Want to win every game in our top ten along with four consoles to play them all on? Then head over to our competition page – brought to youin association with Tritton headsets – by clicking here. **THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED**
Last year, our countdown of the best games of 2010 was originally supposed to be a mere top ten list, until we tallied up all of the year’s superlative software and arrived at a figure that was far closer to 30 than just 10. And exactly the same thing has happened this year, with well over thirty games being more than worthy of a slot in our top ten. A full countdown of the top 25 will be published here on Christmas Eve but in the meantime, here’s the list of our top ten favourite videogames of 2011….
10. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Seemingly under no pressure at all to follow up one of the greatest sequels ever made, Naughty Dog nonchalantly delivered something downright vintage. The opening forty-or-so minutes may have been commendably bold and unusual but they were also off-key and strangely unsatisfying, but after that contentious episode it morphed into a non-stop, grade A action rollercoaster. Every bit as classy and polished as expected, Drake’s Deception is a full-blooded summer blockbuster that had the courtesy to arrive out of season. [FULL REVIEW]
9. Mario Kart 7
The third handheld Mario Kart, and the third handheld classic. The formula hasn’t changed too much – you’ll still encounter more than your fair share of those exhilarating/infuriating instances of blind chance that now define the series – but this definitely isn’t the divisive party game free-for-all of Mario Kart Wii. Mario Kart 7 sees the series take a thoughtful step back towards the more hardcore likes of Mario Kart: Super Circuit, and the result couldn’t have been much more irresistible. Some fantastic new tracks too. [FULL REVIEW]
8. Battlefield 3
Even when you take the derivative and largely forgettable campaign into account, Battlefield 3 still coasted into our top ten with sure-footed ease. The multiplayer is predictably classic DICE; precise, addictive and very cannily designed. Those ridiculously proficient Swedish chefs perfected this recipe a long time ago, but almost all of the new, potentially disruptive gameplay additions only deepened and enhanced the number of possibilities on the field. If you’re a hardened connoisseur of the online FPS, this was almost certainly your game of the year. [FULL REVIEW]
7. Super Mario 3D Land
In short, an incandescent melding of Super Mario Galaxy 2 with Super Mario Bros. 3 and – in terms of overall quality and general panache – directly comparable with either. Super Mario 3D Land is as saturated with wit and invention as any game in Nintendo’s history, and is every bit as smartly paced. It’s a fawning tribute to two of Mario and Nintendo’s greatest ever titles, and it single-handedly turned the 3DS into a machine that’s now utterly essential for any serious gaming hobbyist. [FULL REVIEW]
6. Dark Souls
Without question 2011’s most singular gaming prospect; a punishing and compulsive descent into hell that featured one of the most relentlessly downbeat worlds in contemporary gaming. Dark Souls is a game that you don’t so much play as get assaulted by, but if you were willing to take on the nightmarish enterprise of its hero’s quest, and were prepared to use your own steely resolve as a tool to overcome it, you were in for easily one of the most exhilarating experiences of the year. [FULL REVIEW]
5. FIFA 12
FIFA 12 is the most dramatic stir-up of the series’ core fundamentals in over a decade. Ignoring the fact that the overall package was quite absurdly generous – giving you no fewer than six wildly substantial single-player gameplay modes, each capable of lasting theoretically forever – it was also easily the most realistic representation of the sport ever created. The amount of hard work, experimentation and general belligerence that must have gone into crafting FIFA 12 is frankly awe-inspiring. [FULL REVIEW]
4. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Whether it’s primarily down to the inclusion of dragons or to the developers’ newly ostentatious approach towards scriptwriting, Skyrim is unquestionably the most cinematic game that Bethesda has ever produced. As always, the engine that drives the game’s real plot is you, but the developer’s extensive window dressing has never been more delectable than it was here. Everything, from the huge action beats of the main plot to the ridiculously – ridiculously – bountiful collection of side-quests, were all written and constructed with exactly the same degree of meticulous attention. [FULL REVIEW]
3. Portal 2
Playing through Portal 2’s campaign was like sitting at the business end of an assembly line that dealt solely in the construction of bright ideas. It’s a game that deserves utmost kudos for having the guts to be constantly at odds with the way in which most modern videogames demand to be played; the difficulty was never overbearing, but hitting upon the solution involved real patience and vision. Arriving at those conclusions was never anything less than electrifying and victory felt unlike anything else, and the co-op was an enchanting, replay-welcoming joy. A masterpiece, and perhaps the least cynical sequel ever made. [FULL REVIEW]
2. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
The most streamlined and action-heavy Zelda game ever made, Skyward Sword boldly discarded those soft, between-mission interludes of hushed downtime that – for many – had come to define the series. The entire thing is essentially one gigantic dungeon, and for all of its narrative virility, Skyward Sword is simply a fantastic action game. Skyward Sword is also possibly Link’s finest hour, it features the true arrival of Princess Zelda as a three-dimensional character, and will almost certainly be Nintendo’s final killer app for the Wii. As denouements go, it is approximately faultless. [FULL REVIEW]
1. Batman: Arkham City
Despite the wealth of overwhelmingly stiff competition, for us there was only ever one victor. Rocksteady’s resplendent sequel was a marvel; a sandbox game with incomparably decisive narrative threads running through it, a rollicking action title buoyed by a rich and engaging plot, and a sprawling enterprise as polished and refined as something half its size. The fact that Rocksteady did all of this in just two years continues to beggar belief, but their graft was more than worth it; Arkham City unquestionably ushers the developer towards the summit of gaming’s premier league. [FULL REVIEW]
Want to win every game in our top ten along with four consoles to play them all on? Then head over to our competition page – brought to you in association with Tritton headsets – by clicking here. **THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED**
Honourable mentions: Sonic Generations, Kirby: Mass Attack, NBA 2K12, Dirt 3, Fight Night Champion, Xenoblade Chronicles, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, Crysis 2, Killzone 3, Bulletstorm, PES 2012, LittleBigPlanet 2, Dead Space 2, Football Manager 2012, Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon, NHL 12, Rayman: Origins.
Our upcoming Top 25 countdown will also include, in no particular order: Rage, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, The Witcher 2, Mortal Kombat, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Shadows of the Damned, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Homefront, Forza Motorsport 4, Total War: Shogun 2, Dead Island, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3, Driver: San Francisco, Saints Row: The Third.
Our complete list of the Top 25 Best Games of 2011 will be published on Christmas Eve.
Watch the Batman: Arkham City trailer below: