Not to keep dredging up memories of what was an unpleasant year for many people, but our recap of 2015's best games will be wrapping up soon! Look forward to the staff's final Game of the Year pick on Friday.
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 Time-Waster: The Nominees
Video games have become Very Serious Business indeed, especially for those of us who make our living playing them, but sometimes we just need to blow off steam and goof around. Sometimes we want to ignore quest markers and duties and simply play, without a voice in our ear telling us where to go or how to play. When it came time to get lost in a virtual world, these games were there to help us wander astray.
Bill: Fallout 4
I know the spirit in which this category was created, and that some might disagree with me calling Fallout 4 a time waster, but it really was/is for me. Yes, I can log on and make progress through the quest lines, but I can also log on and blow an hour or two just walking around the Commonwealth with no plan or destination.
Bob: Rocket League
For months, Rocket League has been the multiplayer game of choice for me and my old college friends, and the brilliant simplicity of Psyonix's creation makes those weekly two-hour sessions just fly by. And when I'm alone and absolutely stumped about what to play next, it's hard to ignore Rocket League siren's song—much to the chagrin of the many open-world games I started but never finished in 2015.
Jaz: Super Mario Maker
Got some time to kill? There are few better ways to spend it in gaming than with Super Mario Maker. Whether you're just tooling around doodling your own creations, or browsing and playing through the myriad of levels made by other budding designers, Super Mario Maker turns minutes into hours with remarkable, and sometimes alarming ease.
Jeremy: Axiom Verge
Axiom Verge is easily the best metroidvania I've played since, I dunno… Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow? But it does a lot of things that seem like design errors according to modern game design thinking. The map is too vague. There are no teleporters or shortcuts. Weapon functions are never explained. And yet, I don't really mind; I enjoyed the sensation of wandering and sorting out details on my own. Each time I made a new discovery or deduction, I felt a little more empowered. It's the best kind of time-wasting: The kind that makes you feel smarter in the end.
Kat: Rocket League
My favorite sports game of the year, and the perfect palette cleanser after a lengthy session with Metal Gear Solid V or Fallout 4. It's managed to break out of the rather narrow sports niche and into the broader gaming community because it captures the universal appeal of playing sports, as opposed to managing them. In that respect it's brilliant, and certainly one of the year's best games.
Mike: Nuclear Throne
Mutants and guns populate one of the best time-wasters in 2015. Nuclear Throne is a bit of Legend of Zelda and a bit of bullet hell. You have one life to get through 15 procedurally-generated levels. The things is, most of your runs are pretty short - 15 minutes at most - so you get in and get out. If you have time to burn, Nuclear Throne is a great way to spend it.
Nadia: Xenoblade Chronicles X
Xenoblade Chronicles X hands you reams of quests, but who wants to work while confined to an alien planet? Especially if you can challenge yourself to run under a creature that’s hundreds of times your size without getting stepped on? (Hint: Don’t do this.)
The Winner: Super Mario Maker
In the spirit of the likes of Minecraft and The Sims, Super Mario Maker proved perfect as a game we could boot up and muck around in despite having no structured goal or purpose. On the contrary, that was the whole point! And when we lost interest in creating yet another Mario-themed physics deathtrap, we could subject ourselves to others' creations, either singly or through the built-in random challenge mode. Super Mario Maker turned the elder statesman of video games into an a la carte delight. Despite garnering fewer top nominations than Rocket League, Mario Maker barely edged it out here—a testament to the game's broad appeal.
Runner-up: (2) Rocket League (3) Axiom Verge
- Most Rewarding Game
- Best Open World
- Best Character
- Best Level Design
- Biggest Disappointment
- Best Quest
- Biggest Surprise
- Best Emergent Gameplay
Tomorrow: 2015's Best DLC