USgamer's Game of the Year for 2015

May we have the envelope, please....

List by USgamer Team, .

Our journey into recapping 2015 draws to an end at long last. Over the past couple of weeks, we've broken down some of the best experiences we had with games last year. But there can only be one, right? Today, we coronate a single game as the standout release of 2015.

Game of the Year 2015: The Nominees

Before we continue, a quick reminder of how we've selected our winners for these various categories, it's been a wholly democratic process from the start. The team brainstormed about 20 potential category concepts that spoke to us and our actual experiences with 2015's games more directly than mundane genre/platform categories, then collectively voted on our favorite 10 category concepts.

Then, for each category, every staff member was asked to come up with three nominees apiece. From there, we each narrowed it down to a single top pick for each category per person—regardless of whether or not someone else had named that game—and entered those top choices into a private, anonymous web poll in which everyone was asked to vote on each category. We used a weighted matrix voting system in which everyone was asked to rank each entry from 1 to 7 (best to least best), or to optionally abstain from ranking a game with which they were completely unfamiliar.

This weighted system accounts for why we could have results like the best DLC winner, where Shovel Knight took top honors despite Destiny garnering two nominations: Evidently only the two people who nominated Destiny gave it high marks, while most of the staff thought very favorably of Shovel Knight and all gave it high, though not top, marks. Cumulatively, those high marks add up and paint a more nuanced picture of the staff's feelings on these games.

For Game of the Year, we've used the same system. Everyone was asked to nominate a single title apiece for GOTY, based on their personal feelings, and regardless of whether or not someone else had already named it. These are personal choices that reflect the staff's individual thoughts, not nominees based on some sense that something ought to be nominated. So you'll see some perhaps unusual additions... and definitely some omissions that will surprise you. The goal here was to be sincere but fair, not scientific, nor to try and reflect some idea of the broader consensus. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments, of course! And without further ado, the nominees...

Bill: The Witcher III

The Witcher 3 is my GOTY, and nothing else even came close. I thought that Fallout 4 might, but Geralt and company stole the show. The quests were incredible, the environment was one I never wanted to leave, and I cared about every character I came across, even if it was just because I wanted to hurt them. When I finally finished The Witcher 3, I had to walk away from it and process the experience, something that only one other video game has done to me, and that was The Last of Us a couple of years ago. No other game in 2015 made me care about it as much as The Witcher 3 did, and naming anything else my GOTY wouldn’t feel right.

Bob: Bloodborne

If you know me or my writing, this choice may seem a little obvious to you. And it's something I struggled with as well until The Old Hunters—Bloodborne's final content—made me remember just how much fun I had with this game in 2015. It doesn't offer the variety of customization options as the Souls series, but I honestly don't mind: Having a more action (and horror) focused take on From Software's RPG philosophy led to an experience that's ultimately unforgettable. Plus, even if it doesn't bear his name, Bloodborne amounts to the best H.P. Lovecraft game the world has ever seen. In a world where plenty have tried and failed to do justice to this author's unique (and often copied) brand of horror, that's quite an accomplishment.

Jaz: Forza Motorsport 6

As a hardcore racing fan, Forza Motorsport 6 ticked all the right boxes for me this year. Featuring an impressive roster of more than 450 nicely detailed and varied cars, 26 tracks (most with multiple variant courses), and highly realistic wet weather and night-time racing, it's simply the best racing game yet seen. What makes it so compelling is that it offers something for everyone. Whether you're into multiplayer racing, want to pursue a career, like customizing and tuning cars, or are simply looking to challenge other players on its incredibly comprehensive lap time leaderboards, Forza Motorsport 6 has you covered. Add to that some of the best-looking graphics yet seen on Xbox One, and you've got a killer app that's a must for every car nut.

Jeremy: Super Mario Maker

I played and enjoyed plenty of games, but none that inspired me the way Super Mario Maker did. Nintendo did an amazing job of transforming a complex concept into something approachable and intuitive, and my one regret is that I haven't had more time to dabble in the game since launch. It's a rare achievement in game design (and in designing games), and I can't recommend it enough.

Kat: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Just when you think of Hideo Kojima is out of ideas, he goes and completely reinvents Metal Gear Solid as we know it. What may be the final game in the series takes Metal Gear's tactical stealth gameplay and puts it in the sandbox genre, with brilliant results. The result is a game that feels fresh and vital in a year in which many big-time developers have stuck to established conventions - a consequence of the enormous risk associated with triple-A development. It's hurts by accusations of excised content, but it's undoubtedly one of the year's most memorable games. Indeed, fans will certainly be debating the surprising twist for years to come. I can think of no better candidate for Game of the Year in 2015.

Mike: The Witcher III

I struggled with this and ultimately I had to give it to The Witcher III. I honestly think that Rise of the Tomb Raider probably could've given this a run for the money, but I didn't get enough time to dig into the game before GOTY voting came around. Pound for pound though, The Witcher III was the more enjoyable experience I had this year. Wandering the world as medieval Batman was a ton of fun and the quest writing by CD Projekt Red is second to none. I didn't expect it, but the Witcher III was my jam and it makes me look forward to CDPR's Cyberpunk 2077.

Nadia: Undertale

Undertale made me laugh and cry. It introduced me to a bunch of new pals, then dared me to stab them in the back. It rocked me with its music, and asked me if I’d smooch a ghost (heck yeah). Seems like Game of the Year material to me.

The Winner: Super Mario Maker

And USgamer's game of the year is... a surprise? The Witcher III garnered two staff nominations, yet the singly nominated Super Mario Maker managed to take top honors, just barely pulling ahead of Bloodborne (with The Witcher III a strong third). But then again, maybe it's not such a surprise. Super Mario Maker took several category honors, so it's clearly well-liked among the staff. In any case, it was a tight race (as you can see from the results graph), a testament to just what a fantastic year 2015 was for gaming. Heck, one of the year's best and most popular games (Fallout 4) didn't even make the final round of voting! That's not a slight to Fallout 4 or any of the numerous other greats that didn't show up in our GOTY vote—it's a sign of how many great games debuted in 2015. Here's hoping for an equally fantastic 2016. And while we're waiting for the year's releases to kick off, be sure to check out any of these fantastic nominees you didn't have a chance to play in 2015!

Runner-up: (2) Bloodborne (3) The Witcher III

Recap: Individual Awards

  1. Most Rewarding Game
    Super Mario Maker
  2. Best Open World
    Fallout 4
  3. Best Character
    Nick Valentine (Fallout 4)
  4. Best Level Design
    Yoshi's Woolly World
  5. Biggest Disappointment
    Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5/Star Wars: Battlefront
  6. Best Quest
    The Silver Shroud (Fallout 4)/Family Matters (The Witcher III)
  7. Biggest Surprise
  8. Best Emergent Gameplay
    Super Mario Maker
  9. Best Time-Waster
    Super Mario Maker
  10. Best DLC
    Shovel Knight (A Plague of Shadows)

Thanks to everyone for taking part in the discussion! And speaking of our winner for 2015, expect an announcement of the Super Mario Maker contest winners on Tuesday...

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Comments 26

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  • Avatar for froyton #1 froyton 2 years ago
    Undertale was definitely my game of 2015. Of course, I haven't had the privilege of playing any of the other games featured in this article yet. :/

    Based on what I've observed about Super Mario Maker, including those awesome races in AGDQ just a couple days ago, I can see why it would be GOTY for a lot of people. Giving the power of creativity to the players is something they should have done years ago, following in the footsteps of games like Little Big Planet. Well, better late than never!
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  • Avatar for milomikic #2 milomikic 2 years ago
    Well done, people! Well done. Kudos for every category. You had a very good run with all of them and it was a joy to read them all. May this year provide you with even better games to write about.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #3 cldmstrsn 2 years ago
    Its a split between Witcher III and Bloodborne for me but gun to my head I would have to say Witcher III. The whole game plus the expansion was just superb and I cant wait till Blood and Wine comes out. The few screenshots I have seen make it look colorful and clean a stark contrast to the war torn land of Novigrad.
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  • Avatar for seanmitchell #4 seanmitchell 2 years ago
    i actually thought mario make would be the game i played most this year and forever onward. heck i was part of the team that made the newer super mario bros mod, just because I've always wanted to make mario levels. oddly i didn't really play it that much. maybe i should fix that
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #5 VotesForCows 2 years ago
    Been a great series of articles!
    I'm struggling with GOTY for 2015, but at a push would lean towards Phantom Pain.
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  • Avatar for Daikaiju #6 Daikaiju 2 years ago
    I feel a lot better about this than GT's declaration of Bloodborne.
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  • Avatar for DrCorndog #7 DrCorndog 2 years ago
    SMM is a surprising omission from my personal library given the Wii U is my only current-gen console and I've bought the other major Wii U releases this year. Maybe I'll finally check it out.
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  • Avatar for Avante #8 Avante 2 years ago
    I think you got the shortlist just about right. Haven't played Undertale (I really need to get a functioning PC!) but I've heard great things, and haven't played enough of Forza 6 to judge but was impressed by what I've seen.

    The appeal of Super Mario Maker is probably self-explanatory.

    Witcher III deserves credit for its gorgeous and massive open world and engaging storytelling, but its rather awkward and sometimes frustrating combat holds it back from true GOTY status, in my opinion.

    Bloodborne is probably the most "perfect" game of last year: the gameplay, level design, art direction, atmosphere, and subtle storytelling are all superb, and I can't think of any serious flaws.

    In the end I think I'd have to vote for MGS V though. It's a flawed and disjointed masterpiece, but a masterpiece nonetheless. I'm still sometimes amazed by the attention to detail and the number of ways to approach any given situation. You have to wonder what kind of game Kojima would have produced without the evidently toxic situation at Konami.
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #9 Monkey-Tamer 2 years ago
    You know what I love about being older? Having only had the time to play through one of these. I'll hopefully get to play Witcher III this year.
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  • Avatar for prymusferal #10 prymusferal 2 years ago
    @cldmstrsn I'm looking to get into the Witcher series before long (have owned the original for years and never gotten around to it), so I'm glad to see that you hold the game in such high esteem. We always seem to have a lot of overlap in our gaming taste, so that bodes well for me.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #11 cldmstrsn 2 years ago
    @prymusferal Ya man! go for it. What platform you looking to get it on? I know you can get it at G2A for about 30 bucks for PC.
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  • Avatar for I-m-not-Daredevil #12 I-m-not-Daredevil 2 years ago
    Well deserved winner. Super Mario Maker feels so fresh and unique. I was lukewarm on it back when it was announced, as I thought I would have endless Mario levels to play but that there was no way I'd ever make my own levels - boy was I wrong! I've barely stopped making levels long enough to play anyone else's! It's just that much fun.
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #13 UnskippableCutscene 2 years ago
    Though I often am playing games that are over a year old because I can't afford to be part of the zeitgeist, this year a number of deals this year did allow me to actually buy games released in 2015 (Bloodborne, Batman, and Undertale). However, the thing that's brought me the most amount of fun thus far is the collective re-issue of Destiny with all of it's expansion content. If you bought this title when it initially launched, well, I'm sorry. Believe me, I've heard all of the teeth-grinding over this one. But it's the most fun I've had with a shooter in the last decade of obnoxious military simulators, and possibly going all the way back to Unreal Tournament 03. It's a relief as someone who spent too much time last generation asking everyone what PS3's Halo equivalent was and kept getting replies that there wasn't one.

    Undertale was a fun experiment into how video games give you ample opportunities to be a horrible person. However, I've never been a MOTHER guy and I sort of bounced off once I saw just how dark it could get. Look past one of the worst fanbases (there's a lot of crossover with Homestuck and Five Nights At Freddy's fandom here, so it's expected), and what you'll see is the sort of game Nintendo should be shooting for insofar as having control over their own platform.

    The kind of secret sauce magic that makes Undertale tick works fine on the PC, but on a console would really require manufacturer level compliance. Could you imagine Nintendo making a game with save files that are stored in a place the user can't see, leaning on the fourth wall even harder than Eternal Darkness did, and doing things like shutting off the system or rebooting on you as part of the experience? No, you probably can't, but it's the sort of game they're privileged to make as the one of the only game companies still making hardware for their own games; and they probably should look into that kind of extra dimension of immersion in the future, angry support line callers be damned.

    Bloodborne is my first ever game of this type. I've had about four sittings with it and still haven't seen a boss battle because the regular mobs around the street keep killing me. Sorry. I hate you, gigantic rats.

    I haven't touched Batman yet. It's not the PC version, so it's nothing to do with that, I just don't have enough time.Edited 3 times. Last edited January 2016 by UnskippableCutscene
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #14 Kuni-Nino 2 years ago
    That's a nice pick. Fresh and worthy.

    Bloodbourne and Witcher got enough attention.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #15 Roto13 2 years ago
    Not surprising. Super Mario Maker has a wide enough appeal to be everyone's second choice.
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  • Avatar for naazimeaala75 #16 naazimeaala75 2 years ago
    Oh you cannot be serious!! Mario Maker? :/

    We all know The Witcher 3 and Trails of Cold Steel were GOTY!
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  • Avatar for Tetragrammaton #17 Tetragrammaton 2 years ago
    @naazimeaala75 Cold Steel is a slower burn than Kingdom Hearts 2 and Persona 4 both that goes on longer than both multiplied. That's the point where you wonder if any payoff can be worth it.

    Nothing fom my GotY shortlist made the USG list. I expected it as I intentionally went away from both mainstream and cult games this year, and while it's a gaming road less played I think it made me a happier player. Hope everyone writing and reading enjoyed their top stuff as much as I did.
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  • Avatar for prymusferal #18 prymusferal 2 years ago
    @cldmstrsn I've got the first two games for PC, and plan on playing through those first before getting the third game... and I've still got such a backlog from the fall sales this past year, so it might be awhile. :) That said, I'm thinking I'll go PS4 for 3, as my PC really isn't that great for new releases anymore.
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  • Avatar for Mooglepies #19 Mooglepies 2 years ago
    For me it's Bloodborne - although Mario Maker is wonderful as well. Nothing else I played really came close, although I have to confess I've been playing more of my older games of late so I didn't end up getting a huge amount of games last year.
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  • Avatar for Gamer-Law #20 Gamer-Law 2 years ago
    Xenoblade X arrived late in the year, but it was the most impressive game I played in 2015. While it lacked the strong narrative of the original Xenoblade Chronicles, it compensated with expansive gameplay, gorgeous worlds and endless customization options.

    A strong runner up,would have been Axiom Verge. While an homage to Super Metroid, it did so many things right and stood out among the best games in its genre.
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  • Avatar for docexe #21 docexe 2 years ago
    I’m tempted to consider Xenoblade Chronicles X my game of the year.

    Super Mario Maker would be the runner-up: It is a really accessible yet incredibly versatile design tool, and I’m truly impressed with many of the things that the community has achieved with it. Yet, the scale and design of the world of XCX, plus the surprisingly enjoyable loop of exploration, combat and gathering, has given it the edge for me. Indeed, it has practically become an addiction.

    I have spent more than 80 hours in the game and I’m only in the middle of the story and about to receive my Skell license. Granted, at least 15 hours of that time has been spent customizing my party, ambling through NLA or trying to optimize my installed probes in FrontierNav. What can I say? This game massages all the OCD centers of my brain.Edited January 2016 by docexe
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  • Avatar for JamesSwiftDay #22 JamesSwiftDay 2 years ago
    I really can't get ahead around USG's ranking/voting system here, but Super Mario Maker is defo game of the year for me. It provides infinite 2D Mario levels and it's insanely engrossing to create stages.
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  • Avatar for swamped #23 swamped 2 years ago
    Thanks to USG for your Mario Maker coverage which really sold me on the game. Initially the concept didn't interest me at all. I hadn't bought a game at full price for years but I'm glad I took the plunge. Platformers have always been my "comfort food" genre and being able to make my own, surprising myself with how easily it all came together (having a great set of tools and a slick interface certainly helps) was a "wow" moment in gaming I hadn't experienced since I was a kid. I enjoyed my fair share of AAA titles, but between MM and Splatoon, Nintendo managed to warm my cynical heart in 2015.
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  • Avatar for unoclay #24 unoclay 2 years ago
    Interesting to see SMM win the honors. I support this, though personally i like Splatoon better--and still understand why SMM is a bigger, more important game. Hey, i love them both--is that cool with you all? ;']
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #25 cldmstrsn 2 years ago
    @AyoubTab Oh I definitely about G2ADeals. Thanks!
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  • Avatar for AyoubTab #26 AyoubTab 2 years ago
    Best thing is we can get this game with a cheap price from G2A specially if a G2A discount code usedEdited August 2016 by AyoubTab
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