This game was listed right after Skyrim, Batman: Arkham City, and Portal 2 at number four in my top five of the year, and I think it deserves that spot, even over higher-profile contenders like Gears of War 3 and Modern Warfare 3. The pitch-perfect pacing and incredible setting (I am now a die-hard Black Library reader -- start with the great Eisenhorn by Dan Abnett) elevate this one from just another third-person action game to one of the best video games of the year.
There are, unfortunately, no mobile-only games on our full top ten list (maybe next year?), but I think this one deserves to be there. It's polished to a shine, and takes the basic Canabalt one-touch running game idea to its limit, adding in an excellent and addictive progression system with a whole world of varied missions and items to chase after. It's a great game, from your very first run to the multiple prestige levels later on.
I was introduced to the Mount and Blade series (which has been released for years by Turkish developer TaleWorlds) by one of Bioshock Infinity's producers right around E3 this year, and With Fire and Sword took me right back to the heady days of Civ 2. It combines a terrific empire-building strategy game with solid, exciting combat sequences. The throwback graphics (to put it kindly) might turn some off, but no game better evoked my imagination this year than this one.
Honestly, it's another Legend of Zelda game, and that's both good and bad. It means you already know this story and what it looks like, and you already know what items will do when you get them, and how the map and the dungeons look and work. But it's also a gorgeous and beautiful experience to play through anyway, and it's the first real game I've seen that shows just how motion controls can really build on interaction in a meaningful and powerful way.
It's not perfect -- there are issues here that even other MMOs have already fixed and moved on from. But Bioware not only pulled off its own iteration on the massively multiplayer genre, it also brought a sense of story and character to the game (and the awesome setting) that we haven't seen in this kind of title before. It's still an MMO, so there's still a grind, but instead of just going for the highest level or getting the shiniest loot, there are great, personal story reasons to progress your character as well.
Mage Gauntlet is the most underrated game of the year, on any system or platform. It's a gorgeous throwback action RPG for iOS that evokes the best of the Secret of Mana era, while providing a ton of cute customization options and some really great touch-based action gameplay. This is an amazing game that hasn't gotten nearly the amount of attention it deserves.
Activision's latest Call of Duty probably lands on the other end of that scale, where it likely got way more attention than it really needed. A solid iteration on the popular multiplayer game and one of the best co-op experiences of the year in Spec Ops Survival make this one my first-person shooter of choice this year. And Call of Duty Elite, despite its issues (is it up and running yet?) really does set the standard for a social metagame system.
NCSoft came out of nowhere with this tower defense title for iOS, and it really breathes a lot of color and life into what I think is an already tired genre. The graphics are gorgeously designed, the levels are meticulously built, and with the updates that have come out since release there's more content here than a dollar will buy you almost anywhere else in the world of entertainment. This is a phenomenal game that I'll be playing for a long time.
League of Legends didn't come out this year, but it's probably the game I've played the most in the last 12 months, and the Dominion gametype represents not only the first real iteration on the "DotA" style ever since that Warcraft 3 mod, but also an excellent, more accessible take on all of the champions and gameplay that make LoL so popular in the first place.
Officially, I only have one spot left, but both of these tiny iOS games are small enough to fit in it together, right? Tiny Tower is a game made by two extraordinary brothers that know exactly how to do freemium games right: Focus on the gameplay first, and then let the in-app purchases roll in. And Tiny Wings is a piece of one-button art that shows just how beautiful and simple a casual gaming experience can be. Both of these games highlight how much Apple's App Store has rewarded (not to mention funded) excellent indie game talent.
Joystiq has revealed its 10 favorite games of 2011. Keep reading for every writer's personal, impassioned picks in Best of the Rest roundups.