The Best Videogames of 2011

  • Publish Date: December 23, 2011
  • Comments: ↓ 43 user comments

It was a very good year

Batman: Arkham City
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3) 96
Grand Theft Auto IV
Super Mario Galaxy
Metacritic's Game of the Year
(Highest-Scoring Title, min. 7 rev.)

Sure, next year superhero fans—and entertainment fans in general—will be talking about Christopher Nolan's third and final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises. But no matter how good it is, that movie will have a hard time matching the critical acclaimed earned by the latest incarnation of Batman in game form. A huge sequel to 2009's Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City 96 (on the PS3) edged out the 360 version of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 96 by a few decimal points to take top honors as Metacritic's 2011 Game of the Year.

Arkham City, though, was just one of many amazing games to be found during the past 12 months. All in all, there were 23 great console releases (with Metascores of 90 or higher) in 2011. That's the highest total in the last five years (and since the introduction of the current generation consoles). Throw in PC games and releases for handheld devices (iOS excluded), and there were a total of 32 great games released this year—also the highest mark in at least five years. In 2010, by comparison, there were just 22 releases to score at least 90.

In the following pages, we'll take a look at the best-reviewed games for each gaming platform. First, however, let's examine how each console fared during the past year. Once again, it was the PlayStation 3 that scored the best metrics in most categories.

Console Comparison - Games Released During 2011
Image Image Image
69.5 Avg. Metascore
253 games *
68.9 Avg. Metascore
261 games *
62.2 Avg. Metascore
69 games *
12 Great Games **
90 or higher
9 Great Games **
90 or higher
2 Great Games **
90 or higher
13 Good Exclusives **
75 or higher
12 Good Exclusives **
75 or higher
4 Good Exclusives **
75 or higher
Best Exclusive:
Uncharted 3:
Drake's Deception
Best Exclusive:
Gears of War 3 91
Best Exclusive:
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword 93

* Games with 4 or more reviews in Metacritic's database released between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011.
** Excludes games with fewer than 7 reviews; downloadable map packs are also excluded.
All Metascore data is from December 21, 2011. The pie charts reflect the percentage of all releases for each console with Positive Reviews (receiving a Metascore of 75 or higher indicating), Mixed Reviews (receiving a Metascore of 50-74), and Negative Reviews (receiving a Metascore of 49 or below). Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

And here are the year's best-reviewed titles, regardless of platform (iOS games excluded; they're covered in a separate article):

Best-Reviewed Games (Any Platform), 2011
  Title / Platform Genre Metascore Users
1 Batman: Arkham City PS3 Action-Adventure 96 8.1
2 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 360 Action-RPG 96 8.5
3 Portal 2 PC Puzzle/Shooter 95 8.4
4 Portal 2 360 Puzzle/Shooter 95 8.1
5 Portal 2 PS3 Puzzle/Shooter 95 8.0
6 Batman: Arkham City 360 Action-Adventure 94 8.4
7 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D 3DS Action-Adventure 94 8.5
8 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim PC Action-RPG 94 8.3
9 Mass Effect 2 PS3 Action-RPG 94 8.2
10 Minecraft PC Sandbox/RPG 93 7.1

Releases by platform

On the next pages, we examine the best and worst 2011 games released for each platform, including the top titles exclusive to each platform.

Comments (43)

  • Unbelievable21  

    Since LoZ: Four Swords was released on the DSi - and, therefore, both on DS and 3DS - isn't it a bit unfair to only list it in the DS games?

  • tonyb  

    the thing I find interesting is how much harsher users are as compared with critics
    only a handful of the scores either matched or exceeded what critics thought of the games
    I would be curious to hear why people think this is
    (contrast this with films where it seems to be the other way around)

    just an FYI, you forgot to include Mass Effect 2 in the PC best of

  • ShuteTheRunner  

    As far as I know, there isn't a difference between the XBox 360 and PS3 version of Batman: Arkham City, so shouldn't the true score of the game depend upon which version has more reviews? The XBox version has almost twice as many reviews as the PS3 version, therefore the score of this game is 94, not 96. While this is still a brilliant score, it does mean that Batman: Arkham City is not the game of the year. Skyrim is slightly different across all platforms. the PS3 version has a major bug, which is why it has a lower score. The PC version plays differently due to it being on a PC, giving it a slightly lower score. The XBox version has a score of 96 based upon 88 reviews, whereas the PS3 version of Arkham City has the same score based upon 41 reviews, which is less than half of Skyrim's reviews. This makes The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (XBox 360 version) the most critically acclaimed game of the year. I will not offer my personal opinion, I am merely pointing out that, based upon Metacritic's scoring, the Metacritic GOTY is Skyrim, not Arkham City.

  • TheHorrorAnthem  

    Hey Tonyb, I consider myself a pretty hard critic and tend to agree with the metacritic and rotten tomato critics at least 85-95% of the time. I know exactly what you mean by how the audience reaction is reversed from games to film, and I honestly think it is just a mix of how each is delivered, maturity and fanboyism. In film the Transformer movies are a great example, fans love them because they are big, colorful, loud, explosive action films with pretty and popular faces and require no thinking whatsoever, but then that is the exact reason why critics dont like them. Besides something to munch popcorn to they provide nothing into the history of film aside from maybe box office records. Avatar for one was nominated for multiple Oscars in visuals only, not in writing, because honestly other than being pretty it was nothing special, great film making but not deep at all.

    In games though it comes off a little different, first of all as mentioned above, maturity, gamers who comment and review are probably mostly younger than the average movie viewers who comment and review outside of Youtube. Faboyism is a large part of it and that cannot be denied, they are the number one reason I dont follow user reviews closely. I see 10's in reviews that involve the words "its not perfect" or 2's because they suck at the game or didnt understand it, or worse of all, played ten minutes of it or a demo. Critics are at least finishing the games, aside from releases like Skyrim where you really cant finish everything by a due date. A good critic is not afraid to give a game he does not like a 10 if the game deserves it, or a 1 to a game that sucks yet he loves it, but knows its not a great game. Same in film, buddy comedies average a 2 star rating but that doesnt mean it wasnt hilarious with multiple viewings, just means by great film standards its not great. That is where average viewers and critic types really truly think separately. I personally dont watch many musicals yet I know The Sound of Music is a 4 star film, but I devout a lot of time to film and music and games. Making and critiquing such things is my entire life so I get really into prissiness. Bottom line, its all opinion of course, but some of it is overlooked fact. Rather a piece of entertainment is well made or not is fact, rather you like it or not is opinion, and that is something else a lot of people never consider. Another point I will add is users are also only playing games of their choice, while critics are playing everything. They strive to see something fresh and original, while many gamers want the same thing over and over. Call of Duty fans, just give them a FPS with great online and their year is set, others are waiting for the next epic in storytelling, some want both. To really focus on your question, in the game department a lot of due also to how games are treated. They are still after all these years looked down upon compared to other medias. Which is unfortunate because video games have become great ways to express and tell stories. I think 2011 had better games than movies by far, and even in this article The Dark Knight Rises was challenged by Arkham City. Which ultimately leads back to the maturity subject I mentioned earlier. Gamers do range from 10 all the way to 40 on average but so many of the great games are being marketed for early 20 year olds. I think someday it may balance, after more Mass Effects, Red Dead Redemptions, and Bioshocks it may level itself. I for one think video games can compete as art as well as any other media. Time will tell. If you actually read all of that I thank you, and I thank anyone else who read. Long comment but I actually enjoy talking about these things. - Matt M.

  • TheHorrorAnthem  

    ShutetheRunner, Very true, everything you said is exactly right. The way the article is written is twisted a little bit almost like it is trying to sell it. Also, I notice most first look demos and critic videos are on Xbox which also almost always contains the most reviews written. I dont know if that is coincidence or if maybe Xbox just delivers first to game testers or what. Does anyone know the answer to that?

  • evergreenOldboy  

    @tonyb The reasoning for this is that, if someone gives an unfavorable review of a movie they eloquently express their opinion to match the corresponding score they gave the the movie. As for video games, if someone gives an unfavorable review they usually just give it a 0 out of 10, this could be for many reasons some of which include glitches they have suffered that the critics have not, having to spend many hours in a game only to discover that you dont like it, and fanboyism (very broad reason).

  • ShuteTheRunner  

    TheHorrorAnthem I think it may be because of the popularity of the Xbox 360 over the PS3. I think that, unless a critic specifies which version they are reviewing then the score should count for all currently available versions. By the way, it is excellent to see another open-minded, mature person on this site. Far too often do I see immature and childish comments regarding how awful or excellent something is without giving any real insight as to why their opinion is so. In fact, everyone who has commented on this article has written a well thought out and open-minded comment. It pleases me to see such maturity over the internet

  • RainbowYoshi  

    Oh well, my top 2 favourites will be Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception and Mario Kart 7. I'll be getting Skyrim soon (not from a fanboy's opinion) but is it league's above those games?

  • spadenx  

    Little curious as to how AC is number one then it has far less reviews then Skyrim. Not a fanboy, I love the new Batman games but I am just curious.

  • TheHorrorAnthem  

    Thank you very much ShuteTheRunner, that is very complimenting, and yes I agree that this forum thus far has been great. RainbowYoshi, I am someone who plays Skyrim constantly but is not a fanboy, and I personally would say that it is defiantly the best game of the year. Uncharted 3 like the first two is a great linear action experience, and while great, fun, and explosive, it will take less than 20 hours to complete, maybe less than 15 depending how you play. Skyrim however can run you beyond 150 hours with absolutely no problem. In fact you can play over 150 hours without even paying attention to its main plot line. I have not played Mario Kart 7 but I assume Skyrim has it beaten as well. Uncharted is great, but Skyrim is worth even more than 60 bucks. It may find its way into your console a few years from now. Its huge, its extremely fun, its addicting. If you like RPGs or open world it is a must.

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