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GamesRadar editors’ (personal) Games of the Year 2011

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Every December, we close out our year of coverage with our officially annual Platinum Chalice awards, choosing our Game of the Year and doling out accolades to the best games of the past 12 months. We won’t actually hand those out until next Friday, though; in the meantime, we’ve decided to unplug from the collective GamesRadar hive mind and take this opportunity to honor the games that really deserve it – which is to say, our personal favorites of 2011.

Gary Steinman, editor in chief

Personal GOTY: Killzone 3

A great game? Yes. A great shooter? Absolutely. Best game of 2011? For most of you, probably not. But for this long-time gamer, Killzone 3 was easily my most thrilling, pulse-pounding, and memorable experience this year. Now, keep in mind, I’m not the most hardcore shooter fan, nor am I a huge multiplayer aficionado. Killzone 3 stands out to me thanks to its extraordinary single-player campaign.

Like all the best Sony first-party exclusives, Killzone 3 delivers a character-driven experience that’s both highly polished and incredibly gorgeous. From the snowy mountains of Helghan to the planet’s lush Kaznan jungle, Killzone took me on a journey of immense beauty, which I then tore apart while piloting jetpacks, carving up the snow in the Ice Saw, and rocketing around in the Hammer, liberating buckets of blood from the Helghast using a variety of awesome weapons that all vary (and I mean, really vary) in everything from their heft to the damage dealt. Everything – from the gory eye-gouging melee attacks to the massive set-pieces – felt right in Killzone 3. Even the character interactions were among the most believable I've encountered, especially for a sci-fi shooter. It all comes together to deliver a fantastically fun game – my personal pick for favorite game of 2011.

Charlie Barratt, senior reviews/previews editor

Personal GOTY: Portal 2

As an unapologetic Batman fanboy, it pains me not to choose Arkham City here, as that game means more to me than I could ever have conveyed in a mere 2,000 word review. But Portal… is Portal. I would passionately recommend Batman to fans of the character and to fans of several genres, but I think literally everyone should play Portal 2. The experience transcends the usual videogame rules, tropes, and categories, to the point that I feel strange even comparing it with other competitors. It doesn’t seem fair.

That might come across as vague hyperbole, so I’ll be more specific. Portal 2 has the best storytelling, the best characters, the best writing, the best pacing, the best puzzles, the best level design, the best multiplayer, the best music, the best voice acting (including the best Nolan North voice acting!) and even the best Easter eggs of any game this year. Arkham City made me cheer, but Portal 2 gave me chills.

 
Above: This sealed the deal (also, spoiler)

Matt Cundy, UK editor

Personal GOTY: Super Mario 3D Land

As much as I've been completely blown away by this year's deluge of mega-games and all their countless shit-the-bed-set-pieces of awesome this year, it's the pure old-school brilliance of Super Mario 3D Land that gets my special GOTY winner's handshake. It's everything I used to love about video games... IN A VIDEO GAME. Now. Today. In modern times. Not only that, it actually works straight out the box. There's no day one patch required to make the jumping work properly or anything stupid like that. Amazing but true.

What's really impressive is how my kids love it just as much as me. Not that such a thing should be a surprise, given that Mario turned a whole generation of younglings onto gaming over two decades ago. But I'm 30 years older than they are. Normally there isn't a whole lot of crossover in the games that we want to play. But Super Mario 3D Land is Nintendo at the absolute top of its game. It's for kids. It's for adults. It's as close to gaming perfection as I've played in a long time.

Matt Keast, reviews editor

Personal GOTY: Batman: Arkham City

Arkham City’s first great moment happens a minute into the beginning: after awesomely beating the crap out of thugs without any of his Batman gadgets, Bruce Wayne casually dusts himself off. Immediately, the player understands the smooth, relaxed confidence with which developer Rocksteady has approached the sequel to its knockout first entry, Arkham Asylum. Rarely do you get such a strong feeling that you’re playing a game where the designers just absolutely know what they’re doing – they know what they want to give you, and they know how to deliver it.

Arkham City is huge. It’s stunning. It teases the brain and gets the blood pumping. No other game this year made it so easy for me to decide what to play: I had multiple games I hadn’t finished, but Arkham City just slid so easily into the disc slot. When I wasn’t playing it, I wanted to play it. Hell, simply the mechanics of traversing Gotham were enough to make the game fun – I’ve never experienced such smooth freedom as using turbo-charged grappling hook shots to launch over buildings and then glide/dive/glide in a rhythmic waving motion like the most Batman-y Batman gaming has ever seen.

Mikel Reparaz, senior features editor

Personal GOTY: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Longtime readers will know that, for me, open-world games are pretty much the apex of what games can offer – not just focused, linear fantasies, but coherent, convincing worlds to explore, prod at and generally do whatever springs to mind without fear of consequences. Interestingly, Skyrim offers both of those things, and that caught me by surprise.

Having been a huge, obsessive fan of Oblivion and Morrowind (but a Mac user when Arena and Daggerfall hit, sadly), I thought I had a good idea of what to expect from Skyrim: A big, breathtakingly pretty fantasy landscape filled with random fun things and quests in which I could lose myself for months at a time. I certainly got that, but I wasn’t expecting every dungeon I visited to be driven by its own story, or for the characters I met to be good for much more than cheap laughs at the expense of their dopey-looking faces. Or for the dragons to be such a thrill to find, fight and skeletonize, their forfeited souls pushing me to explore deeper and darker dungeons in pursuit of more words of power.

(I also didn’t expect that every silly history book I picked up, started to read and then “saved for later” could be automatically organized on shelves, thereby letting me inflict my real-life hoarding and OCD on the game world. That little innovation deserves more credit than it gets.)

Above: Also it is one of the finest examples of Asshole Physics I have ever seen

Assassin’s Creed Revelations? Saints Row: The Third? Fantastic experiences, to be sure, but I probably won’t be discovering new things in them a year from now. If my experience with Oblivion is any indication, though, Skyrim should keep me busy for about the next five.

Michael Grimm, cheats & guides editor

Personal GOTY: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

I like Halo because Master Chief is cool. He has cool armor and is very strong, he could probably beat up anyone, even Superman. He fights the Covenant and the Flood and beats them because of his guns. Sometimes Master Chief uses a plasma sword though. The story is really deep too because Master Chief has to fight aliens like The Covenant and The Flood that want to destroy earth.

I really like that they made Halo for 360 because my sister spilled my Mountain Dew Game Fuel on my old Xbox and I can’t play it any more. Thanks a lot Sarah! Halo is really fun to play online too, but I can’t right now because Mom says I use too many swears when my headset is on. I don’t think that’s fair because everyone else’s mom lets them swear all the time on XBL. I like when Master Chief finally destroys the Halo and saves the earth. In conclusion you should play Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.

We Recommend

127 comments

  • kiing8kong6 - December 9, 2011 9:49 p.m.

    Uncharted 3 all day, all the way for me.
  • thelazymackenzie - December 9, 2011 9:51 p.m.

    F5 + GamesRadar= NEW ARTICLE!!
  • ninjaemperor - December 9, 2011 9:51 p.m.

    This is great! And Grimm's was hilarious. It still hasn't sunk in for me how close we are to the end of the year, my teachers are working us hard until we get off on the 23.
  • kingsmikefan - December 9, 2011 9:56 p.m.

    I can't separate Portal 2 from the annoying ass fanboys, and from my friend who spoiled the ending, and muttered every joke into my ear as I played it. I feel like I'm missing something, but, I also felt that way with Portal 1, a game I loved, but didn't understand the fervor with which people talk about it. It's not that funny, and there's one character in the game. Portal 2: yes, it's great, and maybe if I wasn't sullied on it, I might agree with Charlie, but I don't know if I can.
  • thelazymackenzie - December 9, 2011 9:58 p.m.

    Skyrim or Arkham City? This article reminds me that I have to choose!
  • MsSmith - December 9, 2011 10 p.m.

    I want to hug Grimm for that entry.
  • DevonOO7 - December 9, 2011 10:25 p.m.

    Strange how Charlie said Portal 2 instead of Batman.
  • TheVoid - December 9, 2011 10:31 p.m.

    When I saw Grimm's vote I thought...wait, doesn't Grimm HATE Halo? Then I read his entry, which was proof positive. Loved it. Although, and I'm surprised I'm the first to holler "But waitaminute...where's X?!", my personal X being Dark Souls. As soon as I saw Keast's name (before seeing his pick) I thought "Dark Souls for sure", and then my jaw dropped when I saw Arkham City instead. This told me two things: 1) OK, it's official - I need to pick up Arkham City stat and 2) Dark Souls had better show up somewhere later in this article... Sadly no, but that's fine. To each their own, right? And I do so always enjoy to see where everyone lands with their "top of the year" picks. The predictables get proper reinforcement while the unexpecteds get a savory boost of attention (Gilbert for SOTD? Gotta check it out...). So Grimm - what would be your GOTY then, really?
  • Corsair89 - December 9, 2011 10:42 p.m.

    Skyrim. That is all.
  • TheZigMan - December 9, 2011 11:03 p.m.

    This is my list 1. Skyrim 2. Deus Ex Human revolution 3. The Witcher 2 4. Battlefield 3 5. Shogun 2 Total War
  • RedHarlow - December 9, 2011 11:05 p.m.

    Michael Grimm's entry was solid gold.
  • ObliqueZombie - December 9, 2011 11:09 p.m.

    (sigh)... Skyrim, for me. No surprise. STILL playing it as if it were brand new. Hell, I JUST started advancing into the maing campaign with roughly 70 hours under my belt, and I'm still unintentionally leaving my mouth open. And Michael... fantastic article. Never have a read such a piece of journalistic art in all of my life, that I'm half-tempted--no, absolutely--going to print that off and frame it on my small, poorly painted dorm wall. Hats off.
  • DoctorGordonFreeman - December 9, 2011 11:13 p.m.

    I agree with all of these as being the best games of this year, but I'd add Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It really stood out to me as an amazing PC gaming experience. Of course Skyrim, Skyward Sword, Portal 2, and Uncharted are my other top ones.
  • Claymore65 - December 9, 2011 11:24 p.m.

    For me it is Skyrim. I got the game recently and have already clocked about 66 hours in it. It is immersive, creative, and extremely fun. Plus, its fun to roleplay a warrior who only adventures so he can get more ingots for blacksmithing.
  • taokaka - December 9, 2011 11:47 p.m.

    I can't decide my game of the year, it's a five way tie between skyrim, batman, uncharted, deus ex and portal 2. But there were so many other awesome games that came close like LBP 2, Infamous 2, killzone 3, dead space 2, professor layton, Ico/shadow of the colossus, god of war origins and resistance 3. Wow this year has been good for sony.
  • Regemony - December 9, 2011 11:58 p.m.

    I Agree there are a lot of contenders for my own GOTY. I'd have to go with The Witcher 2. Though I recently finished the majority of content in Skyrim after 150 hours played, I still found TW2 to have a lasting effect on me. Definitely not a perfect game, but I found the story to be more engrossing than Skyrim. Very close to call though!
  • shawksta - December 10, 2011 12:06 a.m.

    Damn Justin, your Unpredictable! As Many has said, Too many awesome games this year that deserve the spot, there are 3 for me specifically that earned Top Dog: Portal 2, Skyrim, Skyward Sword Those 3, all having to wait 5-6 years was definitly worth Waiting for, all 3 of them being awesome Masterpieces in their personal way And of course you cant forget about the other awesome games this year, the Dark Alley's of Arkham City, The spirit World of Reverse Death watching in Ghost Trick, Drake Bigass Adventure in Uncharted 3 and many more, they are all Winners and Hopefully will all deserve the praise they deserve and not just comments about the usual stuff like Arrows to the knees and the battle between B3 and MW3
  • IamTheBalance - December 10, 2011 12:40 a.m.

    So glad to see someone pick Bulletstorm. By far the best FPS of the year.
  • DualWieldingIsNotFeasible - December 10, 2011 1:32 a.m.

    A ridiculous number of incredible games came out this year, so Skyrim deserves extra credit for easily being my GOTY. And even as a die-hard Halo fanboy since the series' inception (I still get choked up watching the 'Believe' ad), I laughed my ass off at Grimm's entry.
  • jackthemenace - December 10, 2011 2:21 a.m.

    Wow, I'm kinda disappointed that TWO of GR UK's favourites were MARIO... Still, Skyrim appeared a few times, as did Shadow of the Damned, which totally deserved it. Super excited to see that Houghters even chose Bulletstorm, which me feel WAY less embarrassed about loving the hell out of it.

Showing 1-20 of 127 comments

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