2011 brought a lot of sequels our way. Some were necessary improvements to formula, while others had us scratching our heads wondering what was up. (NOTE: Resistance 3.) Anyway, we’ve decided to count down our top ten favorite retail games (a downloadable list is coming very soon), along with a few honorable mentions for good measure. You might be shocked to see what takes number one.
Honorable Mentions: Despite the fact that members of its core development team left early in the game, Sledgehammer Games really stepped up with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, wrapping up the story in style and throwing in some great multiplayer for good measure. Racing fanatics had plenty of reasons to flock to Turn 10 Studios’ amazing Forza Motorsport 4, as it fixed a few flaws from the previous game while providing a superb racing experience. And if you were the kind of person who enjoyed fun gaming, there’s no way you missed out on THQ’s Saints Row: The Third. You can literally do anything you damn well feel like in that game, whether it’s skydiving naked from a helicopter or blasting enemies wearing a hot dog costume.
And now, the top ten!
- Motorstorm Apocalypse (SCEA, PlayStation 3) — The controversy surrounding Apocalypse was great, especially following the disaster that took place in Japan. But Sony eventually released the game, and for good reason — it’s a blast. With environments that constantly shift, fast-paced racing action and single and multiplayer options galore, Motorstorm Apocalypse is a party that just doesn’t stop — even if its virtual world kind of did.
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo, Wii) — The sequel that fans have been waiting five years for has finally come, and it fully utilizes the Wii MotionPlus control scheme in ways that Twilight Princess could only dream of. Featuring a fascinating story, great visuals (for Wii standards) and combat that really engulfs you in each battle, Skyward Sword is easily the best in the series to date. But, really, it’s time for that hi-def chapter on Wii U. We’re ready.
- Rayman Origins (Ubisoft, various platforms) — How did Rayman beat Legend of Zelda on our list? Simple — it stuck to its platforming basics while introducing the kind of cartoon-based world that’s usually limited to our dreams. Featuring a solid multiplayer dynamic, plenty of imaginative worlds and the kind of laugh-out-loud fun we haven’t had in ages, Rayman Origins is the ultimate party game of 2011. Miss it and you’ll be slapped silly. Guaranteed.
- Gears of War 3 (Microsoft, Xbox 360) — The story of Delta Squad has finally drawn to a close, and while we probably haven’t seen the last of Epic Games’ third-person franchise, this is still a phenomenal finish to the story, with plenty of twists and exciting moments to keep players riveted to the screen. What’s more, the multiplayer is as polished as ever, and the Beast mode really introduces you to a whole new way to play. Kudos, Cliff B. and team.
- NBA 2K12 (2K Sports, various platforms) — Lots of superb sports efforts came out in 2011, including FIFA Soccer 12 and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters, but if we had to pick one, 2K Sports’ game of hoops can’t be beat. Featuring many refined features, great online play and endless features that would’ve kept us busy even if there was a lockout, it’s a slam dunk all around. And all those Legends and their eras have been recreated perfectly. It’s hoops magic.
- Killzone 3 (SCEA, PlayStation 3) — I know I’m going to get flack for this one, but with its cinematic touches, amazing environments and non-stop action, Killzone 3 is easily the best first-person shooter to get cranked out this year. Guerrilla Games makes vital use of the Blu-Ray format, cramming it with the kind of detail usually reserved for next generation machines. And with tons of single and multiplayer options, it’s definitely a zone worth killing in.
- Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (SCEA, PlayStation 3) — Another PS3 exclusive that more than lived up to the hype, Drake’s Deception wraps up Naughty Dog’s trilogy in style, with outstanding set pieces, great voice and motion acting, a compelling story (even if it ends on a somewhat short note) and lots of emotion — the kind you just don’t find in games anymore. Now it’s on to 2012 and The Last of Us…we can’t freakin’ wait.
- Portal 2 (Valve, various platforms) — Hey, any game that suggests we buy combustible lemons has to be a winner, right? Portal 2 delivered on every accord, from its impressive level design to its intricate puzzle solving to its absolutely gut-busting voice acting, featuring the likes of J.K. Simmons and Stephen Merchant. And GLADoS stole the show, as always. Plus, having a completely separately co-op chapter from the main story? Priceless.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda, various platforms) — We would’ve compiled this list a lot sooner, but we took an arrow to the knee. Seriously, outside of lame jokes, Skyrim provided hours upon hours of supreme dragon killing, along with endless customization options, beautiful graphics and lots of epic moments. We’re still playing it and mastering our chants. FUS BO RAH indeed. Can’t wait for part six.
So what made number one? What else?
- Batman: Arkham City (WB Games, various platforms) — We already know that Batman is going to dominate movies next year with The Dark Knight Rises, but he’s already got the gaming world covered with this extraordinary sequel. Featuring a bigger environment, dozens of side missions, great hidden secrets, solid presentation, great voice acting (mainly from Mark Hamill, who steals the show as The Joker) and a story that actually kept us wondering what was going to happen next, it did everything absolutely right. And a third game is already confirmed. We can’t wait for Arkham World…or whatever the hell it’s called. More Batman equals more good news for us.