Top 5 video games of 2011

Published: January 1, 2012

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has more quality content than many other games put together,which is why it tops our list. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

5. Mortal Kombat:

FATALITY! Available on the PS3 and Xbox 360, this notoriously gory fighting game returned to its 2D roots this year, in what turned out to be one awesome game. Not only is this ninth instalment in the Mortal Kombat franchise fun to play with friends over the internet or by sitting side by side, but it also features a very good singleplayer campaign, with a storyline fleshy enough to have Mortal Kombat fans salivating. In fact, the narrative is so good that many critics found MK9 to be the best at storytelling in 2011. Now who would have expected that from a Mortal Kombat game?

4. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings:

You’ve got to hand it to the Polish developers, CD Projekt. It takes some mettle to release a ‘AAA’ title (game industry speak for ‘big budget’) only on the PC, when most video games tend to find it difficult to recoup development costs without finding release on all major gaming platforms. This gorgeous looking dark fantasy RPG is available only on Windows, and is a clear reminder of how a video game that isn’t held back by mass market appeal, and takes full advantage of a PC’s superior hardware, can be an extraordinarily rich product.

What is most impressive about this game is how so many player decisions have actual consequence in the game world, with real emotional impact. While the game does suffer from weak combat mechanics, and an end sequence that feels a bit rushed, all in all, the game’s gorgeous art direction, its wonderfully rich, dark, and fluid world, and the excellent narrative make this title one of the best RPGs you can play.

3. Dark Souls:

This spiritual sequel to the sleeper hit ‘Demon Souls’ is from the mind of some very twisted developers I must say. A dark fantasy RPG, available on the Xbox 360 and PS3, Dark Souls is difficult, very difficult, but it is exactly this high level of difficulty that has made this series so amazing. The high death penalty adds a real sense of dread to the game’s already morbid setting, and while most fantasy fiction is  derived from the Lord of the Rings books on some level, this title is no standard fantasy fare and features creatures and an environment largely unique to its universe.

Like its predecessor, Dark Souls has a multiplayer component integrated in its singleplayer campaign, a feature which adds more to its exclusivity. While the game is mostly played solo, souls of other players playing in ‘parallel worlds’ can be seen ghosting around, and are able to leave cryptic warnings, all adding to the mystique of Dark Souls.

2. Uncharted 3:

Think of how extraordinary Uncharted 2 was. Now add a lot more awesome sauce, and you have Uncharted 3. Not only does this action adventure PS3 game, look and play better than its predecessor (who would have thought it?), but is brilliantly cinematic, featuring some extraordinary action set pieces. The art direction is also quite gorgeous. Of course, this cinematic feel is in large part due to the fine voice acting, with video game voice acting veteran, Nolan North, doing a fine job lending his voice to the charismatic treasure hunter, Nathan Drake. Uncharted 3 is one helluva game, and considered by many a video game critic to be a masterpiece.

1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:  

As a testament to the scale of this gorgeous looking, open world fantasy RPG, I’ve put in 80 odd hours into the game, and still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are endless things to see and do in the snowy region of Skyrim, where the natives, the ‘Nords’, sound like characters crossed between Mel Gibson’s Braveheart and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian, and where you, the player,  are caught in the middle of political strife, all the while fighting against mysterious and sudden dragon attacks.

Released on all major consoles, and the PC, Skyrim has become a bit of a phenomenon since release, having sold extraordinarily well. YouTube videos, highlighting the ‘arrow in the knee’ bug have quickly become a large part of geek culture (perhaps to an annoying degree).

Another bug, which is quite hilarious, is the overblown strength of the giants in the game. While it is expected that giants would be significantly stronger than mere mortals, in Skyrim, they have easily 100 times the strength of ordinary men.

While I could go on and on about the countless amusing bugs in Skyrim, in conclusion I would like to say that overall Skyrim is a fantastic game; easily our game of the year by a long shot. It has more quality content than many other games put together, and if there is one game released in 2011 you should buy, it is this.

Final Words: 2011 was one amazing year for roleplaying games, with three of them making it on our list, but it was actually an amazing year for video gaming overall. Some other titles that nearly made our list, and are worth a mention are Bastion, Portal 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Arkham City.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

A freelance writer and regular contributor to The Express Tribune magazine and newspaper, Noman tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • TheKid

    Why no Bastion?Recommend

  • Travolta

    Great list although I would put uncharted at the topRecommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    Bastion earned a ‘worth a mention’. Had I done a top 10, it would have been in. :) Recommend

  • Rehan

    Uncharted 3 should be 1st. Also, no Gears of War 3? Maybe I’m just more of an action junkie.
    Regards,
    RehanRecommend

  • Raza

    Where is Battlefield 3?Recommend

  • TheKid

    Make a top 10

    a top 5 doesnt really do justice to amount of good games released in 2011Recommend

  • Faizan

    Where is Call of Duty MW3?????Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    Blizzard’s absence from most top PC games charts this year is a little surprising. I suppose with Diablo III and Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm coming up, Blizzard’s going to take its rightful place at the top again. Recommend

  • [email protected]

    Skyrim is truly awesome. :’) Recommend

  • Hira Z

    Angry Bird ? ;)Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    Frankly, I think Skyrim’s over-rated. It’s fraught with bugs and glitches, involves a lot of useless mucking about in the forest, and surprisingly enough, doesn’t have much of a replay value once you’ve finished it.

    You’d think it would have a replay value with so many different races to choose from, but they’re there’s nothing unique about these races. They’re all nearly exactly alike, with the only difference being that one race is better at one task (say, sneaking) than the other.

    I personally prefer a setup like Diablo II where each hero is entirely different, and even with the same hero, there’s always different skill tree to experiment with, so you keep feeling like wanting to play over and over again.Recommend

  • Bill

    what about WWE’12? it has been voted as the top game of 2011.Recommend

  • Captain Price

    modern warfare 3??????????????????????????????????Recommend

  • Roflcopter

    no mention of Deus Ex HR in top 5……I am disappointed.Recommend

  • Reader

    Where are MW3, Battlefield 3, Assassins Creed Revelations, MGS HD collection, fifa 12? dude wth?? Recommend

  • Guybrush Threepwood

    No L.A. Noire??Recommend

  • Todd

    You forgot Zelda……….Recommend

  • Noumaan Shamsi

    hello batman arkham city?
    ssf4 arcade?Recommend

  • Hayden

    @Faraz Talat, You obviously haven’t played Skyrim then. It has tonnes of replay value. I’m sick of you friggin mw3 fanboys.Recommend

  • Hassaan

    While I honestly think this should have been a top ten list, given the sheer volume of good games released this year, I do not take much exception to your top five, except on a subjective level (I personally don’t think platform exclusives should be ranked very highly and MK is just not my kind of game)

    I see some people mentioning the absence of games like BF3, MW3, Assassin’s Creed Rev., MGS HD collection, LA Noire, Zelda and WWE (honestly?), and I’d like to address those. BF3 and MW3 at least in my opinion, earned a spot in a top ten – but then again a list like this is purely subjective, and if one is not particularly interested in FPS titles, then these games wouldn’t find their way into their list anyway. Assassin’s Creed Rev., didn’t actually add much over the previous titles and fell into the same trap of being annoyingly repetitive after a certain point, as the previous games in the series did. MGS HD collection wasn’t even a new game, and Skyward Sword was more fan service than anything. LA Noire is an excellent, technically innovative game, and again, would find its way into My top ten, however the flaws (not the least of which was a mundane first half) would really push it down to maybe 9th or 10th place. Lastly, WWE… well.. why would you even mention trash like that on the same page as Skyrim?

    Over all, I feel like the article was rushed (was it?) and could really have been a top ten, but otherwise, good job Nomi bhai! Recommend

  • Hassaan

    @Faraz Talat:

    From your comment, I can tell that Skyrim just isn’t your kind of game – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Skyrim isn’t a game you ever really “finish.”

    I’ve put nearly 20 hours into the game, and I’ve only played maybe 20% of the actual campaign. The “useless mucking about” you mention is actually what people who like the elder scrolls series play the game for. Exploration, sight seeing and treasure hunting are what this game is meant for. It’s just not meant to be an objective driven narrative. I play the game because of how brilliantly the world of Skyrim has been crafted, how amazing it looks, and for the sheer thrill of climbing a random mountain top to find a sprawling vista laid out in front of me. I know people who spent 15 hours in the game before they even fought the first dragon. So yeah, its not meant for everyone, but for the people who enjoy games like this one, its a Godsend. Recommend

  • Ibrahim Shakeel (*The REAL Guybrush Threepwood doppelgänger)

    Portal 2 was ‘worth a mention’? Bastion was WORTH A MENTIO- “head explodes

    And this guy has ‘gaming’ listed as one of his passions! Astaghfar..Thank God he didn’t list down Rayman: Origins and Catherine as ‘games worth mentioning’. ffs :S

    …Skyrim was broken on the PS3, btw. It did NOT deserve the praise it got last year, shoddy workmanship imo.Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    Yea I had to do a top 5 because word space is limited to between 600 and 800 words now.

    I’d rather do a top 10.

    As for Faraz’s comments on Skyrim, I respect his opinion, though ummm… completely off base about Skyrim. Yes, it has bugs, but none are bad enough to affect the game to the degree which he complains. And… umm… finish Skyrim? No replay value? For a game that has 200+ hours of content… what? Recommend

  • Axel

    I used to make awesome comments on blogs but then I took an arrow in the kneeRecommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    Hassan,

    I’ve played my fair share of RPG’s, and all the freedom is fun at first. But it’s a little dull how almost every one of the missions is “retrieve this from that place full of undead/bandits/forsworn” or “go to Town X and have a long, boring conversation with guy Z”. At some point, it starts getting annoyingly repetitive.

    Even when I’m not mission-hunting and just exploring, there’s a limit to how long I can keep myself entertained. “Rock, rock, mudcrab, rock, tiny bear cave, tree, mountain, ancient ruins full of draughts. Yeah, yeah, wake me up when I get to Riften.”

    And the combats are not the best either!Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    I’m shocked Portal 2 wasn’t mentioned. It was a fantastic and unique gaming experience.Recommend

  • Saad

    no FIFA 12 geeks?Recommend

  • Xessive

    Awesome list. It’s tough to pick 5 out of all the great games that were released in 2011. My top 5 would have to be:

    Batman: Arkham City
    Battlefield 3
    Skyrim
    Uncharted 3
    The Witcher 2

    This list is only based on the games I’ve played though.

    Honourable mentions:

    Deus Ex: Human Revolution
    Bastion
    Assassin’s Creed Revelations
    Mortal Kombat
    L.A. Noire

    Btw Noman, based on your list I went ahead and grabbed Dark Souls for PS3 ;)Recommend

  • Ibrahim Shakeel (*The REAL Guybrush Threepwood doppelgänger)

    “As you plumb the conjoined secret history of GLaDOS and mad-science corporation Aperture Science, you feel not only your mind expanding but your heart too. Long after the physics-manipulation conundrums have been solved, the poignancy of Portal 2′s man-and-machine pas de deux lingers on.”

    Portal 2, ranked at 2nd place in Time’s list of the top ten games of 2011.
    http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,210134421011972101199,00.html

    “Each white-knuckle fight sequence and spot-on character moment is evidence that the British gamemakers have soaked up every available reservoir of Batman lore. What they’ve squeezed out ranks among the best Dark Knight material that any medium — film, comic, television — has yet offered.”

    Batman Arkham City, ranked 5th in Time’s list.
    http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,210134421011972101202,00.html

    “The downloadable title evokes the look and play of video-game cartridges from 20 years ago, and that’s by design. Its triumph, though, lies in commanding metaphor and nostalgia so powerfully that players of all sorts feel as if they’ve come of age all over again.”

    Bastion, 6th in Time’s list.
    http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,210134421011972101203,00.html

    NONE of these games were in your top five, they were your ‘worth mentioning’ titles..Noman Ansari, passionate gamer saab, you are NOT A GAMER.

    …ASTAGHFAR I’m so angry right now I feel like up taking up writing again just to type an article on what a HACK of a gamer you are. HADDEIN. :@@@Recommend

  • Zohaib Qamar

    Disagreed.

    No list is complete without Batman arkham city, COD MW3, Battlefield 3 and World of warcraft – Cataclysm….. Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    Battlefield 3 has a good multiplayer component, but not top 5 material, I feel.

    Talat, I love Blizzard games too, but StarCraft 2 came out last year. I am doing a new video game article soon which will talk about Diablo 3 though. That shall be online in a few days.

    Also, Portal 2 was mentioned. :)

    Ibrahim, not only am I a gamer, but worked as at Alloutgames.com for about 4 years. But that doesn’t mean I disagree with your thoughts. We all have our different opinions on games. I can show tons of different lists where my favorites feature prominently. It is pointless to show me TIME mag’s list. It is like saying they have a different opinion so yours is wrong. :)

    They are all great games. I wish I had a top 10 to include all of these games in. :) Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    Oh and a lot of the games you guys mention didn’t actually come out in 2011. :)

    Angry Birds is years and years old. :) Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    @Faraz Talat:

    What type of RPGs do you like? It seems you like the hack and slash type. But have you tried Planescape: Torment or Baldur’s Gate?

    From your comments about Diablo (which I adore), I’d say you should try Titan’s Quest. It is pretty awesome. Another Diablo clone is Torchlight.

    Faraz, or anyone else who wants to, can add me to Steam. My Steam ID is Pugnate. My PSN ID is Pugnate and Pugnated. My XBL ID is Pugnated

    @Hassaan:

    I think platform exclusives shouldn’t be discriminated against. In the end, it matters how good a game is, and platform exclusives sell platforms. I think Uncharted hit the top spot on a lot lists last year. StarCraft 2, a great game, was a PC exclusive.

    Someone mentioned Rayman, a fun game, though top 5 material? What? Recommend

  • Scr

    Skyim was the biggest waste of time ever, the guards want to kill me, so does everyone else.Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    Yea there’s a deliberate thing on the PC if you pirate the game where the guards attack you as does everyone else. ;) Recommend