Best indie game (smaller priced games that we loved (i.e. no more than $20))

Winner: Box Boy!

When I picked up my New 3DS XL, I grabbed Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Zelda: Majora’s Mask. But it was the little puzzler Box Boy! that captured my imagination and my heart. Its simple mechanics made it easy to pick up and play for a few minutes, and it was equally easy to get into a flow and play the game for hours. It’s a Nintendo system exclusive that isn’t made by Nintendo, but you still need to play it.

Runners Up: Rocket League, You Must Build a Boat!

Best game that’s available through early access (games that are not quite finished but are fun so far)

Winner: Grim Dawn

This was a last second entry, and if it wasn’t for the holiday Steam sale, I would have omitted this category because I haven’t played any other early access games. So, winner by default? Yes and no. Grim Dawn is still in Early Access, but it’s “content complete”, which basically means all the story, items, skills, etc. are present, and the developers are now cleaning up some bugs before the “final release”. It’s a great action RPG in the mold of Diablo and Titan Quest, which should come as no surprise since it’s made by some folks who made Diablo and Titan Quest. But it’s the aesthetic and “mood” that sets it apart from other ARPGs. I’m looking forward to digging into more of the game with Albert and Preezie.

Most Interesting Gaming Moment

Winner: Everything Kojima

It was such a weird sequence of events: Konami cancels Silent Hill, the game that would feature the dude from The Walking Dead and Boondock Saints, produced by Kojima and Guillermo del Toro; Kojima gets his name taken off of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain; Konami closes their LA studio that made the game; Kojima is barred from going to The Game Awards by Konami lawyers; Kojima finally comes forth on December 16th and announces his new studio under the same name, Kojima Productions, and that he’s working with Sony on an exclusive console release.

If you’re a Kojima fan, it was an up and down year, with high highs (MGS5:PP was one the best received game of the year according to Metacritic) and low lows (seeing a dream project like Silent Hill cancelled). In the end, it turned out to be a series of interesting events, with a lot to look forward to from Sony and Kojima.

Runners Up: Activision Blizzard acquires King Digital for $5.9 billion, Satoru Iwata passes away at age 55 and receives many heartfelt tributes from the gaming community

Best Character

Winner: Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

I’ll admit it: I slept on the Witcher series for a long time. I owned the first two games, but never really got around to playing them. So, earlier this year, and in advance of The Witcher 3 coming out, I decided I was going to watch a YouTube playthrough for 1 and 2. I found a guy who’d done full playthroughs, but he had cut out some of the combat and all of the travel so the playthrough was compressed (still about 15 hours per game…). I watched him play, made notes about his major choices, and in May of this year, I finally got to play as Geralt myself.

I love Geralt. I really enjoyed “role playing” him – helpful to many, taking payment only if you can afford it, and punishing anyone who hurts others. Because it’s an RPG, someone else’s Geralt could be completely different from mine, and I can respect that. But I was very invested in my Geralt and his relationships with others in the world of the Witcher 3. Every time I played the game, it was some of the best times I’ve ever had playing video games, and Geralt was always there at the center of it all.

Runner Up: The Bloody Baron (The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt)

Best Art Style/Graphics/Prettiest/Nicest Looking

Winner: Star Wars Battlefront

Right, so, this was a tough one to choose. I played some amazing looking games this year, but no other game was Star Wars themed, so there you go.

For the first 10 hours playing Battlefront, I would just stop at various points in a match and stare at the world going “Oh shit! OH SHIT!”, which as you know, if you’d played a multiplayer first person shooter in the 21st century, means I was dead within seconds. But I didn’t care: waltzing through the woods of the forest moon of Endor, gleefully traipsing through the snow on Hoth, and strolling through the Sand on Tantoine. I’ve done it all, and I’ve had a chance to see the love, care and attention that DICE has put in to their game.

Also, PEW PEW PEW SHOOTY LASER BEAMS!

Runners Up: Dying Light, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Rebel Galaxy

Funniest Gaming Moment

Winner: Rocket League

You’re hitting a ball! With a rocket powered car! Hilarity is guaranteed! I honestly can’t think of a specific moment from the game that was “funny”, but I do know I haven’t smiled so much while playing multiplayer games with my friends since couch co-op Bubble Bobble on the NES. This is a standout game and I hope to be playing it for many years to come.

Runners Up: The first hour of Undertale

Game I want to see a sequel to

Winner: Rebel Galaxy

Torchlight meets Freelancer, has a baby named Rebel Galaxy who grows up loving Firefly and spaghetti westerns. So, basically, if you like your spaceship trading and fighting games to have a personality and easy-to-understand mechanics and controls, check out Rebel Galaxy. I can’t wait to see what these guys do for an encore.

Runners Up: Box Boy!

Game I never want to see again

Winner: Fallout Shelter

Unfortunately, it took me about 15 hours of mindlessly tapping on rooms, residents and resources before I realized the simple truth about the mobile game Fallout Shelter: It has no soul, and by playing it, I was losing my soul, too. I’m not sure if this says more about me than the game, but I could find the fun, and yet I still played the game for hours and hours and hours. Granted, I paid zero dollars for this privilege, but it would have been nice to have some story, characters, or just a general “raison d’être” for the game. As it stands, Fallout Shelter is everything we used to like about simple mobile games, without any of the Fallout charm.

Runners Up: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (what was I thinking…)

Best Audio

Winner: Star Wars Battlefront

Alright, have we all played a DICE game before? I have to imagine you have. Their Battlefield games have long been lauded for their amazing and visceral sound design. Well, Battlefront is no different – DICE has absolutely nailed the sounds of the Star Wars universe, including the “whoooping” of a speeder bike, the “pew” of laser fire and the sound of a TIE fighter screaming through the sky. It truly helps with engrossing you fully in the Star Wars experience.

Runners Up: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Rebel Galaxy

Biggest disappointment

Winner: Evolve

What if I told you that the guys who mad Left 4 Dead made another video game? What if I also told you that the game is a 4 player co-op experience? And what if I told you that, instead of zombies, there’s a big-ass monster you get to hunt? Sounds pretty good, right? So, where the heck did Evolve go wrong? Oh right, the matchmaking (or lack thereof) and the fact that only one person can be the “monster” at a time, ostensibly leading to people quitting the match as soon as they see they’re NOT the monster. I’d love to poll the ~300 active users playing this game on Steam (peak stats from the past week as of January 5) what they see it, because it sure fell flat for me.

Runner Up: Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate, and returning from 2014 “No Red Dead Redemption rerelease or sequel announcement”

Biggest surprise (in games in general or a specific game)

Winner: Rocket League

What if I told you you could play soccer with rocket powered cars? Well then ROCKET LEAGUE BABY! I know that the Psyonix, the developer, actually came out with Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars back in 2009, but I only found out about it AFTER Rocket League broke on to the scene this year. Giving this game away to Playstation Plus subscribers was a stroke of genius, and it lead me to pay for a full priced copy on PC just so I could have the option of playing on both systems. It’s great when a game comes out of nowhere and sweeps you off your feet. Like Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor last year, Rocket League was a delightful surprise full of brilliant gaming moments.

Runner Up: Box Boy!, Rebel Galaxy

Game I’m most looking forward to in 2016

Winner: No Man’s Sky

We got to see a bit more of No Man’s Sky in 2015, and I’m ready for a release date in 2016. It’s been teased long enough and like a few of the runners up below, has been in development for years. Granted, Hello Games is a small studio, but it does have Sony money and marketing backing it up. This is the year we finally get to put our hands on No Man’s Sky, and I’m hoping it keeps its promises.

Runners Up: Rise of the Tomb Raider, XCOM 2, Firewatch, Unravel, Far Cry Primal, The Walking Dead: Michonne, The Division, Hitman and The Witness…. all in the first quarter of 2016

Best co-op game

Winner: Rocket League

“Your ball!”, “I’m going to the net!”, “Center it!”, “I’m staying back” and “HOLY WHAT A PASS THAT WAS INSANE!” are all common phrases spoken during a single game of Rocket League. Sure, there’s a single player mode, but why would you play single player when you could team up and crush the rocket powered hopes and dreams of other players?

Runners Up: Grim Dawn, Star Wars Battlefront

Best multi-player game

Winner: Rocket League

“I CAN’T BELIEVE WE PULLED THAT OFF IN THE LAST SECOND” *Right direction pad* *Quick chat* “OMG” “OMG” “Nice shot!” “Nice shot!”

Runner Up: Battlefront

Most addictive game

Winner: Rocket League

I’ve had many a late night and rough early morning thanks to freaking timezones and that “one more game – can’t leave on that note” mentality. Rocket League truly is the kind of game you can play for 5 minutes, or for 5 hours.

Runner Up: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt 

My dirty little secret game (which game were you most ashamed of liking?)

Winner: Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes

It’s a mobile free-to-play game, where you battle Star Wars heroes and villains against each other in turn-based combat. Daily activities and rewards keep you coming back to the game, and you level up your Chewie’s and Poe’s and get them new gear. I’ve payed it for about a month now and haven’t spent a dime. I don’t see myself hitting a wall any time soon, but I do find myself explaining to my wife why I need 5 more minutes to beat up Darth Vader before we go work out…

Best handheld / mobile game

Winner: Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes

Define “best”….

The 3rd Annual Wall Punch Award (which game made you so frustrated that you wanted to throw a controller or punch a hole in a wall?)

Winner: Rocket League

“I CAN’T BELIEVE THEY PULLED THAT OFF IN THE LAST SECOND” *Right direction pad* *Quick chat* “OMG” “OMG” “OMG” “OMG” “You have received a 3 second chat ban”

Best Game I played this year (can be a game released from any year, but that you played this year)

Winner: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

With the knowledge of the previous 2 games now firmly inserted into my brain, I embarked on my Witcher 3 journey in May of 2015. 6 months later, I wrapped up an epic tale of love, intrigue, mystery, magic, and other genuine emotions. There are many endings to the game, and the one I got was perfect. It fit perfectly for the way that I played, and the decisions that I made. Each main and side character was unique and played a role in my adventure. I can’t wait to revisit the world and play through the content I missed (man there’s a lot of content) and the DLC. This isn’t just the best game I’ve played this year, it’s the best game I’ve played in years – 6 years to be exact, when I first played Red Dead Redemption on the PS3. This is the kind of game I think fans of video games should experience, and despite it’s faults, it will be held up as an example of what narrative and character exploration could and should be in video games. Put it on easy, play it for the story, use the console commands: whatever it takes to get through it. You’ll thank yourself 80 hours later.

Best 2015 Game

Winner: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

I think I’ve extolled the virtues of the game enough, so on to a “year in review” paragraph instead:

2015 offered us some AMAZING games – my 2 favourite (Witcher 3 and Rocket League) weren’t even on my radar in 2014. I thought Battlefront lived up to the hype for me, and despite drifting away from multiplayer first person shooters, I feel like it’s casual enough that I can leave it and come back to it for months to come and not be at a disadvantage (à la Call of Duty). We also saw some very high profile indie games releases, though I haven’t had a chance to try most of them. My biggest regret from last year is skipping Invisible Inc. – sounds like a fantastic strategy game, and one that’s on my list now for 2016. I don’t regret playing fewer games this year, and I suspect I’ll play fewer still in 2016. That’s ok – it lets me be selective about where I invest my time and how I consume my favourite form of entertainment media. 2015 is gone, but the games aren’t. There’s always time to go back and check out what you’ve missed!

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