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Overall Game of the Year 2011

Come see PixlBit's pick for the top game of the year, as well as the runner up.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword


It's no surprise that Skyward Sword placed among our overall games of the year. Each new entry is nearly guaranteed to be great. On any other year, Skyward Sword would've likely dominated the awards, besting its contenders in every applicable category, but speaking to the quality of the titles released this year it finds itself in a tie for the runner up position with Skyrim.

Despite its inherent quality, it's a divisive game. This is not the Zelda we're used to – though it's certainly similar. Stopping short of turning the series on its head, Skyward Sword adopts a completely new overworld design, fresh controls, and a few modern gaming conventions that improve on the now increasingly outdated design of Ocarina of Time. While this will resound with a wide variety of players, it's still not enough change for those burnt out on the 3D entries in the series or potentially too much change for stalwarts.

Given this, it's not surprising that it has fallen short of the top spot, especially given the title that bested it. Regardless of where most players sit with the game, it has achieved some stunning goals.

First and foremost, Skyward Sword has singlehandedly legitimized motion controls after nearly five years of mostly failed attempts. It proves that with the right amount of finesse and the help of the MotionPlus accessory, a full-fledged adventure can not only be made to work with motion controls, but be better off because of them.

Despite the aging Wii hardware, Skyward Sword still manages to look fantastic. Excellent art direction that blends the cel-shaded Wind Waker with the dark and gritty Twilight Princess makes for one of the best looking games of the generation. Toss in the fully orchestrated score and Skyward Sword is an audio and visual feast.

A lengthy quest, layered overworld and dungeon designs, and a new organic approach to progression make this adventure an extremely memorable one. It might not be the best Zelda game of all time, but it's a strong presence in the series that will likely shape and mold where Nintendo takes it in the future.

Augmenting the experience is a deeper story than we traditionally see in the series, telling the origin story of the Master Sword and the events leading up to Ocarina of Time. It's a tale that's both intriguing and touching and extremely interesting for those obsessed with the lore of the games.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword may only be a Runner Up in this year's awards, but it's a pivotal game in the series and a triumph for long time fans. When competing in a year with so many quality titles, Skyward Sword is nothing short of a winner in our book.

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12/16/2011 at 12:16 PM

So if I'm reading this correctly, it's probably a safe statement to say that Portal 2 would not have been game of the year if everyone on staff was only allowed to vote for their single favorite game?

If so, I really appreciate this approach to a GotY award. It's showing which game has the broadest appeal.

I was originally confused by the fact that Uncharted beat it on PS3 yet it got Game of the Year. Initially I thought "Wow, they really thought the PC experience was better, didn't they?" Is there any truth to that statement?

For what it's worth, Portal 2 wouldn't have even been in my top 5 though. :)

Jason Ross Senior Editor

12/16/2011 at 12:59 PM

That's right, Pale. Portal 2 got a ton of second place votes. My top pick was Bastion first, then Portal 2. Everyone had three votes, with the first awarded 3 points, the second awarded 2, and the third awarded 1.

The process really worked out, since I think Portal 2 generally has the most broad appeal, thanks to it's more unique FPS/puzzle hybrid gameplay and its sense of humor. I mentioned the game on PB & Jason the other day as a great gift idea, and in just about every gift guide PixlBit has posted, it was recommended. In fact, I left it out of mine just because the other guys talked about it so much. I'm shocked to hear it wouldn't have been in your top 5. Care to share the list?


12/16/2011 at 01:20 PM

People at 1Up laughed a bit at me when I wrote a blog choosing Portal 2 as my GOTY.

How could it NOT be a strong candidate, at the very least? The game shipped with virtually no bugs, brought Steam crossplatform play to the ps3, and featured FREE dlc?

This game is how you do a sequel. Valve's still taking us to class, after over a decade of excellence. Good job, PixlBit editors and writers - you chose solid gold. Seems to me it's not too often that a puzzler beats out shooters and rpg's for GOTY.

Nick DiMola Director

12/16/2011 at 01:26 PM

Damn, Jason beat me to it! Yeah, the system worked out really well. If I remember correctly, there would've been a tie between Zelda and Portal 2 if we were just going by first place votes and Skyrim would've taken the overall award by 1 vote.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I think they typically vote for MVP and the like in sports in this same fashion. I definitely think we'll be going with this format again in the future because it was so successful. Also of note - we did completely blind voting, so nobody had any specific influence over the results.

I definitely think people were more generous to exclusives when voting for the console GOTY winners and Portal 2 lost its footing there as a result. It was also spread thinner for the same exact reason across platforms.

In any event, it was an interesting experience this year and I'm really pleased with the results. The staff pulled together in an amazing way and made the awards something special and extremely memorable.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

12/16/2011 at 01:32 PM

While this isn't my personal GOTY, I think it's a very valid choice. I had a blast with the multiplayer, and the single player game is very solid.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

12/16/2011 at 02:43 PM

@darth That's so odd. I feel like the battle for GOTY at most sites is between Skyrim and Portal 2, with Zelda being firmly in the mix. Maybe the people laughing don't remember the early part of the year very well.

Jesse Miller Staff Writer

12/16/2011 at 02:47 PM

I'm glad that Portal is getting the love it is. It's easy to forget some of the outstanding titles that came out in the earlier part of the year, especially with the frenetic holiday season we just endured. inFAMOUS 2, L.A. Noire, Portal 2, Mortal Kombat, Dead Space 2 and a few others have been overlooked by gamers with short memories.

And @Nick, yes most sports MVP awards are voted on in that fashion, which I think makes for a much more even selection. Awards should be given for the largest appeal as opposed to a select group really loving it - which is what I believe is happening with Skyrim this year.

Rob Ottone Staff Alumnus

12/16/2011 at 02:58 PM

Portal 2 was my choice for GOTY the moment I popped it into my 360. Every single thing in that game is done so perfectly, from throwaway lines of dialogue to epic moments, Valve really hit a game-winning grand slam with that game. I have yet to play Skyrim, but I refuse to play Bethesda titles until they're updated and loaded with DLC for a reduced price in their inevitable GOTY edition.


12/16/2011 at 03:01 PM

I'm really glad Portal got the love it deserved. I think it was the best designed game of the year and accomplished what it set out to and more. I think it's Valve's best designed game to date, I had a lot of fun with it in both SP and Co-op, and I can't dispute it's GOTY win.

I was afraid that people with short memories would forget all about it. It's pretty pessimistic but I was actually assuming that Portal wouldn't even make the short list for you guys. I had the same fear back when Mass Effect 2 came out and it was so amazing, but so much time had gone by when it was time to start voting for GOTY that I thought everybody in the gaming journalism and reviewing field would've forgotten all about it and focused on the later 2010 releases like Halo Reach, Black Ops, Fallout New Vegas and such.

Mike Wall Staff Alumnus

12/16/2011 at 03:21 PM

Yea I gotta say I was really happy with this list as a whole and I think it was a good reflection of the diversity of gamers that we have here at Pixlbit. When I first came over here I was apprehensive about covering MW3 because I wasn't sure if there was even an audience for a game like that here on this site, but I quickly figured out that I was wrong. I was impressed and happy to see that only was there a fan base that was interested in a mainstream title like that, but also a following for leads on games like Xenoblade. Already writing here as opened my eyes to a couple of titles that I would not have previously considered and I look forward to expanding my gaming tastes in the months to come.


12/16/2011 at 03:53 PM

Wouldn't be my personal choice, but it was great. One of my best experiences this year was playing the co-op campaign which was one of the more interesting co-op modes I've ever played. Really well done.

Vic Roman Staff Alumnus

12/16/2011 at 05:51 PM

I still haven't played Portal 2, I can't wait to play it though, I loved the first one.


12/16/2011 at 06:12 PM

Vic, the stuff that Wheatley ALONE says makes Portal 2 a must-play! Let me know if you need a partner to take you through the co op, I'm 5 trophies away from the plat, wouldn't mind turning that dream into a reality lol

Kathrine Theidy Staff Alumnus

12/16/2011 at 08:09 PM

Skyrim is one game that's been tempting me to get an XBox 360 or PS3, though all the glitches in the game are turning me away. I've heard of some pretty nasty stuff that can happen, and none of it seems to be uncommon. I'm going to wait and see what they fix about the game before I even consider getting it.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

12/16/2011 at 08:45 PM

Kathrine, just do what I'm doing and wait for the GotY edition. All the fixes plus the DLC.

Kathrine Theidy Staff Alumnus

12/16/2011 at 09:23 PM

I don't think the GotY edition for ESIV: Oblivion fixed very many glitches, so I'm certainly not going to count on or expect Skyrim's edition to fix anything.

Joaquim Mira Media Manager

12/17/2011 at 03:19 PM

Katherine, I've been playing Oblivian on my PC (got it through steam) with all the bells and whistles, and so far I haven't encountered any major bugs. So far.

Kathrine Theidy Staff Alumnus

12/17/2011 at 11:48 PM

The PC version received far more fixes than the console versions, probably because PC games are easier to patch. I think the PC version was also better to begin with than the console versions; the PC version of Skyrim even has options available for the user to undo/reset most causes of glitches.

There's one problem though. I absolutely abhor playing games on a PC. The less time I spend on these infernal machines, the better.

Patrick Kijek Contributing Writer

12/18/2011 at 03:57 PM

@ Angelo, I'm waiting for the GOTY, too! Lawls. They got me to buy the last two titles in the series too early, so this time I'm just playing it at friends' houses.

As for these write ups, I'm loving how they persuade me into thinking we made the right choices for this year's best overall games. Sure, more of us probably finished Portal 2 than any of the other titles, due to its brevity and availability. But that's also the mark of a great developer and game designer. It may not be the most high flying, cinematic game, yet its a gamer's game that everyone should feel lucky to have experienced.

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