2011 was the year of dragon slaying, V12 engines, chilling murder mysteries and good ‘ol ‘shrooms. Those who spent the year plugging away at these vidya games know what we’re talking about. The past 365 saw some great releases we’ll no doubt keep playing past doomsday even if sequels dominated the past twelve months. It’s AG though since a good game is just that; no matter the number attached at the end. We didn’t play every last release but got our hands on more than a few gems. So please drop the controller for a moment and take a look at the Crew’s picks. You’re looking kinda pale from that all night cowadooty fest anyway.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – PC, PS3, Xbox 360 — Gamers love customization, a fact never lost on Bethesda Game Studios. The fifth game in the ever-expansive Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim gives players an unparalleled sense of freedom within the game’s realm. Literally every item in this game and every non-playable character serves some sort of purpose. You may drop $60 on this and spend more time getting married to a virtual wife and decorating the interior of a house than slaying dragons and casting bad-ass spells. Not exactly the path that we’d recommend, but it’s ultimately your call. — AJ
Super Mario Land 3D Land – Nintendo 3DS — Even if you don’t own a Nintendo 3DS, you owe it to yourself to try out the newest Mario entry at your local Walmart/Target. As simple as Skyrim is complex, 3D Land sees Nintendo’s beloved mascot at his side-scrolling best. Old-school, care-free gameplay blends with innovative 3D visuals to make Mario’s latest one of the most fun games you’ll play in years. — AJ
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – PS3 — As corny as it is to wax poetically about video games, projects like Uncharted need to be given credit for what they do to further their medium. Using vast, expansive landscapes that easily rival those seen on the big screen and an intricately-constructed plot, Drake’s Deception blurs the line between “electronic toy” and “art.” It’s damn near impossible to find anything less than critical acclaim for the third title in the Uncharted series, and given the open-ended conclusion, look for Nathan Drake’s Indiana Jones-esque adventures to continue. — AJ
Batman Arkham City – PC, PS3, Xbox 360 — Not only is this the best superhero video game ever, it ranks up there as one of the best Batman stories to come out in recent memory. The Batman: The Animated Series creators and voice actors come together to create a new chapter to the Batman ethos that is as engaging as it is visually breathtaking. Simple controls, addicting challenges and innovative detective work makes this one of the best video games of the year. When you crank this game up, you’re going to want to pack a lunch because you won’t go anywhere once the opening credits roll. — David D.
NBA 2K12 – PC, PS3, Xbox 360 — NBA 2K11 is the second-best sports game of all time. NBA 2K12 is now sitting on the throne. After weeks of endless play, commentators are still finding new things to talk about and the gameplay is steadily adapting. The folks at Visual Concepts are still making vast improvements as if there’s another basketball franchise breathing down its neck. — David D.
NCAA Football 12 – PS3, Xbox 360 — There was a time when the NCAA football franchise was just the previous year’s Madden with option plays thrown in. Well, that changed. With an ESPN interface and, well, competent commentary, NCAA Football has become the top pigskin franchise around. Of course, that’s not saying much, but if you want one football game to play this is it. — David D.
FIFA 12 – PC, PS3, Xbox 360 — The career mode has some weird bugs and the impact engine makes you go from “wow nice tackle” to “WTF no foul?” in a heartbeat. FIFA 12 still makes good on the lions share of what it offers and will have you howlin’ as if you’re in Old Trattford. Now if only we can ban all these Speedy Gonzalez-ass strikers from online pro games. — S. Cadet
Forza Motorsport 4 – Xbox 360 — Forza 4′s a by the numbers sequel on the surface. Dig deeper and you’ll see it managed to make some substansial improvements to what was, at one point, one of the best racing games out. You might as well give it a spin if you’re a 360 owner with a lead foot because, honestly, this 2 disc romp is the closest most of us will get to driving a 458 Italia. — S. Cadet
Portal 2 – PC, PS3, Xbox 360 — The quirky first person platformer meets puzzle game forces mind over muscle as you make your way through some real head scratchers. Sharp writing soaked in witty nerd humor makes the journey a must play for those looking for a little more substance. Besides, who can say no to the amazing teleport gun? The game’s got a distinct character so many other releases lacked this year and never takes itself too seriously. It’s co-op campaign adds another set of great challenges definitely worth playing with a friend. — S. Cadet
Battlefield 3 – PC, PS3, Xbox 360 — EA’s crown jewel made my computer cry more times than I’d like to admit. Nevertheless, the online experience has been well worth the hiccups. Honestly, the insane feats you can pull off in this game would make Rambo shed a tear. — S. Cadet
Deus Ex: Human Revolution – PC, PS3, Xbox 360 – A highly anticipated prequel in the Deus Ex series, Human Revolution was everything fans had hoped: a perfectly made first-person shooter-RPG. Though a few technical issues with load times and weapon misbalancing, the game will still be reverend as a genre classic because of the masterpiece storytelling and compelling game play. — Darius Sinclair™
L.A. Noire – PC, PS3, Xbox 360 — A complete flip from Rockstar’s usual GTA series, this game features the player controlling a detective, traveling through various departments to solve mysteries. Though gameplay was shoddy at times, the plotline is phenomenal, and potentially one of the greatest to be featured in a video game. I can easily see a movie being based on this and George Clooney playing the role of Cole Phelps. — Raj
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – PC, PS3, Xbox 360 — This campaign picks up right where MW2 left off, and online play is stellar as usual. Gameplay is more refined and fluid, and any player of the series will have a seamless transition into this one, with little or no learning curve. The series has developed to a point now where there aren’t any more jaw-dropping updates, instead opting for fine tweaks here and there. — Raj
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations – PC, PS3, Xbox 360 — Another game with a phenomenal plotline, and instantly compelling story that features less repetitive gameplay that its predecessors. There are three lead characters this go around, and even though the missions aren’t extremeley challenging, they still hold their weight in entertainment value. The controls have been streamlined to better fit human intuition and instinct, and the missions all fit into the larger scheme of things. In short, Revelations is the series’ magnum opus. — Raj