Ballots: Reid McCarter


1. The Binding of Isaac (20)
2. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (17)
3. Deus Ex: Human Revolution (15)
4. Bastion (13)
5. Shadows of the Damned (10)


No one game made as much of an impression on me this year as The Binding of Isaac. Edmund McMillen’s biblically inspired dungeon crawler is an infinite poker game where player skill and random chance blend seamlessly. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP truly demonstrated just how far great audiovisual presentation can go, elevating the iOS adventure far beyond the usual trappings of its genre and forging the kind of post-modern fantasy that resonates with modern audiences. The narrative power of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, an enormously entertaining, interactive essay on the lofty topic of transhumanism, was a less experimental title but one that likewise engaged with the current zeitgeist, demonstrating just how culturally relevant game stories can/should be. The simple deception of Bastion’s omnipresent narrator was, ultimately, a great trick that showed just how a talented development team can make cold lines of code appear human. Lastly, the gleefully satirical Shadows of the Damned provided just as much fun when taken at face value as it does when played as a lengthy piss-taking of videogame history and culture.

Despite how different the experience of playing each of these games can be, they’re united by a universal concentration on tight mechanical design (let’s pretend Human Revolution’s boss fights don’t exist), a strong sense of personal style and the willingness to transcend the boundaries of familiar genres by implementing innovative features. 2011 was a strange year, full of sequels that didn’t attempt much of anything new, but the five games listed above — whether from big or small development teams — all tried, in their own way, to push the medium forward.

Back to High Scores 2011