In 2015, gamers were treated to quite a few amazing titles in all genres and for all platforms. With an exploding indie scene, new genres and new developers coming to the forefront, plenty of huge-budget AAA games and next-generation consoles finally finding their footing, it ended up being a good year for gamers. No surprise then that this year’s Gameindustry.com Game of the Year contest ended up with more votes than in any previous time in the contest’s 17-year history.
Thanks to everyone who cast votes this year, and congratulations to all the great game-makers who racked up major victories! And so, there is nothing left but to reveal the games of the year. These are the top games of 2015 by category, as chosen by you.
Adventure Game of the Year: Life is Strange
Dontnod Entertainment’s epic five-part story-driven narrative game Life is Strange picked up its first of three huge wins by taking the Adventure Game of the Year crown. Fending off Telltale’s Game of Thrones juggernaut and Lara Croft’s Rise of the Tomb Raider, Life is Strange instead gave us a unique new story involving a seemingly-normal young woman in college who is manifesting supernatural powers. In addition to all the late teen angst we experienced in the game, there is also the need to rewind time to try and make the world a better place, and the consequences of those actions when we accidentally made things worse. And then there is the whole end-of-the-world thing to deal with, making Life is Strange truly live up to its namesake.
Role-Playing Game of the Year: Fallout 4
Bethesda Software’s epic open-world post-apocalyptic monster hit Fallout 4 began its roll to Game of the Year domination with a win for best RPG. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt gave it a run for the crown, but could not quite surpass the popular new RPG that really lets players tackle the world however they want. Crafters who want to build up cities and turn the game into a post-nuclear war version of The Sims are welcome alongside hardcore shooter players, sneaky assassins, weapons and armor modders, explorers and those who just want to experience an epic story and become a modern hero. Fallout 4 has something for almost everyone, so almost everyone decided to support it for RPG Game of the Year.
Best Family-Friendly Game of the Year: Lego Jurassic World
With a large block of parents who read GiN, it’s no surprise that the Family Friendly category was one of the most contested this year. Lego: Jurassic World’s dinosaurs however were able to claw their way (in a very funny and non-threatening way) to the top of the pile, beating out Skylanders Supercharges, Marvel Puzzle Quest and The Book of Unwritten Tales in by a hair. Lego: Jurassic World is one of the best of the movie-based Lego games to come out and features almost every scene from the original movies as well as the new Jurassic World one, all retold in glorious Lego blocks where nobody really gets killed, just deconstructed. With close to a hundred unlockable characters and countless Easter eggs and secrets, this is one fun game that families can play together for a very long time.
Shooter Game of the Year: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Shooters have been going through a bit of a transformation as of late, and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, gamers overwhelming choice for shooter game of the year, is a good example of this. In addition to what you would expect from a shooter, there are also a lot of other elements in play here, like building and maintaining your forward operating bases, enjoying a deep storyline with lots of interesting characters and even an online component to keep the excitement going long after you have finished the games’ many challenging story missions. Adding in a really smart artificial intelligence and the ability to approach missions in a variety of ways makes Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain a must-have for shooter fans, and the top pick for Shooter Game of the Year.
Best Puzzle Game: Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle
The backstory of Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle will harken a lot of puzzle players back to the days of the classic puzzle games like The 7th Guest, and that is a very good thing. Rooms is the tale of a famous toymaker who was beloved for his wonderful creations, but disappeared suddenly leaving behind a huge mansion chocked full of secrets. You as the player must navigate the rooms as you ascend ever upward, or down into the basement in the DLC expansion. The concept of Rooms is the old slide puzzle that everyone has played, but mixed in with bombs, teleportation, one-way doors and other diabolical machinations designed to keep your puzzle processor in high gear. Rooms: The Unsolvable Puzzle is easy to learn and difficult to master, a key reason why it won for Puzzle Game of the Year.
Sports Game of the Year: FIFA 16
Gamers love the FIFA series, but last year FIFA 15 was a bit of a disappointment. Now with FIFA 16, the game came roaring back with better ball control, smarter teammates and an all-around better experience. And of course, the graphics look amazing as always. Playing FIFA 16 or just watching someone play it is about as close as you can get to actually getting out there on the field yourself. And, the addition of true-to-life professional women’s teams is just icing on the cake, to the point where some wondered if they should have skipped 15 and just jumped right to FIFA 16. In any case, FIFA 16 scores with the Sports Game of the Year trophy.
Best Strategy Game of the Year: The Red Solstice
Developer Ironward came out of nowhere this year with The Red Solstice, a real-time strategy game set on Mars that actually puts a twist into one of the oldest game genres. It also fought off strong contenders like Sid Meier’s Starships to take the GOTY crown. The Red Solstice has a lot of interesting mechanics, like the ability to slow time down by 90 percent to give players the ability to deal with some otherwise too-punishing mobs. This makes the single-player game actually winnable, if difficult. In multiplayer mode, the emphasis is all on teamwork, as players need to work hard, and together, if they are going to survive all of the hoards and mobs that Mars can generate.
Best Story: Life is Strange
Life is Strange picked up its second victory in the best story category, which is probably a good thing in a game that is all about the story first. Gamers really fell in love with the main characters from the game, who seemed normal in so many ways, even as some of them began to experience supernatural forces at work. Even in the midst of trying to save the world, there was still all the normal college relationship drama to deal with, and rather than trying to make it into a farce, Life is Strange gave us a realistic look at campus life where things like moral issues, sexual identity and world outlooks are all still being shaped by a lot of people. Life is Strange offered equal doses of reality and fantasy, and it was hard to tell which part of that dichotomy was more well written. But in the end, it all came together into the best story that 2015 had to offer.
Most Amazing Atmosphere: Star Wars Battlefront
Whatever your thoughts about the overall game, nobody could argue that Star Wars Battlefront didn’t look incredible. In fact, the environments were so richly detailed that at times it was difficult to distinguish gameplay in Battlefront from an actual Star Wars movie. Beyond just the look of the various worlds you fought over, the character models were also nearly alive, much more than anyone would expect from a massive battle simulation. Finally, the Star Wars music contributed to that amazing Star Wars feel that is just so unique from anything else out there. If every game looked as good as Star Wars Battlefront, the world would be a better place.
Best Game Soundtrack: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
While The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt got edged out of most of the categories that it was nominated in, the fact that it lead the nominations count coming into the GOTY voting is a testament to how well rounded the game is overall. It was so good in every area that it stands to reason that it would win something, and it finally did, for the best original soundtrack in a game this year. The great thing about the music for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is that it subtly changed depending on where Geralt was adventuring so that the lonely windswept islands out at sea felt different than the tiny, decrepit and crowded alleyways of the inland cities. And the battle soundtrack, which creeps up as the steel and silver swords begin to fly, keep the battle pumping in the hearts of players until the very last blow is delivered. It’s only one mark of quality for this title, but the one that earns it a Game of the Year victory.
Most Memorable Character: Chloe from Life is Strange
It seems that more often than not, the character who has the most influence over gamers is not the focus of a game, but instead a peripheral character who provides a companion, villain, lover or even comic relief to the player’s icon in that world. Such was the case with Chloe from the Life is Strange series, a seemingly tough world-weary girl who provides a perfect friend and opposites attract type of companion for nerdy main character Max as she heads off to college. In fact, as a character, Chloe with her constant mood swings and possessiveness, ends up being quite memorable because at times players might love and hate her equally. But that is what makes her so great to experience, and earns Life is Strange it’s third win for having the Most Memorable Character of 2015.
Best Wii U Game of the Year: Xenoblade Chronicles X
Happy Wii U gamers had a lot of choices this year in terms of great games, but Xenoblade Chronicles X was able to edge out Super Mario Maker by just a bit to claim the Wii U game of the year title. The series has a long history with developer Monolith Soft creating Xenogears way back in the days of the PSOne. Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U is a space opera-inspired Japanese RPG that vastly differs from its predecessors in many ways. One of the most exciting is that the world is huge, and like with other popular open world games these days, you can play this one however you like, from running around doing every little quest you can find to exploring the world to taking on huge monsters and gaining power. Eventually you can even fly, which lets players experience the gorgeous world from yet another perspective. In terms of feats of gaming, fun and long-term value, Xenoblade Chronicles X is the new gold standard for the Wii U.
Best PlayStation 4 Game of the Year: Bloodborne
PlayStation 4 gamers rallied around the siren call of the exclusive Bloodborne game as their choice for the best of the year. Everything about Bloodborne’s unforgiving world is dripping with atmosphere and quality. A true action adventure horror game, your character will be wandering the moonlit streets of this world hunting, and being hunted by, some of the most frightening nightmares to ever gather within a videogame world. Thriving or even just surviving within Bloodborne’s brutal world of visceral combat is a challenge, and those who successfully do can truly wear that achievement as a badge of honor. Nothing in 2015 was quite so unique as Bloodborne, and so it captures the crown of PlayStation 4 Game of the Year, a realm where it holds treasured exclusivity.
Best Xbox One Game of the Year: Fallout 4
Picking up the win for Xbox One Game of the Year is the epic RPG from Bethesda Software, Fallout 4. Properly billed as one of the most ambitions games ever created, players can literally spend hundreds of hours exploring and having fun in this vast and impressive world set in and around the futuristic city of Boston. Xbox One gamers can further enjoy the game by importing and using mods created on the PC, of which there are already thousands, with more growing every day. That allows Xbox gamers to tap into the mod craze that PC players love. Also, the Xbox One hardware has no trouble smoothly rendering the impossibly vast open-world environments. Fallout 4 is white hot, even nuclear, and the choice of gamers for Xbox One Game of the Year.
Best PC Game of the Year: Fallout 4
PC gamers typically put the most work into their gaming hobbies, between building their systems and keeping everything up to date. The payout of course is that they can generally amp up the settings for most games well beyond anything that a console could handle. And in Fallout 4, PC players found a game that was all too willing to let them go wild with the resolution and environmental settings. Fallout 4 is gorgeous on any platform, but on a top-of-the-line PC, it can look even better. PC gamers also love to experience and create mods, and Bethesda Software always lets them indulge that love with the release of the creation kit tools for their games. PC gamers have responded with thousands of dungeons, creatures, weapons, characters and just about everything else imaginable to enhance or even fundamentally change the game. For its fun and flexibility, Fallout 4 is the top choice for PC Game of the Year.
Overall Game of the Year: Fallout 4
Fallout 4 is a game and a game changer. How Bethesda somehow manages to come out with a game every couple years that simply blows everything else ever created away, including their own previous titles, is a secret sauce that keeps them in the top echelons of developers year after year. Fallout 4 is simply bigger, better and arguably more fun than anything that has ever come before it. It’s a technical masterpiece with a truly open world where things happen on the other side of the city whether or not your character is nearby or not. The world changes, lives and breathes seemingly on its own.
But the true magic of Fallout 4 is that it can somehow become all things to all people. Almost anyone can play Fallout 4 and have a great time, because it doesn’t force anyone to play a certain way. Explore, build, craft, talk with your companions, fight, conquer, destroy, ally or betray anyone and anything you like in the game. If you want to spend weeks growing crops and perfecting the perfect farm, Fallout 4 is happy to oblige. If you never want to touch a crafting bench, that’s cool too. Heck, if you want to get the tools and modify the game itself, feel free.
Fallout 4 reminded a lot of people why they play videogames, and why they wisely invested in a powerful PC or a next-generation console. While 2015 was a year of very good titles with a few truly great ones in the mix, Fallout 4 was the best of the best, and thus became the overwhelming choice for Overall Game of the Year.