We're winding down our best-of listings for the year, running maybe a little unfashionably behind due to last week's site errors. But we'll make up for our tardiness by saying cool, interesting things, OK?
We'll be publishing a different awards category each day until we complete all 10 categories, leading up to our final vote for best game of 2015. This has been a strong year for games, so anything's possible!
Best Emergent Gameplay: The Nominees
What is "emergent gameplay"? It's game design that allows players to approach it in novel ways. Whether we're talking about the unforeseen consequences of crazy physics models (e.g.: Skyrim cheese wheel avalanches) or simply complex design that inspires fans to find new and inventive challenges for themselves (e.g.: Pokémon's Nuzlocke Challenge), games don't necessarily have to have been built to feature emergent design in order to provide it. That's the beauty of this concept! And here were look back at the games that we found best ignited our imaginations in 2015.
Bill: Until Dawn
The game play was emergent for me, even though I can’t necessarily say it’s never been done before. I loved the fixed cameras, and having the ability to finish with one character remaining, eight remaining, or any combination in between, was definitely a fresh approach. I never got bored, even playing through a second and third time just to see if I could nail the outcome that I was going for.
Bob: Super Mario Maker
I had reservations about my own skill at making platforming levels, but Super Mario Maker does an excellent job of making it seem like anything is possible. And, with much-needed updates streaming in over the past few months, it's only grown more useful and intuitive. I have a feeling we've only just begun to see just what Super Mario Maker's versatile toolset is capable of.
Jaz: Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
While this experimental piece of software is more slice of interactive fiction than game, I loved its short, but oh-so-sweet, five-or-so hours of storytelling brilliance. Inspired by the British "cozy catastrophe" science fiction novels of the 60's and 70's, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture presents a fascinating mystery hidden in everyday conversations between the frightened residents of a village where something apocalyptic is happening. Uncovering it was one of the most gripping gaming experiences of the year for me.
Jeremy: Super Mario Maker
OK, yeah, you knew people were going to make troll levels and auto-play stages; they've been doing that with ROM hacks and bootleg Mario game design tools for years. But did you expect fans to create musical symphonies? A working calculator? To transform lost Mario content like Hudson's Super Mario Special for the X1 computer or the eReader levels from Super Mario Advance 4 into perfect, perpetually archived creations? The versatility of this tool and the underlying brilliance of the Mario sandbox opened a world of possibility for inventive fans, and it's been a pleasure to explore their creations.
Kat: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Not long after the release of Metal Gear Solid V, the community discovered a cutscene that can be triggered by removing every nuclear weapon from the game. This triggered a war between two sets of players - those who want to remove nukes, and those who want to proliferate them. I can't think of a cooler example of emergent gameplay in 2015. And that's on top of all the ways that you can deal with Metal Gear Solid 5's myriad challenges, from sniping a target at long distance to planting C4 in the middle of the road, with a dozen more imaginative solutions besides. Hideo Kojima's games are often flawed, but they are always interesting.
Mike: Fallout 4
Fallout 4 may not have been the RPG experience I wanted, but Bethesda has been such a detailed Wasteland to explore that you never know what you'll come across. Between various enemies and friends, a ton of items populating the world, and even the bugs, you have no idea what can happen at any given time in Fallout 4.
While running around and shooting paint at other people in a facsimile of war isn’t a new concept, Nintendo’s Splatoon spins multiplayer shooting games around on its heel. There’s no death, no blood, no bullets. Just riotous colors everywhere. Do you suck at shooting games? No problem! If you can shoot the ground, you’re helping! Best of all, the game is a thrill for adults while at the same time it’s safe for children. No voice chat (and no, it’s really not necessary as long as you pay attention to your territory map on the gamepad) means no swear words shrieked into a ten-year-old’s ears at decibels typical for a jumbo jet taking off.
The Winner: Super Mario Maker
Perhaps not surprisingly, the game most designed as a sandbox for playing and play design offered the most satisfying assortment of new and unexpected experiences for us. While many other games allowed us to play them on our own terms, only Super Mario Maker presented us with a blank canvas and dared us to experiment with familiar play concepts.
Runner-up: (2) Fallout 4 (2) Metal Gear Solid V (tie)
- Most Rewarding Game
- Best Open World
- Best Character
- Best Level Design
- Biggest Disappointment
- Best Quest
- Biggest Surprise
Tomorrow: 2015's Best Time Waster