Last year's Game of the Year voting was a blowout. This year, not so much. The top ten see-sawed wildly until the very last votes were cast. But from the nearly three hundred games represented in the voting pool, these were your top ten for 2011:
In the crowded category of online military shooters, Battlefield 3's chaotic, squad-based gameplay prevailed. The stunningly gorgeous Frostbyte engine certainly didn't hurt, either.
Dragon Age 2
Undoubtedly a controversial choice, Dragon Age 2 appeared in more "most disappointing" notes than any other game. But its intimate storyline, tremendous voice acting, and meaningful romances won over enough players to vault it into the top ten.
Saint's Row the Third
Satirical, vulgar, and downright bizarre, Saint's Row the Third charmed seemingly everyone who played it. It's proportion of #1 votes to total votes cast was impressive and shows that its fans, while fewer in number, were dedicated.
Batman: Arkham City
Larger, burlier, and more riddled with trophies than its predecessor, Batman: Arkham City gave us all a little taste of what it feels like to be the Goddamn Batman.
Dark Souls — Special Award: Console Game of the Year
Brutal, cryptic, and, at times, downright mean, Dark Souls punished its players until they loved it, and then it punished them some more.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings — Special Award: PC Game of the Year
Somewhat unwieldy subtitle aside, The Witcher 2's improved combat system and meaningful choices pleased gamers tired of the usual black and white dichotomies of modern RPGs. Watch for this game to take another crack at the top ten next year when it's released to the grubby, console-playing masses.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
At the beginning of the year, the consensus was clear: if Eidos Montreal screwed up Deus Ex, there would be rioting in the streets. Thankfully, Human Revolution is a worthy prequel to that great gem of PC gaming.
Bastion — Special Award: Indie Game of the Year
While it might be tempting to make this write-up a reference to Bastion's Narrator, the Clock isn't gonna do that. He'll just say that this indie game touched a lotta hearts and meant a lot to a lotta people.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim — Special Award: Best-Loved Game of the Year
Deep, sprawling, and beloved, Skyrim tallied up more #1 votes than any other game this year. Judging by the comments made about this game, more man hours were spent exploring the icy realm of Skyrim than almost anything else this year. And yes, you get to punch a dragon.
Portal 2 — Special Award: Most Loved Game of the Year
Racking up more total votes than any other game, Portal 2 took a few votes here, a few votes there, and climbed its way to the top. I'll avoid the temptation to make this description a string of space jokes, potato jokes, lemon jokes, and GLaDOS-style snark. Instead, I'll ask: is it really any surprise that GWJ loved a Valve-developed game more than anything else?
And now, some special awards, for games that were significant but didn't crack the top ten:
Classic Game of the Year: Batman: Arkham Asylum
For the first time this year, voting was open to any game players finished for the first time this year, rather than just new releases. Two years after its release, Arkham Asylum made a strong showing in the final tally and cemented its place as a game that will be loved for years to come. Hell, even I liked it, and I hate fun.
Mobile Game of the Year: Game Dev Story
Apparently, those of us who aren't game developers liked to pretend that we were with this mobile title, where we waged console wars to scar the heavens and ground into dust rivals we liked to call "B. Kotick."
Handheld Game of the Year: Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
Also a frontrunner for "WTF subtitle" of the year, Tactics Ogre was a beautiful, intricate swansong for the sometimes troubled PSP.