The Platinum Chalice Awards 2011, Part 3 – Game of the Year

GAME OF THE YEAR 2011 (FOR REAL): Portal 2


This was hard. In the six years we’ve been handing out Platinum Chalices, no choice has divided and tested the GamesRadar team more. Usually, we have two obvious contenders and must simply decide between them – 2011, however, presented us with so many objectively outstanding games that even finalizing the list of five nominees was an emotionally charged challenge.

Then again, this wasn’t as hard as you'd think.

Once we focused on what the winner of this award should represent – the absolute best, no caveats, Game of the Year – Portal 2 was and is the clear winner. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is amazing, but only if you still love that familiar formula. The Witcher 2 is phenomenal, but requires an understanding of traditional PC RPG design to fully appreciate. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is life-consuming, but with the unfortunate multitude of bugs that plague it to this day, it’s also potentially soul-crushing. Batman: Arkham City is (cliché alert!) the greatest superhero game ever made, and came closest to taking the top spot, but would we recommend it to those who don’t like Batman or don’t like the styles of play it so impressively blends? Honestly, no.

Portal 2, though, is an experience we feel could and should be enjoyed by everyone – literally everyone. Portal 2 defies genre. To label it as a “puzzler” diminishes the genius with which those puzzles have been blended into the fabric of the world, so seamlessly that you don’t even realize you’re solving them, or how genius you’re becoming yourself through doing so. Portal 2 transcends the tropes, conventions and limitations of what we’ve come to expect and accept from interactive storytelling. You meet hugely memorable characters voiced by hugely talented celebrities, you uncover a deeply developed mythology, and you learn mind-shattering secrets about your own protagonist, yet all of this is accomplished without cutscenes, without excessive menus or prompts, and often without dialogue – the immersion is whole, complete, never broken. Portal 2 is exactly the right length. Every moment serves a purpose and no part is unnecessary padding, yet if you feel it’s too short, you can always lose hours finding the meticulously conceived Easter eggs or joining a friend for the equally one-of-a-kind multiplayer.

Portal 2, in other words, is as close to perfect and pure as a game can possibly get. At least this year. Your move, 2012.

READER’S CHOICE AWARD: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

While we’re confident and implacable in our Game of the Year decision, we also wanted to get YOUR opinion on the matter. To accomplish this, we started a Twitter poll and asked you, our highly intelligent and opinionated readers, to tell us what you thought.

At first, Skyrim seemed like an obvious choice to us, too – but as much as we love it, we can’t in good conscience award Game of the Year to a title plagued by so many bugs. Our readers don’t appear to be nearly as bothered by them, though, and Skyrim quickly emerged as the clear favorite.

@Bux007 called Skyrim “one of the most complete games I’ve played in 5 years,” and many who responded echoed similar sentiments. Clearly, the Dovahkiin’s gargantuan quest to save the Nords is resonating with a lot of you right now – and likely will for some time.

Runner-up: Batman: Arkham City

We didn’t actually declare a runner-up this year, instead opting for the field of five nominees you saw on the first page, but that doesn’t mean our readers can’t get one. In this case, Batman: Arkham City emerged as the second favorite. @PBC13 said it “achieved pretty much everything I ever wanted in a Batman game… or any game really,” and clearly a lot of you agreed.

Interestingly, Arkham City only narrowly beat out stiff competition from Dark Souls and Gears of War 3, the latter of which – in spite of being a great entry in the franchise – didn’t take home any awards from us this year. Portal 2 also made a significant showing in the votes, so at least some of you won’t be enraged by our winner.

That’s the end of our Platinum Chalice Awards for 2011. Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t already, and let us know what your winners are in the comments below!

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  • iamawesome27 - December 16, 2011 9:26 p.m.

    Thank you so, so much for not putting Skyrim as GOTY. I was very worried, as it is only my third favorite game of the year, behind Portal 2 and Pokemon. It's a good game, but I don't think it's as amazing as everyone has said.
  • BaraChat - December 16, 2011 10:43 p.m.

    That's a strange thing to say. Why would it even bother you if it was first? Would you feel sad or disappointed? It's their choice, not yours. I think it's pretty weird someone would feel worried then relieved by a choice that doesn't have any direct effect on them. Do you really feel the need for someone to agree with you (it's "only" my third favorite game). Well Portal 2 isn't mine (although it is awesome) and I don't give a flying poop it won or not. This is a very mind-boggling approach you have. On Topic, there were so many great games this year (honestly, one of the best years in gaming history) any choice would have been all right with me. So far mine would be Arkham City, but I haven't even finished Zelda, nor have I even slid my copy of Skyrim in my PS3, and there are MANY games of 2011 I haven't even tried yet (Saints Row The Third, Sonics Gen, Rayman, Kirby, Mario 3D, etc). On a year like that, gamers win anyway.
  • bobob101 - December 16, 2011 9:28 p.m.

    I knew Skyward Sword wasn't to win, but it has my love all the same.
  • playswithsquirrels - December 16, 2011 9:28 p.m.

    I was really hoping Portal 2 would win! Not that it losing to Skyrim or Batman or any other nominee would have mattered...or that Portal 2 winning actually matters to my opinion, but I'm glad the one site I read daily gave it to the game I would give my personal vote to.
  • iamawesome27 - December 16, 2011 9:28 p.m.

    Um, you guys put Arkham Asylum instead of Arkham city in the nominee list. This seems like a problem..
  • bobob101 - December 16, 2011 9:29 p.m.

    Good spotting
  • GamesRadarMikelReparaz - December 16, 2011 9:42 p.m.

    How embarrassing. Thanks for the catch!
  • playswithsquirrels - December 16, 2011 10:12 p.m.

    Is it bad that I have to think hard about which is which as I play the game?
  • ninjaemperor - December 16, 2011 9:29 p.m.

    Great choice guys! I won't say what won, in case I spoil it for someone, but it really was an excellent game.
  • V22Dreamcast - December 16, 2011 9:30 p.m.

    Can't complain...Portal 2 was a fatastic game. Although, I would have chosen Batman: AC. This was just a great year for games and so many deserved to be game of the year.
  • jasoncarter - December 16, 2011 9:36 p.m.

    This is one case where just have to completely disagree. I still just don't get why portal 2 is so great. Good yes, great? No. But hey, to each his own.
  • bitchassafriBLAMamericANTISTA - December 16, 2011 9:37 p.m.

    beat portal 2 in a week. forgot about it by may. and after all this time still no dlc for consoles come on!
  • playswithsquirrels - December 16, 2011 10:13 p.m.

    There is DLC...
  • smashpro1 - December 16, 2011 9:46 p.m.

    Saints Row: The Third was fucking robbed!
  • firelegendmush - December 16, 2011 9:49 p.m.

    I personally couldn't justify spending $60 on Portal 2 since it ends so quickly. Sure, it may be the greatest 10 hours (roughly) of your life, but then it's over.
  • NotBraze - December 16, 2011 9:59 p.m.

    Ok, you guys are making me second guess myself here. I had totally talked myself into calling Arkham City my personal game of the year with Portal 2 as a close second, but I agree with every single one of those gushing words you wrote about Portal 2. Portal 2 was a brilliant game and anyone who argues that it doesn't deserve this has no taste. No I have to face an internal struggle over which is *really* my game of the year.
  • itsgoodtobetheking - December 16, 2011 10:05 p.m.

    I think you guys nailed it on the head this year, Congrats
  • shawksta - December 16, 2011 10:23 p.m.

    Fair enough, Portal 2 didnt just be a better Portal, but Portal 2 is its own and not even close to calling it a Successor to Portal cause it made its own. Heh, I knew you guys just cant put Batman Down, it IS the best Super Hero game of all time until something else comes up thats not batman and did a better job. Witcher 2? No words can express, it was fantastic. Skyrim and Skyward Sword, Both Excellent games that was worth the 5-6 year wait along with Portal 2. and also praise for the awesome games this year that werent GOTY Nominee's! Gears 3, Uncharted 3, Ghost Trick, Pokemon B/W, those 2 shooters people want to have fanwars against, and all the other awesome games that shook 2011! Now, ONWARD 2012!
  • gondarpwns - December 16, 2011 11:30 p.m.

    i cant help but agree, but there should have been some other nominees. Sure they didnt do anything dramatic, but they did provide us for endless hours to waste our time on. Sure its not Skyrim, but i still as content wasting hours on GoW3 MP as anything else
  • sirdilznik - December 16, 2011 11:32 p.m.

    Portal 2 is a good choice. It's #2 in my opinion with Super Mario 3D Land being my personal Game of the Year, but since there seems to be some kind of law stating that a handheld title can't be Game of the Year (not a dig against GamesRadar, it's like that everywhere) then Portal 2 does indeed take the crown with The Witcher 2 being the next best game in my opinion.

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