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Dragons, robots and Batman among 2011’s best video games

10. “Saints Row: The Third” (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)

“Saints Row: The Third” is everything you would expect from an urban-style sandbox game. Taking place a few years after the second “Saints Row” game, “Saints Row: The Third” embraces humor and violence. While it has the struggles of every sandbox game, inconsistent plots and pointless objectives, “Saints Row: The Third” does a good job of accepting its quirkiness. Unlike “Grand Theft Auto,” “Saints Row: The Third” accepts the humor aspect of thug life. It is not meant to be taken seriously, and is always good for a laugh or two.

9. “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” (Wii)

I am a sucker for Nintendo’s “Zelda” series, and “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” for the Wii does not disappoint. “Skyward Sword” is the 16th game in the “Zelda” series, and is instantly one of my favorites. While the story served as a prequel to “Ocarina of Time” (my favorite Zelda game), the innovative technology set this Zelda game apart from the others. You all have been there: To get a desired attack to work on the Wii, all you have to do is shake the remote, completely disregarding the actual motion. In “Skyward Sword,” Nintendo uses motion-based attacks, which adds a lot to the strategy and enhances the game.

8. “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC)

I don’t care that the gameplay is exactly like “Modern Warfare 2.” I continue to stand by the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. The storyline in the “Modern Warfare” series continues to be intelligent and interesting, but the multiplayer format is what brings everyone back to the “Call of Duty” series. “Modern Warfare 3” has the easiest and most user-friendly controls of any first-person shooter, which is why everyone loves it so much. My biggest complaint with “Modern Warfare 3” are the gamers themselves. It has become so much of a culture in the online version of the game that it is incredibly hard for a casual gamer to enjoy the multiplayer option.

7. “FIFA Soccer 12” (Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, Wii, PC, Mac)

While I generally don’t like the improvements that sports games make from year to year, “FIFA Soccer 12” proved to be one of my favorite games of 2011. The biggest complaint I have had over the years with the “FIFA” series is the gap between realistic gameplay and entertainment. Let’s be honest: Soccer games are boring, and no one wants to sit down and play a 90-minute game where no one scores any goals. But “FIFA Soccer 12” is able to harness the realism of “the beautiful game” with an entertainment-oriented goal. Increased defensive maneuvers and realistic tackling animations add to the quality of this installment of the “FIFA” series. By far, because of the enjoyment I get from playing friends, in 2011, “FIFA Soccer 12” spent the most time in my Xbox.

6. “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception” (PS3)

Admittedly, I did not get the chance to play “Uncharted 3” as much as I did the other games in the series, but from what I can tell, the series is improving from release to release. The story follows Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan around the world in search of a legendary lost city. I praise the writing and the story line for “Uncharted 3,” as it was one of the best games of the year. I found the voice acting and writing exceptionally good, not just for a video game, but good for a movie. This was, by far, the best PS3-only game of the year.

5. “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)

“Skyrim” is fifth in the series of the “Elder Scrolls” saga. Much like the previous games, it is an open fantasy world filled with dragons, mythical creatures, magic and danger. You choose your adventure in this one-player fantasy world and all decisions are left up to the player. You can accept quests, fight enemies, steal or do good. The graphics in “Skyrim,” as compared to the previous “Elder Scrolls” games, are much better and the vast amount of weaponry, magic and adventure is unmatched. Bethesda Game Studios, again, outdid itself with “Skyrim.”

4. “Batman: Arkham City” (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)

Admittedly, anything involved with Batman is instantly awesome in my opinion, but the engine and game play in “Arkham City” makes this already outstanding video game series even better. The last edition, “Arkham Asylum,” left me wanting to kick even more ass, as I finished the campaign all too quickly. The difficulty in “Arkham City” increased, the complexity increased, and because of that, I enjoyed it so much more.

3. “Portal 2” (PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac)

When the first “Portal” game arrived, it was simple but new. Valve’s expansion on the original, quaint puzzle game, “Portal 2” is an instant classic, not only serving up a bigger universe inside Aperture Science to explore, but richer characters, a more fleshed-out story and new gimmicks that expand on its predecessor. The game’s villain, GLaDOS, is one of the best in recent gaming memory, thanks in part to the game’s swell voice acting, and the game’s physics, powered by Valve’s famous Source engine, bring enough to the “Portal” world to result in one of the greatest puzzle games ever.

2. “Gears of War 3” (Xbox 360)

In high school, I was simply obsessed with the original “Gears of War.” I would play hours on end into the night, defeating the Horde, collecting COG tags and sticking the enemies with grenades and running like hell. The campaign in “Gears of War 3” is almost as good as the campaign in the original, which in my opinion, can really never be topped. This was a refreshing addition to the series, as I found “Gears of War 2” rather disappointing. The added multiplayer modes online and the awesome story line make “Gears of War 3” one of my favorite games of the year.

1. “Battlefield 3” (PS3, Xbox 360, PC, iOS)

I love war games, and “Battlefield 3” is the best game I have ever played. The graphics are almost scary. It runs on a near-perfect engine that makes it look more lifelike than anything else. The use of bigger maps and increased weaponry in the multiplayer mode allows players to strategize and execute smart game play rather than the typical run-around-and-shoot game. The amazing graphics and gameplay make “Battlefield 3” my game of the year, and I am now really looking forward to “Battlefield 4.”

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