Top 3 Games of 2011

I figured that if i don’t write a game of the year post now, I’m not really going to get a chance. Its been a good year, but its far from being one of the best as many gaming sites have proclaimed. This has been the year of ports, remakes, and sequels. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of those things. I’ll re-buy any game for trophies or achievements. I love console ports to handhelds, and I love sequels to established franchises. However, this makes it hard to write a game of the year article. You see, internet, when most games are merely incremental changes to the formula, it is hard for those games to really stand out on their own. We can all agree that Uncharted 3 is a great game, but how does it distinguish itself from Uncharted 2? Alright, lets start with number 3.

3.) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)

This is less heroic looking when you know he’s just gardening

Skyward Sword did something that I thought was impossible: it brought charm back into Zelda. You see, internet, the Zelda series is one of Nintendo’s mainstays and as such they are all excellent games. However, since Wind Waker, none of the Zelda’s, handheld and console, have had any charm. Twilight Princess is a game so devoid of charm that I want to call child services every time a kid plays it. Skyward Sword on the other hand manages to be exactly like every 3D Zelda ever made, but it keeps its own level of charm and doesn’t just rely on Ocarina of Time to bail it out. It also gets some attention for being the only Wii title short of the “Sport” demos, that properly use motion control and make a strong argument that they have a future in gaming. Had this game come out at the beginning of the cycle, instead of at the end, maybe these controls would have been used effectively, instead of mostly ignored. For bringing charm back into the Zelda series and showing way too late (way, way, way too late) that motion controls can add to a game, Skyward Sword gets my number 3 slot.

Its true you know

2.) Catherine (PS3, 360)

This is a puzzle game. CAN YOU TELL?

Catherine is easily the most unique game that came out this year. It was made by the same team that makes the Persona games, so its full of craziness. I didn’t think that Catherine was going to be any good. From the game cover and what I had heard, I thought it was going to be a Japanese dating sim focused entirely on racy pictures. Well I was wrong, internet. Oh, it still has dating sim characteristics and racy pictures, but those are hardly the focus. The game is rated M and it is one of those rare games that take that title literally, because the game is mature, and not in the “chainsawing people” way, but in the deep philosophical questions, issues with morality, and actual character development way. Of course there are zany twists that call attention to the game’s anime roots, but that just makes it more charming. Behind the story there is a deep and involved puzzle game. I hate puzzle games, but I really enjoyed this. Its difficult, so difficult that its one of the very rare games I played on easy and still got destroyed over and over again; however, the excellent story kept me coming back. For being obscenely unique, mature, and engaging, Catherine takes my number 2 spot.

Above: hurting my assertion that the game is mature

1.) Dark Souls (PS3, 360)

Ignore that the souls are actually bright blue

This really should come as no surprise as I practically wrote a love letter to the game a couple of weeks ago (then again, it was because it was a slow news day). Of all of the sequels that came out this year, Dark Souls is easily the best. Dark Souls has such an attention to detail that it makes Skyrim look like Chicken Shoot (Second time mentioned on my blog. I feel dirty). It managed to keep all of the controls and mechanics nearly identical to Demons’ Souls without it feeling like an incremental step. More importantly, Dark Souls was, probably, the only game this year that understood how important atmosphere is in creating a game world. There is never a moment that you are not immersed in Dark Souls world. It takes itself seriously and forces you to do the same if you want to avoid death. Really, Dark Souls is like Silent Hill 2. It isn’t new, but through its atmosphere, it manages to rise far above other games in the medium. For sheer excellence, Dark Souls takes the number 1 slot.

Just like Ratatouille 

There we go, internet. My picks for the top 3 games of the year. I know what you’re raging about in your reclining computer chair: where was Skyrim? Well thats why I get to put a little honourable mention section here. Skyrim would have been my number 4 choice. It managed to make Oblivion completely obsolete in every way, and being just short of Morrowind in terms of environment. Super Mario 3D Land was the best handheld game of the year, narrowly beating out Mario Kart 7. Bastion was the best Arcade game of the year, with no real competitors. The Metal Gear Sold HD Collection wins for best HD collection and best value putting three excellent games in the package and having them be able to transfer to the Vita. Finally, Dead Island wins for most disappointing game of the year, by being really terrible despite such a promising concept.

Above: a promising concept

There are my honourable mentions (or dishonourable for Dead Island). The games played it too safe this year, which was apparent as I tried to review countless sequels before making the list (probably only like 6, but maybe I can’t count). It was a good year for gaming, but I seriously hope that next year developers take more risks. This year’s February rush is started off with the Silent Hill HD collection and Final Fantasy XIII-2, so I’m not holding my breath.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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