We've had our say. You've had your say. But what about the people who made the games? What were their favourites of the year just ended? Yes, it's that time of year again, when we pester our favourite creators for their reflections and then watch them show us up with their witty and insightful explanations.
Read on to find out what the likes of BioShock developer Ken Levine, Lionhead founder Peter Molyneux, spaceship-loving Richard Garriott and Twisted Metal creator David Jaffe have to say, among many others. Thank you very much to everyone who took the time to contribute.
Dark Souls (From Software, Namco Bandai)
Dylan Cuthbert is founder of PixelJunk developer Q-Games, and one of the creators of Star Fox 64 3D.
"This game is utter, utter s***. But that's just the first two hours of 100; after that it opens up into the most amazing and fulfilling and sheer scarily tense game I have ever played. You might not like it at first but Stockholm Syndrome kicks in and you'll find yourself heavily addicted, craving it every waking hour and talking feverishly in low tones to your friends about how you cleverly stabbed the Capra Demon in the neck and he still stomped all over you, and you went back for more... at least 20 times before you triumphed.
"The game kind of looks like an RPG but it is more of an action game, and is what I imagine would happen if the original Prince of Persia and Ghosts and Goblins got together and had a child. Also, instead of myriads of missions given to you by NPCs (like a certain recent RPG it is often compared with) the entire game revolves roughly around just two or three ultimate goals and you'll spend a hundred hours of pain and enthralment getting there."
Brad Muir led development of Iron Brigade at Double Fine.
"[Dark Souls] is my runaway game of the year. No question. It's weird, because it's such a bizarre, controversial kind of game. It's not for everyone and it will rub a lot of people the wrong way. Because it's so difficult and the death penalty is so high it really puts a lot of pressure on you. The tension of exploring that world... but it's a great world to explore. When you get into it and you start exploring and trying to poke at its edges and find out what it's about, it's an incredible experience. It has that haunted house feeling - not knowing what's going to be around the corner and not knowing what the hell the rules are. It really recreates that super-tense feeling.
"I loved it - loved the systems, loved the weird Japanese flavour. It plays like first edition Dungeons and Dragons through a Japanese lens. The art is crazy, the monster design is weird - but also familiar because it is very D&D. Frustrating as all hell though.
"Plus, as a game designer I think they are doing all these weird unique multiplayer things, like how people can just invade your world - sort of like forced PvP. Oh my God, I feel like if someone brought that up in a design meeting for a Western game they'd be shot on sight. Huge balls on the From Software guys. Coming from banging my head against Battletoads as a kid, I really respect their willingness to take those kinds of risks in the modern market, and I hope they get rewarded."
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo)
Geremy Mustard is technical director of Chair, the Epic Games-owned studio behind Shadow Complex and Infinity Blade.
"My favourite game this year is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. While the nostalgia factor was high, the game is incredibly polished and really fun. And I like games that end."
Portal 2 (Valve Software, EA)
Dino Patti is founder and CEO of Limbo developer Playdead, which is currently working on an unannounced game.
"To be honest I don't have much time since I began the company, so completing a game is nearly impossible. So it's important for me to prioritise, and Portal 2 was an obvious choice for me. The narrative is not as good as Half-Life 2 and the 'mind-boggling' element is not as surprising as the original Portal, but looking at the whole package it delivers solid gameplay, the humour is well-executed and the narrative for me surpasses all triple-A productions of 2011."
The Witcher 2 (CD Projekt, Namco Bandai)
Ivan Buchta is creative director at ArmA 3 developer Bohemia Interactive.
"My personal favourite for 2011 is Witcher 2. I just finally started playing it and it's an amazing experience in every aspect: my favourite setting of Andrzej Sapkowski's books, great visual style, music, fine-tuned gameplay and great fun."
"As a first outing for the Frostbite engine [Battlefield 3] also bodes very well for the future, as it's inevitably just going to get better and better."Matthew Prior, EA Sports
Battlefield 3 (DICE, EA)
Matthew Prior is associate producer of the PlayStation Vita version of FIFA at EA Sports.
"Tough choice, as it's been a great year for games, but if backed into a corner I would have to go with Battlefield 3. As a huge fan of Battlefield 2 back on the PC it was great to see this brought to console in such a stunning way. It's set the bar in terms of visuals, realism and immersive/destructive environments, and of course the inclusion of all the vehicles adds something not available in many other games in the genre.
"As a first outing for the Frostbite engine it also bodes very well for the future, as it's inevitably just going to get better and better."
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (Square Enix)
Greg Kasavin is creative director of downloadable action game Bastion at Supergiant Games.
"When I think back on 2011 and try to choose a single favourite game, it really has to be Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, the PSP update of the classic Japanese strategy RPG. Even while I was working until the wee hours of the morning trying to finish Bastion in the first half of the year, I would still always spend some time playing Tactics Ogre before falling asleep each night.
"It had a way of putting my mind in a good place, and I played it for months. Games don't often have this kind of richness in their stories or gameplay, let alone both. Tactics Ogre is a complex game on all fronts, and expects a lot from the player, but gave back to me in spades."
"The game that's really taken over my life is Skyrim."Ken Levine, Irrational Games
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim (Bethesda Game Studios)
Gears of War 3 lead designer Lee Perry, now working on Fortnite.
"Favourite game of 2011? Going to have to go with Skyrim on that. I know it sounds like 'going with the masses', but sometimes the masses get it right. That game is amazing, several co-workers are actually injured from so many prolonged days sitting there playing it and digging through the inch-thick strategy guide. Just try and go 20 minutes around another gamer without a Skyrim discussion coming up, it's impossible."
Ken Levine is founder of Irrational Games, the developer behind the BioShock series. He is currently hard at work on 2012 release BioShock Infinite.
"The game that's really taken over my life is Skyrim. It's interesting, watching the arc of that game going from the Elder Scrolls games back in the nineties, these real, nerdy hardcore things, to what they are now, which is still this game that's very appealing to a hardcore gamer like myself, but speaks to such a broad audience.
"It's primarily because they create these amazing worlds. I tweeted one night I was spending my entire night catching butterflies. Who would have thought? If I had pitched to somebody, we're going to make this experience, and you can spend hours if you want just walking around catching butterflies, people would tell me I was crazy. But the fact it allows both the scale of fighting dragons to catching butterflies and watching the sunset, that's all really amazing stuff. It's an incredible achievement in world creation and an inspiring product with an insanely awesome amount of content that feels terrific. I applaud those guys."
Ultima creator Richard Garriott, aka Lord British, now working on Facebook game The Ultimate Collector.
"This sandbox game is one I love to play, wish I made, and will inspire my future work!"
UK video game legend Peter Molyneux is creative director of Microsoft Game Studios Europe and founder of Lionhead, the studio behind the Fable series.
"This year Markus [Persson] and Mojang have taken us all on a development journey. At the start of the year the game was rough and ready but with a purity which showed amazing potential. Now here we are at the end of the year and Minecraft is stuffed full of features, achievements, discoverable mines and villages and even an endgame. I truly feel that we, the fans, have participated in its development."
Resident Evil 4 HD (Capcom)
Craig Duncan is senior studio director at Kinect Sports developer Rare.
"One of my favourite games ever, now on my Xbox 360 hard drive with Achievements, super challenging, great story and tense action sequences and then more side stories unlocked once you finish the main story mode. When I heard of the HD remake I downloaded it with genuine excitement the day it came out and then played it through again for over 20 hours over two weeks - stunning!"
Batman: Arkham City (Rocksteady Studios, Warner Bros.)
David Jaffe is founder of Eat Sleep Play and creator of PlayStation 3 exclusive Twisted Metal.
"The one I've enjoyed the most this year is a toss-up right now between Rayman Origins, Batman: Arkham City, Skyrim and Jetpack Joyride on my iPhone. If I had to choose I'd probably say Arkham City.
"I just loved the structure. I've never been a huge sandbox gamer. I love the Zelda structure, but when you get bigger than that...
"With Batman, I thought for the first time in recent years it actually had a direction or a voice that really was equivalent to the Christopher Nolan films or some of the best Batman comic writers."David Jaffe, Eat Sleep Play
I was on a panel with Todd Howard at PAX. I barely know the guy, I think he hates me - I could tell when they edited it together they just had these glances he was shooting at me like, 'You're a f***ing idiot.' Nah, he's probably the nicest guy in the world, and he's so out of my league in terms of what he does. But the point is, I remember saying to him, those huge games, even though I appreciate them, they overwhelm me to the point that even with Skyrim it's almost like, based on the time I have and the way my brain works, it's too much for me to get fully immersed in.
"Whereas what I love about Darksiders and Zelda and this new Batman is that they're sandbox enough that it makes me feel immersed in the space but it leads me enough and it's constricted enough that I still feel like I'm being taken by the hand and being shown something cool frequently enough that I don't end up getting lost.
"Structurally it's the best of both worlds, the new combat is great, the attention to detail - when I saw Catwoman doing her defensive move for the first time where she kisses the guy I was like, 'Oh you gotta be kidding me, that's just so brilliant.'
"And on top of that sits this great... It's too easy in this industry to crib inspiration from films - and I did it too, with Twisted Metal Black - but to stand on the shoulders of movie directors and ape their style and then say 'this is mine'. And then have the press show up and give you credit for it like you did something special. With Batman, I thought for the first time in recent years it actually had a direction or a voice that really was equivalent to the Christopher Nolan films or some of the best Batman comic writers. It really did add to the canon and had an understanding and its own spin on the Batman mythos, which I thought was a great wrapper around the brilliant gameplay structure.
"It was firing on all cylinders, on all levels."
Feature compiled by Wesley Yin-Poole, Robert Purchese and Fred Dutton. With huge thanks to everyone who contributed!