Let me guess: Your GameQ has never had as many games in it as it does right now. If that's the case, I can't blame you. The fall of 2011 has been one of the busiest seasons ever for big new game releases. Every week there's been a new hit title (or two), and most of the big games haven't disappointed. Now that all the major games of the year are released into the wild, I wanted to break down the nine best games of the year. All of these adventures deserve a spot in your GameQ.
It's been a few months since I played Batman: Arkham City and I still keep going back to this open-world Gotham adventure to try and reach 100% completion. Developer Rocksteady has not only built the best Batman game, but also the best superhero game ever released. There's a great story and a fantastic cast of villains, but more than anything else the gameplay just works. The fighting mechanic really makes you feel like the Dark Knight, and there's a stunning amount of detail to the open-world Gotham. Batman: Arkham City is exactly what fans wanted in a sequel to Arkham Asylum, and this is by far one of the best games of this year - or this console generation.
Batman: Arkham City is the best superhero game ever released.
Skyrim's rich, immersive world will draw you in like no other game this year.
For the past few weeks my Twitter account has been flooded with stories from friends about their experiences in Skyrim, the latest Elder Scrolls game from Bethesda. This absolutely massive game can take a lot of time to complete, with a rich world that changes based on your play style and actions. Bethesda has done an incredible job blending all the depth of an RPG with the ease-of-use of an action game. Last year, Red Dead Redemption sucked me in with its rich world, and Skyrim has a similar effect - you just want to spend time inside the game world. This game is The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones for the video game audience, and you won't be disappointed.
Released back in April, Valve's Portal 2 is much different than every other game on this list. This puzzle game requires real brainpower to solve, but wrapped around it is the best story in gaming this year with incredible humor and heart. Even though it's been more than six months since I played it, I still fondly remember characters like Wheatley the personality sphere and key puzzles where I had to use my portal gun in unexpected ways to escape from a test chamber. Valve always pushes gaming in new directions; it's impossible to find a more innovative game from 2011 than Portal 2.
The best PlayStation 3 game this year is hardly a surprise. Uncharted 3 is the follow-up to 2009's Game of the Year, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Nathan Drake returns for another worldly adventure with huge epic action sequences, including my favorite battle on-board a cargo plane in mid-air. While the action in Uncharted 3 is spectacular, it's the story that really stands out in this new game. Writer Amy Hennig has penned a script that has lots of twists and turns but also some incredible character moments between Nathan Drake and his mentor Victor Sullivan. Uncharted 3, as always, delivers a visual experience that is above everything else on the market.
You probably haven't had many Wii games in your GameQ lately, but now there's finally one last game to add. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has been in production for years and is one of the biggest, most ambitious Zelda games to date. Yes, you still have to put up with standard definition graphics and no voiceovers, but fans would argue that is part of the charm of this series. Wii MotionPlus is required and used throughout the game as you swing, chop, and defend Link against foes across multiple dungeons and areas. My favorite part of the game is its absolutely incredible orchestral score. The graphics may not be cutting-edge, but the music is as epic and emotional as any other game this year.
Released way back at the beginning of the year, Dead Space 2 blended together the genres of sci-fi and horror with the Necromorph aliens. An early standout during a very crowded year, Dead Space 2 has great production values and some truly memorable gameplay sequences - like the one early on in which Isaac battles aliens on a moving train car. The addition of multiplayer wasn't as successful as the single-player campaign, but Dead Space 2 was well-executed and feels like the kind of franchise EA can build on for inevitable sequels down the road.
Rockstar's sole release in 2011 was this 1940s L.A. detective thriller that broke new ground with its facial animation technology. L.A. Noire reminds me a lot of classic adventure games that used to be available on the PC in the '80s and '90s. There's not a ton of action, but the story about detective Cole Phelps is intriguing - and the performance capture technology results in characters that look lifelike on screen. Rockstar is a publisher that always takes risks, and L.A. Noire is one of the boldest games of the year in terms of innovation and risk-taking. So long as you don't go into it expecting Red Dead or GTA-level action, you'll come away from L.A. Noire with a deeper appreciation for Rockstar's incredible storytelling and its unparalleled ability to bring the milieu of a certain time period to life.
Although it was delayed from April to September, Gears of War 3 from Epic Games delivered exactly what fans wanted: The conclusion to the Delta Squad trilogy of games with Marcus and Dom. The epic single-player campaign concluded the story, and Epic really pushed multiplayer in new directions with new game types like Beast Mode, where you played as the Locusts. The Gears of War franchise is a series that really defined this console generation, and if you're a fan of the first two games there is plenty here to like in the third installment.
This year, there were a lot of questions about Modern Warfare 3. With most of developer Infinity Ward bolting after the release of Modern Warfare 2, fans wondered if the follow-up would be as good as previous Call of Duty games. The truth is that Modern Warfare 3 is no longer particularly innovative with its single-player, but it is one heck of a ride. And the multiplayer, despite issues with the Call of Duty Elite Service, is still best-in-class with new strike packages, game types (kill confirmed), and maps. All things considered, Activision did a tremendous job pulling together Modern Warfare 3, even if it took multiple studios to make it happen.
That's it for this year, but Happy Holidays and thanks for taking the time to read this column on GameFly. I'll be back in January with a preview of what you can expect from gaming in 2012.