That Time Again: AUN’s Top 10 Games of 2011

Jesus. It’s been a year already? What a year it’s been for AUN. Feels like I just banged out the top 10 games of 2010 article looking for a couple of page views. Oh, how we’ve grown since then. Just look at that whacky old logo. Heh. AUN has played a LOT of games in 2011. Like, a shitload. This year was CRAZY. Easily the biggest Fall lineup since probably 2007 and without a doubt the best. Without further ado, here we go.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

League of Legends

While this one came out at the end of 2009, there’s no doubt it’s popularity skyrocketed to dominance in 2011. A Dota-esque multiplayer game developed by Riot Games, it’s one of the most addicting experiences you’ll have on a computer. It doesn’t hurt that the game is free to play. This one got pretty much the entire AUN staff addicted to it within 24 hours of playing it for the first time and is still regularly played by us and millions of people. The item buying system combined with strategy and tons of different champions to choose from makes this always a fun (and sometimes frustrating) time for almost any computer (it isn’t very hard to run). If you haven’t tried it, do it. Plain and simple.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

This one came out just about 10 days ago(officially) but has been in my hands for a few weeks now, on top of playing closed betas etc. Bioware’s long awaited Star Wars MMO is here, and by god, is it amazing. While it won’t be a “WoW killer” solely because the fanbase is just too large for WoW, it tops WoW in my book. The cinematic experience of talking and have a conversation with every NPC in traditional Bioware fashion really makes a difference over a page of text popping up telling you where to go. Another feature I’ve loved so far is companions. Similar to say, Skyrim‘s companions, every part on them can be equipped with new items in the same fashion your own character can. There’s already tons of guilds, raids etc. It doesn’t hurt that the game’s universe takes place on multiple PLANETS, not to mention you can explore space with your own ship that you can customize and also battle in. Or you know, just chill in space. While it’s technically 10 days old, Star Wars The Old Republic has already been titled by much of AUN, and many (based on me looking around different forums) as “the best MMO I have ever played.” I agree. Pick it up immediately.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

I’m sorry, guys. I really dropped the ball on this one. Between just everything going on around the time it came out, I didn’t get a chance to check this one out enough to consider it reviewed. “This should be number one!,” I feel readers will say. Honestly once I play enough of it, I feel like I’ll be saying that as well. Or at least somewhere in the countdown. I will say though that combine the art style with the fabulous motion controls and crazy awesome puzzles and this is one hell of a Zelda game. IGN even called it the best Zelda game ever made. That’s well, pretty good. Like I said, it is amazing, no doubt about it. But it isn’t fair of me to put in a game that I haven’t fully played. That being said, you should go play Skyward Sword immediately, because I do agree it is once again, hold on to your butts, the best Zelda game ever created.

#10: Gears of War 3

In September, we were given the alleged conclusion to the Gears of War franchise. I only say alleged because well, look at the Halo franchise. In any case, Gears of War 3 provided a fitting, epic end to one of Microsoft’s premiere exclusives while somehow tweaking the formula to the multiplayer in such a way that made me want to actually play it. The campaign, while not adding too much in terms of new gameplay, did have me on the edge of my seat throughout the whole game. Between the crazy enormous boss fights to a shocking cinematic halfway through the game to the satisfying end, it was one of the best campaigns I played all year. The multiplayer was also fantastic. As somebody who was never a fan of Gears’ multiplayer, they did…something to make it work a lot better and be much more enjoyable. Cap this off by adding tower defense to the very popular horde mode, and a new mode that let you play as the locust trying to get to the COGs and you have some really addicting and unique multiplayer modes for a familiar gameplay. Even the most anti-Gears multiplayer guy like myself couldn’t stop playing it. A new campaign DLC has just been released that adds about 3-4 hours of new gameplay. At this point, you don’t have an excuse to see what the conclusion is all about. This is the best game of the franchise, hands down. AUN.

#9 Total War: Shogun 2

On March 15th, 2011 developer The Creative Assembly gave us their latest entry in the Total War franchise. A franchise best known for it’s kickass campaign system and strategic battles featuring thousands of units on the battlefield at once, Shogun 2 was no exception. While Total War has always been one of my favorite franchises out there, I didn’t much care for Empire. It wasn’t that it wasn’t good (it was great), but taking place during a period of Napoleonic warfare and muskets, it changed everything you loved about the game. Shogun 2 brought the game back to its roots of melee combat, archers, two sides charging at each other and siege warfare. Shogun 2 also made ship battles, something introduced in Empire, much better because the units in the time period are now rowing by hand instead of relying on the wind. This allowed for much more precise movement and attack strategies. The Japan influence shines through from the artwork in the menus, to the playing map, to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War influencing what the AI does. The introduction of leaders and generals having special abilities on the battlefield really changed everything and siege battles became much more focused on defending the interior as opposed to the walls. Factor in the awesome co-op campaign for 2 players or up to 8 player battles online and this game is guaranteed to keep you busy. The roughly $1 “Blood Pack” that was released for the game not long ago is a first in the series, featuring blood and dismemberment, definitely showed progression from the development team. With an already awesome DLC campaign available and another standalone expansion on the way this coming March, Shogun 2 is the best Total War game yet. AUN.

#8 Dead Space 2

The year kicked off right when Visceral’s Dead Space 2 scared the bejesus out of us on January 25th, 2011. The original Dead Space definitely took tons of people by surprise. The dark, sound driven game set in space was definitely a nod to the movies of Alien meanwhile sky rocketing to be one the scariest and best times you’d have with a video game. That is, until Dead Space 2 was released. Dead Space 2 did everything bigger and better. The game took place on an entire space city as opposed to just a ship, making you feel all that much more alone. Literally right from the beginning, you’re running for your life and not looking back. Isaac returned from the first and the team gave him a really great story this time around. He is almost fully mentally unstable due to the events of the first. The game’s use of holograms guiding you as opposed to a HUD really made you feel by yourself because you didn’t know what lay ahead in the next room really set the mood. Top all of this off with the sound design (I played the game with Turtle Beach’s and all the lights off, the only way), scary as shit enemies popping out at you without any warning and the zero-G puzzles that you actually navigated this time around instead of simply jumping from one side to the other, definitely set the new standard for survival horror games. The addition of multiplayer seemed like some add on for most people, but it turned out to actually be rather addictive. It followed the formula of Left 4 Dead, plotting you and up to 3 others against different kinds of creatures (AI or up to 4 on the creature team) trying to stop you from doing your objective. On top of this, a DLC campaign was available two months later adding two more chapters to an already lengthy experience. With a third game pretty much confirmed, things can only get scarier from here. AUN.

#7 Dead Island

It was in February that the world was shown the first trailer for Dead Island, a game originally announced 5 years ago at E3 2006. The trailer was probably one of the best trailers of anything (and still is), as it went viral immediately. Finally, the game was released on September 6th. Dead Island is the definitive zombie game, hands down. When you talked to anybody about what zombie game they would like to see, this was the game they described. An open world up to 4 player FPSRPG similar to Fallout, but with zombies. Your individual character leveled as you and your pals did quests ranging from gathering food for survivors at an HQ, to hopping in a pickup and transporting gasoline back to the base. Again, all with scary as shit, throat ripping zombies sprinting you down. The game made use of melee weapons over guns, only adding to the atmosphere of a disease strucken island. The zombies have some of the best damage physics in any game. For example, you slice at a leg a certain way, and that leg is coming off in that same way, leaving tissue and bone exposed. The amount of weapons was enormous, only getting bigger by combining things to make crazy weapons such as a machete with a car battery attached to it that shocks anything it touches. While the story itself was pretty iffy, this is the best zombie game out right now, easily. On November 3rd, developer Techland registered the trademarked name, “Dead World.” AUN.

#6 LA Noire

My favorite developer/publisher, anytime Rockstar does pretty much anything, you know it’s going to pop up in a top or game of the year list. Red Dead Redemption was AUN’s GOTY last year, for example. You just cannot stop Rockstar. LA Noire was no exception. Originally announced in 2005, we finally caught a glimpse of it at PAX East this year. It finally released on May 17th. The 1940s crime story took inspiration from all sorts of classic crime movies and novels, real life cases such as the Black Dahlia (which was even incorporated into the game) and music of the era to deliver one hell of a final result. If Rockstar knows anything, it’s time period pieces. LA Noire made use of Lightsprint’s new global lighting tech, as well as Motionscan, where actors are filmed by 32 individual cameras, catching every expression they make. The final result was some of the best graphics the industry has ever seen. You play as Cole Phelps, an up and coming detective in 1947 Los Angeles. While the game had a very detailed open world Los Angeles, the game revolved around deception and interrogation. While you can do tons of combat missions, your main goal is dealing with the perps. It was almost like playing an episode of Law and Order that never ends, and you don’t want it to. Because of Motionscan, you could tell if a suspect was lying or not. You also have to find clues at the crime scenes in order to get more dirt on the suspects. LA Noire definitely set a new bar for what we can do with games, proving further that games are an art on their own and not just something people play. While dev Team Bondi ended up being liquidated and assets were sold to a multimedia firm, shooting a whole controversy about the production of the game into the media, it definitely is one hell of a good time and should not be missed. Rockstar forever. AUN.

#5 Batman Arkham City

Batman Arkham Asylum was easily one of the best games in 2009. The amazing strung-together combat mixed with Zelda-like puzzles left everybody craving more. Just a handful of months after it’s release, Rocksteady Studios revealed a sequel called Batman Arkham City at the 2009 VGAs. Cut to October 19th of this year, and boom, here it is. Arkham City took everything you loved about the original and brought it to a whole new level. You’re not in a prison anymore, you’re in an entire city. This changes things up quite a bit because now you have the possibility of attacking from anywhere, scaring your enemies even more. This gets mixed together with a slew of new gadgets and weapons at your disposal. Ever wanted to be Batman? Play this game. This series is the closest thing to actually putting on a bat costume and failing miserably at actually trying to be Batman. The game has an equally impressive, dark story bringing back old villains while mashing in a bunch of new (recognizable) ones. In addition to the lengthy main quest, there’s a bunch of side missions to be had, resulting in some unexpected characters making their debut from the good and bad side. While I won’t spoil any, some were pretty awesome to finally see (or see again). The brutal, combo combat mixed with the puzzle and stealth gameplay is easily what makes this better than the first, which is hard to top. As a dude who loves Batman, play it immediately. As a dude who loves video games in general, play it immediately. AUN.

#4 Portal 2

In 2007, a little game called Portal blew our minds forever with it’s unique puzzle gameplay. For three whole years, everybody could not stop playing it, or shut the fuck up about lying desserts. That was until 2010 when Portal 2 was officially announced. On April 19th of this year, it arrived. Portal 2 took everything to an entire new level. It wasn’t just the mind blowing puzzles that got significantly harder as the game passed, it was the writing. Portal 2 has some of the most memorable characters, dark humor and just overall writing of any game ever. And it’s a puzzle game! From Wheatley to Cave Johnson to GlaDoS, you’re always laughing. The game psyches you out and thinks you’re done. Nope! Turns out you get thrown three different kinds of paints with three different effects. You use these in collaboration with your portal gun to make for some of the best (and most headache inducing) gameplay out there. The game’s soundtrack is also not one to be missed. While the game’s ending will probably be a new meme for the next three goddamned years, it was an honor to play through this one. AUN.

#3 Uncharted 3 Drake’s Deception

Uncharted 2 was, and still is, one of my top 10 games of all time. When Uncharted 3 came out on November 1st, it joined that list. Naughty Dog has come out of nowhere the last few years to make the PS3’s flagship franchise, and there’s no reason to say otherwise. The Indiana Jones/The Mummy-esque adventure platformer has only improved with each new title. This one focused on the relationship between Drake and Sully as they venture to help each other, old friends, and find the Atlantis of the desert, Ubar. As usual, the scale of action is unmatched. From hanging on a chandelier in a slowly sinking cruise ship, looking out an enormous picture window to see only ocean about to burst through, to a horseback/car shootout, to a fist fight on a crashing plane and more, you’ve got yourself one hell of a game. The usual amazing camera work mixed with little touches such as Drake putting his hand on the walls that you walk by really brings the game to life. You can cap all this off with an excellent story and one of the best orchestral soundtracks I’ve heard in a game and you have Uncharted 3. This is the best game of the franchise (thus far, fingers crossed) and will easily make you want to play it over and over. The addictive multiplayer also returns to continuously breathe life into the game. Naughty Dog is currently working on The Last of Us, but I have a feeling Drake’s adventures are far from over. AUN.

#2 Battlefield 3

No game has brought me as much joy in teamwork and just overall playing it than Battlefield 2. No game. I played it for years. From it’s release until probably about January of this year, I couldn’t stop because it was so fun. Finally, finally, finally, Battlefield 3 was announced. DICE had been working on this one for close to seven years, and boy did they ever deliver on it. While the campaign seemed like it was more of a back burner to show off the engine and graphics (a new trend for the franchise), the multiplayer delivered. It brought back everything I loved about all those years in BF2. Especially required teamwork. You blatantly will not win unless you work together. Something a good chunk of FPS’ do not have at all. The level designs are excellent. There isn’t one map in the game that I don’t enjoy. You mix this with the Battlelog, a way to check your stats for literally everything, and the excellent leveling system and you’re not putting this game down. Period. The Frostbite 2.0 engine is amazing. From hitting buildings with a rocket to expose the interior, to breaking up cover, to causing a building to kill an enemy by dropping debris on them, it changes the entire experience drastically and for the better. Right off the bat, BF3 also announced it would eventually release a “Back to Karkand” map pack, featuring four remade maps from BF2. Those were recently release and brought back so many memories. Needless to say, BF3 is a hell of a time whether you’re playing on a console with 24 people or on a PC with 64 others. Get it immediately. AUN.

#1 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Finally, we arrive at it. Did you honestly expect anything else? A year ago at the VGAs, Bethesda announced Skyrim and that it would be coming out 11/11/11. Well it sure as shit did and blew everybody’s mind, including me. Right from the opening menu featuring the theme of the Dragonborn, we were all sucked into a massive universe of fantasy and tough ass dudes. The graphics? Extraordinary. The gameplay? Addicting. Everything else? Perfect. You could literally spend 100 hours just walking around trying to find items because maybe you’re a hoarder. You can punch every grizzly bear in it’s mouth and burn down a village if you want. It’s all up to you. The constant need to get better loot, better equipment, that next quest. It immerses you, and you have zero desire to fight it. The Norwegian elements to the game really brought everything in a new direction. Borrowing some elements from Fallout, you don’t even know where to start. The entire experience is one long “hell yes,” and frankly you can’t put a time table on it. Hundreds upon hundreds of hours can be put into this game, and it’s only single player! The 680 page Prima Strategy guide, aka “The Holy Skyble,” physically shows you this one is going to eat up your life. If you haven’t experienced The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim yet, X out of this article, head to a store and buy it. You won’t regret it. Not one bit. AUN GOTY.

And that’s all she wrote, folks. It’s been a truly amazing year in gaming but with everything AUN has to look forward to in 2012, we can get better at what we do while having a ton of fun in the progress. Happy new year from us to you, and get on Steam to waste all of your money you stupid idiot.

About The Author: Brett

Brett founded NEG in 2010 because he's loved games his whole life. Combining his knowledge with others in the local gaming scene has resulted in something special. In addition to the website, he coordinates gaming charity events and works in digital marketing. His favorites are shooters and adventure games. He will also destroy you in any instrument in Rock Band or Guitar Hero (including singing).