Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I’m not sure how you don’t choose Skyrim for GOTY in 2011. It is arguably the greatest RPG ever released, so much so that even 10 years later Bethesda continues to milk every penny possibly out of the game, and miraculously people continue to buy it. I know many different people that have bought the game 3 different times. The addition of mods have continued to keep the game popular and playable to this day. Skyrim is the epitome of a timeless classic.
Far Cry 3
For many I think Far Cry 3 is overlooked in terms of a GOTY discussion just because of how good of a year 2012 was for games. There was definitely plenty of competition. In my opinion, I think Far Cry 3 represents the first time Ubisoft was able to perfect the mechanics and engine of the Far Cry series that they continue to use to this day. The game also gave us the greatest villain of all time in a video game, Vaas. He was truly a maniacal, sociopath and full of charisma at the same time. His performance alone really helps to push Far Cry 3 over the top for me.
As the franchise found itself slipping from what was once a firm foundation of public praise, the series was given new life in 2013. This adaptation seemingly modernized the series and catapulted Lara Croft’s name up there along side Nathan Drake as one of the day’s top action adventure heavyweights. The game not only hits hard with its compelling story and combat mechanics, but afterwards offered a very enjoyable, and traditional Tomb Raider exploration factor as you seek out the documents, relics, and other trinkets you may have missed.
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
In what was one of the more packed years for games I think a lot of people will overlook Shadow of Mordor. In my opinion, the star feature of the game was its tree-like nemesis system that encouraged you to hunt down and turn uruk leaders to your side of the fight. This very unique gameplay mechanic helped to quickly set it apart. Additionally, Shadow of Mordor’s combat, even while surrounded by hoards of enemies was flawless, and it kept the player feeling remarkably powerful while never taking away the very real fear of death throughout the game. The game helped to kick off the PS4/Xbox One generation, and at the time Shadow of Mordor felt like a significant jump was being made.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3 may have the best cast of characters of any RPG I’ve played. Each one is so well deeply developed that players can easily feel like they’ve known these character their entire lives. Like many I was new to the series coming into this game, but that didn’t hurt the overall experience whatsoever. There is truly so many things to do in this game that it is initially quite overwhelming. It has such depth to its quality of content as well. What I mean by that is normally with games like The Witcher you get a lot of filler content, side quests, etc. just to make the experience last longer, and the tasks tend to be of much lower quality hurting the overall of the game. In this one however, CD Projekt Red did an amazing job of avoiding the filler content for the sake of making the game longer, and just developed quality substance that added to the game overall really making for one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had in a game.
The Dishonored series has done a great justice to the stealth genre which has been generally poorly handled and just underused widely across the industry. In Dishonored 2 Arkane was able to impressively improve everything that was already working great for them in the original game. This includes the fine tuning of the unique character abilities, as well as the overall fluency of combat. Additionally, they made vast improvement to the AI that were previously game breaking at times in the original game.
Beyond these mechanical tweaks, the decision based alterations to the world greatly add to the game’s appeal in my opinion. Whether you choose a more chaotic approach by piling up the bodies, or a classic, stealth approach killing only when necessary, each will add to your playthrough experience, and both very differently. Most importantly though, as I said before looking past the game’s amazing artistic style, interesting narrative, unique stealth abilities, and fun combat, the Dishonored series has done right by the stealth genre. Dishonored 2 establishes a standard fans of the genre should now demand from future games.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn is one of my favorite games of all time. It’s in my top 3 that I’ve ever played. Not only does this game deliver with a mesmerizing open world, but the story is so deep and well told that you become instantly hooked from the very beginning of the journey. The machines that you come face to face with in this game are a thing of beauty. Each one is so deeply considered all of the way down to the finest of details. This makes combating each creature to be a unique and thrilling experience every single time.
One of the shining aspects that helps to carry the game along is Aloy. She is the perfect vessel for us to perceive this world through. Her development throughout the story is a hypnotizing experience from beginning to end, and you just can’t help but fall in love with the character. Every aspect of Horizon Zero Dawn, all of the way down to the unexpected twist towards the end of the story revealing what actually happened to the world and why makes this game unforgettable.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar isn’t necessarily a company known for their story telling ability until recently, and I think a lot of that reputation comes from this game. They’ve always been known for the freedom of experiences offered in their games like what you can get out of any of the Grand Theft Auto games. I think with the release of RDR2 we must give some praise where it is due, because the story mode in this game is an unbelievably detailed, emotional, double-crossing, experience like no other.
The open world is also very noteworthy, because it is exceptionally well polished, and contains a much more varied depth of landscape than what we saw in the game’s predecessor. Additionally, there is so much more left to explore in the world after you finish the intensive story. When the campaign comes to an end there are few, if any limits to what a lonesome outlaw can do with their freedom. Like I had said before, this is where Rockstar games tend to really shine, and this one is no different.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Whether or not you find yourself to be a fan of Dark Souls inspired combat it is hard to dispute that Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice isn’t the standout game of 2019. One of the more inviting aspects of the game is that it tends to have slightly more direction to it than traditional From Software games have had in the past making it a little more inviting to the casual player. From Software does this well enough to avoid completely losing the mystery of the world in the process that may turn away the more die hard “traditionalists”. However, the combat is the standout feature of the game as is the norm with these games with its technical and quite unforgiving nature. However, once mastered the experience is one of the more satisfying moments you’ll ever have in any game. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice brings a welcomed balance of traditional hardcore combat with just enough inviting aspects for the more casual player to truly get the best of both worlds.
Ghost of Tsushima
In my opinion, the samurai are the most under utilized historical warriors in gaming. Despite this fact, Ghost of Tsushima delivered an unforgettable samurai experience. No matter what you think about this game it is undeniably the most beautiful and vibrant to come out this generation. It really set the standard for what players should expect to see in future games in terms of visual quality.
Sucker Punch did an unbelievable job mastering ways of displaying various weather conditions in the game, as well as their perfect depiction of the natural lighting from the sun. The combat system will also surely stand the test of time as well. The fluidity of such a complex, yet simple combat system is truly remarkable. The implementation of the four different fight stances really helps to keep the player involved in the technical aspects of samurai sword fighting. Similar to Shadow of Mordor players feel the power behind their blade in Ghost of Tsushima without losing touch of the consequences that come when they make mistakes in battle.
In one of the most vanilla years for video game releases I’ve seen in a long time I think one game stood ever so slightly above the rest, and that would be Nier Replicant. By no means a clear standout, but released during a year that any game could’ve stepped out and won, and personally, I believe this particular game was wildly overlooked and underrated across the board. Nier Replicant doesn’t quite live up to the standard of what we got with Automata, but we have to remember this game falls somewhere between a remake and remaster itself. One of my favorite parts of any Nier game is their unique and ever changing combat perspective, and Replicant does not disappoint in that regard. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Yoko Taro game without forcible replays through other character perspectives, and despite how it may sound I truly love that aspect. Each one recontextualizes the entire story with each change of perspective, and it makes for a special experience.