This kind of entry makes sense for a guy like me, right? This little fake awards bit is a mix of best-of staples and some more unusual criteria, and they're 100% my own twisted opinion about (mostly) the best of 2011 videogames. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Best console/PC game of 2011 according to my inner game critic
The one game this year that really had it all - great gameplay, a powerful narrative, stunning visuals and audio, and even compelling multiplayer. The banter between GLADoS, Wheatley, and Cave Johnson will one day be the stuff of gaming legend. Look, just play this shit. It is the one game this year that started out awesome and got better with every second, right up to the song during the credits.
Best console/PC game of 2011 according to my inner fanboy
I would have given this one to Portal 2 as well, but inFamous 2 is emblematic of what this award "means" - a game that was maybe only pretty good, but my own preferences and fanboy nature elevated it to being one of my absolute favorites. inFamous 2 improves on the original in almost every aspect, and delivers a more character-driven story that made it IMPOSSIBLE for me to go for the evil ending. The new setting and new powers are the best parts, but the total package is superior overall. Fantastic game.
RUNNERS UP: Disgaea 4, which I can't wait to fire up again in 2012.
Best handheld/mobile game of 2011 according to my inner game critic
Better than any of the Phoenix Wright games, made by the same dude. Ghost Trick has a premise that grabs you and awesome, original puzzles that hold on. The gorgeously-rendered sprites are fantastic, especially the neurotic dancing prison guard (you'll know it when you see it). By the time the game's story twists and turns near the end, players realize that they've found something special. Or you might have made that realization earlier, when you're using poltergeist powers to prevent murders and uncover conspiracies.
Best handheld/mobile game of 2011 according to my inner fanboy
Legend of Heroes - Trails in the Sky
This game isn't for everyone, but it's definitely for me. A turn-based RPG of the old school, with a great cast of characters and a strategic, customizable battle system that incorporates character movement and area-of-effect attacks. This game reminded me of Lunar and Chrono Trigger, which from me is almost the highest praise an RPG can get. TitS is the first game of a trilogy, and I am way pumped to pick the next two up as soon as I can.
RUNNERS-UP: Dragon Quest VI was good, but not this good.
Best download/indie game of 2011
Bastion is almost too good to be an indie game - it deserves to be a legendary, cult-favorite SNES game or mid-90s PC game. Its unique narration gives the storyline weight while the game's action and surprisingly deep gameplay customization make me click all the more enthusiastically. A New Game+ feature and vibrant visuals are icing on the cake.
RUNNERS-UP: Cthulhu Saves the World, I am so, so sorry. Any other year, practically.
Coolest-looking game of 2011 I didn't play
A well-made rhythm game that lets you plug in a real guitar? This is the logically evolution of Guitar Hero, and should do an even better job of turning gamers into real musicians. Of course this looks awesome and I'd love to play it, but I never really got a chance to and I don't want to drop cash on a real guitar. Ah well, there will be time next year.
RUNNERS-UP: Dark Souls looks really neat. So does The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. And let's throw Batman: Arkham City and King of Fighters XIII into this box as well.
Best game made prior to 2011 I first played in 2011
Dragon Age: Origins
It's my new favorite western RPG of all time. Great gameplay, visuals, and audio, an epic storyline with multiple branches and ramifications into DA's sequels, and that famous BioWare dialogue. DAO is the game that turned me from a BioWare disdainer into a quasi-fanboy. But only quasi.
RUNNERS-UP: I have to say I'm mighty impressed with BioShock and the three other games I'm currently playing (hint: they're all classics).
Favorite new character of 2011
Valvatorez (Disgaea 4)
Valvatorez is entertaining from his first lines to his final act (seriously, I was laughing my ass off right before Disgaea 4's final stage). His stubborn and dense personality not only drives the game's plot, it's a hell of a comic device and holds the game's stellar ensemble cast together. Really, Lord Val's not a great character for his development or arc, but for how his consistency makes all of the other characters, and indeed the entire game, stronger.
RUNNERS-UP: I was really, really close to giving this award to Wheatley from Portal 2. Really close.
Biggest surprise of 2011
999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
Hadn't even heard of this game before I started reading reviews of it; said reviews were all praise, bordering on raves. When a few of my friends at GamersAtUVA insisted that I try it, I went and pirated this game on my DS R4. I ended up liking it so much that I bought two copies, one to keep and one to give to a friend. Amazing psychological puzzle/thriller on the DS. Great for anyone that loves a good mystery.
RUNNERS-UP: Sorry, Cthulhu Saves the World, again. You too, Radiata Stories.
Biggest disappointment of 2011
This is my only negative award, so I'll make it count. I had high hopes for X-Men: Destiny. Developer Silicon Knights had a wealth of material to build upon and the game's premise of customizing a new character's powers and choosing between siding with the X-Men or the Brotherhood sounded cool as hell. But this game was ultimately a failure. Poor execution on all fronts, not the least of which are buggy combat and same-y, underwhelming story missions. I normally love Marvel RPGs, but Destiny makes it obvious that I should only love the older ones. Let's just say I'm glad I tried before (not) buying. Hey, now that the shine from Eternal Darkness is a decade old, can we all admit that Silicon Knights isn't a good game developer and that Denis Dyack is full of ****? Can we?
RUNNERS-UP: I thought about giving this unfortunate label to Dragon Age II, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, or even Uncharted 3, but ultimately I liked all three of those games too much. XMD was straight-up bad on top of being a major disappointment.
So that's that! Now pardon me while I get back to playing BioShock (which should hopefully be #47 within a week) and writing a giant comics post for tomorrow.