20 - Call of Duty 8 / Modern Warfare 3 (PS3, 360, PC)
These are confusing times for Call of Duty. We know for sure that Activision will release another entry in 2011 – because, hey, it's Activision – but for the first time in years, we have no other idea what to expect. Will Infinity Ward manage to finish the third Modern Warfare after losing half its original staff in 2010? Or will the newest Call of Duty developer, Sledgehammer, fill in with a sci-fi version instead? Maybe both?
Uncertainty compels us to leave Call of Duty at the bottom of our Top 20, but ironically enough, it's that same uncertainty – the knowledge that this year could change the series forever – that has us the most excited.
19 - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3DS (3DS)
As the game company with the largest legacy to exploit, Nintendo loves to sell us the same stuff over and over. But despite Ocarina of Time being one of the most beloved and highest-scoring games of all time, it hasn’t really been updated or meddled with since its 1998 debut.
Until this year that is, when Nintendo releases a 3DS version that also appears to enhance the game’s aging graphics. Throw in a few other tweaks (better menu navigation, quick-equip options, murder the water temple) and we’re down. We should know more about this very soon…
18 - Pokémon Black / White (DS)
Whether you're a diehard Pokémon fan who's played through each generation of Pokémon games since Red and Blue, used to be into Pokémon but gave it up long ago, or even if you're a total newcomer to the series, Pokémon Black / White is worth a look.
It represents a rebirth for the series in a sense, because the main story contains only brand-new Pokémon (no reusing Zubat and Geodude in every cave), plus it feels a little more grown-up than previous generations. Expect the same level of deeply strategic turn-based battles (now with three-on-three mode!), as well as some added bells and whistles for DSi, like Wi-Fi video chat.
17 - Dragon Age II (PS3, 360, PC)
The first Dragon Age was high fantasy at its finest with a strategically minded combat system, an epic story, and memorable characters. And then there was the blood; we bathed in it, turning our party into a gang of blood spattered brothers in arms as we hacked and slashed our way through anyone and anything in our way.
But BioWare is upping the stakes with the upcoming sequel. This time, we’re going to get a truly historic story that spans an entire decade, a streamlined combat system that feels more responsive, a deeper dialogue system, and of course, the ultraviolent gore that made the original so satisfying.
16 - Mortal Kombat (PS3, 360)
As a series, MK has been on the good side of shaky for a long, long time now, but it’s always excelled at providing raw, knuckle-on-face satisfaction. The upcoming reinvention promises more of that than ever, with a return to 2D fighting, organ-shattering attacks rendered in X-ray cutaways, and the most brutal Fatalities the series has seen in years.
Honestly, more than anything else, we’re excited by Kung Lao’s now-infamous sawblade-bisection move – if that’s what they’re showing right off the bat, imagine what kind of cringe-inducing brutality we’ll see once the full game is available. The basic fighting is good, relatively simplistic fun, too, so there’s a lot to look forward to here.
15 - Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds (PS3, 360)
We’ve already had a bunch of hands-on time with an early MvC3 build – here’s the video to prove it – and we’re more excited than ever to get our hands on the final product. The game is absolutely gorgeous, and while the slower game speed may turn off old school players, it’s much more approachable than MvC2 or even SSFIV.
The game’s player card system provides detailed info about your strengths and weaknesses helping pinpoint the player’s problem areas. On top of the technical aspects is the badass factor in seeing Ryu go toe to toe with Thor as Magneto and Hulk shoot lasers and boulders from the sidelines.
14 - Bulletstorm (PS3, 360, PC)
This game is gonna sneak up on you. Gears of War 3 is the known franchise from Epic Games in 2011, and clearly the more anticipated, but Bulletstorm could very well end up being the more visceral, satisfying and memorable experience. Definitely the more original.
Even comparing the two might be unfair, though, as Gears of War is a third-person shooter and Bulletstorm is a first-person EVERYTHING ELSE. What do you call combat that enables you to hook an enemy with an electric whip, pull him towards your waiting boot and then kick him into a nearby cactus spike while simultaneously blowing his head off? What genre combines Mortal Kombat, God of War and Prince of Persia? Guess we'll have to invent a new one.
13 - Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS)
As we settled in for another Nintendo press conference at last year’s E3, we had no idea Kid Icarus would reappear for the first time since 1991, and would do so in one of the most dizzyingly amazing trailers of the entire show. You’ll take to the air in on-rails shooter levels that have you zipping and dodging enemy fire a la Sin & Punishment or Panzer Dragoon, then hit the ground for some scaled-down DmC action.
Our recent hands-on confirmed how much the 3D aspect added to the experience, and we can’t wait to play the full thing. Nearly 20 years of waiting for a game that looks to deliver the goods? Now that’s inspiring.
12 - Ico and Shadow of the Colossus: The Collection (PS3)
Whaaaa? How can HD remakes of two PS2 games (one from 2001, the other 2005) make it this far up the list? Because they’re two of the most brilliant, atmospheric, melancholic and ethereal games ever created, now birthed into the modern generation with fully redone visuals and widescreen support.
ICO was one of the earliest PS2 greats, starring a horned boy and his spirit-like gal pal Yorda. Their connection, both literal and metaphysical, grows immensely throughout the game (and they’re a cute couple to boot), and then Shadow of the Colossus… man, where to start. Epic. Moving. Powerful. Truly a collection that’s not to be missed.
11 - Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PS3, 360, PC)
Yeah, we know a lot of you were disappointed by the last Deus Ex sequel, but we’re betting developer Eidos Montreal can take the lessons that came from that misstep and make something better. A prequel to the first Deus Ex, Human Revolution explores what it means to be human in a world where cybernetic body modification has run rampant, and also how those modifications relate to the act of infiltrating secret facilities and killing a bunch of dudes.
Human Revolution also promises to emphasize player choice, with multiple options for tackling nearly every goal, so as long as it’s less dumbed-down this time around, it’s got our attention.
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