The gaming industry has had a fantastic year. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3’s record-breaking sales offer evidence of gaming’s growing cultural importance, and we have seen a string of critically acclaimed games across a range of genres hitting the shelves throughout the year. Here is TechCentral’s pick of the very best titles of 2011.
10. Shadows of the Damned Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
A wacky collaboration between the eccentric Suda-51 and Resident Evil maestro Shinji Mikami, Shadows of the Damned is a third-person shooter with mechanics as tight as a drumskin and an off-the-wall sense of humour. It may feel a little unpolished compared to the likes of Gears of War or Resident Evil, but this is the rude, goofy and hilarious B-movie homage that Duke Nukem Forever aspired to be. Silent Hill composer and sound designer Akira Yamaoka rounds off the Japanese videogame dream team by contributing one of the best videogame scores of the year.
9. Uncharted 3 PS3
Though not quite as good as the genre-defining Uncharted 2, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is one of the best expressions of the game as cinematic experience we have seen to date. It brims over with witty writing, memorable characters and exhilarating set-pieces. With rich detail and beautiful textures, the visuals are the best you’ll see on the PlayStation 3, bar Uncharted 2. The many pleasures of the competitive and cooperative multiplayer elements of the game are underrated.
8. Portal 2 Xbox 360, PS3, Windows, Mac
Portal 2, the sequel to Valve’s mind-bending first-person puzzler, is packed with the same devilish humour and fiendish puzzles that made its predecessor such a hit. The addition of a cooperative campaign added a new dimension to an already great formula. And Glados, the sinister, sentient computer, is still one of the most beautifully twisted villains in videogames.
7. Rayman Origins Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Nintendo 3DS
The touch of Michel Ancel reverberates throughout Rayman Origins — the first game in the franchise that its creator has been involved in for more than a decade. Perhaps the most enjoyable 2D platform game of the current console generation — yes, even better than Donkey Kong Country Returns – it is full of richly detailed environments that burst with colour and personality. The gameplay is deceptively simple because Rayman Origin keeps twisting its few classic mechanics into challenging and entertaining new shapes as it progresses.
6. Total War: Shogun 2 Windows
A game that tweaks rather than revolutionises the Total War formula, Shogun 2 is an intricate strategy game with superbly detailed graphics and an evocative take on Japanese history. The series’ signature blend of turn-based and real-time elements is as compelling as it ever was, the multiplayer options are robust, and the campaign is exciting. It’s a game that immerses you in the brutal pageantry of Sengoku period Japan.
5. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Xbox 360, PS3, Windows
After all these years, Bethesda has still not fixed many of the flaws we were criticising in its vast role-playing games (RPGs) as far back as Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind in 2002. In Skyrim, its character animations and combat system are still equally awkward, the writing remains wooden, and the developer seems as yet unable to afford to record more than a couple of endlessly recycled lines for the city guards that populate its immense world.
Yet those complaints seem churlish when you summit a snow-capped mountain and take in yet another one of Skyrim’s stunning Nordic vistas or stumble across a piece of intriguing lore in one of its dank caves or dungeons. Skyrim is perhaps not always successful as a game, but its vast, gorgeous world is a place where you can easily get lost for a few hundred hours.
4. Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Wii
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword isn’t the reinvention of Nintendo’s ever-green franchise that some have hoped for, but when the formula is as timeless as Zelda’s, that really doesn’t matter. An exhilarating adventure with challenging dungeons and puzzles, Skyward Sword is one of the most worthwhile journeys you will take this year. It boasts dozens of hours of game time, clean and charming visuals, and all the delight and wonder we have come to associate with the series. Skyward Sword is also the rare game that manages to use the Wii’s motion controls in a way that enhances gameplay rather than detracting from it.
3. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Windows
Though The Witcher 2 cannot compete with Skyrim’s massive commercial success, it is arguably the better RPG of the two. The RPG from Polish developer CD Projekt is a memorable journey into a world of dark fantasy that has a hard-edged story, a badass protagonist, and tough but fair gameplay.
Refreshingly, this is not a game that will hold your hand every step of the way as Bioware’s newer titles do. It expects you to think tactically, play carefully and find your way by RTFM. The way its story snakes and forks according to the choices you make is natural and intriguing, and its earthy world is multi-layered and engaging. This is one for fans of old-school RPGs.
2. Batman: Arkham City Xbox 360, PS3, Windows
Batman: Arkham City is in every way a bigger game than Arkham Asylum, with a longer list of villains, a far more expansive game world, and even more missions and quests to tackle. But it also improves on its critically acclaimed predecessor in every way, from production values and story to gameplay and mission design.
The mixture of predator stealth, puzzle-solving, hand-to-hand combat and gadgetry at the heart of the game is as compelling as ever, and the narrative toys with the grittiness of the Batman of Frank Miller’s comics and Christopher Nolan’s movies. It is as close to submerging yourself in Batman’s world as you are ever likely to get, unless you manage to land Christian Bale’s job when he gives up the Bat mask.
1. Deus Ex: Human Revolution Xbox 360, PS3, Windows
The classic Deus Ex finally received the sequel it deserved this year in Human Revolution, which takes first place in our 2011 roundup by a mere whisker. The first-person RPG-cum-shooter-cum-sneaker is a thoughtful and grown-up game that streamlines its gameplay in the right places while retaining most of the depth and ingenuity of the classic that inspired it.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one of the few games that promises player choice that actually delivers. With its deep, freeform blend of shooting, stealth, exploration and role playing, Human Revolution stands out as a rich and compelling experience in a sea of uninspired shooters and dumbed-down RPGs. — Lance Harris, TechCentral
Anomaly Warzone Earth: A neat inversion of the tower defence formula with glossy visuals and addictive gameplay. iOS
Bastion: An unassuming but cleverly constructed downloadable title that is sure to influence many games in the future with its perfect synergy of action RPG gameplay and narrative. Xbox 360, Windows
Bulletstorm: Epic’s foul-mouthed first-person shooter gives the genre an arcade-like twist with a cool scoring system; its vivid visuals are also a treat. Xbox 360, PS3, Windows
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3: The military FPS juggernaut keeps rolling because it’s so damn good at what it does: the greatest competitive multiplayer in the business, tight campaigns and slick co-op. Xbox 360, PS3, Windows, Wii
Child of Eden: A psychedelic on-rails shooter from Lumines and Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi that features superb motion controls and a trippy sense of synaesthesia. Xbox 360, PS3
Dark Souls: Less a game than an ordeal, Atlus’s gruelling, grimy action RPG has plenty of challenge and depth for the hardcore gamer. The punishing difficulty makes its rewards so much the sweeter. Xbox 360, PS3
Dead Space 2: Electronic Arts’ survival-horror sequel delivers loads of scares, brutal pacing and plenty of technical polish. Xbox 360, PS3, Windows
Forza 4: With excellent community features and plenty of attention to detail, there is a strong case to be made that this is the best racing game of the current console generation. Xbox 360
Gears of War 3: The most refined entry yet in Epic’s big-budget third-person shooter franchise. Xbox 360
Super Mario 3D Land: The most compelling reason to own a 3DS, Super Mario 3D Land is full of brilliant level design and addictive platforming gameplay. Nintendo 3DS
- Subscribe to our free daily newsletter
- Follow us on Twitter or on Google+ or on Facebook
- Visit our sister website, SportsCentral (still in beta)