We decided to disqualify all remakes and HD re-releases from our Game of the Year vote as we felt these games aren't truly from 2011. That means I'm free to talk about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as my honourable mention of 2011, narrowly edging out Resident Evil 4 HD and Shadow of the Colossus for PS3. The main reason Ocarina of Time stood out for me is just how unlike modern games it is, somehow managing to feel fresh despite first appearing on the Nintendo 64 in 1998.
Whereas modern games are desperate for you to always know where you're meant to be going and exactly what's on your todo list, in Ocarina of Time you're more or less left to find everything out for yourself. We often label anything with a story an adventure title, but Nintendo's classic really is an epic quest, with its huge play area and numerous dungeons explored and solved with glee from start to finish.
The other thing that struck me while playing through the 3D remake of Ocarina is just how well I remember all the music. To be honest, my memories of playing the game the first time aren't that clear (I can remember certain boss battles, but little else), but every time a new piece of music was introduced I was instantly taken back to the Christmas holiday I spent playing the game.
If you Play Ocarina of Time for more than a few minutes you'll find many of the game's songs lodged in your brain, forcing their way out in annoyingly hummed form at every opportunity. Epona's Theme and Zelda's Lullaby are the two biggest culprits for me, with approximately 80 per cent of all sounds I made during the weeks I played the game being renditions of those tunes. It's no surprise I love the music so much - I bought a wooden wind instrument on holiday one year purely because it looked like Link's ocarina.
We've seen a lot of remastered titles recently, but Ocarina of Time 3D was a more loving port than most. Rather than just dump the original on the 3DS at a higher resolution and in 3D, the dev teams at Nintendo and Grezzo gave the entire game a lovely lick of new paint, tweaked the Water Temple and added neat touch screen controls. The ability to pause anywhere while playing a 3DS also came in incredibly handy, allowing me to pick up and play from exactly the point I stopped - a small thing, but a great benefit only available on the 3DS version of the game.
Ocarina of Time 3DS was labelled by some as the handheld's killer app, a claim which many were quick to jump all over as the game was just a port of an old game - but this isn't just any old game. If you've never played it before Ocarina of Time will feel like a new release created for Nintendo's latest handheld, while those who have enjoyed it in the past will likely have forgotten just how amazing the game is.
There's a reason (well, numerous reasons) why Ocarina of Time is widely considered to be the best game of all time. I was somewhat dubious over whether or not it would hold up against today's best, but it most definitely does. No doubt modern titles will be looked back on fondly, but how many do you think could be spruced up 12 years later and still stand as one of the best? I reckon Ocarina of Time could still be a shining example of near-perfect game design in another 12 years.