From 2011 to 2014, I produced an audio extravaganza of a Game of the Year award show to note the best video games of the year. To not do one for 2015 in my break from podcasting was bittersweet. While those productions of the past were all fan-voted, I thought I would mix things up a bit in my return to video game media. Even though we’re a month into 2016, let’s take a look at my personal favorite games of 2015, along with my votes for the categories that would have been included in a 2015 award show!
TALES FROM THE BORDERLANDS
It had been a while since the world of Pandora enticed me with its stories. I picked up knowledge of characters here and there and I was always confused by the pairing of Gearbox and Telltale. I am so glad that I played Tales from the Borderlands, though. There are many similarities, when you compare this game to past Telltale adventures, but the difference stand out so much to make the Borderlands world come alive.
The shifting perspective between the two protagonists of Rhys (Troy Baker) and Fiona (Laura Bailey) is done so effectively on a narrative and gameplay level. These characters play well off of each other, but the highlight is the cast itself. While Chris Hardwick as Vaughn was an unusual choice, Patrick Warburton as Vasquez and Ashley Johnson as Gortys are perfectly spot-on. The real gem of the game, however, is its writing. I won’t spoil the banter for you, but please, just watch this scene without context.
If I had to give awards to this game, they would fall outside of the usual categories that we used to give awards to during our big productions. That said, Best Voice Ensemble and Best Writing in a Game would go to Tales from the Borderlands.
I am terrible at Undertale. I cannot play bullet-hell games to save my life. But man, there is something so charming about this game’s world and its characters.
It cannot be understated how remarkable of a job Toby Fox did, when it comes to making this game. What could have easily been an indie game to just pass over gripped the majority of the Internet with its Earthbound-like charm. Between saving monsters with mercy or killing them, what appears to be a simple RPG dives into complex dynamics, as your character’s heart evades the attacks thrown at it.
Toriel. Sans. Papyrus. Undyne. Every character in this world just makes this game shine. The soundtrack is also easily the best of 2015, making the most of a retro-inspired chipset. Let’s rock out a bit.
Best PC Game
Most Pleasant Surprise
Best Independent Game
Best Song in a Game – Megalovania
THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT
This was my biggest gaming regret of the year. When The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt hit store shelves in May, I dove in head-first, without playing the first two games in the series. I spent about six hours exploring every aspect of White Orchard, loving what I was playing, and when I was about to move on, I stopped. There was a big post-release patch coming and I wanted to wait for that to arrive before I continued.
The patches kept coming. And I kept making excuses.
The Witcher 3 is a game that I need to get back to this year. CD Projekt Red created a masterpiece that is perhaps almost too engrossing, making a world where sidequests matter with their depth. There’s a reason why this game dominated Game of the Year awards from other outlets. Considering how little of the game I actually played, it really shows how much I enjoyed it to have it be placed so high on this list.
Best Role-Playing Game
Best Atmosphere in a Game
Studio of the Year – CD Projekt Red
Protagonist of the Year – Geralt of Rivia
LIFE IS STRANGE
The premise is simple. What if you take a Telltale-styled adventure, but your character is able to rewind time, enough to undo and change the choices that you just made? This is the idea behind Life Is Strange – the journey of Max Caulfield as she realizes that she has this unusual power, but it is having unintended consequences on the calm seaside town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon.
Like many of those who finished this episodic game this year, the impact that this game had on me is significant. Does it have its faults, with stilted adults-writing-teens writing and lip flap issues that a patch tried to fix? It certainly does, but looking past it is well worth it, since the game has a lot of heart and powerful moments.
When you failed the end of Episode 2, like I did, and you had to live with the consequences. When you discover Chloe’s alternate reality at the end of Episode 3. When the big twist hits at the end of Episode 4, predictable or not. Living with the results of your final choice, at the end of the game. So many aspects of this game will stick with me for a long time, as I hope for an eventual Season 2 that focuses on different characters.
You need to play Life Is Strange.
Most Under-Respected Game
Best Acting Performance – Ashly Burch as Chloe Price
— HONORABLE MENTIONS —
Best PS4 Game: Bloodborne
Best Xbox One Game: Rise of the Tomb Raider
Best Wii U Game: Super Mario Maker
Best 3DS Game: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D
Best Vita Game: Persona 4: Dancing All Night
Best iOS/Android Game: Fallout Shelter
Best Visual Design: Star Wars Battlefront
Best Multiplayer, Best Driving Game: Rocket League
Best Expansion/DLC: The Taken King – Destiny
Most Disappointing Game: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5
Most Anticipated Game: Persona 5
Best Re-Released Game: Grim Fandango Remastered
Best New Intellectual Property: Splatoon
Best Game Trailer: Story Trailer – Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection
Antagonist of the Year: The Joker – Batman: Arkham Knight
METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN
Look, you can say what you want about Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The story and its lack of engrossing cutscenes was disappointing. The game was incomplete. The character development was lacking, especially for Kiefer Sutherland’s Big Boss. It wasn’t a Metal Gear game, as we know it. These are all fair critiques! But this was the game I spent the most time on this year. After 75 hours, I think it is fair for me to say that it is my personal game of the year.
The gameplay loop is perfect. The possibilities are endless. It’s so easy to want to check off every sidequest, before continuing to the main story, all while you capture enemy soldiers for use on your Mother Base and for upgrading your equipment. The opening sequence does not get enough credit as one of the most impactful tutorial levels of all time. The soundtrack is sublime, with its added licensed ’80s tunes that set the mood. I know that “Maneater” blasted through the Pequod speakers for most of my game, as Quiet hopped on board to join Big Boss on his next mission.
If you think about it from another angle, Metal Gear Solid V is the Game of the Year because of the news that revolved around it the entire year. Konami. Kojima. Every development in that chaos just added to the mystique of the game and it directly contributed to why Chapter 2 turned out how it did.
Hideo Kojima’s last Metal Gear Solid game is a memorable game for the ages, one way or another.
Game of the Year
Best Moment from a Game: Mission 43 – Shining Lights, Even in Death
What are your top five favorite games of 2015? Let us know in the comments below!
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