Game of the Year: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

December 31, 2014


We finish up our system-specific awards with our honors for best Xbox One game, best PlayStation 4 title and best PC release. Check back on Friday for our overall Game of the Year.


The pitch meeting for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor had to have been an instant sell: take the traversal of Assassin’s Creed and combine it with the combat from the Arkham series, wrap it all in a Lord of the Rings package. While it might sound derivative in nature, copying from two well-established franchises, where this game blazes new ground is in its incredible Nemesis system. All the leaders of the orc army have names and ranks, and they both protect and backstab each other. Half the fun of the game is learning how this system works and influencing it to your own ends. For a Lord of the Rings fan, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is a dream come true, and even for someone who isn’t especially enamored with the license, this game is still a must-play. – Ryan Dunn

Here’s how to make a good Assassin’s Creed game: first, get rid of the whole assassin thing. Writing by committee is hard, and you just don’t have the budget for it. Instead, grab a license people are into, and let the story write itself. Next, take the combat from those popular Batman games, but crank the dial on the violence all the way up. Finally, come up with a good gimmick. In Shadow of Mordor‘s case, the “Nemesis System” is the kind of gimmick that sounds like one of those “great on paper, but doesn’t actually work” things you get hyped about at trade shows, but it actually works exactly the way PR said it would. – Lucas White

Runner-up: inFamous: Second Son

inFamous: Second Son is an open-world game that you can actually complete in a reasonable amount of time. Collectibles show up on the map and there aren’t too many of them. Traversal is fun regardless of power, and each manages to feel unique. Smoke and video are great for flying around the rooftops, neon is good for running quickly and up the sides of buildings, and concrete lets you finally charge forward with the same armor many of your enemies have. There’s an absolutely perfect “just one more” quality about the side activities: I need all of the districts clear of DUP influence, all shards collected and all powers upgraded, and Second Son makes all of those activities entertaining. – Justin Last

Runner-up: Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition

Diablo III had a rocky start. Between an MMO-esque experiment with economics and a loot system that supported that economic model, the magic was gone. When the expansion hit on PC, the difference was night and day. With that expansion and the console release, Diablo was back, and especially as far as post-game content is concerned, it is better than ever. Four skills make it a perfect console game, and the UI is wonderful for sorting with a controller. – Jeff deSolla


Ethical implications of a massive, AAA company co-opting punk-rock imagery aside, Sunset Overdrive is something else. The core play of an open-world, third-person shooter is tossed into a pressure cooker of colorful madness, leaning heavily on over-the-top parkour. The goal is to never stop moving, as you bounce and grind over practically every surface to build score combos and unlock ridiculous power-ups. The silly character creation options, famously used to take a jab at Ubisoft, are icing on the cake. – Lucas White

No game this year seemed to have the same kind of bombast and flair as Sunset Overdrive, making it stand out amongst a dreary sea of half-functional tech demos that comprise the new generation right now. The fun characters, environments designed to encourage bizarre means of locomotion and creative weapon and enemy types make it one of the best exclusives we have yet seen for the new consoles. – Chris Dominowski

Runner-up: Super Time Force

Some games perfect an already-established formula, but others, like Super Time Force, innovate with entirely new gameplay mechanics. The game combines Contra-style platforming and shooting with Braid-like time manipulation, allowing you to rewind as much as you want and create multiple characters all fighting with each other together, and possibly saving one of their “past” teammates from their untimely death. Character abilities combine to create a puzzle-like element to navigating any given challenge. On top of everything, the game oozes charm, with a sharp wit and well-written dialogue. – Ryan Dunn

Runner-up: Forza Horizon 2

Some games are great because they deliver something you’ve never experienced before. Others are great because they deliver pretty much exactly what you’ve experienced before, but with such a level of polish that it’s the best version of that pre-existing experience. Forza Horizon 2 is one of those latter games, one that just feels great to play, even if it doesn’t do much that’s new. – Graham Russell


Supergiant Games strikes again. Thanks to its clever world-building, excellent strategic gameplay and compelling, albeit distant narrative, Transistor delivers on just about every front and proves itself as a worthy follow-up to one of 2011’s best games, Bastion. Even if you’re not completely hooked in the beginning, don’t be surprised if the game’s final moments, specifically its ending, give you plenty to reflect on and an excuse to jump right back in for a second go-around. – Andrew Passafiume

While I was supposed to want to save Cloudbank, what I really wanted was to learn more about Red and the Transistor. The whole experience is immensely powerful and makes me care more about the mental state of the main character than the world she is fighting to save. And woven into all of this is one of the most interesting combat systems I’ve ever used. It’s uncommon for a game to nail characters, atmosphere, and mechanics, but Supergiant does it here. – Justin Last

Runner-up: Dragon Age: Inquisition

Inquisition is a game of impressive scope. You can spend dozens of hours in the world without really paying attention to the main storyline, much like Skyrim, but unlike Skyrim, it still manages a core narrative that’s compelling and party members you’ll love to talk to. The game keeps the production values high while expanding the adventure to a land larger than the well-received original, no easy feat. – Graham Russell

Runner-up: Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth

Most games need some kind of hook, something that will differentiate itself from others in the genre. Civilization has had its hook since 1991: just one more turn. The game series has mastered the carrot-on-a-stick reward system, allowing endless replay value across endless terrain options. Sure, the races and leaders don’t have a shred of personality compared to previous Civilization games, but that never mattered to me. The urge to start a new game and plan my affinities, tech goals and research options is strong, weeks after I played my last match. – Henry Skey