The Top 5 Games of 2011

The other day, we looked at part one of our top ten games of 2011. There were some smaller releases, some surprises, but still, five great games that all deserved to be among our top games of the year. There was, however, the distinct absence of a few major releases. Don't fret, as we still have five more titles to get through in part two of our series.

What made the list in the top five? Find out below!

------------------------------------------------------

5. L.A. Noire

Developer: Team Bondi
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: May 17, 2011
Genre: Open World, Action-Adventure
Official BWP Review: 9.5 out of 10

Around this time last year, we called L.A. Noire the second most anticipated game of the year. Twelve months later, Rockstar’s entry into a stacked 2011 for video games falls to fifth place on the depth chart. Did we set the bar a little too high? Was the fact that the game was developed outside Rockstar’s holy realm of studios it’s eventual “demise”?

For the record, we loved the hell out of the game. The visuals were superb, the story was so well crafted and the entire game stayed true to the “noire” concept it set out to conquer. Quite simply, there really isn’t anything else like L.A. Noire on the gaming market. It’s an action-aventure game, a shooter, a puzzle game, a murder-mystery, and a simulator all rolled into one beautiful, finely crafted product. Despite developer Team Bondi’s troubles in and around the release date, the end result was an excellent game that I believe will go down in history for what it accomplished.

Unfortunately, those developer problems would eventually catch up to L.A. Noire and stop it from reaching its full potential. While initial reviews for the game were more than positive, some problems presented themselves after release. For starters, the end seems a little pieced together, and it was this reviewer’s belief that it had something to do with the game’s physical size -- the game took up 3 HD disks for the Xbox 360, and rumors were floating that Team Bondi had to reduce the size of the game so that they wouldn't have to add a fourth disc. Moreover, the game’s DLC felt a little hollow, and fizzled out quickly, especially with Team Bondi’s disbandment. In fact, many of the extra cases felt like they were pulled right out of the game.

Days after the game’s release and initial success, Rockstar was touting the game and the concept’s sustainability in the long term, and while that may still be in the cards, it’s unfortunate that most people pretty much forgot about L.A. Noire by the time August rolled around. The hype fizzled out quickly, and while that shouldn't have taken away from how excellent the game truly was, it just did. L.A. Noire comes in at 5th place.

4. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Developer/Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Wii
Release Date: November 20, 2011
Genre: Action-Adventure
Official BWP Review: 9.5 out of 10

Skyward Sword barely made it on our top twenty most anticipated list last year, and frankly, for good reason. I would even go as far as to say that it only made the list because it was the only major Wii title we knew was coming. Nintendo didn't really show us anything that had us excited about their new flagship game, and a lot of that may have had something to do with failed demonstrations at major game conventions.

But in this case, the hype proved to be wrong. Nintendo took their time, crafted their game properly and released it without any hitches after the dust on most other major releases had settled. Players were able to look past the eye-rolling reality of having to play a game with the Wiimote, or the muddled and confusing Zelda timeline and just enjoy what was, quite frankly, an amazing game from start to finish.

BWP's own Matt Bradley raved about the game in his review, and would have probably placed it first if he was writing this list. For us, it comes in at 4th place, but considering it's the highest jump from the most anticipated list last year, that's pretty damn impressive.

3. Portal 2

Developer/Developer: Valve Corporation
Platforms: PC, Mac OS, PS3, 360
Release Date: April 19, 2011
Genre: Puzzle/Platformer
Official BWP Review: 9 out of 10

Portal 2 may be the most interesting case among the top games of 2011, because it raises a question of growing concern among gamers. How long should a game really be, and how much does quality truly surpass quantity?

When Portal 2 was released over the spring, reports quickly surfaced that gamers were getting through the Valve title in four hours, sometimes even less. Now, those four hours of gaming were pretty spectacular, and Valve made sure to add a more than meaty co-op portion to the game. But the concern over the game's length was valid. Gamers were highly anticipating the sequel to the original Portal and put down some big bucks to purchase what was basically a game with the length of a downloadable title.

The counter-argument is of course that a good game with a finely crafted story like Portal has inherent replay value, but developing a game based on that assumption is risky. In this case, it worked, because despite everything we said, Portal 2 is still an amazing game, but the length has to drop the game's score, especially in a year where the 40-50-60 hour RPGs really made a push for the exact type of gamers something like Portal targets in the first place. Valve got away with it this time, but they won't be able to get away with it again, and that stopped Portal 2 from breaking the top 2.

That said, we have to mention again that Portal 2 is still an amazing game that every person with a console or gaming PC should experience, and a top three game in 2011.

2. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platforms: PS3
Release Date: November 1, 2011
Genre: Action-Adventure
Official BWP Review: 10 out of 10

There's an old saying; "third time’s the charm". How does that saying stack up when you did things right the first two times? Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves rank among many gamers’ favorite current-generation titles. Naughty Dog had a daunting task with Drake’s Deception this year, and that’s living up to, well, two of the best Playstation games of all time.

If you scour the Internet, the consensus seems to be a little bit muddled. On one hand, the reviews are actually mostly stellar, mirrored by BWP’s perfect score of 10 out of 10. The game itself is fantastic, offering a great layered story, refined character development and stunning visuals that actually surpass those of Uncharted 2 (not to mention another great go-around with multiplayer). But in the end, it was, dare we say, just another Uncharted game. It may sound odd, but there were parts of the game that felt a little thin, especially with the bar set so high with its predecessors.

The story was a little short, and felt hollow compared to Uncharted 1 and 2, despite its attempt to delve deep into Nathan Drake's personal life.The secondary characters just felt like they were along for the ride no matter the reasoning, and the witty banter that set the series apart from others took a step back. Moreover, even though improvements were made to the multiplayer experience, it was still just Uncharted 2's multiplayer with a few tweaks.

All that said, who are we kidding? Uncharted 3 is an incredible game. Whatever standards you might set for yourself with Naughty Dog’s previous games, all of that should be shed when you pick up your controller and embody Nathan Drake as he races through deserts and abandoned mystic cities to uncover his latest mysteries. Uncharted 3 is amazing, and the closest thing to a perfect story-driven action-adventure game that we’ll come across in a long while. As much as we like to complain that it wasn’t that much better than Uncharted 2, how could it have really been that much better at all, and how is that even a valid argument when scoring a game? Uncharted 3 comes in at a well-deserved number 2 on our list.

1. Batman: Arkham City

Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: October 18, 2011
Genre: Beat-em up, Action-Adventure
Official BWP Review: 9.5 out of 10

For all intents and purposes, Batman: Arkham City doesn't exactly reinvent the gaming wheel. There really isn't anything in the game that we haven't seen in some form or another in other games. If not in 2009's Arkham Asylum, then certainly in other open world games of this generation. Batman swings around, beats up some douchebags, saves some cops and defeats his mortal enemies. We get it. But we'll be damned if it isn't some of the best fun we've ever had in the genre.

You don't have to look too far down our blog listing to figure out that we really like anything to do with Batman around this part. Between the pretty much weekly Dark Knight Rises updates and everything else, the Batman hype is at an all-time high at BWP. Still, Batman is also something that is very easy to screw up, as evidenced by prior films and games under the franchise, and even a lot of comic books. But everyone tasked with molding new Batman material these days has pretty much done the caped crusader justice in recent years, and Rocksteady is no exception with Batman: Arkham City.

The developer took everything that was good about Arkham Asylum, and expanded it to a ridiculous scale. The number of villains has increased in Arkam City, and every last one of them feels unique and strong. The combat system has been improved upon and flows perfectly. There's nothing more satisfying than getting a 100-hit combo or taking down bad guys in unique ways. Rocksteady even stacks on more and more gadgets, and every last one of them feels useful. From the main story, to side questions, to Riddler puzzles and collectibles, there's so much to do in this game that it has to be the most complete gaming experience of the year.

While there were plenty of great games in 2011, Batman: Arkham City completely outdid what Rocksteady had done for the series two years ago, and that's something that can't be said about many of the other sequels and titles of the year. That's way it proudly holds the title of the best game of 2011.

-----------------------------
What made your list of best games of the year? Did we miss something? Are there games that shouldn't be on the list? Let is know in the comments below, and look out for our honorable mentions later in the week!

Comments 2
Patrick Storto's picture

The more I play Arkham city the less I enjoy it. Yes there is a lot to do and the story is fantastic, but I find the game very repetitive. If it wasn't for the glitches in Skyrim, it would certainly top Arkham City as my top game of the year.

George Prax's picture

Arkham City basically caters to the open world game fan, but ropes in players such as yourself with, well, the fact that it's Batman lol. As an Open World game it's perfect, but I can see why someone like yourself might get bored with it in the long run.