Game of the Year Awards – Jordan’s Picks

This year, the Cinelinx team had a hard time figuring out our choices for the best games of the year.  So instead of voting and doing it all civilized-like, we decided to individualize our Game of the Year this time around.  Last week Dustin laid out his picks, and this week, it’s my turn.  Below you’ll find my choices and rationale behind them:

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GAME OF THE YEAR- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

It’s well known around here that Metal Gear Solid is my favorite video game franchise of all time.  I’ve played every single entry and own all of them in a nice little collection (yes, even the harder to find GameBoy Advanced version).  I’ve been looking forward to MGSV for a long time, though I have to admit, the Ground Zeroes precursor we got last year had me a little nervous.  The mechanics felt off and it was really tough to see how a FULL game would do with them.  

Within the first couple hours of The Phantom Pain, it was obvious that I wouldn’t be putting it down any time soon.  I’ve put more than 50 hours into the game already, and everytime I turn it off, I can’t wait for the moment I get to pick it back up again.  It’s an engrossing game that has sucked me in more completely than any other title this year and keeps bringing me back for more.  

Despite getting several other BIG games since MGS’ release (Destiny: The Taken King, Fallout 4, and Xenoblade Chronicles X) I found myself wanting to return to The Phantom Pain.  While I enjoyed those other games, for the most part, they felt like nothing more than a break between my Metal Gear Solid playthrough.  Why it’s been so addictive is hard to pinpoint.  Metal Gear Solid V is kind of weird.  It is simultaneously the LEAST Metal Gear Solid game in the franchise and the MOST Metal Gear Solid game.  That sounds awfully contradictory, but in my time with the game, it seems more and more accurate.  

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The Phantom Pain features a slew of new gameplay mechanics, changing up the formula in the biggest ways possible for the franchise.  It’s moved on from the linear structure, and giving players a large open world to explore and sneak around in.  New systems for ‘tagging’ your targets and taking down your enemies in a variety of ways offer up a unique experience to the typical MGS formula.  Recruiting soldiers and building up your base so you can upgrade your weapons are all fairly new as well (though introduced in the portable game Peace Walker), but add another layer of gameplay many fans weren’t used to.  

Yet, for all the new things Kojima brought to MGSV, the game feels exactly like what you’ve always wanted out of a Metal Gear game.  Where the original games made you feel like you could do anything, MGSV actually allows you do anything you can imagine.  You can tackle every mission in a drastically different way, making it fun to come back to them time and time again. Phantom Pain feels like everything the Metal Gear franchise has wanted/tried to be since it’s inception.  

While MGSV is my clear Game of the Year winner, I’ve got some other picks in various categories to flesh out a more complete ranking of this year in games (though I won’t belabor those points as much). 

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Best RPG – Xenoblade Chronicles X

I’m sure I’ll get some flack with this, considering this year saw the launch of Fallout 4 (which my feelings are well known about) and Witcher 3.  However, I thoroughly enjoyed Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U more than any other RPG this year.  While it’s story was more basic, and it wasn’t as expansive as other titles, I felt a stronger pull to that game than I did the others.  I genuinely felt eager to pick up the game, rather than feeling like I had to trudge through things to do what I wanted in the game.  If you haven’t picked it up, it’s definitely worth it. 

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Best Shooter/Multiplayer – Destiny: The Taken King

Okay, okay…I might be cheating here since Destiny released last year, but frankly, it’s Taken King expansion adds so much, and fixes a great deal of problems, that it felt like an entirely new game.  Everything we hoped Destiny would be, came to fruition with the launch of Taken King.  It added in a more engaging story, cutscenes, a new leveling system and better mechanics.  Couple that with it’s already addictive nature, and it’s hard to deny that Destiny is still a lot of damn fun.  

Arkham Knight 

Best Action Game – Batman: Arkham Knight

Hands down, there’s no denying that Arkham Knight was a brilliant game, and I have no doubts it’ll wind up as the GOTY for many other gaming sites out there.  If not for the brilliance of The Phantom Pain, there’s a good chance it would have been my top pick as well.  As such, it’s a no brainer choice for best action game.  It refined the mechanics we loved from the previous titles, while offering up a fairly solid story to boot.  

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Best Platformer – Super Mario Maker

I honestly can’t think of any more perfect choice for the platforming category.  Nintendo’s level designer game continues to intrigue fans and every day brings forth new levels for people to play through.  While not everything is a gem, Nintendo’s continually updates make the game even more accessible and fun.  

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Best Indie – Beyond Sol

Tons of indie games hit this year, and truly, it’s a great time for the genre and smaller devs.  With so many out there, it’s been tough to play even a portion of those released.  Of those I HAVE, however, Beyond Sol stood out above the rest.  It’s high on strategy and brings offers up a wealth of things for gamers to do.  It’s easy to lose hours of time in front of this game without even realizing it (as I mentioned in my initial review).  

It’s been a fairly solid year for gaming, and fans of just about any genre had plenty to absorb them over the last year.  Let’s just hope 2016 continues to bring the goods and surprises with what developers have to offer.  What are your top picks for the year in gaming? 

-Jordan