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A new Disney entry into the Star Wars franchise lit up the box office, while a Pixar movie flopped in the box office. We have experienced a full year of watching companies and people alike partake in digital panhandling for finances on websites like Kickstarter, Patreon and GoFundMe. The Cubs met with an untimely exit from the MLB playoffs to stifle their Back to the Future II World Series forecast and we lack our sweet hoverboards. We saw some new entries into some of our favorite game series and a massive amount of hype for future projects. This year has been filled with highs, lows and everything in between. Like it or not, 2015 is in the bag. The Ultimate Sad Face Award -Rise of the Tomb Raider- Rise of the Tomb Raider is the automatic winner of my Ultimate Sad Face Award because it is the one game that I really wanted to play this year, but skipped entirely. My decision was not a criticism of the game's exclusivity, but rather the result of some pretty poor marketing. A ton of money was thrown at television spots and it is well received, but in who in their right mind thought it was a good idea to drop Tomb Raider on the public the same day as Fallout 4? I may get a mulligan to do right by Lara Croft next year when we likely see it launch on Playstation 4, but at that point I will have played Uncharted 4 and will not want to pay $60 for a year-old game on a different platform. If this list were on my phone, it would just read Tomb Raider with a large, adjacent sideways sad face. The Snorlax Award -Super Mario Maker- Snorlax does not move to the beat of anybody's drums except his own. So. What you do when you're being criticized about not creating games or content fast enough? You give them a polished tool to make their own levels. Nintendo did this in the form of Super Mario Maker. I have a soured disposition toward pushing user-generated content creators as a â€œgame,â€ but even I found myself intrigued by what Nintendophiles could do with such a user-friendly interface. Garden variety sadists and Yoshi haters rule the day, but there are quite a few levels out there that would fit perfectly in the confines of a 2D Mario title. The great thing? They are not hidden behind a wall of horribly built levels. ` The Shameless Double Dip Award -Destiny: The Taken King- Have you ever been to a place that sells ice cream by the scoop and they shamelessly up-sell you on a second scoop? Typically that second dip only costs a fraction of the original scoop because they've already packed the cone and put the first scoop on top. Unfortunately, Bungie is the company that sold you on the first scoop, didn't pack the cone and then gave you a generic Vanilla/Chocolate flavor despite ordering something a little more extravagant. When confronted, they offered to sell you a second dip of ice cream, but that second dip would cost the exact same amount of money as the first dip (sprinkles sold separately). In case you missed it: Destiny: The Taken King is the ice cream. The base game is still the same and it still lacks a bit of soul, but the additional content offered makes a bit of difference and one of the biggest turnarounds for a game this year. The Amnesia Award -Pillars of Eternity- My favorite video games are ones that use amnesia as a story telling device, but how often are video games the source of amnesia? The Amnesia Award belongs to the game that will make you sit back at the end of the year and think â€œthat game was great, but did I really play it this year?â€ This year's winner, Pillars of Eternity, topped the chart for this award, following the trend of good game that may have been forgotten because of its release at the beginning of the year. I would recommend picking this game up, especially if you are in the market to fill your isometric RPG void. The Golden Wrench Award -Fallout 4- â€œIf it ain't broke, don't fix it.â€ Why? It might just be a feature. Fallout 4 may initially seem like a game that receives a free pass for its faults because of an unhealthy love for the developers, but Bethesda's ability to create an atmospheric experience through the expertly crafted locations is unparalleled. Fallout 4 gave me unique companions to accompany me across the wasteland, where I spend the majority of my time exploring and scavenging. This is the exact same thing I did in Fallout 3 and I've loved almost every minute of the game. If you need direction and structure, don't waste your time with Fallout 4 because this game is designed for those who ask â€œWhat's just over that hill?â€ The Leisure Suit Award -Fallout Shelter- This award is dedicated to all those games we play that aren't really considered heavy hitting, but we spent a lot of time playing. Fallout Shelter may be free and designed for your mobile devices, but there is a reason people find it so addictive. The Fallout series is one that is played from the perspective of an extraordinary dweller, but Shelter lets the player engage their vault life as an overseer. You can dictate where each person works, choose procreation partners and the more sadistic players can opt to eradicate the dwellers who get on your nerves. Fallout Shelter appears to be a shallow simulation game on the surface, but there are a lot of nice touches that help bring it under the Fallout umbrella. Two Fallout games, one list. This just isn't right. The Sportsball Award -Rocket League- Electronic Arts and 2K keeps players inundated with new licensed sports titles each and every year, a trend that will not likely vanish in the foreseeable future. Many sports titles do little more than perform minor tweaks to last years product, update rosters and offer plenty of new microtransactions. The Sportsball Award belongs to the best sports title of the year and this year's winner is Rocket League. It is one one of the few sports titles that felt like it brought something new to its predecessor, even if that only means taking the existing formula found in Psyonix's Super Acrobatic Rocket Powered Cars and rebranding it. Rocket League provided players an upgraded multiplayer experience, graphical updates and a whole slew of microtransactions. The Dessert Award -Xenoblade Chronicles X- One day you will find yourself at a restaurant after eating a large meal and decide that their lava cakes look delicious. You order dessert, but can only muster the energy to eat one-fourth of it before needing to box it up. Xenoblade Chronicles X could easily be my favorite game for the entire year, but its release date so close to the Holidays and at the tail end of a veritable buffet of video games ensured that I wouldn't be able to sink enough time into the game to dethrone The Witcher 3. I may not have finished Xenoblade Chronicles X yet, but the game's quality and appeal are two absolutely undeniable selling points. The beautiful environment even gives you untethered access live actual wallpaper for your television. Xenoblade Chronicles X may be jockeying for playtime at the end of the year and a little indulgent, but just like that lava cake it will be devoured before the next meal. That One Artist Award -The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt- No. This award does not belong to the most overrated, self-important or racist artist on the market. This year's 'That One Artist Award' belongs to the game that snatches the microphone when people are speaking positively about any other game. Was your DLC good? That's fine and I'll let you finish, but CD Projekt's earliest DLC was good AND free. Good story and Open World? That's great, but Geralt of Rivia has something he would like to take up with you. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt hit on all cylinders this year. Great narrative. Great, natural shift to a true open world setting. Great visuals. Great soundtrack. Did I mention that the Witcher 3 was great? This game, without a doubt, is my Game of the Year.
Editor's Note: Today's list is from our second guest writer, Hailee Kenney! Like Justin, she's also a friend of some of us on the staff and is also a video game enthusiast who works as a software developer. You can follow her on Twitter @HAIL_9000 ___________________________________________________________________ I have to admit, when I set out to write a list of my favorite games for this year, I was worried I wouldn“t be able to fill ten slots. I“ve found myself more and more frequently reaching back into older games that I haven“t played before, because I haven“t been all that dazzled with the AAA titles coming out in recent years (I know I“m ten years late, but if you want to talk to me about how Knights of the Old Republic 2 is a really interesting exploration of the Star Wars universe let me know). I was pretty pleasantly surprised, though, that when I sat down to make this list I had way more than ten games I wanted to include. I also realized that my list includes a pretty wide variety of games from publishers of all sizes, and even from crowdfunding. I“m excited how many avenues are now available to deliver unique and interesting games, and this year renewed my excitement a little for what the future has in store. Before we dive into the list, I just wanted to give an honorable mention to Tri Force Heroes and Until Dawn. Both games made it on my list at some point, but I ultimately decided to exclude them because I realized it was the people I played them with that really made those games enjoyable. But if you“re looking for a good time with some friends, Tri Force Heroes is incredibly fun, and Until Dawn is great with a room full of people shouting over each other to make decisions. But enough of that -- let“s send off 2015 in style. 10. Ori and the Blind Forest Of all the games I played this year, Ori and the Blind Forest was one of the most beautiful. A Metroidvania with mechanics polished to a perfect mirror sheen, Ori managed to remain fresh and challenging throughout its running time. There are some incredible acrobatic gameplay challenges, especially during some of the timed â€œraceâ€ segments. The game also had incredibly beautiful art, which made the world a joy to explore. Best of all, though, it married its mechanics and art with a simple yet powerful story. Ori doesn“t have dialogue, and none of its characters speak (aside from the narrator), yet the game affected me on a deep level. The fact that it achieved so much in terms of story with so little is a marvel, and that combined with its sharp mechanics and amazing art make Ori one of my favorite games this year. 9. Tales from the Borderlands I“ll be the first to admit that I (like many) have grown a little weary of the five episode Telltale formula ever since season two of The Walking Dead. I wasn“t even planning to play Tales from the Borderlands until I started to hear a lot of positive buzz about the first two episodes. I decided to give it a shot and I“m glad I did. The game is charming, and has a dorky sense of humor that really drew me in. I found that I really liked the characters, and I liked the lighter mood Tales from the Borderlands had compared to some of the other recent Telltale games. And to top it all off, the episodes were much closer to the length I would expect (2 to 3 hours), as opposed to the 40-60 minute episodes Telltale has been putting out. So even if the new Telltale adventure game formula isn“t my favorite, Tales from the Borderlands proved to be a fun game with great characters. 8. Technobabylon Speaking of adventure game formulas, here“s one that follows the old school formula that I do like. Technobabylon was a lot of fun, and was a return to the puzzle focused adventure games that I love. On top of having good puzzles, it pretty much had good everything else too: an interesting (cyberpunk!) setting, a compelling plot, and great characters. It was a really nice example of both cyberpunk and classic adventure games, two things I feel have faded away in recent years (although cyberpunk seems to be making a bit of a comeback in the gaming world). And while we got another cyberpunk adventure game this year, Read Only Memories (which I did enjoy), I found Technobabylon to be a bit more carefully written and interesting. 7. Splatoon Splatoon filled a really important role for me this year in that it was the game that I could sit down and play for as little or as long as I wanted. As someone who tends to seek out strong narrative experiences, I find myself drawn to long, involved games that I don“t always have time for. Sitting down for one or two (or sometimes twenty) short matches of Splatoon was awesome, and on top of that the game was just a lot of fun. I found the gameplay mechanics to be enjoyable and well tuned, the character customization was great, and I was pretty into the game“s “90s punk aesthetic. And of course the inklings were super cute. Plus the Miiverse integration, the Splatfests, the ability to easily play with friends, and the lack of voice chat made the community feel really vibrant and welcoming. It was also really nice to see some of my friends who had avoided competitive online multiplayer get really into Splatoon. 6. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain I could definitely write a novel about all the things I didn“t like about Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, but since it“s on my top ten list obviously I loved a lot of things about it. It“s true that when I finished the game I said I never wanted to talk about the Metal Gear series again, but once I calmed down a little bit, I realized how much fun I had and how amazing the gameplay was. There were so many options when it came to stealth, and so many cool details like guards getting helmets if you relied on headshots and the player being able to take advantage of patrol schedules. It was also a pleasant surprise to see a game that took advantage of it“s open world to enhance the core gameplay, instead of just to be an Assasin“s Creed clone. And the game did have a lot of the Kojima silliness that I know and love (who doesn“t enjoy running in guns blazing on a pink D-Walker while blaring Friday I“m in Love?). And while I was ultimately disappointed with the game“s narrative, I was impressed that Kojima managed to reel himself in and present some much more subtle storytelling. Was it the way I wanted to say goodbye to the series I love? I“m not sure. But was it a pretty good game? Definitely. 5. Pillars of Eternity Back around the turn of the millennium, Bioware and Black Isle made some incredible RPGs filled with sharp writing and tactical, RTS-like combat. As Bioware moved towards a more modern cinematic style, the rest of the RPG genre followed. Pillars of Eternity was pitched as a return to this style, and it definitely followed through. The game truly felt like a modern successor to the cRPGs of old, and was absolutely packed to the brim with lore. Obsidian“s writers clearly spent a lot of time fleshing out the world of Eoras, and explored the world“s pantheon of gods in unique and interesting ways, picking up the torch from Baldur“s Gate and Planescape. It also had a great combat system that, while occasionally clunky, was challenging and strategic. Really, though, it was the characters that made Pillars. Obsidian crafted an interesting world, and added in some exceptionally written companions. I hope to see Obsidian return to explore more of Eoras in a sequel further down the line. 4. Fallout 4 I doubt there“s ever been a Bethesda RPG that didn“t make my top ten list the year it came out, and Fallout 4 is no exception. Even though I did have some issues with it (my two chief complaints being the stripped down roleplaying mechanics and a shortage of interesting quests), I really enjoyed the time I spent with it. As always with Bethesda games, exploring the world was incredibly fun and provided hours of entertainment, and I love the environmental storytelling of the Fallout series. Even if the main plot fell a little flatter than usual, Fallout 4 still had some great world building, and for the first time in a Bethesda game, I found the characters to be very memorable. It was a nice addition, and it made me want to bring my companions along to get to know them. So even if it wasn“t my dream Fallout game, all the important elements were there, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Also, my character looks badass in aviators and road leathers. 3. SOMA Before I talk about SOMA, for the sake of full disclosure I have to say that I really hate scary games. Jump scares, suspenseful chases, all the other usual elements make most horror games unplayable for me. However, I found those to be quite minimal in SOMA, to the point where even I was able to play it. The real horror in the game is much more existential. It asks some really important and interesting questions that you“ll be thinking about for hours after you stop playing, and explores some fascinating philosophical concepts in the way that only the best science fiction can. It“s carefully written, and the story really drew me in. In addition to that, it excels with its atmosphere, exploration, and setting. Even though I would normally have written SOMA off as â€œnot my thingâ€, I“m glad I gave it a shot. 2. Everybody“s Gone to the Rapture I can guarantee that Everybody“s Gone to the Rapture is not a game for everyone, but it“s definitely the game for me. It“s long, meandering, and absolutely beautiful. I loved exploring the carefully crafted English countryside, and the storytelling is done in such a unique way. I liked slowly discovering not only what had happened, but also getting to know the people who lived in the village through their memories, which are scattered about the game. I also found the plot incredibly intriguing, and was hooked by the mystery almost immediately. I love games that leave me thinking about them long after I turn them off, and Everybody“s Gone to the Rapture was very much that kind of game for me. It“s calm, beautiful storytelling leads to some very poignant moments, and I really appreciated that it had a much more concrete plot to discover than Dear Esther, a similar game by the same studio. So ultimately I“d say that if you“re patient, and you love being forced to think, it“s definitely worth checking out. 1. Undertale Even though I had a tough time narrowing my list down, there was never a question of what my game of the year would be. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about Undertale, most of which I haven“t shared because I“m not sure I could do the game justice. Undertale is so amazing and unique in many ways, from its save system to its gameplay mechanics to its writing and characters. But ultimately the thing I love about Undertale the most is its focus on kindness, and how it questions the fundamental mechanic of violence at the center of most games. Undertale has so much heart, and it gives the player so many chances to be compassionate. Even better, you“re rewarded for it. Befriending your enemies and showing them compassion leads to one of the best and most meaningful game endings I“ve ever experienced. I wish that more games would take a page out of Undertale“s book and explore kindness and friendship as a mechanic, and encourage the player to take that extra step and get to know an enemy instead of fighting it. And that“s why Undertale is my game of the year for 2015, and why it has probably earned a spot as one of my favorite games of all time.