2015 Adventure Game Of The Year Awards

by Javy Gwaltney on Jan 11, 2016 at 08:00 AM

2015 was one of the strongest years in memory for adventure games. It was a year filled with quality titles that ran the gamut from surprisingly effective horror to moving portraits of the struggles of adolescence. With our general 2015 Games of the Year awards now live, we're now going to take time to recognize the best of this year's adventure games.

Best Story: Life is Strange

It's true that Life is Strange's story sags in some places, notably toward the middle, but taken as a whole there's never been a game quite like it. Its strange, wondrous combination of sci-fi and young adult drama could have easily been a disaster. Instead, the story of Max and Chloe and the rest of Arcadia Bay is a powerful testament to the potential of interactive stories and is not easily forgotten.

Best Setting: SOMA

Frictional Games surprised everyone by focusing on a different kind of horror in SOMA than Amnesia's genre-defining brand of terrifying hide & seek. Make no mistake: Monsters are still hunting you at the bottom of the ocean, but the true terror of SOMA is the questions it poses about humanity and the futility of existence. A large part of why those themes worked so well is the creepy and oppressive ocean floor research base the game takes place in, forcing you to come face to face with the mortality of the humans who lived, loved, and died in PATHOS-II, an underwater hell that gives Rapture a run for its money.

Best Graphics: Until Dawn

This was hardly a contest. The facial animations in Until Dawn are downright amazing and the sight of snow softly descending upon the mountains and cabins as you creep through the woods, trying to outwit and outmaneuver a killer, is eerie and beautiful. Easily one of the best looking games of this console generation.

Best Soundtrack: Life is Strange

Life is Strange's blend of soft acoustic tunes and electronic music fits perfectly within Max's journey, granting key story moments even more emotional weight. Divorced from the game, it's also a lovely mix of music to listen to so that doesn't hurt. You can listen to the soundtrack on Spotify here.

Best Character: Max from Life is Strange

Maxine Caulfield is a good person but her innate goodness can't stop her from making mistakes that have dire consequences for those around her. Despite the fact she has the power to rewind time, Max is that rare video game character that actually comes off as a real person, juggling anxieties, relationships, and ambitions as she tries to weather the never-ending series of storms she finds herself in.

Funniest Game: Tales From The Borderlands

A lot of people were understandably skeptical when Telltale and Gearbox announced they were working together to develop an episodic adventure set in the same universe as Borderlands, a first-person shooter light on story. However, the creation born out of that partnership is a wickedly comedic sci-fi adventure worthy of attention. 

The quirks and quips of Tales' memorable cast of characters are funny enough on their own, but the addition of amusing physical comedy sequences and the occasional but well-struck pop culture reference makes Tales From The Borderlands one of the funniest games to come around in a long time. 

Continue reading on the next page to find out which games shocked us and broke our hearts.

Most Shocking Moment: Life is Strange

Life is Strange has a plethora of shocking scenes, from the manner in which Max discovers her powers to tragic deaths and dire consequences for actions taken with good intentions. Out of all of those moments, the most unsettling one is the cliffhanger at the end of episode 3. We won't tell you what happens since it's something you should experience yourself but it's definitely a haunting, powerful sequence that evokes the best episodes of The Twilight Zone.

Sleeper Hit Of The Year: Until Dawn

Until Dawn was originally unveiled as a PlayStation Move game a couple of years ago. It did not look so hot then. News on the game went mum until shortly before its release at the end of August, just a few days ahead of the blitz that is the fall release of video games. It was now a PlayStation 4 game and a pretty good one at that. With its brilliant use of branching narratives, and some good ol' fashioned jump scares, Until Dawn won us over quickly.

Most Heartbreaking Game: Life is Strange

Dontnod's episodic adventure heaped on tragedy after tragedy, twisting the knife every time we tried to fix a bad situation or attempted to change things beyond our control. And yet the game never became a dull, depressing parade of misery because we were invested in the journey of Max and her friends and wanted the best for them, even when that was clearly not in the cards. No other adventure put our hearts through the wringer this year like Life is Strange.

Best Multiplayer Game: Until Dawn

Until Dawn doesn't initially seem like a multiplayer game until you get creative, playing with loved one, bud, or stranger by letting them help you make choices that determine the fates of the characters. You can also pass the controller around the room whenever the game switches from one character to another, making play sessions unpredictable and memorable.

Best Ending: SOMA

This was tough. All the other award winners had great endings, but none of them hit us as hard as the emotional haymaker that is SOMA's ending. It's a fantastic conclusion to the bleak journey and a bittersweet musing on what it truly means to persevere in the face of insurmountable odds.

Adventure Game Of The Year: Life is Strange

Much like its protagonist, Life is Strange is not perfect. It's got some quirks and rough edges — sometimes it doesn't know when to stop trying to impress us with its lingo. And yet it houses so much ambition that it's easy to forgive all that, especially considering how often the game succeeds in what it sets out to do. As an emotionally satisfying and engaging adventure that's constantly emphasizing the importance of your choices, Life is Strange is a triumph that earns its place as our Adventure Game of 2015.