Top 5 Xbox 360 Games of 2011
In just a few weeks we’ll be ringing in the new year and excitement is already high for what’s in store for 2012. Looking back at 2011, we see quite possibly one of the greatest years for gaming in history with marquee titles released in every genre across every platform. Whether you’re enjoying the latest Mario titles on the 3DS or prefer the multiplatform blockbusters Batman Arkham City or Skyrim, we can all agree that 2011 had something for everyone.
Although Microsoft may not have had an abundance of exclusive hits like Sony (Uncharted 3, Resistance 3, etc) 2011 was a year of many milestones for Bill Gates and company. The Xbox 360 sold an incredible amount of systems (including a record-breaking November), integrated even more multimedia products into their Xbox Live system, and released quite a few highly rated games exclusive to Microsoft. To top things off, even though many still scoff at the Kinect, the peripheral broke the record for best selling tech gadget. 2012 is looking to bring in even more critically acclaimed hits but for now, let’s take a look back at my picks for the top 5 Xbox 360 Games of the Year.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition
This year marks not only the ten year anniversary of the launch for the original Xbox, but also Microsoft’s flagship franchise Halo. Bungie has already left Master Chief and co. in the hands of Microsoft’s own 343 Studios and at E3 this year they announced an all new trilogy set to star everyone’s favorite Spartan. Before we see the likes of Halo 4 though, 343 decided to take us back to the beginning allowing players the chance to see the original Halo like we’ve never seen before. It’s become all the rage to re-release classic titles with a fresh coat of HD paint, but 343 went the extra mile and created completely new graphics for the Halo: CE Anniversary. Not to forget their roots, players are given the ability to switch between the classic graphics so as to experience the game like it was back in 2001. But in a true testament to the original system, the gameplay remains completely untouched aside from the ability to play the campaign over Xbox Live in cooperative mode. In a year where first-person shooters dominated (Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3) it’s amazing that the original Halo holds up so well and even after ten years can still be considered one of the best FPS’ of all time.
Last year XBLA had the stunning Limbo and the year prior was the time-bending Braid. This year’s download of the year goes to Supergiant Games Bastion. One of the most visually appealing titles to be released for XBLA, Bastion blended clever writing with a story that grasped players from beginning to end. The raspy narration along with a world that built itself around your movements helped create a memorable experience that should be experienced by everyone. Combat itself wasn’t too shabby equipping players with a decent arsenal and attacks heavily influenced by Nintendo’s Zelda series. It’s easy to justify purchasing all five of this years Summer of Arcade titles, but in the end Bastion stands above the rest and easily earns it’s place at number four.
Dance Central 2
The Kinect had a surprising amount of decent titles released this year including Double Fine’s Once Upon A Monster and the on-rails shooter Child of Eden. Though the quality of titles improved, the only realistic peripheral seller was Dance Central, until a year later when Dance Central 2 released. It’d be easy to groan and moan about purchasing a sequel barely a year after it’s predecessor released, but you all do the same thing with sports titles and Activision’s Call of Duty series year after year. Dance Central 2 improves on nearly every aspect of the original including side-by-side co-op or competitive modes, an all new campaign, a better “break it down” mode, and improved motion detecting. Along with the many new tracks (and established DLC songs), players can even import the Dance Central 1 songs from the original disc. Whether playing alone or with friends, Dance Central 2 is a ton of fun and Harmonix has once again given players a reason to continue playing their Kinect.
Forza Motorsport 4
It’s been called one of the best racing games of all time and is Microsoft’s answer to the always excellent Gran Turismo series. Whether you’re a Playstation or Xbox gamer, most will agree that Forza Motorsport 4 is one of the best racing games released in years. Improving on what made the third title such a success, Forza 4 has some of the best visuals seen this generation, a career mode that is simple and highly enjoyable, and enough mods to satisfy any car enthusiast. Though it’s a simulation, fans of arcade racers can even find something they’d like with tight controls and gameplay being described as the best across any platform. Sitting at a very impressive 91 on metacritic, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better racing game on any other platform this year.
Gears of War 3
Microsoft’s number two franchise (behind Master Chief’s Halo) and one of the best games for the Xbox 360 easily earns the top spot for 2011. The end (supposedly?) of Epic’s third-person shooter trilogy, Gears of War 3 improves on the already tight gameplay of it’s predecessors including adding new modes and gametypes. The campaign is enjoyable albeit with a stupid and predictable story. The developers threw everything at players with little concern for plotholes (which are gaping by the way), but the real meat is the always excellent multiplayer. Horde mode has been improved adding minor tower-defense like foundations while the newly added beast mode allows players the chance to experience things from a different perspective. Competitive matches are some of the most intense experiences available over Xbox Live and along with new maps, better balanced weapons, and future DLC you’re looking at one of the best games of the year and the number one Xbox 360 title of 2011.
There were a ton of amazing titles released this year including Portal 2, Skyrim, and Deus Ex: HE, but I wanted to fill this list with Xbox 360 exclusives (though some of the above can be found for PC.) If you have yet to check out our top 5 Playstation 3 games of the year, check out Juan’s list here. Thanks for reading and let us know what your picks are in the comments below.