A Good Year for Trilogies: the Best Selling Video Games of 2011

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Ah 2011. The year Prince William and Catherine Middleton tied the knot, some lucky human’s throat hosted the world’s first artificial organ transplant, and Osama Bin Laden was removed from the mortal realm. But much cooler than all this real life mumbo jumbo is the bevy of top-selling video games produced within this 365-day batch of time. From ruthless first-person shooters to dance-happy sequels, here are the top five best-selling video games across all the major platforms (in North America; other countries have different results), as reported by the always trustworthy NPD Group, Inc. Take a gander…

5 Madden NFL 12 (360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PS2)

A testament to the number of gamers with red hot cases of grid-iron fever, this solid franchise installment from EA Tiburon (got to love these software publishing names) didn’t change too much from a tried and true equation. Arriving at the tail end of a real life NFL lockout and the cancellation of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, Madden ‘12 delivered exactly what it needed to — better graphics, a handful of new plays, improved AI, and the fan favorite option of building online “Communities” for quick access to likeminded players. Also, further updating the game to create awareness for the severity of concussions in the NFL, players who had suffered such head trauma during a match were not allowed to return to the game (it’s the little things that count!)

4 Battlefield 3 (360, PS3, PC)

It makes sense that two well-made military shooters ended up in the top 5, but when all is said and done, the rivalry was a real Coke vs. Pepsi situation. The standout feature in this franchise is the team-centric multiplayer (up to 24 gun-toting folks), with most other options either matching, or being out-shadowed by MW3 (again, depending on one’s brand allegiance). Which is not to say Battlefield is a clunker by any stretch of the imagination; with a more realistic sense of action, this game succeeded with diehard virtual soldiers who preferred less over the top sequences while gunning down the bad guys.

3 Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (360, PS3, PC)

Who doesn’t love a rousing, open world style adventure, wearing cool armor and thwarting world ending dragons? Answer: not the millions of fantasy fans who excitedly gave up months of life on the outside in exchange for Bethesda’s gorgeous action RPG. Touting once again the series’ impressive Radiant AI technology, non-player characters (NPCs) pepper the planet Nirn, while human gamers decide how efficiently (or not) to pursue the overarching quest. This means one might find himself applying hours on end attempting to shoot butterflies with flaming arrows, or really buckling down to become Tamriel’s next big hero. It’s all in how the game is played.

2 Just Dance 3 (Wii, 360, PS3)

Comparatively less popular on Xbox, this third installment cleaned up on the Nintendo Wii, a console that from the get go positioned itself as a physically interactive gaming experience. With a sweet track listing ranging from modern artists like Rihanna to old school legends like The Sugarhill Gang, Just Dance succeeded as a healthy party game as well as an activity for the whole family. Plenty of expansion packs let players shake their money makers to more specific genres (Broadway tunes anyone?) reinventing one of mankind’s favorite pastimes all over again.

1 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (360, PS3, Wii, PC)

Released only a month before the end of 2011, this record-breaking first-person shooter not only sold the most units in December of that year, but swiftly outranked titles that had been available the preceding 11 months. Though some gamers criticized the Activision release for bearing too many similarities to its predecessor — calling MW3 more of a map pack than a proper installment, the scoreboard doesn’t lie: there’s a reason this bad boy set a sales record within just 24 hours of its release. So gear up soldier, there’s terrorists a-terrorizing!

So there it is, North America’s best-selling games of 2011. All in all, this list makes members of the game-playing society look pretty darn good — some war here, some fantasy there, a touch of sports, all rounded out with actual physical activity. What games do you think should have outsold these?

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