The 50 Most Talked About Games of 2011: Part V

Today I’ll wrap up this series of the 50 most talked about games of 2011 with a look at the holiday releases. As usual, the games are listed in order of date of release, the number following the title in parentheses is the Metacritic score at the time of this writing, and I’ve identified some of my personal favorites regardless of what the critics said.

The biggest games of the year typically come out the month before Thanksgiving, in time to hit the big shopping season. Last year was no exception, and the holiday season of 2011 has been considered by some as the best year ever for game releases.

11/1 Uncharted 3 (Top Games of the Year: Number 2; Best PS3 Exclusive) (92)


 

 

 

 

 

Uncharted 2 blew me away. It’s one of my favorite games of all time, so I was looking forward to Uncharted 3 almost as much as any other holiday release. Now that I’ve played (and beaten) Uncharted 3, I can say that it is a great game; however, it still didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The gameplay (and especially the gun mechanics) are out of date and frustrating. The game had too many instances where I was running at the camera, and I had a number of cheap deaths because of it. The original Uncharted was flawed by having overpopulated rooms with millions of baddies; unfortunately, these reappeared in Uncharted 3. At this point, the series needs to start making some improvements in the gameplay department. Despite these complaints, I still think Uncharted 3 does some things better than any other game. The immersion into a movie-like experience is second to none. The graphics are better than almost every other game on the market. The dialogue and voice work is better than any other game I’ve played. You care about the characters and want to see what happens to them. The set pieces and the big moments the game creates are flat out incredible. Play Uncharted 3 so as not to miss one of the best games of the generation, but go in knowing it’s not perfect.

11/8 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (89)

 

 

 

 

 

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is the most popular game in the world. It shattered all sales records for a game launch (of course, new records are set year after year). The hype and buildup for the game was second to none. In addition, the reviews all say that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is a very good game. Unfortunately, it’s just that–very good but not great. I don’t have the time, thedesire, or possibly the ability to play the game at a high level, so I choose not to play it. I will miss the cooperative Spec-Ops mode, as that was the highlight of Modern Warfare 2 in my opinion.

11/11 Skyrim (Game of the Year) (95)

 

 

 

 

 

No other game this year completely took over my life like Skyrim did, and for that reason it’s my top game of 2011. I vehemently defended it against seemingly reasonable complaints regarding its story (or lack thereof), the buggy nature of the game, the terrible character models, and all the rest for one reason. I didn’t care. For the first 45 hours of my play experience, I was having too much fun lopping off orcs’ heads.  As I completed first the main story line, then the Companions Guild, then the College of Winterhold, and lastly the Civil War story line, I was completely immersed in the experience. The combat was better than in Oblivion, the environment was absolutely gorgeous, and the leveling system (a perk system borrowing heavily from Fallout) drove me to continue upgrading my character. Something happened, however, when I wrapped up the Civil War story arc: the whole world got boring. One theory is that I just got too overpowered. I was sitting at level 25, and nothing could kill me. This is something Bethesda was clearly addressing from Oblivion. Many gamers including myself got turned off by the strange way Oblivion leveled your charter, and the baddies around you. The only true difficulty spike I felt in Skyrim was between levels 5 and 10, when I was still sorting out what path to take. The game generally did a great job of making the world challenging without being overly difficult, but there seems to be a tipping point when nothing can kill you. A second theory is that I just ran out of compelling things to do. I could try to conquer the Thieves’ Guild or the Dark Brotherhood, but I was playing as a noble and honest character in the game. How does switching to become a thief or murderer fit into that story arc? I could also always continue raiding dungeons and wrapping up side quests, but without any need to get more powerful, I saw no compelling reason to continue. Still, the game gave me 45 hours of complete obsession, and that’s good enough for me. Expecting more is probably being unrealistic.  I’m hoping the DLC packs bring me back to the experience, but even if they don’t, I’ll remember the 2011 gaming year as the year I got lost in Skyrim.

11/13 Super Mario 3D Land (Top Games of the Year: Number 6) (Best 3DS Exclusive) (89)

 

 

 

 

 

Up to now, I’ve done a lot of complaining about and  some regretting of my 3DS purchase, but I’m happy to report that Super Mario 3D Land renewed my faith in the system. Being a huge Mario and Nintendo fan in general, I admit I was predisposed to love this game; however, I think my expectations were somewhat tempered by past experience. I liked but didn’t love New Super Mario Bros. (the best-selling 3DS game of all time), and the 3D effects I’d seen so far had been slightly underwhelming. Still, I knew how important this game was to Nintendo to prove that the 3DS was a viable piece of hardware, so I was both excited and nervous. At the end of the day, however, the game blew me away. As Mario games tend to do, it returned me to my childhood. Every level is fun and interesting and new. Mario games have always been great at introducing a new play style and then happily abandoning it,  moving you to the next level containing a play style completely unique and new. This leaves you wanting more. The argument I tend to hear is that all Mario games are the same–you run around and collect coins. True, the basic gameplay is the same, but that’s like saying Uncharted is the same as Call of Duty because you shoot people in both. The fact is that the gameplay from level to level in Mario 3D is more varied than in almost any other game I played this year. The game also looks beautiful. The graphical power of the 3DS is fully on display, and even the 3D effects look incredibly cool. This was the first 3D game that I preferred to play with the 3D on. While I don’t think that every game needs to use 3D, if the effects are as unique and interesting as in Mario, I’d be all for it.

11/15 Saints Row: The Third (83)

 

 

 

 

 

Every holiday season, at least one game that I was really looking forward to playing slides by. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to dedicate to playing that I would like. Saints Row: The Third is currently sitting on my shelf in its shrink wrap, waiting for me to find 40 spare hours so that I can run around and act like a complete lunatic. As Grand Theft Auto games have tended to get more serious over the years, Saints Row has moved in the opposite direction. The amount of freedom is quite remarkable. I wish I had more to say about this one, about some crazy maneuver I pulled off or some awesome story, but that will have to wait until sometime this year when I play it. If you bought and enjoyed Saints Row: The Third, let us know about it in the comments.

11/15 Rayman Origins (Top Games of the Year: Number 9) (89)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rayman Origins proves that old school platforming can still be done on an HD console with spectacular results. The game plays pretty close to New Super Mario Bros. Wii, right the way down to the fact that when you play co-op and your partner dies, he floats around in a bubble until you rescue him. I recommend playing with two players because you can work together to solve the levels, and it helps to have a second pair of eyes to spot all the bonuses. The difficulty level is higher than that of Mario, but it is never too frustrating. If you like platforming games at all, give Rayman: Origins a shot.

11/20 The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Top Games of the Year: Spot Reserved) (Best Wii Exclusive) (94)

 

 

 

 

 

Marriage requires compromise. In our household, that means compromising on video games, too. When Zelda came out, my wife and editor on the blog, Lisa, called dibs on the game. At the time I didn’t mind and was happy to let her have it. I was completely addicted to Skyrim, and I felt it only fair that she play Zelda, since her favorite game of all time is Twilight Princess. But here we are, a month and a half later, and I’m starting to regret my decision. As previously mentioned, I’m finished with Skyrim, and now all I really want to do is play Zelda.  The anticipation has started to influence my other gaming decisions. For example, I don’t want to start Saints Row because I know I’ll just be thinking that it’s not as much fun as Zelda. The Zelda series of games is easily my second favorite of all time (only to Mario). I have enjoyed every game I’ve played, and my second favorite game of all time is A Link to the Past. So when the reviews started to trickle out saying that Skyward Sword might be the greatest Zelda game ever, I was immediately skeptical; however, I was certainly more curious than ever. You’ll note that I named it my game of the year on Wii without playing a minute of it. I feel justified in doing this for two reasons: it was that bad for the Wii this year, and that’s how much confidence I have in the game. Similarly, I’ve reserved a spot in my Top 10 Games of the Year for Skyward Sword because I’m so sure I’ll like it. Lisa, if you’re reading this, please stop reading and get back and finish the game! I’m contemplating buying a second Wii (they’re only $100) and a second copy of the game. If I have to wait much longer, I can’t be held responsible for my actions.

11/29 Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (80)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another year, another Assassin’s Creed game. There’s no doubt the game belongs on the list because it was certainly one of the most talked about games of the year, a lot of people were looking forward to playing it, and it certainly will sell well. But I just don’t get it. Even those who like the Assassin’s Creed series say this game is incredibly slow to start and doesn’t improve much on the first two games. Some Assassin’s Creed fans may say Mario does the same thing, but I don’t buy that argument. I purchased both the first and second Assassin’s Creed games and didn’t like either one. For one reason or another, they’re not my cup of tea. I’ll leave it to one of the many editors on the site who likes the game (Burner, Kevin, or Chas) to let you know if it’s worth your money.

 

12/1 Infinity Blade II (89)

 

 

 

 

 

Easily the best-looking game on iOS, Infinity Blade II was developed by Chair Entertainment, the same company behind the successful Shadow Complex on Xbox. On iOS you don’t have a controller, so the game plays on rails, meaning that the control is handled for you. The gameplay involves the player swiping across the screen to wield a sword, block, or dodge.  The game builds in some minor RPG elements, but the majority of the gameplay involves combat. Infinity Blade II is one of the more expensive games I’ve bought on iOS ($7), but it does provide a 5-7 hour story, making it worth your money. Plus, you can brag to your Droid-owning loser friends that you have the best cell phone game on the market.

12/4 Mario Kart 7 (85)

 

 

 

 

 

I’m sure Chas could review this game without playing a second of it. At this point you know what you’re getting when you buy a Mario Kart game. The added underwater and glider sections affect the action incredibly little, and the new power-ups (raccoon tail and fireballs) are neat but they don’t really affect gameplay. You’ll still frustratingly lose a number of races as you are hit with multiple blue shells when you’re inches from the finish line, but none of this changes the fact that the game is still fun to play. For my money (or should I say Chas’s money?),* nothing beats playing Mario Kart when you’re stuck on a plane for three hours or riding the train into work.

So there you have it, the 50 most talked about games of 2011. I’m sure I missed a couple, so let me know your thoughts in the comments!!

*For those of you who didn’t get that last joke about Chas’s money, here’s the story: he and I bet whether Diablo 3 would come out in 2011. It didn’t, he lost, and he had to buy me Mario Kart 7 and Mario 3D Land.  I would be shocked, however, if Diablo 3 didn’t come out in 2012. Stay tuned to Stew Over, as in the next couple weeks we’ll be previewing all the big name games that are due out this year, including Diablo 3.

 

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