Andrew Osborne’s Best of 2011: Video Games

Yes, it’s time once more for my favorite holiday tradition, The Making of the Lists.  To ease into it this year, I’ll start with my favorite video game of 2011 (which, of course, was released in 2010 – but which I didn’t get my hands on until roughly six months ago)…

1. RED DEAD REDEMPTION (Rockstar Games)

Now, you may notice my #1 choice is also the only item on my Best Video Games list, since I rarely allow myself to actually play video games.  Why?  Because they’re more addictive than blue meth (see:  2011 Top Ten TV list, coming soon).  Indeed, back when I was a single man, I’d lose entire weekends to PC games like Starcraft and Heroes of Might & Magic without even noticing the sun going up and down. 

But now that I’ve got a wife, a cat and a dozen TV serials and reality shows to keep track of, I’d mostly been limiting myself to online Texas Hold’em (until the Feds unceremoniously shut down Full Tilt Poker last April, virtually confiscating the $70,000 or so of fake money I’d painstakingly managed to build up on the site).

Around the same time, however, I paid my yearly visit to fellow Exiler Scott Von Doviak in Austin, TX for SXSW and stumbled upon the game that finally made me break down and get my very first console since the year Santa brought me a ColecoVision with Donkey Kong AND Congo Bongo.

And no, the game that finally made me buy a PS3 wasn’t the almost equally addictive Rockstar open world carnage carnival Grand Theft Auto (which I’d totally grooved during previous trips to Austin)… 

…because as delightful as it is to go tear-assing around astonishingly detailed simulacrums of Miami and Manhattan in souped-up muscle cars, nothing competes with the cinematic vistas and visuals of Rockstar’s Grand Theft Stallion (a.k.a. Red Dead Redemption).

Rockstar’s Old West homage is so beautifully designed I don’t even bother with the story half the time.  It’s worth the price of admission just to stand on the edge of a cliff gathering prickly pear and watch the sun rise over an endless river valley or hunt a pack of wolves in the middle of a thunder and lightning storm as your faithful horse gallops across the High Lonesome.  (In fact, roaming the digital range on a Sunday afternoon with my wife is in the next room listening to Norm Macdonald, Sandra Bernhard, Brian Posehn or Bryan Cranston on Marc Maron’s incredibly engaging WTF podcast easily ranks as one of my favorite activities of the past year.)

And did I mention you can drop hogtied damsels on the railroad tracks and watch locomotives run over them if you’re in a more Snidely Whiplash mood?  Or play Texas Hold ’em ’til you lose, then shoot up the saloon and get all your money back?  Who needs Prozac when you can dynamite a stagecoach and kill a hundred banditos with a gatling gun?  (And I’m guessing it gets even better — and less morally questionable — when I finally get around to Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare sometime in 2013.

Now that’s what I call bang for the buck.

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