It has been an exceptional year for gamers. Sales are up, which helps the industry, and the quality of games released offers everyone a little something in every genre. As it turns out, that makes the job of picking the best even tougher. We went to work in picking our best games of the year in several categories, eventually leading up to our game of the year. It proved to be a much more difficult task than first anticipated.
For a gamer, it sounds like a fun task: List out the best games of the year, then pick a favorite. Proceed to avoid any injuries while vigorously patting yourself on the back, then move on. Unfortunately for us (and maybe fortunately for you), it gets a little more objective than that. We looked at each game through a particular set of criteria. Many of these games are best sellers, but sales were never a consideration. Innovation is important, technical reliability as well as sophistication factors in, how accessible it is also played a part, and the presentation is vital.
But beyond it all, it comes down to what was the most fun. What games elicited the best reaction and stayed with us the longest? What games would we recommend to people? What games will we go back to when we have time? Maybe it isn’t the most scientific way, but it is still better than the BCS.
With that in mind, we weighed and measured each game in the categories, and then picked our winners.
Also make sure to check our our picks for the Best gadgets of 2011.
Best Action/Adventure Game The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Even after 25 years, the Zelda franchise continues to surprise us. Combining a new gameplay mechanic that squeezes every inch of innovation out of the Wii, Skyward Sword is one of the best Zelda games ever made. And that is saying something.
Read our full The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword review.
Best Competitive Multiplayer Game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
While this year’s iteration of the Call of Duty franchise didn’t win over the haters, it is still the best online game of the year. The lack of innovation is a definite issue, but the community knows what it wants. Like an annual sports release, CoD does what it has to in order to keep its massive fan base happy. MW3 does just that, and six months from now there it will still have the most vibrant online community around.
Read our full Call of Duty: Modern Warefare 3 review.
Best Co-op Game Portal 2
It is one thing to have a robust campaign that other people can join in, and adding a few specific modes for people to team up in is great, but how many other games had a completely original co-op game mode on top of a single-player campaign? Of the few other that games that did, how many were just as good as the solo experience, maybe even better?
Read our full Portal 2 review.
Best Driving Game Forza Motorsport 4
There were some incredible racing games this year, but there was one clear winner in this category. Forza 4 is the best racing simulator ever made, which made a difficult choice slightly easier. What with it being amazing and all. “Best driving game” will be a tough title for the franchise to hang onto, but for now, Forza reigns supreme.
Read our full Forza Motorsport 4 review.
Best First-Person Shooter Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
In what will no doubt be one of our more controversial choices, there is a reason that the Call of Duty formula continues to be used: It is still the best offering out there. The campaign nicely concludes a storyline that began with Call of Duty 4, the Spec Ops missions offer a solid co-op experience, and the multiplayer is a fine-tuned offering that fans will be playing well into the next year, easily
Read our full Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 review.
Best Graphics Battlefield 3
On the PC, there is no comparison to the new Frostbite 2.0 engine. Someday real life will just be kinda dull looking, and engines like Frostbite 2.0 will be the reason. God help us all when Frostbite 5.0 comes out. It will cripple reality. The engine is simply amazing, and the better the system, the further your jaw will drop. On the console, it takes a bit of a hit as you would expect, but still comes off looking better than any other game this year.
Read our full Battlefield 3 review.
Best Remake/Re-release Ico/Shadow of the Colossus
When people discuss video games as art, there are generally two games that are on most gamers’ list: Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. The only problem with these games is that hardly anyone actually played them. Then once word about them got around, there were scant few copies to find, as most held onto their copies, or flipped them on eBay for ridiculous amounts. Now the games have the chance to shine again, as both are available in a single package featuring shiny new graphics and a discounted price.
Read our full Ico/Shadow of the Colossus review.
Best Role-Playing Game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
It used to be tough to pick the best RPG of the year, until we took an arrow to the knee. The source of numerous Internet memes, with more options than most people will ever be able to experience in a lifetime, Skyrim is a game that people will be playing for years and years. And years.
Read our full Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim review.
Other nominees: Dark Souls, The Witcher 2
Best Sports Game NBA 2K12
The NBA 2K franchise has quickly climbed the mountain and crowned itself as the preeminent sports franchise around. But the truly amazing thing is that you don’t need to like sports to enjoy it. 2K Sports took a sport that was incredibly difficult to realistically adapt as a video game, and not only made it fun and accessible, but made it look easy. Even people who don’t like the sport of basketball should give this game a try.
Read our full NBA 2K12 review.
Best Survival-Horror Game Dead Space 2
Combining the sci-fi and survival-horror genres has given Visceral Games the opportunity to create scenarios that are totally original. Sure, walking down a dark hall until something jumps out at you and tries to eat you isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but floating outside a space station perched on the remains of one of Saturn’s moons, attempting to repair machinery before your air runs out while dodging attacks from enemies you can’t hear is very cool.
Read our full Dead Space 2 review.
Best Writing Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
Of all the games out this year, few will have as long lasting of an impact in terms of story that AC:R did. Ezio Auditore is one of the best video game characters of the last few years. Part of the reason for that is because we have seen him grow and change, and been with him as he has learned and matured. Now we are forced to say goodbye to the man as he comes to grips with his age, the life he has chosen to live, and the sacrifices he has made. Set against the backdrop of the Ottoman Empire as it rose to power, AC:R is a narrative story grounded in reality, and etched with historical details. And special kudos for Ubisoft to have the guts to end a wildly successful character’s story.
Read our full Assassin’s Creed Revelations review.
Best Handheld Game Super Mario 3D Land
While the 3DS continues to suffer from a lack of decent software, there are a few exceptions. Super Mario 3D Land takes full advantage of the system, including the 3D, and creates a Mario experience that should appeal to fans young and old.
Read our full Super Mario 3D Land review.
Other nominees: Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection,The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
Best PC Game Battlefield 3
While MW3 is the online king of the consoles, Battlefield 3 dominates on the PC. It is a different experience thanks to the 64 player limits, plus the enhanced PC graphics make it an outstanding game. PC gaming has become a much smaller portion of the gaming industry compared to consoles, but that isn’t something PC gamers should fear — rather it is something console gamers should regret.
Read our full Battlefield 3 review.
Other nominees: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Best PS3 Exclusive Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
There were several great PS3 exclusives this year, but none were as impressive as Uncharted 3. Following the success of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, many critics wondered if developer Naughty Dog had found an incredible formula, or just caught lightning in a bottle. Uncharted 3 proves that Naughty Dog knows what it is doing.
Read our full Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception review.
Best Xbox 360 Exclusive Forza Motorsport 4
Whether you’re a gearhead looking to tune your way to victory, or just someone who enjoys the odd race, Forza 4 is a must own. With over 500 cars, numerous races, and content that is constantly changing thanks to the online features, Forza 4 is not just the best driving game around, it transcends the genre and is one of the best games of the year.
Read our full Forza Motorsport 4 review.
Best Wii Exclusive The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
The Wii is in its twilight years, and soon the Wii U will steal the spotlight. Skyward Sword has proven that the system isn’t quite ready to pack it in yet, as the Wii chugs along like a marathon runner who is close to the finish line but has hit “the wall,” and tries for that elusive 100 million consoles sold mark.
Read our full Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword review.
Other nominees: Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, Rayman: Origins
Game of the Year Portal 2
When people ask for a game recommendation, there is always an asterisk on that recommendation. Maybe it is a good game but too violent for the squeamish. Maybe it is an incredible experience, but only if you have a lot of time and patience to invest in it. Portal 2 is simply a game that does everything right. From the dialog to the voice acting to the clever puzzles, the game has almost no flaws.
The biggest knock that most people (us included) had against Portal 2 was that once you solved the puzzles in the single player campaign, then the co-op campaign, there really wasn’t much left to do. Valve knew that was going to be an issue, so it released a decent-sized expansion pack. For free. It then further sweetened the pot and promised a level editor, also for free.
Throw in two of the funniest protagonists/antagonists in GLaDOS and Wheatley, not to mention the incredibly funny life lessons from Cave Johnson, and you have a winner. Portal 2 is simply a joy to play, and that is why it is our game of the year. Someone should make it a cake.
Read our full Portal 2 review.
Other nominees: Batman: Arkham City, Dark Souls, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Forza Motorsport 4, Gears of War 3, L.A. Noire, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings
This article was originally posted on Digital Trends
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