After a mammoth year that included more top rated titles than any other in this generation, it is time to look back at 2011 and award WhatCulture's game of the year. If you missed the vote, our game of the year was decided by the readers of WhatCulture and as such, best represents the gaming community's opinions and taste. We also took votes on your download/Independent/IOS title of the year to allow some recognition for the side of the industry that cannot compete with the big leagues in terms of scale, but still delivers imaginative, challenging and hugely enjoyable titles. Before you delve into the cream of the crop, check out our look back at 2011 and remember a few of the highlights of the year. The 2011 Game of the Year
5. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Between the delays and the rumours of development strife it would be easy to believe that Nintendo had finally dropped the ball with the Zelda franchise. Even Robin Williams could not reassure us that Skyward Sword would be a worthy edition to the legacy. Yet, not only has Skyward Sword proved itself as a fine entrant in one of gamings most beloved franchises, it has also finally showed the world what the Wii can really do. Sadly, this has come at the end of the Wii's life span. Still, Skyward Sword is a fantastic game, even rivalling the mighty Ocarina of Time. Everything about Skyward Sword is filled with wit and charm. From the wildly imaginative characters to the gorgeous design, Skyward Sword is the best that the series has looked. It even achieves what no Zelda title before it has, which is make Zelda a likeable and accessible character that you can relate to. No longer is she a distant princess who you are duty bound to aid. Instead she is your best friend, someone Link has known his whole life and is probably in love with. The beauty of their relationship is its honesty, this isn't Hollywood romanticism but an affirming friendship on the brink of becoming more. Add to this a fantastic story that holds its own even though it is delivered with text boxes and you get a truly old school gaming experience delivered in a fresh and exciting way. A true testament to the quality of Skyward Sword is that a Wii game has beaten Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 to the top 5.
4. Portal 2/Fifa 12
Coming in at a joint fourth place is Portal 2 (recently named by Charlie Brooker as one of the best games ever made) and Fifa 12. It is refreshing that a series that produces a yearly entry can still achieve greatness in its own right and it goes without saying that Fifa 12 is the best the series has ever been. That basically means it is the best football game ever. The new found focus on defence adds a new layer of depth to the game when you don't have control of the ball and added precision when dribbling really does give you more control of the ball than ever before. Fifa 12 is truly as close to real football as you will get without getting your shin pads muddy. In a stark contrast to this is Portal 2. Sequel to one of the most celebrated add ons in gaming history (a short physics game that came in the famous Orange Box) Portal 2 takes what made the original game shine and makes it a full game. The scope is epic this time around, featuring some truly mind bending puzzles, especially when playing co-op and you have two portal guns to play with. The sheer volume of content alone is staggering but when you add a great story led by a fantastic cast of voice actors, you get one of the best games ever made. It's true, Charlie Brooker said so and he's married to Konnie Huq. Check out our full review of Fifa 12 here.
3. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Way back in 2009 Uncharted 2: Among Thieves beat the war horse that was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 to the top spot and won the 2009 Game of the Year. That was like, the official one. Well, in 2011 Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception may not be the WhatCulture Game of the Year but it's come in at a respectable third place. COD didn't rank. Boo hoo Modern Warfare 3, boo hoo. Surprisingly Uncharted 3 didn't really deliver anything new to the franchise, it never surpassed the previous title but then again, it didn't get worse either. In fact, it is a huge achievement in its self that Uncharted 3 has retained the insanely high standards set by the series so far. Once again we were treated to a roller coaster adventure that channels Indiana Jones via Tomb Raider but manages to out do any of the recent outings that came from its source material. The fantastic voice work and animation make the characters likeable and believable and the set pieces are so epic that you almost forget that you are in control. All this is only slightly marred by the fact that it is slightly predictable as all the tricks used here have been used previously in the series. Still, if Uncharted 2 set the bar, Uncharted 3's overly styled quiff is brushing it furiously. Check out our full review of Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception here.
2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Of all the games that will undoubtedly get a re-release next year (complete with a ton of expensive DLC) and be called a Game of the Year edition, Skyrim is probably the most deserving. Skyrim took a massive 32% of the vote, so for a third of our readers it is the clear winner. This is for a very good reason, it is astounding. Yes there are more bugs than a Pizza Hut salad bar but the game is so expansive, so epic and so immersive that it doesn't tarnish the experience. Graphically it looks beautiful, the gameplay is a huge improvement on Oblivion and there are a shit load of dragons to kill. The story isn't Tolkien but it kicks the elfish crap out of 90% of fantasy genre and the best part is, there are so many stories to play out. Yes the main quest is probably the most engaging, following the path of the dragonborn as he takes on the mighty and ancient dragons, but there are also engaging tales to be told in the College of Winterhold, or the Dark Brotherhood. In fact, any one of the main side quest lines has more meat that the main quest in Oblivion. Skyrim has become the most played game of 2011, with players pumping hundreds of hours of their lives into becoming the worlds greatest dragon slayer. A remarkable feat considering the game was released in November. The only way they could make the game better would be having your character evolve into Brian Blessed and yell the world "FLAAAAAASHHHHH" and trigger an apocalypse. Check out our video review of Skyrim here.
1. Batman: Arkham City
Long gone are the days where Batman is associated with rubber nipples, Shark Repellent Spray and Prince. Thanks to Christopher Nolan, Grant Morrison and Rocksteady Studios, Batman couldn't have been much cooler in 2011. There were set leaks from The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce Wayne came back from the grave and of course the prologue at the start of MI:4. But despite all the bat-hype surrounding Nolan's up coming film and Morrison's maverick narratives, it is Rocksteady that have delivered the bat-product of 2011 with Batman: Arkham City. Sequel to the astoundingly successful Arkham Asylum, Arkham City took everything that was great about its predecessor and made it bigger and better. From stalking the ceiling as Catwoman, to beating the crap out of people with Nightwing's cattle prods, Arkham City delivered blow after blow of fan-service. It would be conceivable to think that with all the villains and heroes kicking their way across the streets of Gotham that the game had lost focus. Not so. Rocksteady not only gave us a plethora of content, but also a compelling narrative that manages to weave together many of Batman's most dangerous rogues. Yes some characters were under used, we would have loved to have seen more of Bane, The Mad Hatter and Deadshot, but the fact that the B-list was even included was great. When all is said and done, Arkham City is a great game by any standard. Even those who aren't bat-fans can get a huge kick from this expertly crafted action title. From gliding across the rooftops, to breaking thugs arms, to the epic boss battles, Arkham City is a joy to play. It seems that the readers of What Culture agree as Arkham City won by a huge majority of over 40% of the vote. Check out our full review of Batman: Arkham City here. 2011 Download/Independent/IOS Game of the Year
3. Tiny Wings
The IOS market re-introduced gamers to the delights of simple computer games. Games like Pac-Man and Space Invaders were once the technical peak of gaming yet, that wasn't the source of their popularity. As with Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja before it, Tiny Wings delivers the addictive, simple minded challenge that made games so addictive in the 80s. This is helped along by charming visuals, excellent physics and a easy to learn hard to master formula. It is a commuter game. You can play it for five minutes or two hours and get your gaming fix without worrying about your approaching stop. It is also insanely cheap, potentially yielding the best money to play time ratio of the year. Check out our full review of Tiny Wings here.
2. From Dust
The god sim genre isn't new by any means but the twist with From Dust is that you control the land and the elements rather than the people. This leads to some intriguing and epic scenarios where you are desperately moulding the landscape with magma or earth to prevent the total annihilation of your people. The remarkable thing about From Dust is how the world evolves even without your intervention. Your miracles certainly have a huge effect on the outcome of the landscape but you are often fighting against the sheer power of nature rather than creating it. One of the most unique and charming titles to come out of 2011, From Dust is a truly wondrous experience that could only be achieved with current generation hardware. Check out our full review of From Dust here.
Bastion is a strange beast. An action RPG that while based on the isometric RPGs of old, looks fresh and vibrant even against the big guns of the genre. The water colour visuals are stunning as is the unpredictable and varied level designs. The risky move of having the whole story told by a narrator also works, giving Bastion a neo-western vibe, strangely reminiscent of The Big Lebowski. But none of this would mean squat if that game wasn't fun to play, and thankfully Bastion is hugely enjoyable. The layers of depth that come from unlocking weapons, customising weapons and creating your own load outs make the multitude of game modes fun and rewarding. Yes you still spend your time levelling up and looting, but it feels fresh and keeps you coming back for more. The readers of What Culture have spoken and named Bastion their Download/Independent/IOS title of the year 2011. Check out our full review of Bastion here. Honourable Mention
There was a lot of debate about whether Minecraft should be included in the poll for Download/Independent/IOS title of the year. What made this decision difficult is the fact that free beta versions of Minecraft have been available online for over a year. In the end we decided to opt Minecraft out of our vote but, due to the negative responses at its absence, we are giving Minecraft honourable mention. It is fully possible that had Minecraft been a part of the poll it would have been awarded Download/Independent/IOS game of the year. Minecraft is the embodiment of user creativity, giving you an almost limitless scope to create your own gaming experience. The flip side of this is how inaccessible it is without guidance. There is a plethora of online guides and forums to help you with your mining, but there is strangely no in game guidance. Still, it is all part of what makes Minecraft such a unique and fun experience. So there it is. Our readers have spoken and crowned the King and Queen of 2011. Now 2012 is upon us and hopefully it will top 2011, but it is going to have to work exceptionally hard to even match it.