2011: a great year in PC gaming, as far as we here at TPG are concerned. From the AAA titles we’ve held our breath for, to underground mods that blindsided us, here is a list of our individual top games of the year (and the reasons they made the grade). For all you last minute shoppers out there, you’ve still got a week to grab them before the new year’s games start to roll in, so make sure to pick them up while the holiday sales are still going strong. While most of our titles were released in 2011, there are a few we were so impressed with, we just could not pass up the opportunity to mention them.
Fallout: New Vegas
Though Skyrim’s hot right now, it’s still a limiting experience compared to the latest Fallout epic. Obsidian has crafted a truly powerful role-playing experience, writing up some of the most mature and human stories in the genre while copypasting everything that was good about Bethesda games. Install Project Nevada for maximum enjoyment.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
There’s some delicious irony in the fact that it took a smaller dev team to teach the rest of us how to play a horror game again. Frictional Games has been making top-notch fear simulators since 2007, and Amnesia is their most refined product yet.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Likewise, Bethesda has been making top-notch plate-stealing simulators since 2003, and Skyrim is their most refined product yet. Come to have your faith in the game industry restored, stay to have your faith in the modding community reaffirmed.
For two years, Minecraft has been challenging the way we think of gaming. From its goalless sandbox-toy gameplay mechanics to its shockingly retrograde graphics to its buy-it-during-development price plan, nearly every notable thing about this game was a punch to the groin of convention, and people loved it. Last month, it was finally “released.”
The students of DigiPen have taught me more about how to play a driving game than any “real” developer out there. Nitronc Rush delivers a mind-blowingly effective combination of gameplay, music, and visuals, and is the most fun I’ve had with the genre since playing F-Zero for the first time. The best part? It’s 100% free.
Treasure Adventure Game
A sprawling 2D open-world platforming adventure that’s challenging, charming, and free!
A funny, creative, and unlikely hybrid of rhythm games and RPGs. It feels like a console port (which it totally is), but don’t let that stop you from checking it out.
Cthulhu Saves The World
I have a weakness for anything that even remotely references Lovecraft’s so-called “Cthulhu Mythos,” so I was predisposed to enjoy this game. The fact that it’s also a funny and well-designed lightweight RPG cements it as one of my greatest gaming pleasures of the year.
Avadon: The Black Fortress
You’d be hard-pressed to get me to voluntarily spend more than 5 hours with a single game, but Avadon’s tense plot and old-school charms kept me hooked for 46.
Magicka came out in January, but I only recently got into it (right after the release of its Lovecraft-inspired expansion The Stars Are Left, which I swear was a complete coincidence), and it’s turning out to be a witty, well-written action game with an innovative, though sometimes cumbersome, magic system.
Emotion is a hard thing to convey in a plausible manner in video games, yet Bastion set the bar higher than any other game to date thus far. A combination of an award-winning soundtrack, slick gameplay, and a symphony of color ties together an unforgettable experience that shows a misguided industry how to properly execute a memorable experience with class.
Consider me a convert, because before Trendy released this gem, tower defense games were nothing more than a silly iOS time-waster to me. With a look reminiscent of Borderlands and the lesser known Dark Cloud 2, and the simple strategic addiction that the Advance Wars series is known for, Dungeon Defenders is an incredible party game with brains.
There is something to be said about a game that allows the player to craft a fulfilling experience without even pursuing the main story. The sheer amount of options and paths an individual can take is staggering, and unlike Oblivion, stopping to smell the flowers always seems to reveal a screenshot-worthy moment of beauty. It didn’t take more than a few hours to realize that I had once again succumbed to the engrossing behemoth of an adventure that only Bethesda knows how to craft.
The Stanley Parable
Simple, short and sweet. This game quietly came onto the scene using the Half-Life 2 engine to cobble together an experience where I found myself smiling all the way through. With little to no physical interaction, players find themselves making simple choices, with sometimes undesirable consequences, to advance a cleverly narrated adventure that lasts a little longer then brewing a cup of tea.
A game that needs no introduction. You would be hard-pressed to find a single soul that has not heard the phrase, “The cake is a lie”, or has a few Jonathan Coulton songs on their iPod. Superb voice acting coupled with an masterfully written script give players all the more reason to complete more tests in an attempt to understand the minds that birthed Aperture Science.
Earlier this year, my brother tried convincing me to buy him a game called Sanctum which he thought looked like the coolest game ever. I was skeptical at first, but after trying the game I was hooked. It’s an awesome indie tower-defense/fps hybrid and it has great co-op to boot.
PAYDAY: The Heist
Initially described to me as “Left 4 Dead but with bank heists instead of zombies”, I was on the bandwagon from the day I heard about it. It’s every bit as fun as it sounds, you and three friends (or AI) walk into a bank, research possible paths and find cameras, then start the heist when you are ready.
Space Pirates and Zombies
Customize your own fleet of ships, then go around the galaxy saving people from zombies, completing random tasks, and finding more upgrades for your ships. When I first played, I was totally immersed in the atmosphere and I played for days before even thinking about starting the story, there’s just so much to do.
Serious Sam 3: BFE
Everything a shooter can and should be. A bit rough around the edges, but there hasn’t been anything like it in quite some time. It’s over the top, insane, manly, and full of one-liners from Sam.
Blocks That Matter
A 2D puzzle-platformer paying homage to Minecraft, Tetris, and many other games that inspired the developers. There’s also a community marketplace for levels, so even after you finish the story, you’ll be occupied for quite a while.
Same old Oblivion with better combat.
“Witty” humor, Cave Johnson, and GlaDOS plus moon dust make for a ridiculously plausible and entertaining gameplay experience.
The best MTV has to offer to the zombie genre…
The best Minecraft killer $10 can buy. Tons of diverse and entertaining content.
Super Street Fighter IV
Great fighting port with several new characters.
Thrilling, mind-bending sci-fi that will keep you glued to your seat until it’s over.
Adrenaline-fueled vehicle shooter that I will happily call “high-octane” (if only to be as cheesy as possible). Ridiculous fun with friends, if you can get past the broken lobby system.
The Binding of Isaac
Probably the most fun I’ve ever had with a roguelike. And yes, it is a roguelike.
Dead Cyborg – Episode 1
It’s rare to see a game tackle sci-fi philosophy with the same reverence as the likes of Asimov. A little slow-paced, but Dead Cyborg left me speechless. Highly anticipating the next installment.
Only just released, but judging from the demo I played a while back I can bet that this game is just as astonishing as I hope it is.
Unadulterated racing fun. Even those who are not into the racing genre should have a blast with this title.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
A worthy successor to the original Deus Ex released almost 12 years ago.
Hard Reset did a lot of things right by reminding us how fun and frantic shooters can be.
The Witcher 2
One of the best RPG experiences released over the last 10 years.
Serious Sam 3: BFE
Serious Sam 3 is in the same boat with Hard Reset. The FPS genre does not need to consist solely of military, realistic or RPG hybrids style of gameplay. There is something to say for simply running around blowing stuff up.
Luke de Beneducci:
Orcs Must Die
Not surprisingly the aim of the game is outlined in the title: killing orcs. This is your new job once your mentor dies. You also get access to a host of ingenious tricks and traps to help make your life easier. You can fire arrows at orcs, fling them into acid, chop them into pieces with swinging blades or shoot them with your crossbow, what ever you decide to do it will be incredibly fun.
Speed is the essence of this game developed from the ground up by college students at DigiPen Technical Institute. If you want to boost through challenging obstacles, do wild tricks and listen to awesome music, NItronic Rush is the game for you.
Play as an adorable underdog robot in this beautifully hand drawn adventure puzzle game, complete with fantastic music. Created by Amanita Design who also produced the Samarost series and their soon to be released Botanicula.
If you have ever wanted to play as the Caped Crusader then this is your chance. You can roam the rooftops of Arkham City battling iconic Batman enemies such as: The Joker and Penguin, along with hours worth of bonus content and Riddler challenges. This game had me hooked for over 30 hours.
A nifty little puzzle game based on maneuvering different types of cogs to divert the flow of power. A fun game to play and an easy way to lose half your day if you let it.
Although the beta was disappointing, the Battlefield 3 delivered on its promises upon release. The ability to create and join squads, to coordinate airstrikes with another teammate; these are some of the elements that make the Battlefield series what it is today. Remember, teamwork and communication your keys to victory on the battlefield.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
In their first attempt at a shooter, Relic was relatively successful in creating a game that satisfies its fans and introduces new people into the Warhammer 40,000 universe. While it has its fair share of mistakes, it’s gameplay is very interesting. It’s not just a shooter, it’s also a hack and slash game.
Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad
World War II shooter trend has gone stale, leaving a path for developers like Tripwire Interactive to take the genre to new levels. Red Orchestra 2 isn’t just a World War II shooter, it’s a simulation game. With realistic ballistics; first-person cover; and a squad system, Red Orchestra 2 presents a unique experience.
Red Faction: Armageddon
Life on Mars never gets boring as long as a Mason lives on it. The Masons are always there to stir things up on Mars and leave you to clean up their mess. It isn’t all bad when cleaning up really means blowing stuff up.
I had huge expectations for this one, and despite a rather lousy PC port, and the awful interface, it’s easily one of the best RPGs ever. Great atmosphere, huge amount of content and interesting and varied quests are only some of the things I enjoyed the most about Skyrim.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
The first Deus Ex is among my favorite games of all time and Human Revolutions is what I thought would be impossible: a sequel that is as good or even better than the original game. Barring the annoying boss fights, it’s a damn fun game and one of the games I enjoyed the most this year.
I’m not much of a multiplayer player, but playing this game online was easily one of the best experiences I’ve had this year. Simple to learn, hard to master, that’s how every strategy game should be.
It’s not perfect, I particularly hated how it ended and it’s not a particularly big game but while it lasted it was an incredibly fun experience.
Total War: Shogun 2
Creative Assembly took the winning formula of the previous games, improved upon it and kept the qualities we all know the Total War games for. The result is one of the best strategy games to come out in years and easily Creative Assembly’s best work so far.
Of course there will be some who feel we left out a game or missed another that flew under our radar, but we can only cover so many games. What does your Best of 2011 PC Games List look like? Leave us a comment! – End
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