More than any year in the 2010s, 2011 may have spawned the most influential games of the decade. While it’s obviously too early to tell with some games released late this decade, the powerhouses of 2011 are still extremely relevant today. Hell, one of the games seems to be released every year on a new platform of some type, and another is the bestselling game of all time. No matter how you look at it, nobody can deny that 2011 was a massive year for gaming.
Keep an eye out here for every year’s list of the past decade, including an overall best 100 games of the 2010s.
The 15 Best Games of 2011
15) To The Moon
Developer: Freebird Games | Release Date: November 1st, 2011
You don’t need fancy graphics to tell an emotional story. You don’t even need a fancy engine sometimes. To The Moon, made on RPG Maker XP, tells a bittersweet story using only pixel art and text boxes. Its ability to captivate without having a combat situation, 3D graphics, or voice acting is impressive, and the pixel art goes a long way towards conveying the emotions of every scene. It really takes an expert storyteller to tell a story as sweet and captivating as To The Moon manages, and there’s a reason it’s remembered so fondly.
14) Saints Row: The Third
Developer: Volition | Release Date: November 15th, 2011
To go in a totally opposite direction, Saints Row: The Third is just goofy and wild. This is a video game where you team up with Hulk Hogan and Burt Reynolds to take on swarms of digital gangsters using dildo baseball bats. You can suplex people, steal their cars, rob a bank, then skydive to a penthouse while listening to the hottest tunes from Kanye West. It was insane in all the right ways, and also it was announced with a 10-second trailer that consisted of nothing but the player punching someone in the balls. That takes balls.
13) LittleBigPlanet 2
Developer: Media Molecule | Release Date: January 18th, 2011
Map editors were pretty popular on PC games and saw some limited use on consoles. However, total game editors? Now that was a rarity. LittleBigPlanet showed that it could be done, and LittleBigPlanet 2 really made it wild. Featuring an insane level editor that could let you create entire genres, LittleBigPlanet 2 saw many players give their creative side a test. From unique minigames, to insane platforming levels, to one guy who even remade the entirety of Final Fantasy VII, there’s plenty to love. It helps that the game also comes packed in with a solid single-player platforming adventure.
12) Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Developer: Naughty Dog | Release Date: November 1st, 2011
Many people wondered how Uncharted 2 could be topped. The answer? Uncharted 3. From bigger firefights, more interesting story situations, and a revamped multiplayer, Uncharted 3 took everyone by surprise. Now on its third major hit, it seemed like there was no way to stop the series. Another trip with Nathan Drake and his crew of merry thieves was welcomed, and it made for another memorable entry for a fantastic series.
11) Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Developer: Eidos Montreal | Release Date: August 23rd, 2011
It had been a long time since a Deus Ex game had released. Taking us back to the series was Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a prequel that combined FPS and RPG elements into a satisfying whole. From sneaking through a cyberpunk city avoiding gangs and fighting corporations, to uncovering some hidden conspiracies, there was a lot to like about Human Revolution. The fact that it brought back one of the most beloved series with style helped a lot too.
10) The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Developer: CD Projekt Red | Release Date: May 17th, 2011
While The Witcher may have been an interesting, if flawed, RPG, it was its sequel that really brought the series to some recognization. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was the first entry to the series that really caught the attention of crowds, thanks to its lovely graphics, deep story, and thrilling gameplay. It put Geralt on the map and led the way to The Witcher 3‘s eventual release. It helps that it’s a fantastic game on its own.
9) Batman: Arkham City
Developer: Rocksteady Studios | Release Date: October 18th, 2011
Batman: Arkham City let you be the bat, and that’s pretty important. Letting you explore a large chunk of Gotham City under assault by a large and memorable crew of infamous villains, Arkham City is probably the definitive Batman experience. It has a combat system that would pave the way for many games to come, a bunch of tools that all get plenty of use, and voice acting that is filled with stars giving some of their best performances. Arkham City may be one of the best ways to escape into the role of Batman without actually being rich and having dead parents.
8) Rayman Origins
Developer: Ubisoft | Release Date: November 15th, 2011
Ubisoft needed something new for a while, and Rayman Origins was just the ticket. 2D platforming had never looked as good, or felt as fluid, as it did here. The limbless hero had finally managed a new release not filled with the Rabbids, and he came back in style. The game was lovely, fun, and would go on to become one of the best 2D platformers of the decade. Now if only the Rabbids can get a marvelous return in the same style.
Developer: Supergiant Games | Release Date: July 20th, 2011
Another indie darling that would pave the way for many games to come, Bastion had style in such unique ways. A narrator that fit the role completely perfectly, a world that would construct itself in front of your very eyes, and a soundtrack that is still one of the best gaming has to offer to this day. Combine this with some fast and frantic top-down action gameplay, and it’s no wonder that Bastion would continue to be considered one of the indie greats.
6) Dead Space 2
Developer: Visceral Games | Release Date: January 25th, 2011
If Dead Space managed to take all of the lessons of Resident Evil 4 and turn them into a better sci-fi game, then Dead Space 2 just improved on that even further. Combining action and horror into a nearly perfect package, and filling it with amazing sound design and brutal deaths, it’s no wonder the game was as loved as it was. Combine this with a UI that still manages to immerse players and hasn’t been done nearly as well in other games, and you can see why so many people were in love with this game. Even when it brutally killed them.
Our 5 Best Games of 2011
Developer: Re-Logic | Release Date: May 16th, 2011
Minecraft‘s early access phase had already left such a huge impact on so many people that it was no wonder we started to see games try to use those ideas in new ways. One of the few games that got it completely right was Terraria. Combining 2D world-building with dungeon crawling and loot collecting, this quickly became many people’s Minecraft-but-not game of choice, and it’s still getting updates to this day. If you can’t play Minecraft, then Terraria is the next best thing.
4) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios | Release Date: November 11th, 2011 | Game Page
Oh, Todd, what would we do without you? Skyrim was the game that showed many players how awesome an open world can really be. Endlessly explorable, and thanks to the use of mods this was literal, Skyrim was one of the easiest worlds to get totally lost in for days. It helps that you could also do some hilariously silly things, like find ways to yell at people until they flew off of a mountain or decorate your house with the corpses of your enemies. Endless replayability.
3) Portal 2
Developer: Valve | Release Date: April 19th, 2011
While Portal was a surprise hit most people didn’t expect to take off as it did, Portal 2 improved on it in every way. It has one of the most hilariously entertaining stories with several characters that have gone down as favorites for many players. Potatoes and The Part Where He Kills You still crack fans up to this day. When you combine this with a super unique and clever puzzle formula, then you end up with a winner that is beloved by many and friend to all.
Developer: Mojang | Release Date: November 18th, 2011 | Game Page
While it may have launched into a beta phase a couple of years before, Minecraft finally hit 1.0 in 2011, and its status as a world-changing video game had been confirmed, leading to it being the bestselling game of all time. Bringing the love of virtual building blocks to as many people as possible, and still getting more content to this day, Minecraft drops you in a world with as few instructions as possible and lets you have fun living in it. In addition to all this, a large modding scene that can give you consistently new ways to spend time in Minecraft. This is one for adults and kids alike.
1) Dark Souls
Developer: FromSoftware | Release Date: October 4th, 2011 | Game Page
Very few games have had as much impact on how games are made and played than Dark Souls has had. From creating an entirely new genre of games to popularizing several concepts like passive multiplayer or extreme difficulty, it’s hard to deny that Dark Souls hasn’t had an impact on the industry in such a major way. It’s easy to see why, though. So much love and attention has been put into every part of the game, from its world-building to the plethora of fantastic boss fights. It’s really visionary, and it’s no surprise that Dark Souls continues to be the game that many fans compare other games both in and out of the series to. It really was one of the best.