It’s been quite a legendary year for video games. We’ve seen phenomenal releases, stupid PR stunts, and entire communities of people turn on their source of entertainment. We’ve also seen greater disappointment than we’ve ever expected and come-from-behind victories for games we expected nothing from.
As we bid farewell to another great year in our industry, the video game staff at We Got This Covered would like to acknowledge a handful of moments and games for truly standing out. This is the celebration of masterful game-making, and the good-riddance of horrible memories.
Without further delay, on with the awards!
Best PSP Game – Patapon 3
There weren’t many releases this past year for Sony’s handheld. As we await the arrival of the PS Vita, there were few games that stood out among the only 27 new releases the PSP saw in 2011. Out of everything that came out, Patapon 3 was the best.
Featuring the same addicting mixture of a rhythm game and a strategy game that its predecessors did, the only additions were refined multiplayer modes and a new avatar for the player in the form of the Superhero Patapon. Patapon never needed a drastic change though because the original formula worked so well in the first place. Now that we can experience every single level with friends, it only makes the experience better. It’ll be exciting to see if Patapon ever finds its way to the Vita. I can only imagine what touch controls could mean for keeping the beat of war.
Honorable Mention: Dissidia : Final Fantasy
Best DS/3DS Game – Super Mario 3D Land
Gamers, know that this was an incredibly tough choice. Between this, Zelda, Pokemon and oddly enough Cave Story 3D, this was a very close race.
The reason Mario came ahead was simply because it’s something (mostly) new. All the other games mentioned here are either remakes or the relatively same formula as previous iterations. Not to say they aren’t fantastic games, but Super Mario 3D Land finally gave us the most original Mario game since Super Mario 64. This is the game that sold thousands on the 3DS in a time of otherwise bare game shelves and that’s why Super Mario 3D Land deserves top honors.
Honorable Mentions: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Cave Story 3D, Pokemon Black/White
Best XBLA/PSN Game – Bastion
Downloadable games often get overlooked for the silliest of reasons. It might be a lack of online capabilities, it might be gamers refusing to take them seriously because low price might mean low gameplay, it could even be caused by a simple lack of awareness. All that being said, Bastion stopped and made the gaming world pay attention.
Bastion is one of those few games that takes artistic direction above everything else. The story was mysterious and engaging and the music was enough to make thousands go out and buy the soundtrack. Bastion is a game that makes gamers proud of the industry, and surprises people when they learn it’s only a downloadable game.
Bastion will join the likes of LIMBO and Braid as memories of something that could only become something bigger and better as these developers rise on the video game industry totem pole.
Best Wii Exclusive – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. 2011 was an overly barren year for the Wii, featuring even less exclusives than the PSP saw this past year. As one of the most anticipated and critically acclaimed games of all time, anyone would choose Zelda as the best Wii game of 2011.
Set at the very beginning of the entire Zelda franchise, Skyward Sword delivered a brand new art style as it was a mix of Twilight Princess and Wind Waker. Shying away from the Zelda formula ever so much, Ganon is nowhere to be found. Instead, Link ventures between a city in the clouds named Skyloft and the idyllic fields of Hyrule.
The greater focus on motion controls, especially with the help of Motion Plus, means that Link’s combat is as tight and accurate as ever. It’s also worth noting that Skyward Sword is the first Zelda game to have a completely orchestrated soundtrack, breathing even more life into the game. The only thing missing from being the best Zelda game of all-time would be actually putting a sword in your hands.
Honorable Mentions: Kirby’s Return to Dreamland
Best PS3 Exclusive – inFamous 2
It was a pretty rough year for Sony overall, but there were a ton of great games out and above all of them was inFamous 2.
inFamous fulfilled that dream we all had as children to become a super-hero, but with a twist. It’s always been teased in comics, movies and television shows about the struggle that those with supernatural abilities go through regarding morality. It wasn’t until inFamous that gamers were actually able to act on it. The sequel brought forth the same open world, right-or-wrong gameplay we fell in love with in the original game, but added friends that Cole could relate to and help.
Whereas the first game was simply a tale of revenge and finding out who triggered the horrible accident that gave Cole his powers, the second game actually gave players a sense of responsibility in the impending battle with The Beast. Despite the abundance of great PS3 games this year, inFamous still stands fresh in the minds of us, and has earned Best PS3 Game.
Honorable Mentions: Uncharted 3, LittleBigPlanet 2
Best Xbox 360 Exclusive – Gears of War 3
Well, this is awkward. As with the releases this past year on the Wii, it appears that there are actually very few games released this past year that you’ll find only on an Xbox 360. No matter, it just makes the decision all the more important.
As the first trilogy to begin and end this console generation, Gears of War 3 has finally come full circle with the rest of the franchise. The campaign featured some of the best moments in any other game this year, 360 or not and the addictive competitive multiplayer has received enough tweaks to make things just a little more balanced and enjoyable, and keeps gamers coming back with the co-op modes in Beast and Horde mode.
Gears has been a staple of any Xbox 360 library for the past five years, and its supposed end brings about feelings of melancholy and sadness. It’s given us some truly memorable moments, which is why it earns our Xbox 360 Exclusive of the year.
Best PC Game – The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
You know how you can tell just how big of a deal The Witcher 2 is? Ask any person who owns an Xbox 360 and likes RPGs about the one game they want to play most next year and they’ll eventually lead to The Witcher 2. That’s right kids, a PC-exclusive game that makes console owners jealous. That hasn’t happened in years.
The Witcher 2 took everything great about the first iteration of the game and made it better. The graphics are easily some of the best in gaming history and the story is enough to get anyone hooked and want to keep playing for hours. Only in The Witcher 2, can you spend time slaughtering enemies, making potions, playing cards and romancing women and actually have all of those aspects be just as fun as the others. The Witcher 2 is a masterful achievement in not just PC game history, but in gaming history in general. If only more games could be adapted from other mediums so well.
Honorable Mention: Star Wars: The Old Republic
Best Publisher – Sony
Easy, kids. Put down your pitchforks. I know when most people think Sony they think of the PSN outage. But Sony bounced back and offered an impressive amount of reimbursement in the form of free games and a free year of identity theft protection. They even came out at their E3 media briefing and addressed the outage head-on. That’s not something you normally see, and you have to respect Sony for that.
On top of that, Sony took the gaming world by storm by releasing tons of first-class exclusives. Everything from Resistance to LittleBigPlanet to inFamous and Motorstorm saw a new release this year. Sony may have had their low points this year, but they’re pulling through like a champ, and strong into 2012.
Honorable Mentions: Square Enix, EA, Bethesda
Best Developer – Rocksteady Studios
I don’t know how, but Rocksteady has managed to completely ignore the tradition of adapted games being anywhere from a scale to horrible to mediocre. Not only did they deliver the greatest superhero game of all time a few years ago with Batman: Arkham Asylum, but they trumped even themselves with the release of Arkham City this year, simultaneously defeating another video game tradition of making a second game that’s not as great as the first.
Rocksteady is a development studio with a bright future. Since they’re owned by Warner Bros., maybe they can go for the video game curse hat trick and make a Superman game that is actually worth playing.
Honorable Mentions: Naughty Dog, Bethesda
Best Remake – Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
True, this seems like an odd category to give an award out to. However, remakes are quickly becoming a staple in our industry. With the passing of each new generation of gamers, we’ll quickly keep hearing about the good days of old games, and you can bet there will be re-hashes in order for new generations to keep experiencing them.
Halo: Combat Evolved is 10 years old. It’s a hard number to grasp for those of us who played the game for hours on end back when it launched for the original Xbox. It feels like just yesterday we were all trying to figure out how to get in that first Banshee when you land on Halo, or laughing at the sounds the Grunts make when they get stuck with a plasma grenade.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is a masterful re-release of a legendary game. It’s incredibly apparent from the get-go how far we’ve come in terms of first-person shooters when compared to Halo. 343 Industries didn’t touch a thing besides graphics when bringing this iconic title to the modern era, and that’s precisely what makes a good game even better.
Honorable Mentions: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
Biggest Surprise – Nintendo Actually Listens to the Fans
In a year where it seems like gamers are consistently treated for granted by the game companies, there was one company that stood out. Be it the charging of obscene prices for peripherals or the inclusion of the online pass or straight up lashing out at fans for “not knowing what’s good,” Nintendo has actually come ahead of all that and offered something more: gratitude.
Sure, they may not have come right out and said it, but look at a few of the things Nintendo has done over this past year. When the price of the 3DS dropped an astonishing $80, they offered a batch of games to those who paid more worth more than $100. This wasn’t asked for, and people probably would have lived with it had they not gotten anything, but Nintendo had the gamers in their thoughts.
And although it may not seem like it, the announcement of the release of Xenoblade Chonicles in North America after it had been said specifically several times that there was no way it was coming here shows that Nintendo is listening. Without the loud roar of the fans in the form of Operation Rainfall, Nintendo would have never gotten the hint that sometimes Japanese niche games actually are incredibly welcome here.
We can only hope they’re listening to us when we say that the Wii U needs to be considerably more powerful than any other console out right now if it has a hope of catching our attention.
Biggest Disappointment – Homefront
Now, I know a lot of you are going to call foul on this, thinking the award instead goes to Duke Nukem Forever. Remember, however, that being disappointed implies that you had high expectations of something in the first place. I think it’s safe to say, even as a lifelong Duke fan, that no one really expected the next coming of the video game messiah with Duke Nukem Forever.
Homefront is a different story. After an intense marketing campaign that could only rival Call of Duty in scale, it turns out that Homefront had a multiplayer with an identity crisis, and a single player campaign that clocks in at between 2-4 hours. The story was pretty decent, but there was very little else that critics and gamers alike could say great about Homefront. The fact that it was so unsuccessful that developer Kaos Studios had to shut down is a testament to just how many dreams were shattered on both sides of the fence. I think I even saw Homefront for $10 at my local Best Buy just four months after it had released. THAT is bad.
Honorable Mentions: Duke Nukem Forever, Brink
Game of the Year 2011 – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Ask any gamer what they’ve been playing for the past month and they’ll probably name a list of titles, but it will begin with Skyrim. No other game this year has created such buzz and managed to take what we enjoy and turn it into a work of art that we’ll still be talking about for many years to come. Everywhere you go within gaming circles you’ll find people conversing about how many hours, how many complete days, they’ve dumped into this game.
Doing for video games what Lord of the Rings did for film, Skyrim offers up an immense fantasy land filled with stuff to do. You can choose to spend a few hours slaying dragons and being an all-around badass. You can go grocery shopping for civilians. You can pick flowers and chase butterflies in demonic armor. You can do everything any fantasy nut has ever wanted to do.
Very few times are gamers presented with games that we’ll remember for our lifetimes. Gamers who have grown up with the medium still reminisce about the original Super Mario Bros. or Legend of Zelda. This generation will get old, wrinkly and remember the days with Skyrim. It may not just be the greatest game of the year, but one of the greatest games of the past decade.
Well; there you have it, kids. These are our absolute favorite games of the past 365 days. It’ll be an exciting year ahead as we forge ahead into 2012, and we’ll be posting about our most anticipated games soon.
What say you, gamers? Do you agree with our picks? Disagree? Make your case in the comments below.