Much like my previous compilation about the consensus on Fallout 4, I’ve decided to do a round-up of the major game news outlet’s Game of the Year awards. I’ve picked some of the big outlets that have actually chosen a consensus winner, and included a little excerpt if they gave an explanation. After looking at each individually, we’ll aggregate all the winners and see what Best of the Best 2015 list that will give us.
Gamespot: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
But none of these experiences left as much of a lasting impact as that of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The expansive setting was a character in itself, and its inhabitants felt nuanced and real. From the swamps of Crookback Bog, to the grimy alleys of Novigrad, to the frozen islands of Skellige, our journey through the Northern Kingdoms set the stage for one of video games’ most engrossing epics.
Polygon: Her Story
And yet, in another way, Her Story is absolutely more impressive and ambitious than all these giant epics from 2015. It may not be the longest or most complex game of the year, but of everything on this list, it is hands down the most unique. Her Story tries something new, something we haven’t seen in some form or another in dozens of other games.
Bloodborne is the most wondrous game I’ve played in ages. Its lush skies, ostentatious cathedrals, eerie beasts, haunting score, cryptic lore, and grim, romantic imagery are virtually unparalleled in the big budget gaming space. It’s a title packed with so much raw majesty and awe that I didn’t want it to ever end. And then it did. So I played it again four more times.
PC Gamer: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
This is so far ahead of other action games—Kojima Productions retained the series’ detail and sense of humour but found more ways to convey that with unscripted moments. The game is so thoroughly divorced from the boring story that you could entirely enjoy the game without it. It’s left the likes of Assassin’s Creed looking tired in its wake. Metal Gear is the king of sandbox games, and this was the perfect time for the series to come back to PC.
Gamesradar: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
There are also the weird, distinctly Metal Gear moments that make it so much more than a collection of clever, intertwining systems. There’s the part where you can infiltrate a heavily-fortified base while blasting Hall & Oates from your Sony Walkman. Or the part where you can tranquilize sheep, goats, or zebras, attach balloons to them, and send them back to your burgeoning zoo back on Mother Base. Or the series of cassette tapes that let you listen to a man essentially invent the McDonald’s hamburger. Then there’s the story; an infuriating, brilliant, and completely Metal Gear send-off that simultaneously embraces three decades of built-up lore and lovingly gives it the middle finger. While other games come and go, The Phantom Pain’s Lynchian narrative will stick with you like a waking dream long after its final credit sequence plays out – a fitting end to the most enigmatic series in video game history.
Game Trailers: Bloodborne
Giant Bomb: Super Mario Maker
It’s easy to want to focus on the things that Super Mario Maker can’t do. You can’t string together multiple levels into full worlds. That angry sun from Super Mario 3 isn’t in there. Even after patching, the level discovery and filtering should be better. But the core parts that make Super Mario Maker make it sing in a joyful way. That joy, whether it comes from creating or discovering other creations, is unlike anything else released in 2015. That joy is why it’s our overall pick for the year’s best game.
Escapist: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
All of these things make The Witcher 3 a good game, but it becomes a great game when you consider its well-crafted story. It doesn’t skimp on characterization like its forbears. Instead, it crafts a narrative in which Geralt has intimate connections with many of the people he encounters, and the player’s choices can have far-reaching effects. Sometimes you’ll see the effects immediately, and sometimes you don’t realize them until much later, but the repercussions to your choices are still there, working beneath the surface.
Golden Joystick Awards: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Metacritic: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Of those, Phantom Pain received the highest individual score (for its XB1 version), making it our official game of the year for 2015. The belated PC port of 2013’s Grand Theft Auto V actually scored a point higher, but that game is ineligible for our official year-end honor since it isn’t a new title.
As its name suggests, Prune is a game about removing things to nurture other things, where you swipe your finger to sever restrictive limbs and free others to grow. But it’s also about basking in a minimalist garden of forking paths as you work out the spatial logistics of coaxing a tree to blossom. It’s both an arboricultural exercise and a meditation–on light, darkness, color, sound and perhaps most of all, the things we’re forced to leave behind.
Yahoo!: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
A sprawling, open-world fantasy adventure fused with a tight, compelling narrative, The Witcher 3 is simultaneously epic and intimate, a truly impressive feat for a huge role-playing game. We burned countless hours searching for our protégé Ciri, battling massive beasts, playing the clever card game Gwent, and exploring every nook and cranny of developer CD Projekt Red’s gorgeous, glorious world. Suffice to say, it was time well spent.
IGN: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Then, when you’ve had your fill of the open-world, you return to a lengthy fantasy story that is, ultimately, about family; a surprisingly intimate turn for a series about a near-emotionless slayer of men and monsters, but one that CD Projekt Red handles deftly, with reams of well-written dialogue delivered impossibly well by a voice cast that breathes life into a wide array of interesting, layered characters. You may never even meet all of them. Heck, you might even kill one or two, but you probably won’t forget about them. In fact, for all of its breadth, there’s hardly any element of The Witcher 3 that doesn’t stick to the mind, which is why, as much as any other reason, IGN has named it our Game of the Year for 2015.
Now, if we just tally up the totals and rank them:
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (5)
- Bloodborne (3)
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (3)
- Her Story (1)
- Super Mario Maker (1)
- Prune (1)
Well, that list looks quite strange (Prune?…) but it was a close race in most articles between Witcher, Metal Gear, and Bloodborne, so it makes sense each piled up multiple awards. Other games mentioned across all of the publications included Splatoon, Rocket League, and Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Congratulations Witcher 3, you win the 2015 Best of the Best Award! Now, if you excuse me, I need to finally get around to finishing that one….