Gamasutra Staff's Honorable Mentions
Kris Graft, editor-in-chief
Anomaly: Warzone Earth (11 bit Studios/PC, iOS) I love it when a game developer looks at a genre that by all accounts is overplayed -- in this case, tower defense -- and does something different and worthwhile. 11 bit's Anomaly: Warzone Earth flips the genre around and makes it fun again.
Trenched (a.k.a. Iron Brigade/Double Fine/Microsoft/Xbox 360) Satisfying customization, interesting characters and weapons that made me grin all factored in into why I'm giving a nod to another tower defense game. Plus, I'm a total sucker for giant robots.
The Binding of Isaac (Edmund McMillen, Florian Himsl/PC) At first, I wasn't sure what to make of all of the piles of poop and the blood and gore of this cartoon-ish, randomly-generated roguelike-like-meets twinstick shooter. Actually, I'm still not sure what to make of it... but in proper context, all that stuff is really great, I swear.
Brandon Sheffield, Senior Editor/EIC, Game Developer Magazine
The King of Fighters XIII (SNK Playmore/Atlus/PS3, Xbox 360) KOF XIII is a return to form for the series. The flow is back, the game's systems cleverly interlock, and the awesome mini in-game achievements system encourages experimentation, and acts as a defacto tutorial. The gameplay is tight, the graphics are lovely, and the movesets are...as balanced as a KOF generally can manage to be. Now, if they can only smooth out that net code...
Monster Tale (Dream Rift/Majesco/DS) Action on the top screen, raising sim on the bottom screen. It's a winning combination for Monster Tale, which is aided by attractive pixel art, a lovely score, and a deep skill tree for the raising sim portion.
Ico/Shadow of the Colossus HD (SCE/PS3) Two of the best games from the last generation are given an HD scrub, looking and playing just like you remember them -- through rose-colored glasses. Anyone who missed these games the first time round owe it to themselves to get this collection, post-haste.
Christian Nutt, Features Director
Xenoblade Chronicles (Monolith Soft/Nintendo/Wii) The game that single-handedly set out to prove that the JRPG genre wasn't dead, but was just sleeping. While Square Enix struggles to find a path for Final Fantasy, this game quietly sanded off all of the genre's rough edges while providing a lengthy, dramatic quest that reminds you why JRPGs briefly kissed mainstream success in the first place.
Solatorobo: Red the Hunter (CyberConnect2/XSEED Games/DS) A clear passion project of its developers, this charming throwback with a 16-bit spirit was full of heart and beautiful, airy art. Simple gameplay allowed for its personality to shine, but a surprise post-credits second chapter that felt like a free, much-improved sequel showed that the developers didn't forget about design after all.
Sonic Generations (Sonic Team/Sega/PS3, Xbox 360) In a classic franchise usually recognized for what a disaster it's become, Generations did something incredibly unlikely: celebrated the best, redeemed the worst, and invigorated the wayward series. Suddenly the future looks a little bit brighter for Sega's erstwhile mascot.
Simon Carless, EVP, UBM TechWeb Game Network:
Burnout Crash (Criterion/EA/Xbox 360, PS3) A glorious pachinko machine of a game that was roundly overlooked by many, due to its slightly counterintuitive mechanics. (It's not really a racing game and it's not about the crashing, it's about the exploding afterwards.) But get into it and you'll discover a glorious gem of a physics-driven arcade action-puzzler.
The Gunstringer (Twisted Pixel/Microsoft/Xbox 360) Wonderfully wacky, and also one of the most fulfilling Kinect games from a pure control point of view. The knockabout script and borderline filthy scenarios (alligator-man love? really?) make it that rare thing - a motion control game that deserves its place in the best titles of the year.
Jetpack Joyride (Halfbrick/iOS) Beautifully manicured arcade mechanics, clever shifts of control style with power-ups, intelligent procedural level designs.. what else is there to love? Halfbrick is the new PopCap, and the company's obvious love of games comes through loud and clear in their buffed-to-a-sheen titles.
Frank Cifaldi, News Editor
Another World (DotEmu/BulkyPix/iOS) I know most people think the perfect mobile game is one that you can pick up and play in bite-sized chunks before throwing it back in your pocket, but I've never agreed with that. My perfect mobile game is an adventure I can beat in about two days of toilet time, and for my money there aren't many examples of this that shine brighter than Eric Chahi's brilliant Another World.
Groove Coaster (Taito/iOS) It was just over six years ago that I professed my love right here on Gamasutra for iNiS' brilliant DS rhythm game Osu! Tatake! Ouendan (and subsequently Elite Beat Agents, though that didn't exist yet). I don't normally like rhythm games, and I'm not particularly a fan of Japanese pop or visual aesthetics, but something about the finger dancing it provided just clicked with me. I've been ready for a sequel for years, but in the meantime, Taito's brilliant Groove Coaster satiated my fingers' desire to dance, and did so with some great tunes and innovative gameplay mechanics.
Galaga 30th Collection (Namco Bandai/iOS) Let me just throw something out there. I don't know, maybe I'm weird. But I think forcing a digital input game onto a touch screen -- especially a classic arcade game that requires twitchy movements -- never works. Ever. If you want your classic IP to be relevant on touch screen devices, you have to reinvent them from the ground up without losing what made the original worth remembering in the first place, and I don't think there are any better success stories than this awesome little compilation of Galaga and its spinoffs.
Mike Rose, UK News Editor
Pushmo/Pullblox (Intelligent Systems/Nintendo/3DS) One of the most enjoyable puzzle games of the year, focusing on pulling and pushing blocks out of a wall to forge a path to the top of a stack. There's even a level editor for creating your own walls of doom and challenging your friends. By far the best downloadable title for the 3DS yet.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Eidos Montreal/Square Enix/PC, Xbox 360, PS3) A stunning reboot for the stealth-based RPG series, with a great storyline and lots of meaningful decisions to make throughout. Side missions are not simply optional filler to boost game time, but instead add depth and background to the main adventure.
Terraria (Re-Logic/PC) Side-scrolling multiplayer adventure that offers a sandbox world for you and a party of friends to explore. With so much content to see, it's possible to play for dozens of hours and still be unaware of entire portions of the game you are yet to encounter.
Eric Caoili, News Editor
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars (Ubisoft Sofia/Ubisoft/3DS) While X-Com fans cried foul over 2K Marin's FPS re-imagining of the beloved strategy franchise, the series' co-creator Julian Gollop went off and modernized the formula (well, its combat portions at least) in this engrossing 3DS launch title.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (Capcom/DS) Shu Takumi, the man behind the Ace Attorney series, delivers a clever adventure title that has you possessing inanimate objects to save characters in peril. It also has the most impressive animation you'll see in any portable game in 2011 or any year previous.
Bumpy Road (Simogo/iOS) Despite its charming background illustrations and Yann Tiersen-esque soundtrack, Bumpy Road seems shallow, like a more polished but also more simple City Connection. But as you collect photos that slowly reveal the young romance of your car's elderly drivers, you find yourself falling in love, too.
Tom Curtis, News Editor
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (CD Projekt Red/CD Project/PC) While Skyrim presents an open, undirected role-playing experience, The Witcher 2 takes a different approach, and stands out as a shining example of a narrative driven, fantasy adventure. The game's clever implementation of player choice, its robust combat system, and its beautifully realized world all come together to create one of the best RPGs of the past few years.
Saints Row: The Third (Volition/THQ/PC, PS3, Xbox 360) Saints Row: The Third might not redefine the open-world crime game, and it's probably even a little immature, but when it comes down to it, it's just plain fun. The game constantly throws the player into unexpected, over-the-top, and often hilarious scenarios, and wraps the whole package in an aesthetic that is both blatantly self-aware and undeniably charming.
Infamous 2 (Sucker Punch/SCE/PS3) Sucker Punch's follow-up to its 2009 super-hero adventure sticks pretty close to the series' original formula, but further expanded on the its signature free-flowing combat and parkour gameplay. The game's new powers make zipping around the city more satisfying than ever, and blend seamlessly with the game's agile, shooter-like combat.
Leigh Alexander, Editor-At-Large
Dark Souls (From Software/Namco Bandai/PS3, Xbox 360) The brutal precision game gets its own fluid universe -- everything we loved about the first one, only better. I wish Skyrim combat was more like this.
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (Konami/Kojima Productions, Bluepoint, Genki, Aspect/PS3, Xbox 360) My all-time favorite franchise gets the HD treatment, and it doesn't just hold up, it excels. It's lovely when the classics can still surprise you.
Pixeljunk Sidescroller (Q Games/SCE/PS3) The aesthetic grace you'd expect from the Pixeljunk team: Innovative palette, excellent music, and flawlessly taut, minimalist shooter play.