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Top 10 Games of 2011

10. Bastion
After playing the demo, falling off the edge of the map, and having my misstep cleverly detailed by the omnipresent nattaror, I expected him to slickly respond to all of the actions I performed, thus delivering a inspired new take on game presentation. Turns out I was kinda wrong, as the game stretches into a fairly lengthy and directed journey in which the script improvises more in beats than measures. Nevertheless, I had a good time trouncing through an inspired (if not entirely interesting to me) adventure, killing… er, I don’t even remember anymore. It’s been three weeks. Whatever. I hit guys with hammers and had fun.

9. Sonic Generations
I already wrote about how Sonic Generations is “better” than Uncharted 3. It probably wasn’t very well written as I went in with the expectation that nobody would read the whole thing even if it were posted at The New York Times blog because nobody goddamn reads anymore unless they’re on the squat and even then they’re playing that saccharine piece of gizzard’s gooze Angry Birds…, but it’s written nonetheless. The same goes for the sentence I just wrote, which I hold as my firm opinion as strongly as I hold any opinion, which is to say fairly strongly, in that uncertain kind of way that’s perpetually unsure of its intent, ya know?

8. Child of Eden
Just look at it.

7. You Don’t Know Jack
As an aspiring comedy writer (you wouldn’t know it from here*), this game impresses me all the time. Lines are amazingly delivered by the host Cookie Masterson, and are more clever and punny than the popular gross, with one series of questions for instance asking whether “Something Something Ranch” is the name of either a salad dressing or a Nevada brothel. When my mom got every one correct, my Catholic-rooted family had the biggest, most innocent laugh about prostitution we’d ever had. And that’s saying something.
*"You wouldn’t know it from here” line taken from Beginner’s Guide to Yuks.

6. Portal 2
Portal 2 is the expansive sequel to the breakout hit of a few years ago. Adding more levels, more gameplay elements, and way more background story for those crazy folks at Aperture Labs, Portal 2 is an awesome follow-up to the first game. My personal favorite new element is the addition of the moon-paint dispensers which let you coat the walls in new Portal-ready material.
In case you aren't familiar, here's a brief overview of the game: You're a subject in a crazy lab where the loony AI computer system is trying to destroy you and you want to escape and the only weapon you have is a gun that makes portals so you can sneak past enemy turrets and move boxes to solve puzzles to advance until you find a way to escape. There are also a lot of jokes about potatoes in science fair projects and this real cheeky little AI guy that helps you along the way.
The gameplay is some of the most addictive I've encountered in an FPS. Because the levels are strung together like individual puzzles, it's so easy to tell yourself you'll solve just one more puzzle. Next thing you know it's five hours later and you don't mind at all. You were having too much fun. Awesome. [Sean]

5. Dead Space 2
The original Dead Space may be my favorite game of this generation. I felt like I was walking through a finely-crafted haunted house while being fed an expertly-contained sci-fi story. Since then, I feel the series has veered a bit, with unnecessary universe expansion detracting from the simplicity of the original adventure. Add in a now-voiced protagonist who shouts the same f-word as every other hero, an emphasis on a multiplayer mode that already lies barren, and the most immature ad campaign in modern gaming, and you’d think I wouldn’t be talking about this game at all. Nah. I can’t stop shooting the limbs off dead stuff. I can’t wait to move out of my parents’, then out of my crowded co-op, and then out of my paper-thin townhouse so I can finally blast the volume on this audio-video spectacle. Only fifteen more years!

4. Batman: Arkham City
As a fan of old beat ‘em ups (especially racist ones like Sunset Riders) I can’t help but love the single best hand-to-hand combat system ever created in games. Whereas Uncharted 3 lists as one of my greatest disappointments of the year thanks to the fact that I dreaded every single enemy encounter, I love taking down henchman after henchman in what-appear-to-be-choreographed fight scenes directed through my fingers. The story gets a bit too comic-y for me at times, but the uniquely dark aura of Gotham drips into Arkham City to create the perfect open-world environment for either a bat to cat around in, or vice versa.

3. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
My wallet is a map of the original Legend of Zelda, and I wear a Zelda wristband out in public. This game had to really screw up not to make my list. It did try at times, with slow-scrolling text and constant descriptions of items you’ve already picked up 100 times testing my patience, and both I and my bitey cat were resistant to getting back into the (improved but still imperfect) Wii-flailing groove. But just like in Space Channel 5, the groove got me. A simple walk through the bazaar is all it takes to recognize the richness of personality that still sets this iconic video game adventure apart from the rest.

2. Fortune Street
Out of nowhere, this somewhat Mario Party-ish looking game sprung up at me from the review pages of Game Informer. It’s rare that any property (especially one starring both Nintendo and Dragon Quest characters) can sneak by my internet eyes, so I read on, intrigued. Weeks later, cut to the living room of my friend Andy, where a newly-purchased copy of the game entertained a bunch of sober twenty-somethings for four hours plus. That night alone shot Fortune Street to the top of the list. It’s Monopoly with a stock market, and it’s the most pure, refreshing experience I’ve had discovering a game with friends since the arcade was still a thing.

1. Skyrim
I fell asleep during every Lord of the Rings movie, but ya know what? NO ONE CARES! A game is different from a movie, otherwise I would’ve just copied and pasted our top movie list and put “Colon The Game” after every title (The Tree of Life: The Game is particularly good). Skyrim triumphs in the major aspect that does attract me to high fantasy by creating a vast medieval “Europe” where I can hang my post-industrial stress at the door, take in a dragon story if I wish, or just wander an often beautiful, rewarding landscape. There is a bevy of lore to discover that I appreciate for creating an aura of verisimilitude, yet personally don’t care about for beans. The stories I need are found in my Xbox inbox, where real-life friend Pat insults me as “Argonian street trash.” I don’t know what it means, but I love being involved in a world where vitriolic jibberish about an imaginary place still stings. Curse you, Pat, and may the Gods punish you in years hence.

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