The Most Fun Games of 2011
What a year! 2011 has unleashed such a deluge of incredible titles across all genres and platforms that my backlog of games to play is a towering stack that looms larger than ever before.
With so many big hitters, it’s hard to know where to start with this mini-series of “end of the year round-up” articles. Over the final few weeks of the year I’ll be analyzing the highs and lows of 2011 for the games industry, its greatest achievements and biggest disappointments.
I’m going to start things off positively, since it was such a great year for gaming. Therefore, what follows is a list of the ten games I had the most fun playing in 2011.
Remember, these aren’t necessarily “the best” games of the year, as there are other titles that are technically more accomplished, engaging, visually impressive, etc. When making this list only one factor concerned me:
Which games gave me the most intense, uncomplicated, joyous hours of unadulterated fun?
…These ones did:
Orcs Must Die!
Developer/Genre/Platform: Robot Entertainment/Indie Tower Defense/PC, Xbox 360
Why Was it Fun? When the entirety of a game is devoted to killing cartoony orcs by shooting, stabbing, burning, crushing, freezing and launching them into the air, you know it’s going to be fun.
I cannot heap enough praise on this uniquely humorous, cool and oh-so-enjoyable tower defense gem. Fun is the first and foremost word to describe Orcs Must Die! as its simple but perfectly formed campaign of ever more exciting levels and deadly traps lets you keep on killing in a variety of clever and amusing ways.
Most Fun Moment: Catapulting dozens of orcs into an acid moat with my first trial of the Dwarven spring trap!
Batman: Arkham City
Developer/Genre/Platform: Rocksteady Studios/Stealth Action-Adventure/PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U
Why was it fun? Batman: Arkham City took everything that was good about Arkham Asylum and transferred it seamlessly to a bigger and more impressive setting without making it feel overstuffed with content.
With a more impressive range of utility belt accessories and combat moves, cracking skulls as the Dark Knight is more fun than ever.
Most Fun Moment: Finally hitting a perfect streak of using every combat move without getting hit. For a moment, I was Batman!
Developer/Genre/Platform: Bethesda/RPG/PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Why Was it Fun? Skyrim embodies all the finest elements of The Elder Scrolls series that Bethesda have worked so hard to develop. It features a vastly and gorgeous world to explore, with literally hundreds of hours of quests and activities which allow the player to craft a character almost exactly the way they want to.
Not only is there such a wealth of incredibly detailed environments to explore, the player’s interaction with the world is much smoother and more engaging this time round compared to the copious flaws in its predecessor, Oblivion.
Combat feels more fluid, spellcasting is visually spectacular and let’s not forget the greatest addition to the game: the dragon shouts!
Most Fun Moment: Using my force push shout to send a cheeky bandit flying off a bridge spanning a ravine after he tried to shake me down. Fus Ro Dah!
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Developer/Genre/Platform: Eidos Montreal/Action, RPG/PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Why Was it Fun? Not only did DX:HR stun gamers with its spectacular visual style and deep, philosophically charged story, it was also a hell of a lot of fun unleashing all of Adam Jensen’s augmentation technology.
If you love to sneak around, the game lets you have a personal cloaking field. If you love to wipe out your enemies loudly and messily, it gives you a personal homing rocket launcher grafted to your body!
However you want to play, DX:HR gives you a variety of awesome tools and gadgets to get the job done.
Most Fun Moment: Gliding down from a rooftop looking super-smooth, thanks to my Icarus landing system, before landing on two hapless guards and slicing them up with retractable arm blades.
Developer/Genre/Platform: Valve/Puzzle platformer/PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Why Was it Fun? Much like Batman: Arkham City, Portal 2 had the extremely difficult task of trying to top a near-perfect game. Fortunately, Portal 2 managed to emulate the quirky, slightly disturbing humor of Portal as well as introducing a whole variety of new and exciting ways to start thinking with portals.
Most Fun Moment: Using the blue and orange gels to create a super fast running-jump to catapult gel to the next platform. So much fun… for science!
Developer/Genre/Platform: Supergaint Games/Indie Action RPG/PC, XBLA
Why was it fun? A simple story, beautifully told. Bastion combines great storytelling with a simple yet addictive set of combat mechanics with an impressive variety of ranged and melee weapons.
Most Fun Moment: Letting rip with a fully upgraded Fang Repeater, so satisfying!
Saints Row the Third
Developer/Genre/Platform: Volition Inc/Open-world Action adventure/PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Why Was it Fun? Like its predecessors, Saints Row the Third only has one thing on its mind: letting you run riot. Insane weapons, vehicles, enemies and costumes are the name of the game here. Over-the-top fun is the best way to describe the ride that Volition Inc have prepared for you.
Most Fun Moment: The explosive opening sequence is crazy fun from start to finish (no spoilers) and needs to be seen to be believed.
Developer/Genre/Platform: Techland/First person horror action-adventure/PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Why Was it Fun? Where most zombie games load you up with an insane amount of guns and ammunition, Dead Island goes low-tech but high-fun with a vast array of homemade melee weapons for you to batter the undead senseless with.
Most Fun Moment: Making my first perfect decapitation swipe with my homemade shock-machete with car batteries hooked up to it.
Dragon Age 2
Developer/Genre/Platform: BioWare/RPG/PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Why Was it Fun? Although it definitely had its fair share of problems, Dragon Age 2 still managed to provide me with a hugely enjoyable RPG romp. Its characters were mostly memorable and it was a fun, if occasionally frustrating challenge to manage their relationship with the protagonist, Hawke.
Though many fans of Dragon Age: Origins hated the new, fast-paced style of combat, I have to say that I enjoyed it as it led to some truly impressive moments of cross-class combo madness.
Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but DA2 still has a lot to offer in terms of a well-crafted RPG story (despite the shitty ending) backed up by solidly entertaining gameplay.
Most Fun Moment: The spectacular pitched battle at the end of Act 2 with the Quanari Arishok.
Total War: Shogun 2
Developer/Genre/Platform: Creative Assembly/Turn-based strategy with RTS battles/PC
Why Was it Fun? Shogun 2 refines the grand strategy and breathtaking scale of the Total War series to an art form. Combat is more fluid and visually impressive than ever, with a better user interface and manageable roster of units.
Let’s not forget that you can train and personalize your own deadly team of Ninja, perhaps the best new feature of the Total War series to date.
Most Fun Moment: Unleashing my legendary Ninja on my biggest rival clan. Things got messy, Kill Bill style.
Roll on 2012
As an incredible year for gaming draws to a close, I can’t wait to see how 2012 tries to top it. To see what was big last year, check out my list of the most fun games of 2010.