The 18 Best PC Games of 2011 That You Don't Know About

Maximum PC Staff

2011 is finally starting to get under way, and you know what that means: roughly 20 million identical lists from your old pal The Internet telling you which games should have your clicking fingers and WASD-claws aching with excitement. Here's the problem, though: you've heard it all before. Even without the aforementioned list avalanche, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out when Call of Diablo: Crysis Effect 3 is dropping.

Granted, rocket science is also largely unnecessary when dealing with these games (we had to consult NASA, like, twice ), but odds are, you probably know them about about as well as you know how to put a man on the moon. So, in that spirit, we thought we'd give you the scoop on some great-looking games that – prior to this very moment – were well on the road to passing you by.

Find out what you've been missing after the break!

Publisher: N/A
Developer: Hazardous Software
Release Date: TBA 2011

Whether it's because of ill-advised tactics or fingers that languidly crawl around on the keyboard like an obese spider, every RTS player's made their fair share of extremely regrettable mistakes. The obvious solution? Learn from your mistakes Time travel! Achron gives you the ability to manipulate the forces of time in your favor, potentially opening up innumerable new tactical options in your quest for strategic domination. For instance, you might tell a unit to move someplace in the past and – presto – it's suddenly there in the present. Or – if you're like us – you can undo your 527-cart pile-up of ill-advised tactical train wrecks. It's a complicated wrinkle in time all right, but we're certainly excited about the possibilities.

Publisher: EA
Developer: Maxis
Release Date: February

Ever wonder what Will Wright's intelligent design sim Spore would look like if it was also adopted by Diablo and nurtured into a fine young hack 'n' slasher? Neither did we. But that's the almost-jarringly unexpected turn Maxis decided to take, and to the developer's credit, Darkspore's looking like a mighty fine warm-up for Blizzard's third descent into the other burning down under. On top of that, the ever-popular (and frequently abused) Spore creature creator's making a triumphant return, so even if you only play for a few minutes, Darkspore will probably haunt you for years.

Fate of the World
Release Date: February 15

In Fate of the World, you have one simple objective: stop the world from killing itself. Different scenarios see you warding off different apocalpytic catastrophies – you know, fun things like rapid climate change and overpopulation – through use of a simple, effective menu interface. “Simple,” however, is the last word we'd use to describe the moutain of competing factors you'll have to sort through turn-after-turn. After all, you may be forced to rub multiple countries the wrong way in order to save one. Some might stop listening to you altogether. And then – poof – there goes earth in a brick-thick cloud of its own gasses. Intense, right? We, however, break out into cold addiction sweats just thinking about it, so here's hoping the game delivers on its boatloads of promise.

Publisher: Webzen
Developer: Red 5 Studios
Release Date: Q4 2011

A high-flying, hard-shooting MMO from some of the brightest minds behind World of Warcraft and Tribes, Firefall certainly has quite the pedigree. From what we've seen, it's a Frankenstein monster that's equal parts Tribes (jetpacks!), Borderlands (guns!), and WoW (loot!). Promising? Definitely. Here's hoping that each of its parts comes together to form a coherent whole – and not an ugly, needle-and-thread-stitched attempt to cash-in on more successful titles.

From Dust
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Release Date: Early 2011

Little is known about From Dust at this point, but the few scraps Ubisoft has thrown our way are extremely intriguing. The game seems to take a bit of influence from Black & White, asking you to fill god's colossal flip-flops and defend an island crawling with tiny tribal folk. The twist, however, is that you're in control of elements like sand, water, lava, and vegetation, and you'll gain new powers as you fight off natural disasters and the like.

Frozen Synapse
Publisher: Mode 7 Games
Developer: Mode 7 Games
Release Date: Early 2011

This turn-based, squad-based, sensical-synonym-for-”awesome”-based strategy game isn't technically out yet, but if you pre-order now, you gain access to a nicely polished beta, an extra free copy of the game, and some other nice goodies. In a nutshell, Frozen Synapse is a game that emphasizes creativity over rote tactics and sees both players take their turns simultaneously. The interface is also brilliantly simple, merely asking you to give your tiny men a target. No base-building, no watching and waiting. Instead, Frozen Synapse is about countering your opponent's next strike before they make it. It's fast, it's brutal, and – most of all – it's incredibly fun.

A Game of Thrones: Genesis
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Cyanide Games
Release Date: TBA 2011

We might be a little biased about this one seeing as we're obnoxiously geeky about the book series it's based on, but we certainly like the direction A Game of Thrones: Genesis is taking. The game's been described as an RTS where giant armies and Rambo tactics are a nice way to die horribly, which fits the book's mix of political intrigue and treachery like a spike-encrusted mail glove. Granted, some more concrete info would be nice, but with the HBO TV series' debut rapidly approaching, we don't imagine we'll have to wait too much longer.

Publisher: THQ
Developer: Kaos Studios
Release Date: March 8

THQ may not be known for peddling the biggest first-person shooters on the market, but it sure knows how to pick the most unique. After very nearly knocking it out of the park with Metro 2033 last year, the publisher's back with the similarly immersive Homefront, which throws you into the nitty gritty of a rebel uprising against a near-future Korean occupation. Better still, the plot's being penned by John Milius, who co-wrote Apocalypse Now and wrote Red Dawn. The single-player bits we've seen seem to take a fair deal of inspiration from Half-Life 2 (you know, minus the headcrabs), which is never a bad thing. Multiplayer, meanwhile, has the benefit of developer Kaos Studios' formidable pedigree, which includes the sadly underrated Frontlines: Fuel of War.

Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios
Release Date: January 2011

This four-player co-op hack 'n' slasher looks to be equal parts chaotic and hilarious, putting a focus on strategic spellcasting while gleefully lampooning just about every fantasy trope you can think of. How can you not love a game that opens with “once upon a time in generic fantasy world which was of course in trouble, only up to four wizards had the power to make a difference”? And of course, it looks like wicked fun, with hordes of enemies testing your magical prowess at every turn.

Publisher: N/A
Developer: Pocketwatch Games
Release Date: TBA 2011

Monaco's a brilliant little puzzle-action game that gleefully crosses the line between cooperative and competitive over and over and over. You (and a few friends) play as thieves attempting to pull off an elaborate heist, and how it goes down is completely up to you. Do you create a distraction? Do you hide in a toilet? Do you focus on building up one of your teammates' powers at the cost of your own? Do you kick teamwork to the curb, sell out your buddies, and make a mad dash for the loot? It's all your call in a game where watching everything fall to pieces is nearly as satisfying as seeing a plan finally come together.

Natural Selection 2
Publisher: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Release Date: Early 2011

The original Natural Selection was one of the best Half-Life mods around, and this standalone sequel looks to continue that tradition and then some. Top to bottom, it's a brilliant-looking fusion of FPS and RTS, pitting high-tech marines against icky-sticky aliens. Pick a side, make a plan, and then leap right into the action. If you're looking for something different to scratch your multiplayer itch after dominating Battlefield Bad Company 2 and Black Ops, this is your game.

Publisher: N/A
Developer: Nicalis
Release Date: January 6

Games have been known to frequently excite and startle players, but rare is the game that kicks back, relaxes, and slowly melts all your stresses away. NightSky's not exactly a trip to the spa, but its focus on ambient sights and sounds, challenging puzzles, and the simple act of rolling a ball helps the game achieve a similar affect. It's quiet and simple, sure, but well worth a look.

Rock of Ages
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: ACE Team
Release Date: Spring 2011

Rock of Ages is the next out-of-the-ordinary outing from ACE Team, creators of the extraordinarily bizarre (and just plain extraordinary) Zeno Clash. The game is a competitive take on tower defense that sees you either build a boulder-blocking obstacle course or go on the attack by steering a speeding boulder. Also keeping with its lineage, Rock of Ages sports a completely gorgeous art style – this time inspired by ancient Greek, medieval, and Renaiassance paintings, among others.

Spy Party
Publisher: N/A
Developer: Chris Hecker
Release Date: TBA 2011

Generally, the “spy” part of “spy game” is a misnomer. After all, when your objective is to avoid being discovered, it's generally not in your best inerest to shout “this it totally bitchin'” while firing car chases at explosions (yes, you read that correctly). Spy Party, however, aims to tip-toe right over that pratfall, instead focusing on “human behavior, performance, perception, and deception.” You learn what makes people tick -- instead of running and gunning until you can physically see what made them tick -- and then use that knowledge to your advantage. Sounds like a much-needed breath of fresh air to us, and we can't wait to get our hands on it.

Publisher: N/A
Developer: Introversion
Release Date: TBA 2011

With strategy hits like Uplink, DEFCON, and Darwinia in its stable, Introversion definitely knows how to get your gears churning. This time, though, the developer's stepping into the realm of smaller-scale special ops, resulting in a series of procedurally generated levels that allow you to infiltrate and subdue how ever you want. In the developer's words: “Sabotage, Social Engineering and Grifting, custom Electrical and Mechanical devices, Distractions, Hacking, Stealth, Acrobatics, Precision demolitions, Trickery -- whatever gets the job done.” Needless to say, the game's wildly ambitious, but if anyone can pull it off, Introversion can.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: CD Projekt
Release Date: May 17

The original Witcher was a solid (though, at times, horribly written) stab at sprawling PC RPG glory, and the Witcher 2 promises to follow in its footsteps. This time, however, you've got a revamped combat system in your corner, as well as tense, fast-moving timed conversations to keep your tongue nice and sharp. You'll need it all, too, since you'll be facing off with the big, bad Kingslayer. Honestly, that's the sort of nametag we steer clear of at social gatherings. We don't discriminate, mind you. Just call it a hunch.

The Witness
Publisher: TBA
Developer: Jonathan Blow
Release Date: TBA 2011

Jonathan Blow, the man-so-smart-we're-convinced-he's-actually-a-giant-brain-in-a-vat-somewhere behind time-bending platformer Braid, is back with another experimental game called The Witness. At this point, details are scant, but it's been referred to as a “quiet and philosophical exploration puzzle game on an uninhabited island.” So basically, Lost, but without the part where we sustain multiple concussions from brain-cell-oblitering plot “twists” followed by brain-celll-obliterating facepalms. Fortunately, early screens look nothing like the infamous TV phenom, immediately making The Witness something we can get behind.

Publisher: N/A
Developer: Goldhawk Interactive
Release Date: TBA 2011

XCOM may have decided to shoot first and ask questions later, but Xenonauts is here to pick up the slack. It's a good old-fashioned strategy game that describes itself as “heavily inspired by the classic X-Com / UFO: Enemy Unknown.” From what we've seen, the game's a modern take on X-Com with some smart tweaks and the addition of real-time aerial combat, which is pretty much exactly what the xenophobic doctor ordered.

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