Portal and Portal 2 are hilarious. You want to make sure you listen and follow along for some great laughs. For those of you who haven’t played either game yet, I think it’s worth playing the first Portal before diving into Portal 2 since they do connect and you’ll appreciate it a lot more.

Portal 2Overall the Portal games must be experienced by anyone who appreciates gaming and wants to experience something completely new, fun, refreshing, and unforgettable. Valve out did themselves with Portal 2, it is easily one of the best games of the year and I look forward to the day we see a Portal 3 game.

Video: Portal 2: Perfect 10

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Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus Ex: Human RevolutionDeus Ex: Human Revolution for XBOX 360Developer Eidos Montreal‘s reinvigoration of the Deus Ex series from the PC was a great surprise for me this year. At first I was not paying that much attention to Deus Ex: Human Revolution as I was never into the original PC games. However the closer it got to being released the better it kept on looking. Then when the reviews came around I was impressed by how polished the game looked and appeared to play. I had to get it.

Sure enough, once I started playing, I quickly realized how great the game was. Everything about it was fantastic, the story, gameplay, level design, action, all of it, especially the creative art direction and sound design, both really stand out. The game is an action, shooter, and role playing game with a good mix of stealth.

I thoroughly enjoyed the game, it is a polished game that does everything right. A strong Game of the Year contender and would easily win if it were not for a few other exceptional games like Uncharted and Skyrim. You can read my full review on Deus Ex: Human Revolution and The Missing Link DLC for more in-depth detail. It was the perfect game to end the summer gaming lull and kick off the fall/winter gaming season onslaught. I am excited that Human Revolution has rejuvenated the series, I hope that we’ll see more Deus Ex games from the same team of developers in the future.

Video: Deus Ex: Human Revolution Launch Trailer

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L.A. Noire

L.A. NoireL.A. NoireGrowing up in Los Angeles as my home town made L.A. Noire a real treat. Throughout the years I’ve come to know the City of Angels pretty well as I’ve been through almost every main road in our massive sprawl of a city. When Team Bondi painstakingly recreated the city from 1947, it was like taking a history tour through the city and it’s landmarks, some of which are still standing today. This game shows a tremendous amount of detail in this living and breathing reincarnation of 1947 Los Angeles, not to mention the groundbreaking character animations that showcased real human emotions. Then turning those emotional animations into a gameplay mechanic that you have to read in order to break crime cases as Detective Cole Phelps made for a new ground braking experience.

This was the perfect game for me to play at the start of the summer. A deep immersive world of classic noir style detective and crime solving with masterful storytelling, it set the tone for an amazing ride. L.A. Noire isn’t a heavy action filled game, instead it plays like detective novel where your doing a lot of investigating and interrogating before putting all the pieces together to solve the crimes. Not to say there isn’t any action, many crimes lead to great car chases that have you ripping through the streets of Los Angeles, while others lead to big firefights with lots of dead bodies. The crimes you have to solve are fantastic, many are loose iterations of real and very horrific murder crimes from the 1940’s, each with plenty of gruesome detail.

L.A. NoireIt’s a shame about business troubles that Team Bondi and Rockstar had that basically severed the trust and relationship. Who know’s if we’ll ever see another game like this, it has so much potential to create more Noire style games. At least I’m glad they got this out so we can enjoy it, as I had a blast playing it and all the DLC.

Video: L.A. Noire Launch Trailer

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Dead Space 2

Dead Space 2Dead Space 2In 2008 gamers were introduced to a new type of survival horror game in Dead Space. The industry and gamers alike were blown away or should I say scared out of their pants with Dead Space. It was an impressive game that redefined the survival horror genre and took it’s place at the top of the genre. It was one of the best games in 2008, and for many it won Game of the Year. The closest comparisons for me would be a hybrid of Aliens and Event Horizon deep space sci-fi movies. Dead Space 2 kept pretty much the same formula while making minor tweaks to improve the gameplay experience. This is a good thing because the first game was pretty much perfect.

The developers at Visceral Games created an amazing, yet horrifying game that has some the best atmosphere, sound design, gameplay, and pacing. You become fully immersed into the game since there is no heads up display, all the UI and HUD elements like your health and bullets are integrated into the character, Isaac Clarke‘s suit and weapons. Even bringing up your inventory menu is projected from the suit and it doesn’t pause the game, so you can get attacked while attempting to get a health pack or pick different weapons. Also you gotta make your shots count as you often have a limited amount of ammunition, this forces you to get better at taking your enemies down. These are smart and brilliant game design decisions by the team at Viscreral. There is nothing to distract you other than your fear as you progress through the dark sprawl that is filled with horrifying sounds and enemies.

Dead Space 2To get the full experience you must play this game on a large HDTV, with full surround sound system, and in the dark, preferably at night. The scared shitless on the edge of your seat experience is a key factor in this game that makes this gaming experience 10 times better. The Dead Space games are a must play for any serious adult gamer, I say adult because this is not for kids, it will give them nightmares. These games are extremely well designed and have exceptional polish to them. Dead Space 2 was a fantastic game that kicked off the start of a new year and I certainly look forward to the intense survival horrors the team will come up with next for the series.

Video: Dead Space 2 Launch Trailer

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Gears of War 3

Gears of War 3Gears of War 3Back in 2003 a game called Killswitch came out for the Playstation 2 and XBOX. This was one of the first games I remember as a third person shooter with a cover system. You would hug walls and either blind fire or pop out and take aim at your enemies. The game play in Killswitch was a lot of fun and I remembered always hoping that a sequel would come out, but it never did. However this game was part of the inspiration in Cliff Bleszinski and his team at Epic Games for the now infamous Gears of War games.

The Gears of War games have without a doubt been a fantastic ultra-violent game series that we’ve all enjoyed. It refined that cover mechanic and introduced a ton of original ideas like the roadie run, Torque Bow, Hammer of Dawn, Lancer with chainsaw bayonet, blowing up Locust enemies into giblets with your shotgun, and tons more. All of combined into a well polished series of games that made for an incredibly raunchy fun ride.

Gears of War 3Gears of War 3 concludes the main story and campaign that spans across all three games. I’m still trying to figure out which of the three games is my favorite, I’m leaning toward the first one, but 3 was the most polished and well paced game. Giving you a good variety of levels, enemies, characters, and action while concluding the story. Top that off with the best variety of multiplayer game modes of the series and you’ve got a top-notch game. I’m sure that Cliff and the Epic team will come up with new Gears games to continue the franchise. Maybe a prequel that tells the story of how things came to be? We’ll have to wait and see, in the mean time get your Lancers chainsaw revved up and cut into some Locust!

Video: Gears of War 3: Brothers to the End

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Crysis 2

Crysis 2Crysis 2Finally, a Crysis game made it to the consoles with Crysis 2. The original Crysis game was always touted to demand the highest end PC and that it could never be played on the consoles. I always wanted to play Crysis, but since I’ve always been a console gamer I never had the chance. I was a big fan of the original FarCry game which was made by the same development team at Crytek. That made it to the console and it was great. Now both the original Crysis and Crysis 2 is available the XBOX 360. In fact, Crysis is available as downloadable game, not even on disc.

I was stoked when Crysis 2 was finally released. It looked superb and played really well. Apparently continuing the story from the original game but now set in the urban jungle of New York City which is being attacked by aliens. You’re the one of the last survivors of your team and you’ve gained ownership this super nano-suit that gives you some very cool abilities including invisibility cloaking, strength, speed, and tactical options. Needless to say, you feel very powerful once you get the hang of all the suits capabilities.

Crysis 2Your not invincible, you can still be taken down. You’ve got the upper hand, but the enemy AI is smart and fast in this game. In addition to the aliens, CryNet is hunting you down to get their hands on the nano-suit. Your fighting both military and intelligent aliens, some of which provide a brutal fight before going down. Overall the story is decent, but the tight fluid gameplay combined with your special abilities, some cool weapons, and solid enemy AI, set in the destruction of New York City is what makes this game a blast to play. Now that Crytek has figured out how to get this on the consoles it should not stop them from releasing their future games on the consoles. They have a knack for making great first person shooters and Crysis 2 was top-notch!

Video: Crysis 2 Launch Trailer

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Rage

RageRageAt it’s core, Rage is a killer first person shooter that is visually stunning to look at in action. Running at a smooth 60 frames per second with rich textures, tight controls, insane enemy AI, all combined to create a frantic shooting action that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The enemy AI will constantly keep you on you moving and reloading your gun while the rich post apocalyptic textures will keep you gawking at the amazing views both inside and out, especially the sky. Just don’t look them up close.

From the creators of the shooter genre with games like Quake and Doom, id Software has created an excellent fast paced and frantic shooter. That is when your shooting. When you’re not shooting, but racing around Mad Max style, it falls a little flat. The story also falls a bit flat, it ends right when things start to get interesting, it is unexpected when the credits start rolling. However at the core of the game, the first person shooter aspects, which is majority of the game, it is absolutely stellar. It is done so well that it is worth experiencing from the masters that defined and started the FPS genre. For more details, read my full review on Rage. I hope they got some good learnings from this game and maybe someday, over the next decade, we’ll see a follow-up to Rage that focuses on the best parts of the game and does a better job with the story.

Video: Rage Launch Trailer

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Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Assassin's Creed: BrotherhoodAssassin's Creed: BrotherhoodMy initial reaction to Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood being announced and released around last years holiday season was “another Assassin’s Creed already!?!”. I had just finished the massive Assassin’s Creed II a few months earlier and was not ready to fry myself out by jumping into Brotherhood so quickly. It feels like Ubisoft released it too soon after Assassin’s Creed II. So I let Brotherhood sit on the shelf for about 6 months before I was ready to play it. Even though it was released in 2010, I played it in the summer of 2011 and that’s why it is on this list.

I feel the same way with the new one, Revelations, I doubt I’ll start playing it until the spring or summer of 2012. Releasing games on a yearly cycle kinda works for some games, but I think a minimum of a two-year cycle works better as it helps increase the lifetime value of a series by keeping it fresh without burning out the gamers. You can see the appreciation is increased when games are spread out like The Elder Scrolls, Uncharted, Mass Effect, Halo, Gears of War, and Bioshock. Don’t over milk a good series, give us gamers some space between them, let us build up a craving before just dropping it in our laps for the sake of making more money.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood The ColliseumOnce I did get into Brotherhood I was having a blast. The Assassin’s Creed series is an incredibly fun series to play. You’ve got highly detailed and massive reincarnated cities from the crusade and renaissance era’s, with lots of historical landmarks, combined with a parkour like ability to climb up any building and run across the roof tops that gives you complete freedom to do what you want. This provides a tremendous amount of exploring and discovery throughout the massive games. There are hidden collectables like flags, feathers, treasure chests, and little side quests that provides depth and makes the exploring very rewarding.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Reinforcement AssassinsEmpowering you as the player with great combat capabilities allowing you to mix different styles and approaches to pick your battles that best suit your playing style makes for an impressive game. Then you add in a deep story that loosely mixes real history from those eras with a mysterious future filled with conspiracies and you’ve got a great reason to keep on playing to find out what is going to happen next. The Assassin’s Creed games are very original, extremely well done, and a ton of fun to play and explore.

With the newest one, Revelations, the I think the main character story might be coming to an end, however there are many opportunities for new branches to go out on with the story and locations, so I’m sure we’ll continue to see more great Assassin’s Creed games. Let’s just hope that Ubisoft spaces them out to give us time to appreciate the games.

Video: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood Launch Trailer

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Honorable Mentions

Your probably thinking, where is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3? Those games had some great single player campaigns and obviously dominate in the multiplayer realm. I enjoyed the campaigns, but I didn’t think they stood out as much as the games above, plus I haven’t dived into the multiplayer yet. They are also suffering from the “too much and too often” syndrome of being released every year, especially the Call of Duty games. There is a mild burnout feeling on the series. There were plenty of other games that I enjoyed, the above were my top 10. The following are games I enjoyed but just didn’t make my top 10 list, but they are worth mentioning as they are fantastic games worth experiencing.

  • Dead Island
  • Battlefield 3
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
  • Bulletstorm
  • Infamous 2
  • Little Big Planet 2
  • Killzone 3

Conclusion

That’s a lot of exceptional games to experience. Overall 2011 was a fantastic year to be a video gamer. Now there are other games that have come out this year but I have not had time to touch them yet and will likely play them in 2012 once I can put down The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, including Assassins Creed Revelations, Halo Anniversary Edition, ICO & Shadow of the Colossus HD re-release, Saint’s Row The Third, Resistance 3, Rayman Origins, and Batman: Arkham City. All of which I expect to be fantastic games.

Then you got a handful of big title games coming out in 2012 that I’m looking forward to including Mass Effect 3, Bioshock Infinite, Max Payne 3, SSX, Metro Last Light, Hitman: Absolution, Rainbow 6 Patriots and hopefully we’ll see The Last Guardian in 2012. Plus who knows what other surprises we’ll see. I tell you it’s a tough time to be a gamer and have a normal life at the same time. It is important to balance your life with your loved ones, work, and gaming. If you do it right you can enjoy all of it.

What are your top 10 games for 2011? Are any of these on your list? Do you agree with my thoughts on these games? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below and thanks for reading.

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  • tj_steve

    Awesome list! even though i haven’t played some of the games, its still a spot-on list and u described each game beautifully. i’m definitely gonna try to make this site more known :)

    • http://majamaki.com/ Terry Majamäki

      Thank you. I gotta start on my 2012 top games and reviews soon.

      • tj_steve

        Nice, can’t wait for the top 10 list.

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