With a nearly six-month hiatus in the middle of this year, our actual review count in 2015 is not particularly numerous. With that in mind, we’re stretching our usual boundaries for our game of the year. Usually we require a game to have been reviewed here on AAGH to receive the award, but considering how many titles we missed over the course of this calendar year we’re going to include every title we have extensive hands-on experience with.
For the record, that excludes some big names from this equation, including Metal Gear Solid 5. Oni and the Blind Forest and Rise of the Tomb Raider. To make things perfectly clear, here is a complete list of games that have not been reviewed this year that are eligible for an award. (Games marked with an asterisk may still get a review)
- Batman: Arkham Knight
- Fallout 4*
- Heroes of the Storm
- NBA 2K16*
- Pillars of Eternity
- Project CARS
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
- Xenoblade Chronicles X*
- Yoshi’s Woolly World
Add to that the games that we have reviewed this year:
And you have our full list of candidates. Now with that out of the way, let’s begin passing out the hardware.
Visual Direction Award
Our Visual Direction award is given to the game with, not the best technical graphics, but the best use of visual style. It’s about making the best of what you have and making the game a treat to look at. With that in mind, the winner is Yoshi’s Woolly World for the Wii U.
There’s little about Woolly World that isn’t immediately charming. Mind, we loved the visuals in Kirby’s Epic Yarn – also done by developer Good-Feel – as well. It really sells the idea that everything is knitted out together out of cloth and the many different patterns you can unlock for Yoshi make this a very attractive game, and our Visual Direction award winner.
Audio Direction Award
Our Audio Direction represents a game whose sound effects and music hit on every note, going above and beyond to improve the game itself. With nostalgia combining with creative new touches, our 2015 Audio Direction award goes to Super Mario Maker for the Wii U.
The use of the classic Mario sound effects and music wouldn’t have been enough to win this award, but the rest of the audio package, including the discordant voice that sings the name of the item you’re placing to the classic tunes playing in the background, cinch the win for Super Mario Maker. A good argument could be made for Grand Theft Auto 5’s amazing voice acting and soundtrack, but seeing as how it’s a port of a game that originally came out two years ago, it was disqualified for this year’s award.
Control Excellence Award
Our Control Excellence award is given to a game that never gives the player that “I’m not in control of my character” feeling. It has to make the player feel fully in command of their on-screen avatar, and no game gives that feeling – even while teetering on the border of disaster – quite like Rocket League, our 2015 Control Excellence award winner.
In Rocket League you always feel like you’re just on the edge of disaster, where any second now your car is going careen out of control and you’re going to end up rage quitting, but the spot-on controls and perfectly balanced game physics always give you a chance to correct yourself and make a play. From nailing an aerial shot to balancing the ball on your car and into the goal as time expires, Rocket League always feels right.
2nd Runner up for Game of the Year
This was a fantastic year for gaming, so we’re going two deep in the runner up category. With no further ado, our second runner up is Super Mario Maker.
Between making your own Mario game (and who hasn’t wanted to do that?) to playing the endless supply of user created maps online, the only thing that would make this better would be if there was a nice, online way of finding good levels to play. Oh wait, Nintendo just released the Super Mario Maker Bookmark website, so criticism rescinded.
1st Runner up for Game of the Year
Our first runner up is Rocket
What else is there to say, other than for Xbox gamers to get ready to join the fun this February when it comes to Xbox One? Rocket League is a worthy runner up to our game of the year.
2015 AAGH Game of the Year
Our game of the year needed to be big to stand out in this amazing year of gaming. It had to be big, bold, brash, and better than one of the best yearly crops of games in recent memory. Only one game can claim to be all that and more, and that game is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
I really wish we’d gotten around to reviewing this. The Witcher 3 is just an amazing gaming achievement, from its amazing game world, to its deep, mature story, to the compelling combat, there’s so much quality content that the weeks of free DLC that followed its release almost seemed like an embarrassment of riches. Sure, there are some less than stellar bits, such as some minor technical bugs and sometimes tedious exploration, but if you could only take one game from 2015 into the new year, make it The Witcher 3, our 2015 Game of the Year.