2011’s been a funny old year, with 3D becoming a mainstream gaming staple and then dramatically flopping about eight minutes later. Elsewhere in the gaming world, profits tumbled for the likes of Nintendo as tumultuous economic markets made Pilotwings Resort seem less important than heating one’s home. (Madness, we agree.) While it’s been an unexpected year for the Nintendo fan (we’re still getting over the notion of Wii U) there have been plenty of gems for the avid enthusiast and we’re here to celebrate them!
This week, we’ve had a good long look at the best of the year’s games on DSiWare, DS, WiiWare, Wii , eShop and 3DS but now we’ve reached the pinnacle of our celebrations: the best games overall and our (vaguely coveted) game of the year award. Last year Super Mario Galaxy 2 picked up first place but who will win out this year? Roll on to find out.
GAME OF THE YEAR
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Did you see it coming? Skyward Sword was far from an outside contender for the top spot but to see it win so convincingly is a glowing representation of the support Zelda still enjoys from Nintendo fans. In a year when the franchise’s Magna Carta was repackaged in hi-res 3D visuals, it would take quite a title to come out on top and Nintendo produced just that: a sumptuously designed environment that finally realised the potential of Wii’s motion controls.
While the year’s celebration of the franchise’s 25th anniversary included symphony concerts, Four Swords giveaways, remakes and even Robin Williams and his originally named daughter, Zelda, featuring in what will perhaps forever be the oddest celebrity endorsement to grace our television screens, this game was all about advancing the series into new and exciting directions.
Grabbing the Zelda series by the scruff of the neck, Skyward Sword sought to shake vibrance into a franchise that some critics have accused of growing stale in recent years. With a redeveloped overworld, new villains and a intensified combat system (so long, button mashing!) Link’s latest adventure took risks with the company’s most untouched rule book and came up aces. Here’s looking at you, Hero of Time.
While our first choice for the Game of The Year may have been painfully obvious for some, our first runner-up may be comparatively obtuse. “Why have they picked that? Are they saying that the second best game of the year is one that I can’t even play!?” you may be asking; dear incredulous Yankee. Well, even though we do have some European staffers (including me, if that wasn’t clear) the reason for Xenoblade‘s remarkable success is perhaps more of a protest vote, more emblematic. The game represents not only the fact that, when one can be bothered, truly brilliant games can be made for the Wii that will go on to sell quite well but that Nintendo fans can enact change under the right circumstances.
When it emerged that Xenoblade Chronicles was to receive a release outside of Japan but only in Europe, RPG fans in America didn’t take it lying down. A movement called Operation Rainfall (who we interviewed during their campaign) took it upon themselves to let Nintendo know they weren’t happy, bombarding the company with messages demanding the release of the game and skyrocketing the game to the top of Amazon.com’s sales charts under its working title, Monado.
While it may have gained notability for its troubled path to release, the game’s expansive story and winning gameplay make this success story all the sweeter. Finally relinquishing last month, Nintendo will release Xenoblade Chronicles in the US on April 2, 2012 but until then, it’ll have to settle for being our runner-up of 2011.
Hey, we’ve gotten pretty far into this article and no one’s mentioned… oh what’s his name? Uppity camp plumber? Doesn’t know when to quit. Ersatz homosexual relationship with a lizard. Joan Rivers? No that’s the other one… Mario! I knew I would remember it eventually.
In all seriousness, Mario risked being a no-show in 2011. With the first ten months of the year distinctly stereotypical-Italian free (no Mario Sports Mix does not count) the big guns were rushed out in November to help prop up the ailing 3DS as Super Mario 3D Land flew into our lives via tanuki tail. The race for Mario game of the year was incredibly close, with December’s Mario Kart 7 on 3DS losing out by just a single vote/banana peel.
Regardless of his racing exploits, Mario’s day job of progressing from the left hand side of the screen to the right hand side won out in this nostalgia-laden, Super Mario Galaxy meets Super Mario 64 2.5D extravaganza. Don’t ever change Mario, we’d need to buy a new Halloween costume if you did.
Game of the Year Honourable Mentions
Pokémon Black & White, Mario Kart 7, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
And that’s about it for our coverage of 2011! Disagree with our choices? Tell us which of the above titles you’d pick as the winner, or if you think another game is more deserving, select “Other” and tell us in the comments!