Thank the Nine that Skyrim doesn’t have multiplayer, because it would have probably won that award too.  An epic quest that will take you across the entire game map and absorb your life?  Check.  Hundreds of hours of single player gameplay?  Check.  The ability to not only kill, but also absorb the souls of dragons?  Oh, hell yes.  Skyrim is conclusive proof that single player gaming is not dead and therefore it’s the best single player game of the year.

War.  What is it good for?  Staying up until 4 am every night pushing for objectives with your friends on the biggest and most detailed digital battlefields you’ve ever seen.  Battlefield 3 not only excels at the squad based multiplayer that the series has become known for, but has added vehicular combat and destruction that takes place on such a massive scale that no two battles you fight will ever be the same.  Whether you’re playing rush, conquest, or even some good old TDM, there is no multiplayer experience like Battlefield 3.

If there was anything Portal 1 lacked, it was the ability to play with a friend.  Well, Valve took care of that by delivering the best cooperative experience of the year in Portal 2.  Whoever said robots couldn’t have personality never met Atlas and P-Body.  Nothing is more satisfying than solving intricate environmental puzzles, than doing it while yelling at your best friend.  Luckily, if you can’t yell at your friend you can always use the game’s excellent emoting system to help each other solve the puzzles, or just hug it out.  We could drone on and on about why Portal 2 was the best co-op experience of the year, but it just is and you know it.  Science.

What can change the nature of a man?  Perhaps having his life literally torn from him and being given a life he never asked for.  How about having to single-handedly decide the fate of the world in a future so terrifyingly plausible that even we fear for mankind?  Deus Ex: Human Revolution will make you question and re-think every decision you make, right until the credits roll.  The choices and consequences you will face give the game legitimate replay value, but no matter how you choose to play, the story will captivate you.  You never asked for this, and it blew you away.

This one wasn’t easy.  Technically, RAGE doesn’t make use of what gives most games the best visuals of this generation.  It had no DX11 tessellation, lighting, occlusion, shadows, real life reflections, none of it.  Technically, we’d have to give this award to Crysis 2, but screw that.  The giant hand painted mega-textures in RAGE are like nothing ever before seen in a game.  The world is one giant painting in which no two textures are alike you simply have the pleasure of playing in it.  The intricacy of not only the game world, but also the character models right down to the dirt in your fingernails make RAGE one the most visually stunning, if not the most visually stunning video game of all time.  Arguably the best looking game on consoles, and a wonder to behold on PC.  Sure, it took damn near a month to get RAGE looking and playing the way it was meant to be experienced on a high end PC, but once we were able to see it in all it’s glory, we simply had to give this work of art best visuals of the year.  We’ve simply never seen anything like it.

We've Come A Long Way.

Never before has a game said so much, without saying anything at all.  You can learn more about Adam Jensen from looking at his desolate apartment than you ever could from thousands of lines of dialogue. This dystopian cyber punk future is pulsing with life and loss, advertisements for make-believe (and very real) products, and finely detailed fashion fresh from the runway– many, many years from now. From the originality in every single detail to the sheer quality of the presentation, Deus Ex: Human Revolution hit our collective artistic nerve and kept us staring at even the simplest of patterns, marveling at their beauty. The future has never looked so good, or terrifyingly real.

Welcome Home.

This is one of our favorite awards and also one of the hardest to decide.  Do we pat Danny B on the back for the second year in a row for taking us deep into Mom’s Dungeon?  Do we praise Jeremy Soule for making us shout Dovahkiin from the highest mountaintop?  No.  We humbly bow before Michael McCann who’s soundtrack for Deus Ex: Human Revolution made us fall even deeper into the life of Adam Jensen and his impure world. From the embattled streets of Detroit, to the sterility of the nearest LIMB clinic, to the racy brothels of Lower Hengsha, Deus Ex: Human Revolution was scored to perfection.

Sandbox games pride themselves on their licensed music, and Saints Row: The Third simply kicks ass in this department. Whether it’s speeding in a motorcycle to Joe Esposito‘s “You’re the Best Around” while popping wheelies or evading cops to Kanye West‘s “Power”, Steelport is more fun rocking out to some of the best tunes of all time. After all, what gangster doesn’t take to the skies in a futuristic jet to Bonnie Tyler‘s “Holdin’ Out for a Hero” from time to time?  This soundtrack was simply, Sublime.  Hell, even Dethklok made it in \m/_((><))

Nolan North-style scattergun appearances, as it turns out, aren’t the best way to scoop up an award. Stephen Merchant, of The Office and Extras fame (as well as the Ricky Gervais podcasts), only appeared in a single video game role this year- and it was his first appearance in a video game, too. Rather than bother with acting or pretending to be someone else, Merchant instead decided that Wheatley would just be himself as a robot, if robots had human voices and not robotic ones (like GlaDOS did). Luckily for him, he’s a funny guy, and managed to trick millions into believing he was a good voice actor.  For that alone, surely he deserves an award?  Yes, yes he does.

Are we done?  Not even close…