Game of the Year: Nintendo Life Staff Awards 2011

What won our votes this year?

With the launch of 3DS in March, the Wii U's unveiling at E3 and a Christmas period that included new Zelda, Mario and Mario Kart games, we rather think 2011 was a pretty good year all in all.

But what were the very best stand-out games of the year? What moments will we think of when we reminisce about 2011? The Nintendo Life team filed their ballots for the biggest and best games of 2011.

How the results were calculated.

Each staff member ranked his or her top three games on each format. A first place vote was worth three points, second place two and third place a single point. In the event of a tie, the game with more higher place votes took precedence. Points were tallied, awards were designed, winners were crowned and corks were popped.

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Mario's first 3DS platformer is a blend of nostalgia — flagpole! Tanooki suit! — and innovative use of the 3D screen. Your first taste of one of its Escher-like rooms is a moment to savour, and while it drew some criticism for being too short or too easy, it crams a lot of enjoyment into that little cartridge.

Second place: Mario Kart 7.
Fresh online features and some quality course design — except you, Wuhu Loop — got Mario's racing spirit up to second place. A surefire crowd pleaser.

Third place: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.
An enhanced version of one of the all-time greats pushed to third place in our Game of the Year votes. Mario must be thrilled, but we have a feeling Link will have his day in the sun.

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There could really only be one contender for this year's Wii game of the year. Five years in the making, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the pinnacle of what's possible on Wii: phenomenal music, art design and some of the best motion controls we've ever used combine to make one of Link's best adventures yet.

Second place: Xenoblade Chronicles.
Monolithsoft's Wii RPG finally made it to Europe — North America, you get your chance in April — and wowed us with its epic scale, intricate battle and relationship system and some truly superb music.

Third place: Rayman Origins.
Rayman's long-awaited return to 2D platforming was a joy to look at, a riot to play and a wonderful celebration of play from Ubisoft's talented Montpellier studio.

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A tremendously imaginative action RPG set in a world where anthropomorphised animals and giant robots live above the clouds. The kind of game we love to see released in the West, and well worth picking up if you're after a quirky Japanese RPG.

Second place: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective.
With its cast of delightful characters, hilarious script, top-notch animation and noggin-scratcher puzzles, Ghost Trick set the bar for DS in 2011 early and sky high. Shu Takumi may be best known for the Ace Attorney series, but Ghost Trick goes in exciting new directions that we can only hope he continues to pursue in some fashion.

Third place: Kirby Mass Attack.
Working on the principle that more is more, Mass Attack gives you ten Kirbys and lets you loose on a typically imaginative and enjoyable romp.

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Intelligent Systems turned its experts' eye to puzzle games with this simply excellent block-pusher. Tonnes of built-in puzzles are bolstered by the ability to create your own and share them online via the wonder of QR codes. One of the best 3DS games this year by far.

Second place: Mighty Switch Force.
It may have been a late entry into the 3DS eShop ring but considering we were expecting it in 2012 we're not complaining. A characteristically classy puzzle platformer from WayForward, this one is well deserving of your eShop credit.

Third place: Zen Pinball 3D.
Admittedly hampered by the fact it's not available in North America until next year, Zen Studios' bumper bash still pulled in enough votes to land it third in our 3DS download rankings. One to watch in the New Year, North Americans.

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Even if Nintendo hadn't given away this multiplayer marvel for free we still think it'd have secured enough votes to rank as number one. An improved version of the GBA original with new levels and local wireless multiplayer, there's really no excuse not to own this. Remember it's only available until February, so if you haven't picked it up yet, time is running out.

Second place: Mighty Milky Way.
The second Mighty game to make our end-of-year rundown, Milky Way is another digital slice of delight from the WayForward team and a worthy silver medallist.

Third place: Go! Go! Kokopolo.
A rarity on DSiWare: a unique game made just for the service, with a superb graphical style and plenty to do. A must-download, especially if you like cats and Pac-Man.

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A physics-based racer from kings of the genre RedLynx, with fantastic multiplayer and stacks to do online or offline, with an innovative DLC system that offers up new time attack challenges every day. One of the all-time WiiWare highlights and well worth its 1,500 Nintendo Points price tag.

Second place: BIT.TRIP FLUX.
The final instalment in the phenomenal BIT.TRIP series, FLUX takes us back to where it started with a clever riff on series-opener BIT.TRIP BEAT but still manages to show just how far Gaijin's beloved series has come.

Third place: escapeVektor: Chapter 1.
Nnooo's triumphant return to gaming after a series of DSiWare applications, escapeVektor: Chapter 1 is a retro-themed action game that practically defies description but is all the better for it. Its longevity and wealth of things to do will cost you a mere 500 Points. Well worth a download.

Click through to page two to find out what were our biggest surprises and disappointments of the year, as well as what titles pleased our eyes and ears more than any other.