The action/adventure genre got bigger and better in 2011. When goons busted their way out of Arkham Asylum into the City, Batman was there to clean things up. When a haughty Helen Mirren wannabe deployed a secretive global initiative to ferret out a lost and ancient city, Drake was back to chase all over the globe and sort things out. Cole McGrath returned, in possession of a host of new powers, and the purple-clad Saints reappeared, bringing a new playground of bizarre, explosive, sex-toy-ridden delights along with them.
If that wasn't enough, Supergiant and Team Bondi rocked up to the party with a couple of newbies to show off and, in Bastion and L.A. Noire, they delivered two of our favourite games of the year.
NB. Click on the thumbnails for price comparisons and the game's title for the relevant review where available.
There was the soundtrack. There was the engaging, fluid combat. There was one of the finest pieces of interactive, procedurally generated storytelling we've seen. Supergiant Games crafted a sensational experience, and one that thoroughly deserves our respect. Bastion is engaging, fun, heartbreaking and beautiful in equal measure.
Rocksteady succeeded with the 'difficult second album', smashing expectations and delivering a darker, deeper and more delicious experience than before. The story was excellent, the voice acting once again superb, and the open world did nothing to diminish nor dilute the winning formula Rocksteady established with the first game...if anything, it made everything better.
Dead Space 2 shook things up a little bit, by abandoning pure horror and introducing more action elements. For our money, though, this made the overall experience a more diverse, better paced affair. The Sprawl was perfectly realised, a terrifying blend of the familiar and the grotesque, and perfectly complimented by Jason Graves' eerie soundtrack.
Team Bondi's story might have been a topsy-turvy mess ending in miserable liquidation, but the game they left behind this year was an utter gem. Providing a roadmap for the future in the detective-oriented adventure game, L.A. Noire was a masterpiece in cinematic gaming, thanks in no small part to the pioneering motion capture and facial recognition work.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Wii owners had been waiting years for this one, but finally Nintendo delivered a first party title that absolutely made the most of everything that the Wii could do. Gorgeous to behold, stuffed full of inventive mechanics, controls and some ingenious level design, Link returned in one of the year's finest games and breathed fresh life into a console on its last legs.
Uncharted 3 was yet another game that offered the complete package this year. More modes, more options, more customisation, and the bespoke co-op mini adventures made for a multiplayer experience that delighted PS3 fans everywhere. As usual, though, it was the singleplayer that really impressed, with arguably the best story in the series and, in Marlowe, certainly the best villain.
Best Action/Adventure Game 2011: L.A. Noire
To be frank, this one could have gone to pretty much any of the games on the list. But L.A. Noire, in a year marked by so much iteration, got everyone talking - across mainstream media and beyond - about the importance of video games and what they could achieve. It brought the adventure-puzzler kicking and screaming (and wearing a trilby) into the 21st century, pioneering new motion capture technology and proving that Rockstar and their associates really do tell some of best stories. Those looking for a period GTA came away disappointed, but they were looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place. The rest of us delighted in playing detective.