Ten Games You Need to Play in 2011

With a slew of heavy hitters in its lineup, 2011 has the potential to be one of the strongest years gaming has seen in recent memory. In fact, there are plenty of worthy titles that didn’t even make the list, but there has to be a cutoff somewhere. As such, some very deserving titles didn’t make the cut. Here are the ones that did.

10) Mass Effect 3

Commander Shepard returns (though not from the dead) to see out the end of BioWare’s epic trilogy. It’s been a wild ride so far, and the final chapter looks to be the strong ending every great story needs. And it will be different for everyone — it just depends on how you play the game.

If you haven’t kept up with the series so far, it’s well worth your time and money to go out and make pace before Mass Effect 3 releases toward the end of 2011. And while Mass Effect 2 will soon be released on the PlayStation 3, you should really play the series on the Xbox 360 all the way through so you can capitalize on the ability to track player data from game to game.

The games are dependent upon decisions the player makes to progress the story, and these decisions and outcomes have a bearing on everything that follows. When Mass Effect 3 is released, it will be drawing from tons of different variables from Mass Effect 1 & 2 to help create the story for Commander Shepard in his final stand to save the Earth.

9) LittleBigPlanet 2

Sony has been pushing hard for the implementation of user-generated content in their games this generation. The most recent title to engage in mass amounts of UGC was ModNation Racers, but the game that really sparked the trend was LittleBigPlanet. With this new IP doing things no platformer had done before, there was an immediate call for a follow-up.

LittleBigPlanet 2 will be released in less than two weeks, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t surpass its predecessor in every way. Sackboy won’t just be sidescrolling his way to success this time – instead, he’ll also be racing, role-playing, and solving puzzles. The visuals are (believe it or not) also improved this time around, stepping up from the charming, crisp graphics we saw in the first game.

For those of you who sold or traded in your copy of LittleBigPlanet (shame on you!) and missed all the UGC from that game’s dedicated community, fear not! The majority of more than 3 million existing user-created levels are expected to make the move with the sequel.

8.) L.A. Noire

Rockstar Games has a certain knack for gritty games. Perhaps that’s why they’re publishing what looks to be a contender for the best original IP of 2011. L.A. Noire, as the name suggests, takes place in a 1940’s Los Angeles, where players take the role of a police detective in this murder-mystery whodunit.

With the use of a distinct art style, period-appropriate music, and new animation technology, L.A. Noire has the makeup of a hit-and-run blockbuster. And as we all know, Rockstar always invests in a winner.

7) Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Sure to surprise some and offend others, UNCHARTED 3 is noticeably low on this list.

The Uncharted series has long been described as one of the few series to really make the player feels as if they’re taking part in a movie. This is high praise in an industry that has strived for that kind of recognition. This time around, everyone’s favorite explorer (no, I’m not talking about Indiana Jones or Lara Croft), Nathan Drake once again begins a new adventure with his partner-in-crime, Victor Sullivan, as they do even more globe-trotting.

The guys over at Naughty Dog have certainly honed in on what makes a blockbuster game. Not settling for their initial success, Naughty Dog has continued to improve upon what are already some of the best games of the decade. What really drives the series is its ability to maintain simplicity without losing depth. There is a certain level of steady momentum created when a game can accomplish this, which then paves the way for an adrenaline-infused adventure — and there’s another on the way.

With the next archaeological thrill-ride in their sights, Naught Dog plan to release UNCHARTED 3 in November.

6) Gears of War 3

Continuing their attempt to not only survive a post-Emergence-Day world but drive the Locust Horde into extinction, Marcus, Dom and the boys are back with a new set of tricks to keep you chainsawing aliens into the night.

Gears of War is a surprisingly story-driven series. Since the very first game, I’ve wanted to see Epic release a game that takes place during the Pendulum Wars — the time prior to E-Day often alluded to in the Gears series. Unfortunately, it’s not likely to happen, as a set of books were written to detail those events, but that doesn’t mean you should be any less excited to find out what happens next on the planet Sera.

There are new characters, including three playable female COGs, as well as two soldiers being voiced by hip-hop stars Ice-T and Drake. Also new to the series is a four-player co-op campaign, and with the addition of new weapons, new multiplayer gameplay modes, and what should be a helluva-thrill-ride-story, Gears of War 3 will not disappoint.

5) Batman: Arkham City

If there’s anything Rocksteady Studios proved with Batman: Arkham Asylum, it’s that a superhero game can be good. Gone are the days of Superman 64 and Aquaman. By combining Christopher Nolan’s vision of what Batman movies are supposed to be, and the heart and soul of the beloved Batman: The Animated Series, we were given a truly awesome gaming experience.

Arkham City picks up a year after Arkham Asylum left off, as the former prisoners of the insane asylum now have free reign in a miniature city of their own. Even if the game were to have no gameplay upgrades, I’d still willingly and eagerly give it my money – but we all know it’s going to be even bigger and better than before.

4) MLB 11: The Show

It’s not often you’ll see a sports game near the top of a certified gamer’s list of most anticipated releases, but I’m far too much of a baseball lover to let this one go. Sony’s MLB: The Show series isn’t just a collection of great sports or baseball games — they’re great games, period.

Sony Computer Entertainment always puts their absolute best effort into making each year’s edition of MLB: The Show worth a purchase, and 2011 looks to be the biggest effort yet. MLB 11: The Show is going to see an overhaul in gameplay mechanics, opting for the analog stick controls that 2K has been using in their MLB2K series for years now.

For those who wish to use any number of the traditional controls, the option to swap back is available. In addition to this, SCE is always looking to continue adding to the minute details that baseball aficionados always look for.

If you’re a baseball fan, MLB 11: The Show alone is enough to warrant the purchase of a PlayStation 3.

3) The Last Guardian

Team Ico has a way of creating games like no one else, and it’s obvious that Sony Computer Entertainment appreciates this. Team Ico’s games have never seen what you’d call mainstream success, but what they have always been is absolutely great.

If there’s one word to describe Ueda-and-company’s masterpiece productions, it would be story. Whether it was guiding a girl who had been left for dead through an abandoned castle, climbing atop gargantuan beasts to rescue a lost love, or, now, riding on the back of a mythic creature, there continues to be a sense of sadness in Team Ico’s games. But it’s not a bad thing — it’s remarkable and fantastic.

So if you consider yourself a fan of genuinely great games, you’ll have no choice but to put your money where your mouth is and buy The Last Guardian when it’s released toward the end of 2011.

2) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

It’s been nearly half a decade since Bethesda unleashed Oblivion onto the gaming world. Games as massive and deep as those in the Elder Scrolls series are few and far between. There aren’t many games where you can spend upwards of 200 hours and still feel like you haven’t discovered nearly everything in the game’s world.

While most of the gaming community has been raving over Fallout 3, I’ve been yearning for the next installment in the story of Tamriel’s history. Nobody pays as much attention to detail as Bethesda. When you play their games, you feel like you’ve walked right into a living, breathing world.

The Elder Scrolls series is a gateway for people who have always wanted to step into Tolkien’s Middle Earth. At the same time, it’s easy to appreciate the franchise’s own story, history, and lore. There’s so much to discover and read about. You can play each game in whatever way you see fit, and all the while, you learn about Tamriel’s history. People who have played previous games in the series can appreciate the references and overarching story as they relate to each subsequent game.

And if there’s one thing about the series that can stand on its own, it’s the music. Jeremy Soule is a composer like no other. His music tells a story without words or visuals. It is, quite simply, magical.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will take place in the northernmost province of the continent of Tamriel, and Bethesda plans to reveal more about it in less than a month.

1) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Does anything else really need to be said? It is Zelda, after all, and that’s good enough for me.

If there’s one series that’s been continuously great throughout the ages (if you ignore the awful Philips CD-i games), it’s The Legend of Zelda. Everyone knows that when Nintendo puts out a new game in this series, it will be good. It’s what we’ve all come to expect, know, and love.

I know the reactions to Skyward Sword have been mixed. Whether it’s because of the impressionist influence on the visuals or the lackluster demonstration by Miyamoto at E3, there are definitely some people with doubts. Much of this comes from the fact we expected another “dark” Zelda game, like what we got with Twilight Princess. But another game was written off as “bad” by many in the gaming community because of its graphics and approach, even though The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker remains in my top three all-time favorite Zelda games, and was among GamerNode’s Games of the Decade.

Remember that Nintendo has never made a bad Zelda game. Give them the benefit of the doubt that Skyward Sword will continue Nintendo’s legacy of excellence.


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Author: Josh Robinson View all posts by
Josh is a 25-year-old man-child who loves pizza, video games, baseball, cartoons and anime. Most of his heroes are middle-aged Japanese men, and he's been known to quote Seinfeld at random. You can find him on Twitter using the handle @averagejosh.

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