Another year is almost up, and another semester done. While there was a copious amount of video game releases in 2011, not all of them stood out as fantastic investments. Conversely, there were a lot of great ones like “Deus Ex,” “Dead Space,” and “Dragon Age,” but the following five count down my picks for this year’s best of the best.
5) “Shadows of the Damned,” Published by EA, made by Grasshopper Manufacture
When a game comes along and the premise is so wild and self-aware it doesn’t care, you get a game like “Shadows of the Damned.” With penis jokes out the wazoo and crazy good gameplay (from the creator of “Resident Evil”), you know its going to be fun. Couple this with great dialogue, while a romp through Hell, demon storybooks and demon phone sex operators, and you’ve got a recipe for a satisfying round of debauchery.
4) “Super Mario 3D Land,” Nintendo
The bliss of “Super Mario 3D Land” is that it is a 3D Mario game. Marry this with the fact that you can play it anywhere, and you have an unhealthy addiction. Despite the graphical upgrade, Mario goes back to his roots, and the raccoon suit, in order to save the princess. There are eight worlds to explore, but there are another eight special worlds as well. These are what really makes the game. Platforming in three dimensions has been refined so well in this work of art that it’ll hook you more than any platformer since the 90s.
3) “Portal 2,” Valve Software
When a sleeper hit game gets a sequel, people take note. They also hope that the game doesn’t suck, and lives up to what they want it to be. Case in point is “Portal 2.” Besides all the humor, the graphics, and the writing, the game is pure fun. Thinking while in first person with portals is really one of the ways to get your brain working in ways that it hasn’t done before. And the cooperative play is one of the purist in years. Going over to a buddy’s house to play it with a few drinks is great fun. The co-op experience is just awesome, period.
2) “The Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim,” Bethesda
This is not a game, it’s an experience. You truly live this wild life the way you want. A thief mage with a heart of gold that can play the lute? Sure. A conjuror mage with a penchant for purloining other’s goods? Why not! A general annoyance on the world, setting fire on all flora and fauna while being a lute playing savior assassin? Go for it. The game has the great balance of exploration and content, making it reason enough to play games at all this year.
1) “Catherine,” Atlus
“Catherine” is one of the games that was under the radar for a while prior to its release. The strange and very adult story of Vincent and his K/Catherines hooked hundreds of players this summer. With the story focusing on adult relationships and hard themes, “Catherine” gives you reason to fall in love with games and their narratives all over again. Multiple endings, saving your fellow bar patrons, tons of twists, big reveals and hard-as-nails puzzle mechanics really creates one of the greatest titles of the year. It is so weird that you can’t not love it.