GamesRadar editors’ (personal) Games of the Year 2011

Every December, we close out our year of coverage with our officially annual Platinum Chalice awards, choosing our Game of the Year and doling out accolades to the best games of the past 12 months. We won’t actually hand those out until next Friday, though; in the meantime, we’ve decided to unplug from the collective GamesRadar hive mind and take this opportunity to honor the games that really deserve it – which is to say, our personal favorites of 2011.

Gary Steinman, editor in chief

Personal GOTY: Killzone 3

A great game? Yes. A great shooter? Absolutely. Best game of 2011? For most of you, probably not. But for this long-time gamer, Killzone 3 was easily my most thrilling, pulse-pounding, and memorable experience this year. Now, keep in mind, I’m not the most hardcore shooter fan, nor am I a huge multiplayer aficionado. Killzone 3 stands out to me thanks to its extraordinary single-player campaign.

Like all the best Sony first-party exclusives, Killzone 3 delivers a character-driven experience that’s both highly polished and incredibly gorgeous. From the snowy mountains of Helghan to the planet’s lush Kaznan jungle, Killzone took me on a journey of immense beauty, which I then tore apart while piloting jetpacks, carving up the snow in the Ice Saw, and rocketing around in the Hammer, liberating buckets of blood from the Helghast using a variety of awesome weapons that all vary (and I mean, really vary) in everything from their heft to the damage dealt. Everything – from the gory eye-gouging melee attacks to the massive set-pieces – felt right in Killzone 3. Even the character interactions were among the most believable I've encountered, especially for a sci-fi shooter. It all comes together to deliver a fantastically fun game – my personal pick for favorite game of 2011.

Charlie Barratt, senior reviews/previews editor

Personal GOTY: Portal 2

As an unapologetic Batman fanboy, it pains me not to choose Arkham City here, as that game means more to me than I could ever have conveyed in a mere 2,000 word review. But Portal… is Portal. I would passionately recommend Batman to fans of the character and to fans of several genres, but I think literally everyone should play Portal 2. The experience transcends the usual videogame rules, tropes, and categories, to the point that I feel strange even comparing it with other competitors. It doesn’t seem fair.

That might come across as vague hyperbole, so I’ll be more specific. Portal 2 has the best storytelling, the best characters, the best writing, the best pacing, the best puzzles, the best level design, the best multiplayer, the best music, the best voice acting (including the best Nolan North voice acting!) and even the best Easter eggs of any game this year. Arkham City made me cheer, but Portal 2 gave me chills.

Above: This sealed the deal (also, spoiler)

Matt Cundy, UK editor

Personal GOTY: Super Mario 3D Land

As much as I've been completely blown away by this year's deluge of mega-games and all their countless shit-the-bed-set-pieces of awesome this year, it's the pure old-school brilliance of Super Mario 3D Land that gets my special GOTY winner's handshake. It's everything I used to love about video games... IN A VIDEO GAME. Now. Today. In modern times. Not only that, it actually works straight out the box. There's no day one patch required to make the jumping work properly or anything stupid like that. Amazing but true.

What's really impressive is how my kids love it just as much as me. Not that such a thing should be a surprise, given that Mario turned a whole generation of younglings onto gaming over two decades ago. But I'm 30 years older than they are. Normally there isn't a whole lot of crossover in the games that we want to play. But Super Mario 3D Land is Nintendo at the absolute top of its game. It's for kids. It's for adults. It's as close to gaming perfection as I've played in a long time.

Matt Keast, reviews editor

Personal GOTY: Batman: Arkham City

Arkham City’s first great moment happens a minute into the beginning: after awesomely beating the crap out of thugs without any of his Batman gadgets, Bruce Wayne casually dusts himself off. Immediately, the player understands the smooth, relaxed confidence with which developer Rocksteady has approached the sequel to its knockout first entry, Arkham Asylum. Rarely do you get such a strong feeling that you’re playing a game where the designers just absolutely know what they’re doing – they know what they want to give you, and they know how to deliver it.

Arkham City is huge. It’s stunning. It teases the brain and gets the blood pumping. No other game this year made it so easy for me to decide what to play: I had multiple games I hadn’t finished, but Arkham City just slid so easily into the disc slot. When I wasn’t playing it, I wanted to play it. Hell, simply the mechanics of traversing Gotham were enough to make the game fun – I’ve never experienced such smooth freedom as using turbo-charged grappling hook shots to launch over buildings and then glide/dive/glide in a rhythmic waving motion like the most Batman-y Batman gaming has ever seen.

Mikel Reparaz, senior features editor

Personal GOTY: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Longtime readers will know that, for me, open-world games are pretty much the apex of what games can offer – not just focused, linear fantasies, but coherent, convincing worlds to explore, prod at and generally do whatever springs to mind without fear of consequences. Interestingly, Skyrim offers both of those things, and that caught me by surprise.

Having been a huge, obsessive fan of Oblivion and Morrowind (but a Mac user when Arena and Daggerfall hit, sadly), I thought I had a good idea of what to expect from Skyrim: A big, breathtakingly pretty fantasy landscape filled with random fun things and quests in which I could lose myself for months at a time. I certainly got that, but I wasn’t expecting every dungeon I visited to be driven by its own story, or for the characters I met to be good for much more than cheap laughs at the expense of their dopey-looking faces. Or for the dragons to be such a thrill to find, fight and skeletonize, their forfeited souls pushing me to explore deeper and darker dungeons in pursuit of more words of power.

(I also didn’t expect that every silly history book I picked up, started to read and then “saved for later” could be automatically organized on shelves, thereby letting me inflict my real-life hoarding and OCD on the game world. That little innovation deserves more credit than it gets.)

Above: Also it is one of the finest examples of Asshole Physics I have ever seen

Assassin’s Creed Revelations? Saints Row: The Third? Fantastic experiences, to be sure, but I probably won’t be discovering new things in them a year from now. If my experience with Oblivion is any indication, though, Skyrim should keep me busy for about the next five.

Michael Grimm, cheats & guides editor

Personal GOTY: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

I like Halo because Master Chief is cool. He has cool armor and is very strong, he could probably beat up anyone, even Superman. He fights the Covenant and the Flood and beats them because of his guns. Sometimes Master Chief uses a plasma sword though. The story is really deep too because Master Chief has to fight aliens like The Covenant and The Flood that want to destroy earth.

I really like that they made Halo for 360 because my sister spilled my Mountain Dew Game Fuel on my old Xbox and I can’t play it any more. Thanks a lot Sarah! Halo is really fun to play online too, but I can’t right now because Mom says I use too many swears when my headset is on. I don’t think that’s fair because everyone else’s mom lets them swear all the time on XBL. I like when Master Chief finally destroys the Halo and saves the earth. In conclusion you should play Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.

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  • Berretxz4t4 - December 30, 2011 9:04 a.m.

    exactly HOW bored was mikel, or whoever made that elder scrolls vid?
  • chrisbarker1980 - December 15, 2011 5:53 a.m.

    Dark Souls all the way, game of this generation. Portal and Deus Ex take second and third respectively
  • poptarts214 - December 14, 2011 7:29 p.m.

    Skyward Sword.
  • Elementium - December 14, 2011 12:26 p.m.

    To me Portal 2 is the champ this year. It's the perfect game.. It's challenging without making you throw your controller, it's funny without resorting to cheap laughs, the acting is THE BEST I've ever seen in a game and that includes Arkham City.. I love Mark Hamill and I have a man crush on Kevin Conroy BUT you just can't top J.K. Simmons. The best part is, it deserved every bit of hype it had. Great graphics, style, story, puzzles, characters, ALL AROUND FUN! plus free DLC. :D The same really can't be said for Skyrim.. Now I love open world games.. I love RPG's.. I LOOOVE character customization to a point where I will spend hours making characters in Oblivion ,Skyrim,WoW,APB, Saints Row just to start the game and never play them.. But Skyrim is way overhyped.. it lacks personality.. it lacks it's own unique style.. Sure you can be a werewolf but that werewolf looks like it was designed by a first year 3d modelling student with no interest in werewolves. And really this is how the whole game looks.. You know why? because modders made these games popular and bethesda is making them do the work for them.. You want characters that aren't fugly? make your own! you want more interesting looking armor? Download it! it's in a chest by the bridge! oh we have bugs? could you fix them for us?! One final note on Bethesdas level design.. these "hand drawn" dungeons.. may have different layout but all look the same with their random wood planks and stone walls. And seriously.. Skyrim is boring.. When you're appealing to a crowd that is used to worlds like Azeroth you better try and put more than 2 settings in your game.. Frigid Grasslands? Check. Snowy mountains? Check. Anything else? HAHAHAHAHAHA, no.
  • Hig1134 - December 14, 2011 6:53 a.m.

    Uncharted 3 is my GOTY. Lots of good stuff this year, but nothing as fun and impressive as that. Gorgeous graphics! Honourable mentions: Killzone 3, Resistance 3, NHL 12 Surprisingly good game of 2011: Sonic Generations
  • Hig1134 - December 14, 2011 7:10 a.m.

    Crap!! I forgot one honourable mention: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
  • jedisamurai - December 13, 2011 7:26 p.m.

    My favorite game of the year was Child of Eden. Portal 2 started out insanely great and then went downhill in the second act (still haven't gotten around to beating it yet). I'll play Arkham City someday but I'm in no hurry. The same with Bastion, insanely twisted shadow planet, Rayman Origins and Outland (which I own but can never seem to get around to playing). I couldn't care less about a new FPS or open-world M-rated adventure thingy. I played the first Uncharted and absolutely hated it (oh how Naughty Dog has fallen since the genius of the Jak series). Honestly, the last game I played that I absolutely had to beat...was Child of Eden. And I'd been waiting to play that game since I was a teenager and dreamed of a sequel to REZ. So yeah... Child of Eden is my Game of the Year.
  • Hig1134 - December 14, 2011 6:47 a.m.

    It seems you're on your own with you opinions of the Uncharted series.
  • lemur - December 13, 2011 2:43 p.m.

    I'm so happy ot see that someone else thinks that dead space 2 is the game of the year. From sound to plot the game is flat out awesome.
  • xarab4lyfex - December 12, 2011 9:53 p.m.

    Top 5 for me 1.Skyward Sword 2.Catherine 3.Uncharted 3 4.Skyrim 5.Mario 3D Land Biggest Dissapointment - Batman:Arkham City. Not a bad game, but certainly didn't live up to the expectations. Arkham Asylum and its creepy environment > Arkham City and it's boring winterland. Heres hoping Arkham World isn't a shorter campaign than Shadows of the Damned like Arkham City was. Oh and no more Catwoman. I don't need a large revealing pair of titties beating up my favorite villains when Batman should be. .....And no more boring side missions, I couldn't give a damn about Freeze's wife when I could of been kicking Two-Faces ass (who only got 10 minutes of airtime)
  • Cloud1Fair3 - December 12, 2011 9:18 p.m.

    I'm going with Uncharted 3. Yeah, a little lacking in story, but it's a game. Gameplay as always was top notch and exciting, all the best moments of the series other than fighting a helicopter on a train, nothing tops that moment in gaming. Also, has anyone else even played Resistance 3? I'm currently addicted. Good stuff, I'll need to buy my online pass sooner or later.
  • Hig1134 - December 14, 2011 6:49 a.m.

    I have Resistance 3 and absolutely loved it! Best shooter campaign in a while, even better than Killzone 3. Loved that one too though.
  • gilgamesh310 - December 12, 2011 1:33 p.m.

    I really fail to see what David Houghton sees in Bulletstorm. The stuff he described about modern FPS's being too linear, scripted pacing and scenes that play themselves all pertain to Bulletstorm as well! Just because it has the skillsht system, doesn't mean it's a revolution of a game. Most of the moves go redundant anyway. I don't think it adds much to the game at all.
  • n00b - December 12, 2011 7:39 a.m.

    King of Fighters 13 GOTY for me i just started playing it but damn its so good. its a shame that this game probably wont be too well recognized in the upcoming goty awards
  • minimaxi - December 12, 2011 8:54 a.m.

    how's the online compared to SSF4 and UMvC3?
  • OhUltra - December 12, 2011 8:31 p.m.

    It's god awful. The only times it's been good for me were when a friend and I were about 4 hours away from each other in a private lobby. I still love this game, though. Even if it won't let me use my stick and I have to use a shitty pad. I can deal for now.
  • minimaxi - December 12, 2011 1:30 a.m.

    my goty is Witcher 2 :) followed by Gears of War 3. the only game I haven't played that could change my decision is Deus Ex (I don't click with elder scrolls series, so far!)
  • TheSatur9 - December 12, 2011 12:13 a.m.

    Mr. Houghton please do not compare video games to mammoths in a derogatory form, for I am sure it undermines their self-esteem to some extent. Best Regards. The Satur9
  • BaraChat - December 11, 2011 11:25 p.m.

    Not finished : Skyward Sword, which is on its way to the top of the class. Not started yet : Skyrim, who am I kidding, it'll definitely be top 5! That being said, my current top 5 of 2011 would be : 1. Batman : Arkham City 2a. Portal 2 2b. Uncharted 3 (Can't decide between the two of them) 3. Deus Ex : Human Revolution 4. Forza 4 5. Battlefield 3 (let's just forget the campaign...)
  • D0CCON - December 11, 2011 8:38 p.m.

    I'm going to go out on a limb and say Grimm would have picked Deus Ex, but that was too mainstream and to seem more like a hipster, it would be better to make fun of Halo.