2016 Adventure Game Awards

by Javy Gwaltney on Jan 06, 2017 at 10:00 AM

2015 had an incredible year of adventure games lined from end to end. 2016 didn’t have quite as many, but what it lacked in quantity it made up for in quality with a handful of fantastic narrative-driven experiences. With our general 2016 awards now live, we’re going to give the adventure genre its due.

Best Story: Firewatch

Firewatch, a story about a man who takes a job as a fire lookout at a national park in 1989, begins as a slow burn mystery that ultimately evolves into something more special. Both Henry and Delilah are troubled people, each with their own fair share of traumas, and it’s (fascinating and moving) to watch them meet in the middle and try to hash it all out, resulting in one of the most memorable stories in a game in years.

Best Setting: Adrift

Adrift’s story may not have lived up to its potential but the game has represented the dangers and terror of space in a way that few have, casting you as an astronaut floating through the wreckage of a destroyed space station. Whether you were playing in VR or just watching events unfold across your screen, Adrift’s tension was unbeatable.

Best Graphics: Abzu

While Firewatch’s lovely sunsets and Pixar inspired character models stuck out in our minds, it was ultimately Abzu’s gorgeous watercolor-esque visuals that won us over.

Best Soundtrack: Virginia

Virginia is a divisive game, but one of the few things that most people seem to agree on is just how great the driving soundtrack is (reminiscent of Coen Brothers films’ music), and how essential it is to the experience of the game. Even if Virginia isn’t your sort of game, you can still listen to its fantastic music and be enthralled.

Best Character: Delilah (Firewatch)

You never actually see Delilah throughout your adventure. However, due to just how well-written her dialogue is (as well as the strength of the performance from Cissy Jones), she’s more human than most characters you’ll ever run across in a game.

Continue to page 2 to see the rest of our winners.

Funniest Game: King’s Quest

The Odd Gentlemen’s take on the classic King’s Quest series had plenty of The Princess Bride-inspired jokes and good-hearted humor to keep us chuckling throughout the whole experience, even when the puzzles fell flat. Extra kudos to Christopher Lolyd for a great, humorous turn as elderly King Graham.

Most Touching Moment: King’s Quest

Perhaps the best quality of the new King’s Quest is that it strikes a balance between being sweet and funny without being overly sentimental. Plenty of moments throughout the game are heartfelt, but we decided to give this award to a scene in Chapter 4 where King Graham cradles his child and walks around a room, singing him a lullaby that includes the line, “Your quest has begun/my kingdom, you’ll run\I’ll love you forever my son.”

No. It’s fine. I’ve just got something in my eye is all.

Most Shocking Moment: Batman: A Telltale Series

Telltale’s version of Batman had a few lows but it was mostly a unique and impressive story in a world filled with way too many Batman stories. Early on Bruce Wayne discovers a secret about his family that casts a shadow over the rest of the game. This forces Bruce (and players) to see every encounter and every choice they make as a chance for redemption or a weary acceptance that moral compromises are necessary even when it comes to dispensing justice.

Most Educational: 1979 Revolution: Black Friday

1979: Black Friday is half-edutainment, half-interactive documentary, telling a story about a photojournalist returning to Iran during a real-life revolution. While quick-time events occasionally make the game a little cheesy, on the whole it does a great job of creating a gripping story with characters worth caring about while also educating the player on a tragic, world-shaping event.

Best Dialogue: Firewatch

So much of what makes Firewatch special is tied to its honest dialogue between Henry and Delilah. The heart of the game exists in the exchanges between these two characters and how these conversations convincingly run the gamut from low-brow bathroom humor to heartbreaking confessions of personal failure.

Best Ending: Zero Time Dilemma

Zero Time Dilemma, a game that has you exploring multiple timelines and living your characters’ deaths over and over again, makes you work to earn its ending. But when you get there, man, it’s worth all ridiculously complicated puzzles and bad voice-acting to experience that payoff.

Best Adventure On The Go: Phoenix Wright: Spirit of Justice

Another year, another Phoenix Wright – but hey, Spirit of Justice was particularly good, focusing once again on high-stakes court battles and investigation. The series’ trademark goofiness and outrageousness was also on display, making it the perfect mood-lightener when you’re in search of something to play when traveling.

Adventure Game Of The Year: Firewatch

Firewatch is a beautiful and bold game. While it doesn’t always grasp the highs it reaches for, it still tells an enthralling story about broken people trying to fix themselves and find a bit of peace in the world. Watching Henry and Delilah’s relationship take shape and evolve over the course of Firewatch was one of the most spellbinding experiences of the year, making it our Adventure Game of 2016.