Last time we looked at the year's best open world. Today, we ask which of the countless characters to appear in 2015's game we connected to best.
We'll be publishing a different category each day through the end of the year, leading up to our final vote for best game of 2015. This has been a strong year for games, so anything's possible!
Methodology: Everyone at USG put their heads together and voted on 10 individual categories as a group, and each team member has nominated their own pick for the category. Rather than argue long and loud about personal opinions, however, we've taken a scientific approach: We voted on each category through an anonymous survey in which we weighted each nominee from "most" to "least."
This means, in theory at least, that a game that gets nominated by more than one person won't necessarily sweep the category—it's entirely possible for a dark horse to take the prize if it receives enough second- or third-place points from everyone.
Best Character: The Nominees
Games don't necessarily need great characters to thrive—Tetris did just fine without them!—but intriguing heroes and companions definitely help a good adventure to stick in our minds even longer. With so many games these days going the silent protagonist route, a memorable supporting cast has become essential to video game greatness. Which of the countless virtual people we encountered this year resonate most with us?
Bill: Josh Washington (Until Dawn)
One of the finest performances in gaming for 2015 has to go to Rami Malek for his portrayal of Josh Washington in Until Dawn. The voice acting was on point, and love him or hate him, you cared about what happened to Josh. Rami Malek did such a good job bringing him to life that it inspired me to watch Mr. Robot, and you should too.
Bob: Nick Valentine (Fallout 4)
Being a regular reader of old-timey crime fiction, I can't help but feel like Nick Valentine was created specifically for me—so it's nice to see I'm not the only one who likes him. Sure, his schtick isn't the most original—what with his constant cribbing from Bogart—but there's something wonderfully incongruous about a hard-boiled '30s detective tagging along as you explode the heads of super mutants and vaporize hordes of ghouls.
Jaz: Cayde-6 (Destiny: The Taken King)
Destiny: The Taken King's Cayde-6 was by far my favorite character in gaming this year. Nathan Fillion put in an excellent performance, elevating the tower hunter guardian from an NPC chump to a wisecracking mercenary whose mission briefings and comms chat often elicited a chuckle or two from me. The dialog could have easily been overplayed, but Fillion got it spot-on, and brought real personality to the character.
Jeremy: Callie & Marie (Splatoon)
Nintendo took a chance on Splatoon, its bright and unconventional team-based arena shooter, and it scored big with a fresh new breakout hit. Callie and Marie weren't necessarily responsible for that success, but the certainly embody it. Brimming with personality, color, and terrible puns, the squid sisters' running commentary on events and matches helped give Splatoon its buoyant personality.
Kat: Nick Valentine (Fallout 4)
Bethesda's world-weary synth detective is Fallout 4's best character, brought wonderfully to life by Stephen Russell, who lends him a noire-ish inflection that fits the character without feeling cliché. A tattered prototype with glowing yellow eyes, he nevertheless manages to come off as soulful and sympathetic as he gently encourages you to stay on the good path. He also has one of the game's better backstories , one that plays with the nature of memory and personality in a fashion reminiscent of Philip K. Dick, and he is a living representation of the conflict that lies at the heart of Fallout 4's story. In what has been a hit or miss history for Bethesda companions, Nick Valentine ranks among the very best.
Mike: Chloe Price (Life is Strange)
I almost went with Nick Valentine from Fallout 4, but ultimately I decided that only one character made it hard for me to make a choice in a game. At the end of Life is Strange, I knew what the right choice was, but I enjoyed the relationship of Max and Chloe so much that I was struggling to make the wrong choice. Great character.
Nadia: Flowey (Undertale)
Forget Santa: Flowey the flower knows everything you’ve been up to -- and he’s not afraid to call you out on it. He sees you when you save scum. He knows when you reset. Even if you’re familiar with game characters that rip through the fourth wall like wet tissue paper, you may find yourself a little stunned by what Flowey knows.
The Winner: Nick Valentine (Fallout 4)
While online conversations about Fallout 4 typically degenerate into frothy screeds about Bethesda's storytelling deficiencies, it's hard to give those rants too much credit when the same game also gave us Nick Valentine, the most soulful robot P.I. since R. Daneel Olivaw. Making your way in the post-apocalyptic wastes of Fallout 4 requires some difficult moral choices, and Mr. Valentine plays an important role as your moral compass—should you choose to heed him, that is.
Runners-up: (2) Callie & Marie (Splatoon) (3) Flowey (Undertale)
Tomorrow: 2015's Best Level Design