Okay, so I think most of us agree that 2011 can go die in a fire. While it was a tough year for many, at least the gaming aspect of last year was not only phenomenal, but quite possibly the greatest in the history of our favourite medium. Competitiveness being what it is, and the fact that everyone needs a definitive answer to the best of the best, we've seen it fit to join the parade and name our greatest games of 2011.

Here at GamingExcellence, we do things a little differently. While most publications have seen fit to crown an absolute winner of game of year, we recognize that there have been way too many titles of obscenely awesome quality this year to pick just one or two games as the overall best of the year that was 2011. The reality of being a gamer this year is that no matter where your passions lie and what genre floats your boat, you definitely found something worthy of your time and money.

What did our staffers each pick as their personal games of the year? Read on to find out!

Shawn Snider - Executive Editor
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (X360, PS3, PC)

In a year of so many groundbreaking new releases in 2011, it's so difficult to narrow it down to only one. We've seen games taken to the next level with new releases in such established franchises like Battlefield, Modern Warfare, Rage, and Saints Row, sequels like Batman: Arkham City and Portal 2, surprises like Rocksmith and Catherine, or how about the rebirth of Deus Ex? But, through all of those releases, one shines through the crowd, the fifth entry in the long standing Elder Scrolls franchise. Skyrim not only exceeded expectations, it took home only our second perfect score of all time. A franchise with so many legendary releases under it's belt, Skyrim took video games to an all new level. It's not hard to put more than a hundred hours of gameplay into this beautiful RPG, and is without any doubt my pick for Game of the Year.

Read our review.

Andrew Sztein - Senior Editor
Batman: Arkham City (X360, PS3, PC)

Let's face it, I knew about two years ago after playing Arkham Asylum that this would be my favourite game of 2011. While I greatly enjoyed the gameplay and experiences I had with games like Uncharted 3, Skyrim, Rage, and LA Noire, no game this year grabbed me and refused to let go like Rocksteady's superlative take on the Dark Knight. With 70 years of experience to draw upon, Rocksteady has grabbed all the best parts of the Batman mythos from comics like The Long Halloween and The Killing Joke and the atmosphere of the Christopher Nolan movies, while creating a fully realized slice of Gotham city to explore at your leisure. All they've done is to create an experience that puts you in the cape and cowl like no other game before. If video games are meant to be escapism, then Batman: Arkham City provided the most exhilarating dose of fantasy escapism of the year. Besides, who doesn't want to be Batman?

Read our review.

Daniel Acaba - Managing Editor
Dead Island (X360, PS3, PC)

2011 saw plenty of big name releases that could easily go into this spot. Batman: Arkham City, Dark Souls and Skyrim are probably some of the best video games ever released in this editor's mind. But each of those games had the advantage of being a sequel to another game while Dead Island is a brand new IP that lifts some of the best stuff from other games and manages to make one of the most enjoyable games released in recent memory without feeling like just another rip-off. Feeling like a mix between Left 4 Dead and Borderlands, Dead Island is a remarkably well done game that is great fun for a group of friends and manages to tell a pretty damn interesting story to boot. The game is more grounded in reality than most other zombie games which makes the gritty story all the more interesting in this day and age of Nazi Zombies and photographers in dresses. The ability to thoroughly customize each of the four characters as well as your weapons really helps you feel like each play through is entirely unique to a degree only matched by Skyrim and Dark Souls which is pretty damn impressive all on its own.

Read our impressions.

Liana K - Video Director, Featured Columnist
Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure (X360, PS3, Wii, 3DS)

What?!  A kid's game!?  Yeah, suck it, I'm going there.  I bought this game for four different kids and they all loved it, but what's really amazing is how adults get hooked on it too.  It's cute, it's fun, and it's one of the few games out there that is truly for Everyone.  Then there's the collectable toy angle, and the "League of Legends meets Pokemon" character designs. The integration with Skylander's: Spyro's Universe, the online casual game, actually works, and the tech that went into the "portal of power" is truly cool.  I also love that anyone can start playing with only an eight dollar investment and a friend's game.  Then, for households with very young children, the character swap function means that the younger kids with short attention spans don't annoy the crap out of their older siblings when they get bored after five minutes. Skylanders takes me back to the days in the eighties when one kid on a whole block had a game console, and all the neighborhood kids came over to play.

Read our review.

Rick Poulin - Senior Editor
Minecraft (PC)

My game of the year is Minecraft. The main reason is a simple one. We've often said that games focus too much on graphics and looking pretty, rather than actual gameplay. Minecraft comes along with a concept that's so incredibly simple that attempting to describe why it's entertaining inevitably leads to a ramble and a rant, and yet has managed to hook an audience probably larger than many AAA titles. People aren't bothered by the ancient graphics because the gameplay is so solid and the replay value is through the roof. Besides, the modding and custom texture pack support delegates this problem to the community. The secondary reason is that the innovative development/marketing/distribution model at Mojang is exactly what the PC industry needs for a revival:
- Involvement in the social media sphere gets people excited early and feel like they're contributing
- Early gamer entry via pre-alpha builds get the budget going and hardcore fans do the marketing for you
- Cheap sales in bulk versus high cost to a limited audience and DRM madness
- Built with modding in mind from the start (key to replay value)
The above points are why two guys who started a Java game shot up to a full dev studio on the international stage so fast.

Nicholas Bale - Associate Editor
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (PC)

The Witcher 2, from the beginning attack on a castle to the climactic finale, and everything in between, is the role-playing gamer's fantasy. Filled with a fleshed-out world and characters, multiple choices that affect significant portions of gameplay, crafting, numerous sidequests, and a combat engine to give you a run for your money, it's an excellent sequel that changes and refines everything about its predecessor. Filled with epic tales, monsters, and characters, beautiful locations and fast-paced combat that blends magic and swordplay seamlessly, it's the best game to come out of a year filled with sequels that do little more than improve formulas that have already proven safe and popular. A brilliant RPG, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is a title worthy of a gamer's respect.

Read our preview.

Ania Kwak - Games Journalist
Rocksmith (X360, PS3, PC)

Of all the games I've seen in the year 2011, the one that stood out the most isn't really so much a game as it is a teaching tool. Rocksmith is a well-put-together educational program that can be brought to the comforts of people's homes, giving enthusiasts the ability to learn a real-life skill; playing a guitar. Having gone through various forms of instrument education myself, I especially appreciate the door this game opens to those out there who want to learn guitar, but want a more fun & modern experience away from the "tried & true" methods.

Read our review.

Chris Moore - Games Journalist
Infinity Blade II (iOs)

Infinity Blade II may come in a small package, but it is just as addictive and even more engaging than the titles that came out this year. The graphics for it look amazing; combat saw a vast improvement and the story was seriously fleshed out with pretty much triple the dialogue I experienced in the first title. Infinity Blade II did have its climatic moments, but none as enthralling when you smash your weapon into the ground after challenging the game's antagonist. At that point, you realize you are no longer the player trying to stop the bad guy, but you are now the boss and the antagonist is trying to stop you. With all these things, it pretty much sums up why I was hunched over my iPhone for 4 hours and why Infinity Blade II is my choice for Game of the Year.

Avi Krebs - Games Journalist
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (X360, PS3, PC)

2011 was a calendar year for video games as there was no shortage of excellent ones released over the past twelve months. It would prove to be a daunting task to compile a list of perhaps the ten best video games of 2011, but in this humble columnist's view, picking the best game of 2011 was a no-brainer. While some of the greatest dignitaries get by using only their first name, it is the surname if not the subtitle that gamers the world over chant in unison in reference to my pick for the 2011 Video Game of the Year; Skyrim. Casting aside the tedious string of "Skyrimjob puns" that saturated the general public upon its release, Bethesda's masterpiece properly garnered the distinction of being the most anticipated Role-Playing game (outside of the yet to be released Diablo 3) in years. What makes Skyrim as well as many of the other games mentioned amongst colleagues at GamingExcellence stand out is their ability to entrench the gamer in a world that makes them feel like they are not just playing the game, but experiencing it through the eyes of the virtual protagonist themselves. Considering Skyrim gives gamers ten races of characters in which to select, no other game released this year allows for so many different stories to be told and retold. Skyrim provides the MMORPG experience without charging monthly fees to keep going. Gamers can stick to the main story, or seek out and complete each and every side quest, but no matter what they choose to do, Skyrim epitomizes gaming Nirvana. Outside of providing unmatched replayability, Skyrim boasts luscious graphics portraying a vibrant and detailed world filled with engaging characters and beasts alike in which to interact with. Throw in a remarkable soundtrack to authenticate one's trek from one corner to another and addictive gameplay that will hook gamers in for the long haul, and there are truly not enough adjectives in the English language that accurately and completely defines the greatness that is Skyrim, Then again, when a game is this good, it only needs to be bestowed one irrefutable title, Game of the Year.
Read our review.

Naomi Brown - Games Journalist
Gears of War 3 (X360)

My personal Game of the Year pick would have to be Gears of War 3.  The Gears of War series has been an remarkably entertaining series from the beginning, providing great combat with a unique story and setting. Gears of War 3 completes the game series and gives a good conclusion that while leaving some explanations out, wraps up enough to please most fans. It offered fast paced action, exciting gameplay and an updated and enhanced multiplayer experience.  The fortification additions to Horde mode and the all new Beast mode add some incredible replay value, making this game the best overall of the year for me.

Read our review.

Christopher Seal - Games Journalist
Batman: Arkham City (X360, PS3, PC)

Choosing a game of the year is no simple task. There are some games that many would call their game of the year (see: Skyrim) but don't appeal to you as they aren't your cup of tea (in fact I prefer coffee). With that said I had to try and whittle down the plethora of amazing games this year to just a select few. So take this for what it is, a subjective opinion of my favorite game. You can agree or disagree, as long as you had fun playing whatever game is your favorite of 2011. Since I had to choose just one, because apparently we can't all be friends, I have to go with Batman: Arkham City. The endless quests you can complete, the iconic foes you'll encounter, and the amazing voice work (Mark Hamill deserves an award) and Batman easily stands out. And then there's the fact you get to play as Batman, the best superhero around. Combine that with a beautifully detailed world, and what should be the standard for melee combat in every game (Naughty Dog take note) and you have my game of the year for 2011. Rocksteady had a difficult task in developing Arkham City. They had to outdo themselves by creating a better game than the fabulous Arkham Asylum, and that they did. Kudos to Rocksteady. An honorable mention has to go out to Portal 2 as well, as I loved the game and the series. Here's to 2012. Early prediction for my game of the year 2012: Diablo 3.

Read our review.

Michael Joly - Games Journalist
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (X360, PS3, PC)

My favourite game of 2011 is, unsurprisingly, Skyrim. The game features a very live world to explore, tons of quests and over 300 hours worth of actual content. The game just felt great and it looked even better. I'm sure Ill be playing Skyrim well into the new year and probably even longer than that. 
Read our review.