2016 was a banner year for video games. From Overwatch to Final Fantasy XV, Pokemon GO to Dark Souls III and everything in between, there was a lot to get excited about from nearly every major publisher (don’t forget the slew of stellar indie titles, too). So much, in fact, that this year AiPT! has decided to catalog some of our favorite (and most disappointing) games of the year in the days leading into 2017.

We’ll break it down into several different categories. One a day until the end of the year. The categories are:

Best Action Game

Quantum Break

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Runner-up: Dark Souls III

Quantum Break is both the smartest game of the last twelve months and the one to most advance the games medium. Some of the puzzles from The Witness might require more thoughtfulness on the part of the player, and its game/television hybridization might come off as a gimmick (though it’s not), but the fact remains that Quantum Break has not only one of the most coherent narratives in the well-worn but rarely realistic genre of time-travel stories, it also structures its gameplay to mirror physicists’ and philosophers’ current understanding as to the shape of time itself. It is this perfect synthesis of its story’s subject with its gameplay mechanics around a single connecting theme that demonstrates the true artistic potential of games in a manner truly unique to the medium. From our review:

The ludic elements of player-driven choices and the narrative elements of an inalterable timeline both simultaneously serve in resonance with the underlying scientific premises of multiple quantum histories and a solidified spacetime manifold… In the quest to establish games as art against the naysays of philistines like the late Roger Ebert, the grail is not merely a game with a Shakespearian story or cinematics like Citizen Kane, but rather one which marries its ludic elements with its thematic ones so closely that such could not be communicated in any other medium. Quantum Break is not the first to do this, but few other games have done such quite as well.

For more on Quantum Break, read our full review.

Best Adventure Game

Oxenfree

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Runner-up: Batman: The Telltale Series

For all its horror elements, Oxenfree is never particularly frightening. Yet it is – in quite a different sense – an utterly haunting work. Despite being released all the way back in January, it has never been far from our thoughts. This summer’s popular phenomenon Stranger Things played around with many of the same motifs of adolescent angst by way of clandestine government experiments involving malevolent interdimensional forces, reminding us of how Oxenfree did much of the same, only better. Both before and after the cultural zeitgeist had revolved around Netflix’s sci-fi/horror hybrid, Oxenfree was the work we most wanted to revisit to get our fix of this favorite sub-genre. From our review:

Oxenfree notes [analogue] technology to be a strange juxtaposition of archaic and futuristic. It’s utterly outdated in a digital age, and yet because analogue technology is advanced enough to be beyond the intuitive understanding of an untrained individual, but primitive enough to seem exotic, these seemingly contradictory attributes imbue it with an air of magic… Likewise, adolescence itself is a strange juxtaposition of past and future, of childhood and adulthood. It is for that reason regarded as a “magical” time in one’s life, eagerly anticipated by naïve prepubescents and fondly (if falsely) recollected by nostalgic elders. For both those too young to know and those too old to remember, high school takes on exotic qualities of its own. Oxenfree combines the magic of analogue and the magic of adolescence sublimely, both working in conjunction with one another to unify its theme of juxtaposing past and future, at points in the narrative quite literally.

Read our full review of Oxenfree here.

Best RPG

The Witcher III: Blood and Wine

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Runner-up: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

When The Witcher III: Wild Hunt released in May of 2015, it was quickly evident that this was a rare, once-in-a-generation, paradigm shifting game, one whose impact will be felt for years to come as studios across the industry are now laboring on titles emulating and expanding upon The Witcher’s winning formula. Wild Hunt and its expansion Hearts of Stone were hands down the best gaming experiences available to players in 2015, and a full year later that’s once again the case with the release of Blood and Wine. Indeed, even as the thirty hours or so of superlative story and side missions make the Blood and Wine expansion longer, denser, and (most importantly) of a higher artistic quality most full games, it works not merely as a standalone experience but as the perfect fairy-tale ending which serves as the completion and consummation of all that came before it. By giving Geralt the happily-ever-after he long-labored for, the journey which the player shared with the White Wolf suddenly becomes all the more meaningful in retrospect. From our review:

This might seem antithetical to the entire tone of the franchise thus far… And yet, just as all of the happy endings in The Lord of the Rings feel fully earned exactly because of the endless hardships which the Fellowship had endured, so to do all of Geralt’s previous ordeals over the course of Wild Hunt and Hearts of Stone make the possibility of lasting happiness for him all the more poignant. Especially since there is a real possibility to make the wrong choices and be relegated instead to tragedy. Whatever solace and serenity the player finds for Geralt, he knows it is truly earned… Blood and Wine is one of the truly great fairy-tales, not just of ours, but of all times.

For more on The Witcher III: Blood and Wine, read our full review here.

Best JRPG

Final Fantasy XV

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Runner-up: Pokémon Sun and Moon

Ever since what many would consider the pinnacle of the franchise, Final Fantasy VII, we’ve seen the series slowly lose its place as the forebearer and innovator of the RPG genre. Years of delays and development, along with some less than stellar demos, didn’t do much to allay our fears about the debut of Final Fantasy XV. However, Square-Enix pulled off the rare feat of exceeding expectations, with an open world, a new combat system, and hours of secrets and exploration beyond the game’s main narrative. Like most open world games, there are some flaws, but the amount of polish and foresight they put into the game is evident. Optional tutorials, skippable dialogue and travel, and fighting that evolves for players who want to take the time to learn the combat system, show that the developer listened to fans while learning from competitors to make the series fun and can’t-miss once again.

For more on Final Fantasy XV, read our full review here.

Best Shooter of the Year

Doom

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Runner-up: Tom Clancy’s The Division

For the past two console generations, first and third person shooters have been the dominant genres, attracting a mainstream, mass-market audience year after year. Yet despite a decade-long proliferation, far from a plethora of stale, annualized releases lacking in innovation, 2016 is instead the pinnacle of the genre. Nearly every month saw a high-profile release garnering critical praise, such as Battlefield 1, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Gears of War 4, Overwatch, Titanfall 2, and Tom Clancy’s The Division. But none had a single-player campaign with such carefully constructed levels, such detailed world-building, such perfectly-paced progression, such a surprisingly deep story, and (most importantly) such fun second-to-second gameplay as Doom. From our review:

[Doom is] mostly mindless shooting in a world dictated by the ‘Rule of Cool’ as interpreted by designers with Heavy Metal sensibilities, all drenched in blood and nostalgia… it truly succeeds is in being as perfect as possible a translation of the 1993 original into a 2016 landscape, preserving everything essential to the franchise while introducing only those modern conventions which make sense for the series. In that respect, Doom is a rousing success, accomplishing with gusto exactly what it set out to do.

For more on Doom check out our review here.

Best Strategy Game

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI

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Runner-up: Fire Emplem Fates

2016 will long be remembered as a tumultuous year in global geo-politics. Brazil completed construction of the Maracanã Stadium in time to host its international games even as it waged wars of expansion against numerous neighboring nations. England’s systematic genocide of the Congolese received universal condemnation from the global community. And most shocking of all was Germany’s surprise nuclear strike against the Russian capital of St. Petersburg, bringing peace to the continent at heavy cost. At least, that’s how we’ll remember 2016, immersed as we were in Sid Meier’s Civilization VI. And 2017 through 2022 will likely prove the same; we were still playing Civilization V regularly mere months before the release of VI, and the later has the better base game to improve and expand upon over the coming years, being already the best vanilla version of the storied strategy series. From our review:

Instead of merely developing the game on the measures of balance and enjoyability, Firaixs has developed it by means of a more mature and thoughtful historiography. It is an examination and translation of human history not as concrete events that actually occurred but as interacting systems, from geography to great men, which well could have produced a plausible counterfactual history to our own. And insofar as the real educational and entertainment value of the Civilization games is not in final victory, but rather the whole process of producing history up until that point, Civilization VI certainly gives players the best tools yet to tell their own story of mankind.

For more on Sid Meier’s Civilization VI check out our review here.

Best Family Friendly Game

World of Final Fantasy

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Runner-up: Dragon Quest Builders

The “other” Final Fantasy game released this year for the 30th anniversary of the series is not a traditional entry; aimed at a broader audience — with Chibi characters and more cartoony versions of well known FF monsters — World of Final Fantasy plays more like Pokemon than a JRPG.

A Final Fantasy aimed at kids doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun for us too, though. World of Final Fantasy has a clever battle system where you change your size and those of the monsters you collect in order to boost stats and create different attacks and spells. There’s a story to follow, but the big carrot is hunting down all the FF favorites (like Cactuars and Behemoths) to fight on your team, as well as developing the ones you already have into different versions. Because of the stacking system, even old evolutions of monsters still have a use and are easily changed back and forth; a system that Pokemon might want to look into. With tons of monsters to collect, characters from almost every Final Fantasy game making an appearance and the ability to play in front of or with your kids, World of Final Fantasy is our pick as the best family friendly game of the year.

Best Indie Game

Darkest Dungeon

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Runner-up: Oxenfree

Anyone who’s played a “rogue-like”, such as Spelunky or Rogue Legacy, know that much of the gameplay relied on equal parts, quick reflex and luck, to advance in the game. Darkest Dungeon left those conventions behind for new gameplay mechanics that made us feel like we almost had a chance at success, before the game harshly brought us back to reality. Instead of platforming, you pick from a stable of dark and dangerous characters, to wage turn-based combat as they slowly investigate your inherited home and eventually the “darkest dungeon” itself. With a focus on strategy and character placement, the battles are always interesting, engaging us the way few other rogue-likes have in the past. Further broadening the game’s strategy and difficulty is a resource managing element where you have to balance buying new items, hiring new explorers, or tending to the sanity of the ones already in your employ. All of this is played out with a Lovecraftian story as a backdrop, that further adds to the tension the gameplay has already built. Red Hook studios broadened the horizons of a genre with Darkest Dungeon, this year, though we may go mad before we actually finish it.

Best Aesthetic Direction

Duelyst

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Runner-up: Stardew Valley

It’s impossible to recall a more grossly underrated game in 2016 than Duelyst. Had a beloved brand like Blizzard put out the exact same game as Counterplay, it’s not difficult to imagine Duelyst surpassing its fellow card game Hearthstone in popularity, eclipsing as an e-sport Starcraft II, or inspiring as fervent a fan community as Overwatch. But that we ourselves stumbled upon this gem of pure gameplay can be attributed solely to the pulchritudinous pixel art seen in every screenshot of the game. Indeed, happening upon merely a few still images of Duelyst, such were sufficient for us to immediately resolve to check out the theretofore unheard of indie sleeper. And we’re sure that far more than these words, the game art accompanying this awards article will convince you to do the same. From our review:

Duelyst advantages its nature as a video game by exploiting the video aspect for all it’s worth. This game has every bit the visual flair of the most ornately sculpted chess set or finely faced cards. It achieves such through painterly backgrounds which could just as easily belong in Bastion, and upon which each pixelated piece represents the best in the recent resurgence of such art apart from only Axion Verge and Hyper Light Drifter. As with all children of the ‘80s and ‘90s, I’ve an instinctual appreciation for quality pixel art and an immediate aversion to any of poor implementation of such. Part of Duelyst’s wisdom is in not becoming noosed by nostalgia, attempting to render the entire game so, but rather implementing particle and lighting effects freely; Duelyst wears its modernity on its sleeve with no attempt at recapturing the lost and yearned for youth of its twenty/thirtysomethings target demographic. Just as it channels the sublimely simple play of archaic games while unapologetically adding current conveniences, it likewise channels the aesthetic sensibilities of retro games without hampering itself to their hardware limitations.

For more on Duelyst, check out our review here.

Best Graphical Fidelity

Tom Clancy’s The Division

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Runner-up: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Many of us on staff attended New York City Comic Con back in October in order to provide coverage for the site. The pilgrimage from Penn Station to the convention center took us right past the iconic, Corinthian-columned Post Office. But as awesome the architecture was in its own right, on looking upon, our first thoughts were not as to the landmark’s grandeur or significance, but rather, “Wow, there’s my base in The Division.” Our second thoughts were, “The graphics here in real life really aren’t that much better than the game’s. A slightly higher frame rate, perhaps, but the resolution and draw distance are about the same.” From our review:

The fidelity with which the city and its many landmarks are rendered render The Division as the most beautiful game world yet seen. It is nothing short of transportational. My apartment is three blocks from a train station, a forty-five minute ride on which will place me right on 32nd Street, as it has innumerable times. Or I can boot up my copy the game file and in less than sixty seconds I’m there. Especially at max setting, there no difference between a screenshot of the game and a photograph of the city. It’s hardly hyperbole to say that the New York City in The Division is New York City.

For more on Tom Clancy’s The Division, read our full review here.

Best Visual Design

Pokémon Sun and Moon
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Runner-up: Firewatch

Pokémon Sun and Moon is an ugly game. It’s the most gorgeous of the series’ mainline installments by far, but the incremental improvements in graphics from one generation of games to the next has palled in comparison to the progress made by the industry as a whole, even in the handheld space that’s housed Pokémon since its inception. The likes of Bastion, Child of Light, and Dragon’s Crown are proof positive that portable games can be every bit as beautiful as their PC and console counterparts, and yet Pokémon is beset by awful aliasing, even apart from such is shockingly generic anime art-style that’s not even the equal of third-tier Japanese titles such as Atelier, Tales of, Ys, or even Valkyrie Drive. Such is certainly due to the 3DS’s hardware limitations, but that Nintendo and GameFreak chose to strand their preeminent franchise (more so than Mario, arguably) on an outdated and underpowered device is an explanation but no excuse for such shoddy graphics and amateurish aesthetics.

The fact that we so often find Pokémon Sun and Moon to be breathtakingly beautiful while we play is due entirely to the various visual designs of the Pokémon themselves, with many of those introduced this generation as the most inspired designs the series has ever seen, the nostalgic-laden Red and Blue ‘mons included. Cosmog has absolutely eclipsed perennial-favorite Pikachu as the most adorable addition to the roster. On the other side of the spectrum, Araquanid, Buzzwole, Kartana, and Xurkitree all belie an eclectic combination of quirky and badass.

More straightforward but equally metal is Solgaleo, continuing last generation’s redemption of the Legendaries after suffering through the mire of the Weather, Creation and Tao trios. But most important to note are Toxapex and the four Tapus. All are the direct result of GameFreak challenging themselves to design Pokémon which would not have been possible in the era of 2D sprites, which took full advantage of the series’ move to full 3D graphics. All of these have some of their design obscured by outer elements, revealed only as the fully rendered creatures are animated. If such inspired Pokémon were only possible due to the graphical improvements to this graphically unimpressive series, it alights the imagination to wonder what GameFreak would be capable of creating for a substantially more powerful devise such as the Switch.

Best Gameplay

Deus-Ex-Mankind-Divided

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Runner-up: XCOM2

It was the legendary Sid Meier’s (whose eponymous game Civilization receives praise elsewhere on this list) that famously stated “Games are a series of interesting decisions.” The formula for such was all but perfected in seminal titles such as System Shock, BioShock, Dishonored, and Deus Ex, and now finds its apotheosis in the latest from that franchise, Mankind Divided. It takes the best elements of other titles and synthesizes them into a holistic experience. It’s a first-person shooter with gunplay equal to any save Call of Duty or Destiny. It’s a role-playing game with a progression path as interesting as that of Fallout or Skyrim. It’s an adventure game with branching narrative choices as varied and meaningful as in games by BioWare and Telltale. It’s a stealth game on the level of Metal Gear or Thief. More interesting, however, is how these elements from disparate genres integrate into one another. The decision of whether to shoot up, sneak by, or speak to enemies will itself shape the narrative outcome, and the player’s chance of success at any of those actions will be partially determined by what route he’s ventured down the upgrade tree. The fact that every moment of gameplay in the new Deus Ex is an interesting choice makes it a great game; but the fact that the kinds of choices it offers the player are so varied, and each executed so successfully, makes Mankind Divided a truly phenomenal game.

For more on Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, read our review here.

Best Narrative

Quantum Break

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Runner-up: The Witcher III: Blood and Wine

If 2016 is to be fondly remembered at all (unlikely as that may be), it will be remembered as the year of truly outstanding and original tales of temporality in fiction. Not about time-travel, per se, but all time-themed, often without indication to the audience beforehand.

In cinema, Arrival smartly applied the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis in linguistics to the tongue of an alien species who do not perceive time linearly. In literature, Alan Moore’s Jerusalem is a series of interrelated vignettes set in England’s North Hampshire all exploring the four-dimensional topology of divine providence. Even in television, Game of Thrones confirmed the existence of closed timelike curves in its high fantasy world of Westros when Bran’s warging to the past proved to be causally determinate of present conditions. And, rare of an occasion as this might be, the games medium likewise produced a time-themed tale every bit as clever and compelling as those more respected artistic venues. Even accounting for player agency (indeed, integrating it meaningfully into not merely the gameplay but the narrative), Quantum Break managed the ever difficult task of depicting time-travel along a single, fixed timeline, in which events at an later date are the causal explanation for events at an earlier one (as indeed may be the case in reality at the quantum level). More impressively, however, is that like Lost and Arrival, it took the high sci-fi premise of the predestination paradox and infuses it with truly compelling characters whom the player comes to care about. From our review:

“As the story of the game immersed me more and more into the universe which Remedy had crafted, the constant cheese of the show was utterly eclipsed by the emotional investment it had earned. Cut scenes would not have done justice to the material, yet neither could a television show give breath to the breadth of infinite possibilities suggested by the multiple histories hypothesis. Even Lost, in resolving its own time-travel story, was limited to presenting a single parallel world. Odd as Quantum Break’s hybrid-medium may seem, it was the most appropriate vehicle in which to tell a time-travel story both compelling in its own right and faithful to our current understanding of physics… Quantum Break stands as the best time-travel story since Back to the Future.”

For more one Quantum Break, read our review here.

Best Moment

Receiving Leviathan’s blessing. Final Fantasy XV

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Runner Up: Geralt retires to his vineyard. The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine

There were a lot of design changes in Final Fantasy XV from it’s predecessors in the series. We noticed a lack of narrative push from the outset of the game. It instead focuses on it’s open world, allowing us to take up hunts for powerful beasts, track down the resting places of unique weapons and the ability to explore almost the entire map by the time you reach Chapter 3. The end of Chapter 9: “Callings”, changes all that. There’s as an epic, cinematic fight sequence that lets you battle in a way you never have before, with new powers. As fun and as powerful as the game makes you feel during the fight, it also delivers the first emotional punch of the storyline.

As emotional as the moment is, what really sets it apart, especially from other Final Fantasys, is how our group of protagonists never really recover from the moment. There have been other emotional moments in the series, but after a down period the characters tend to rally and put it behind them as they head towards their goals with renewed vigor. In contrast, Noctis and crew bear both physical and emotional scars for the rest of their journey, in a world that leaves behind the open and free wheeling tone of earlier chapters, for a more focused narrative and a world that grows darker by the day. It’s a more mature and honest form of story telling than developer Square-Enix has delivered in the series before. We can trace the pendulum swing in the narrative to what we think is the moment of the year in 2016.

Worst Trend

Persistent online requirements for single player content

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Runner-up: Lack of single player campaigns (Overwatch, Star Wars Battlefront, Street Fighter V at launch)

While not entirely a new phenomenon, a plethora of games were released this year that could be completed entirely alone, and yet despite the fact that they delivered solo experiences essentially identical to their offline counterparts, nevertheless required a constant internet connection even to access this single-player content. Not to play versus multiplayer. Not to play cooperatively. Just to play by oneself, the way gamers have been able to since the Atari 2600. Super Mario Run is merely the most recent example, taking a game mechanically simplified in contrast to 1985’s Super Mario Bros. and unnecessarily requiring constant connectivity when its predecessor was able to be played perfectly fine without such. Even today, one can plug in an old Nintendo Entertainment System and replay that first adventure in the Mushroom Kingdom, but do we really expect that Nintendo will likewise keep Super Mario Run’s servers running 31 years from now? Likewise, Destiny released yet another anemic expansion, still failing to offer offline play as a fix to the biggest problems plaguing that game (we paid for the content; let us shop from Xûr on our own damn schedule, Bungie). However, the worst offender was what was otherwise one of our favorite games of the year: Tom Clancy’s The Division. From our review:

Publisher Ubisoft describes The Division as a persistent online game. Such is a misnomer. The Division is a traditional shooter/role-playing hybrid in the vein of BioShock and Mass Effect with an invasive Digital Rights Management (DRM) that renders the game utterly unplayable when not constantly connected to the Ubisoft servers. As with other online games, servers go down on a regular basis for maintenance, the next Xbox Live and Playstation Network outages are at the whims of hackers beyond Ubisoft’s purview, and from before launch the permanent night that will one day befall the city when the servers are forever shut down already looms large. It happened to The Matrix Online. It happened to Star Wars Galaxies. It will happen to The Division. It’s only a matter of when. Such reduces the fully-priced game to a (hopefully long-term) rental. Ubisoft calls this “games as a service.” Such is a disservice. The player is in no way served by not having ownership over the product for which he paid, free to play when he wants and modify how he wants. In interviews such as the one linked above, Ubisoft conflates the concepts of constant connectivity with post-release content. Innumerable games have had season passes and other scheduled downloadable content without the added DRM with which Ubisoft has infected The Division. This DRM is nothing short of malware, a computer virus which weakens the game, digitally designed just as the Smallpox stain in the game’s story… This one design decision worsened many other aspects of the game compared to its offline brethren of the same genre. For a role-playing game, the role you play is incredibly shallow, bereft of any meaningful or even interesting choices.

For more on Tom Clancy’s The Division, read our full review.

Biggest Disappointment

No Man’s Sky

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Runner up: Pokemon Go

It didn’t have to be this way. When No Man’s Sky released on August 9th, the product consumers received was close to what everyone should have expected: A space-exploration focused, bare-boned framework, that the indie team at Hello Games had originally envisioned as a much larger and ambitious project. It should have been, at most, 14 or 15 dollars. Instead, after a strong first trailer and feature details coming from interviews with company director Sean Murray, fan anticipation began to run wild. This is not the first game to run into the pitfall of under-delivering on fan expectation. However, the way Sony pushed the game, like giving it a spot on the main stage at E3 during its conference (the first for an indie developer) and Murray’s doubling down and adding to an already impressive list of supposed features, it’s not as if fans were pulling it out of thin air.

The main reason we found NMS to be the biggest disappointment of the year wasn’t just because it didn’t live up to the hype. It was also the way both Sony and Hello Games handled the release and subsequent criticism. They both clearly knew they weren’t going to deliver the game they had been promoting before it was released. This wasn’t a case of bad Q.A. or server overload. With a $60 price tag and gameplay that showed more repetition than innovation, players clearly wanted answers. They didn’t get them. Miller and Hello Games went dark after the release and didn’t address any of the criticisms leveled at the game. Sony suddenly had memory loss of its promotion of the game and talked about NMS‘s release as if they were just as surprised with the results as consumers were.

No Man’s Sky could have found its own space, in its own time, as patches shaped the game into what the developers originally intended. Instead it’ll be remembered as an empty promise.

Game of the Year

The Witcher III: Blood and Wine

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Runner-up: Sid Meier’s Civilization VI

This being our first annual Game of the Year list, we didn’t award any title that particular honorific in 2015. While some of the greatest games of the generation landed last year, from Arkham Knight to The Beginner’s Guide to Ori and the Blind Forest to Rise of the Tomb Raider, there could be no doubt that the first place prize ultimately would have gone to The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. Such would hardly have been controversial, putting us in good company with many of our fellow sites in the enthusiast press. We doubt that will be true this year, but credit where credit is due; Blood and Wine fully recaptured the magic of the base game and once again took the medium as a whole to hitherto unknown heights of narrative excellence, eclipsing every retail release, not merely of the past twelve months but of the past thirty-plus years. Blood and Wine is a jack of all trades and master of all. Its gameplay systems are simultaneously full of depth and clarity. Its visuals are aesthetically stylish and graphically unparalleled. Its action always feels just right, whether riding Roach or engaging enemies in combat. But more than all of these, Blood and Wine’s strongest asset is invariably its rich narratives, affecting the player – if not more profoundly – than at the least with an emotion all too rare in video game stories: sehnsucht, that longing like nostalgia, not for the past, nor even the work which imparts the feeling, but rather for some heartbreaking joy from beyond walls of the world to which the game gives but a glimpse. From our review:

Though it’s labelled downloadable content, this is a full game in itself and then some…

The one scene that will truly stay with me whenever I look back upon my time in Toussaint is this: Geralt and Yennifer, reclining with one another in front of his estate, his days as a Witcher finally fully behind him, for the first time allowed to rest from world-shaking perpetual struggles, simply content to watch the sun rise over his balmy and beauteous vineyard. And as he did these words of Tolkien came to me: ‘It is the mark of a good fair-story, of the higher or more compete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give to child or man that hears it, when the ’turn’ comes, a catch of breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art, and having a peculiar quality.’ Blood and Wine is not great; it’s damn near perfect.

For more on The Witcher III: Blood and Wine, read our full review here.