We here at DualShockers take our games very seriously. You’ve seen our award winners for Game of the Year — congratulations all around for the hard-working parties — but wouldn’t you just love to get inside our heads and know our personal picks? Well that’s what we’ve got for you here. Presenting our DualShockers 2011 Game of the Year staff selections. Enjoy!
Chad Awkerman: My pick for game of the year might surprise some, to a certain degree. As much as I adore the likes of Uncharted 3, Skyrim and Portal 2, I really think Catherine redefined what a video game could be. With the visual novel story elements combined with decision-making and a knuckle-biting puzzle element, Catherine seems to be a genre in and of itself. It was something altogether unexpected, a breath of fresh air amid a year of sequels which were great games in their own right but brought little to the table as far as new mechanics and fresh approaches to games.
For me, in 2011, playing Catherine really defined what it is to be a gamer – exploring the unexpected, being surprised and fascinated by something that really hasn’t been done before and being reinvigorated and encouraged, as a fan of the industry, that innovative ideas are still out there waiting to be brought to life.
Eder Campuzano: I’m a total sucker for adventure, which is why I had to pick The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword as my choice for game of the year. Not only is the story among the best in the series — topped only by The Wind Waker in presentation — but the controls define what a Zelda game should be going forward.
To me, the best games are the ones in which you can goof around for hours and have fun doing so. That said, slapping Bokoblins silly in Faron Woods is where it’s at. I seriously considered Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception for some of the same reasons, but the fact that I’m still plowing through Skyward Sword‘s Hero Mode and only made it through Chapter 3 of Drake’s Deception on a second playthrough before losing interest says something.
John Colaw: There were a lot of great games released this year and picking just one of them as the overall best is a very difficult decision. However I’m going to have to go with the biggest surprise of the year for me, a game that came out of nowhere and completely absorbed me: The Binding of Isaac.
Every aspect of the game is absolutely wonderful, from the character and art design to the wonderful soundtrack. I’ve gotten all but one item in the game and beat it with every character, unlocking every secret and I still return to the game frequently. Whether I die in the basement from a storm of bad luck or make my way to Sheol to take down the final boss, each run is unique and I look forward to each one. Hopefully 2012 holds the large expansion hinted at late last year so we can get more. I wait with bated breath.
Alexa Ray Corriea: I love a good story and I’m a total nerd for game music and design, so the game that really blew me away was Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Everything from the breathtaking character and environmental designs to the gorgeous soundscapes kept me breathless; in every triangle and eye flicker, every vibrant piece of eye candy, the game would bare its soul, it’s painfully beautiful soul.
Human Revolution is a game that’s alive, and the story it tells is both heartbreaking and inspiring. As Jensen stands at the control panel in the final moments of the game, the looming question is: What “truth” would be easier for humanity to swallow? In the end there is no “truth” and your actions as Jensen craft the ending, the next step towards the game world’s future. It’s mind-numbing and spine chilling, and with incredible art and sound direction to back it up, plus wicked fun gameplay, it’s hard to peel your eyes off this masterpiece.
Scott Lipowitz: A tough decision, considering the competition this year, but Deus Ex: Human Revolution reminded me how great games can be. It was the perfect combination of story, worldbuilding and gameplay all wrapped up in a very pretty package. The world of Human Revolution felt alive and interesting. There was a lot to see and plenty of room for exploration. More than that, the world was very deep, from the glares of the local inhabitants in Hengsha to the Nigerian Prince spam emails, everything felt so well thought out. The game also really let you play as you wanted. If you wanted stealth, go stealth, if you wanted to kill, kill, the game never told you you couldn’t play the way you set your character up to play. This was also reflected in the game’s stellar level design, which really rewarded the player for exploring.
Most of all, the game treated the player like an adult, whether it was through its fantastic story, dialogue and cyberpunk influences, or through the gameplay, where when given option A and B, the player could usually find an option C. Deus Ex really rewarded players for outside-the-box thinking like so few games these days do. Between it’s attitude towards the player, it’s deep world, the awesome graphics and style (loved the unique black and gold look) and amazing and mature cyberpunk storyline, I can safely call Deus Ex Game of the Year for 2011.
Yaris Gutierrez: Batman: Arkham City. Very few games have filled my tummy with butterflies this year. While people were frantically waiting for the release of Skyrim, MW3, Uncharted 3 and Gears of War 3, I sat in the desolate room that is my office counting down the days when I would, once again, play as the legendary Dark Knight and literally abuse the criminals-brimming Arkham City. No game to date has taken the Unreal Engine 3 and concocted a visual memento on the scale that Arkham City has. While it remained overlooked in light of the aforementioned games, Arkham City delivered every bit of entertainment that I was looking for in the past year: a strong narrative; amazing visuals; mechanics that were familiar, yet new; new additions that enhanced the experience; etc.
As a true fan of action games, one cannot overlook the exceptional feats that Rocksteady overcame and conquered with developing a game based on a comic book superhero (which many studios failed to harness) in a generation filled with strong titles.
Dianna Lora: Game of The Year for me has got to go to Batman: Arkham City. I’m usually very wary of sequels and I was afraid of this one because for me,Arkham Asylum was such an amazing game. I popped Arkham City into my system and all my fears drifted away.
Arkham City built on everything that made its predecessor so great. The graphics are gorgeous and the gameplay is so slick it makes you feel like you are Batman. I couldn’t put my controller down. The writing and storytelling were engaging and downright addicting. The side quests didn’t feel like throwaway moments. Confronting a villian was like it’s own unique and memorable experience (Mad Hatter anyone?). Character designs and superb voice acting done by Kevin Conroy (Batman) and the fantastic Marc Hamill, (Joker) made it not only an immersive experience, but emotional as well since it would be the last time Marc Hamill would play Joker. I would be lying to you if I didn’t shed a tear at the ending. Batman: Arkham City is the best superhero game of all time. Period.
Giuseppe Nelva: Some will cry at my lack of originality. Tough luck. In a world of smallish experiences and games worth six hours, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim demonstrates that a single player game can still feature an immense, living, unpredictable and engrossing world where freedom is the key and your eye can wander as far as the horizon, knowing that there’s a lot more beyond it.
Skyrim is not just a game; like Oblivion and Morrowind have been and still are, it’s a platform that will allow us to create worlds thanks to Bethesda’s well known support of modding. It will give form to our personal fantasy and will accompany many of us for years, while most other games released in 2011 have been forgotten before 2012 started. Many will still hold Skyrim as their game of the year for 2012, 2013, and so forth.
It’s unfortunate that those that play on consoles won’t get to experience this, but the true Skyrim is on PC, and thanks to thousands of mods that will hone the already fantastic experience to the extreme, it’ll probably be surpassed only by The Elder Scrolls VI.
Allen Park: Few games this year matched up to the combination of wit, brilliance, and accessibility of Portal 2. With personal expectations high for the sequel to perhaps my favorite game this generation, Valve somehow went and exceeded those with absolutely no trouble at all. I expected more solid gameplay; I was rewarded with some of the richest, varied, most clever puzzles I’ve played and solved in years.
I expected an entertaining plot; I was generously given the most engaging narrative of the year. I expected fantastic writing; I bore witness to writing so damned good it made me depressed for a straight week that I could never be this funny, witty, clever, or smart, ever. The intro sequence alone has better writing, directing, sound, and voice acting than 95% of the games released last year. I could go on and on and on (I haven’t even mentioned the co-op, which was truly transcendent at times), but the fact of the matter is this: Portal 2 is the first perfect game I’ve played, and no one will ever convince me otherwise.
Emily Putscher: As I am currently in college with only handheld systems with me, my vote goes to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. The original Ocarina of Time is argued by many to be the best game ever created, and while I’m not sure I agree with that, it is absolutely fantastic. The graphics got a little updated while still retaining the feel of the original, and the new 3D, while not necessary, makes the land of Hyrule seem just a little bit more real.
As in the original, the story is so easy to get caught up in, and not realize you’ve been playing for hours until your battery light starts blinking. Add to that some of the most iconic music in video game history, a cast of characters you can’t help but fall in love with, and one of the most varied collections of weapons and items you’ll ever find, and it’s not even a question anymore. All of the side quests on top of the main story line add up to a game that will never get old, and having it in an easily portable version just makes it that much better.
Kenneth Richardson: There is something to be said of LittleBigPlanet 2, a game that has something entirely fresh to offer every time you sit down to play it. Actually, there is a lot to be said about that kind of game. While there have been several stellar releases this year, LittleBigPlanet 2 has remained a mainstay even though it came out at the very beginning of the year. LittleBigPlanet 2 is the most community driven game available for a console, and you can quote me on that. Your mind will be blown by some of the things players have created in this fantastic title, and it will also be blown by the uber-powerful creation engine.
With all the other games I could have picked, I know that many have overlooked this phenomenal title and that is saddening. LBP2 is a juggernaut of a game regardless of which title you sit beside it. It steals a strong first place finish in my book.