We forgive you. 2011 was a stupidly crazy busy year for videogames, and unless you neglected sleeping, eating and breathing, there was literally no way you could play every great release.
But! Whether you get to them now that the holidays are here, get to them in the emptier early months of next year, or simply get to them at some point in your life, you need to experience the following seven titles. While they may not have sold as well as the likes of Skyrim, Modern Warfare and Batman, or received as much attention as the likes of Portal, Mario and Uncharted, they’re often just as amazing. Sometimes better.
7. Yakuza 4
A few reasons you forgot to play Yakuza 4: it's the fourth entry in a decidedly Eastern-leaning series that makes no apologies for potential cultural barriers, it's about Japanese gangsters, and there are more characters in it than even the most accessible Russian novel.
If you can still find the game on shelves, however, here are a few reasons it’s totally worth checking out: you can pick up motorcycles and slam them against yakuza-wannabe's jaws, try your hand at running a hostess bar, become part of the foodie elite by seeking out every secret restaurant, or receive a sensual massage (really). That’s in addition to the main story, which examines why four people from wildly different backgrounds chose a life of crime, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. You’ll spend dozens of hours exhausting everything each character can possibly do in this massive city.
Grand Theft Auto might be our closest approximation to Yakuza 4 in America, but that's really an unfair comparison, as Yakuza is more focused on keeping the action varied, interesting, and, well, warranted. From daring rooftop chases with perverts in diapers to subdued prison breaks, Yakuza 4 offers some of this year's most memorable moments – for those who played it, anyway.
GamesRadar’s review of Yakuza 4
Was it the glut of XBLA games that washed through your dashboard's ad space, or was it the fact that by the time it dropped on PSN, you were already knee deep in free Welcome Back games? Either way, Outland is a game that undoubtedly deserved to be on your playlist.
It's a game that combines several proven gameplay mechanics to concoct a surprisingly stout platformer. Imagine the best elements of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Metroid, then add a twist of Ikaruga's on-the-fly switching between color coding to battle different shades of enemy, and you've got a pretty good idea of how it plays.
Outland is also a sleek-looking game with fluid animation and a unique art style. Its shadow-puppet-themed presentation is a real standout, and it does a great job of highlighting how important your palette switching is to surviving its challenging environments. So, yeah, you should really feel terrible that you've deprived yourself of such a fascinating action platformer for as long as you have. Maybe you could remedy that?