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The 2015 Game of the Year

Here we are at last. After picking the very best games in a wide variety of categories, it's time to get down to the big question:

What was the very best game of 2015? 

Many hard hours went into making our final decision. Though this year won't go down in history as a particularly golden one for games, there were some excellent titles released over the past twelve months all the same.

After shouting, crying, and playing games until our fingers started to bleed, here are our choices for the best games of 2015. 

Sleeper hit: Rise of the Tomb Raider

Call it confidence or hubris, but Rise of the Tomb Raider had the misfortune of being released on the very same day as Fallout 4 (which we'll talk about a bit later). Tomb Raider also launched solely on Xbox systems, and while it will come to other platforms eventually, this limited release likely played a role in preventing widespread recognition of one of the best games of the year. 

As discussed in our full reviewRise of the Tomb Radier takes the franchise back to its roots in the best possible way, telling a classic story combined with tight gameplay and the graphical prowess to really make the game's exotic locations come to life. 

If you have an Xbox you should already own Rise of the Tomb Raider, and if you don't you should make sure not to miss it when it comes to your platform of choice in 2016.

Niche contender: Bloodborne

On Game of the Year discussions across the net, a vocal, passionate minority is making themselves heard. They're telling everyone who will listen that Bloodborne was the best game of 2015. And for fans of this particular genre -- that of the ultra-tough gothic RPG popularized by Dark Souls -- Bloodborne really was a masterpiece. 

For gamers who can find fun in the center of frustration, Bloodborne was high art. Its bleak world was one of the most striking horrorscapes we've ever seen in games, and its combat combined guns and melee weapons to great effect, rewarding skill, timing, and technique in a way few games manage to pull off. 

Though its PS4-exclusive nature and punishing difficulty kept the game off the radar of many gamers, for those in the know Bloodborne was easily one of the best games of 2015. 

Check out our review of Bloodborne for more on the beauty of well-executed difficulty. 

The end of an era: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

He did it. In the midst of all the unfolding drama with Konami, Hideo Kojima managed to end the Metal Gear franchise (for now, anyway) in style with the modern classic Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom PainIn many ways, this final game managed to capitalize on the potential of the series in ways no previous game ever has. Gameplay and well-crafted cut-scenes are in perfect balance. Beautiful graphics and sound combine to create the most immersive Metal Gear ever, and Kojima's cinematic eye took full advantage of the new technology. 

Impressively for a game with such a strong narrative, Metal Gear Solid V is also a title that's worth playing again and again, thanks to the variety of gameplay approaches it allows. As we said in our review, this is the Metal Gear universe as it was always meant to be. 

Strong second place: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

And now we get to the real touch choice. We've known it would come down to these final two games for a while now, and discussions about which one is better aren't going to end any time soon. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a fantastic game, with some of the finest graphics of the current generation, two distinct maps to explore, and an engrossing story full of tough choices and interesting characters. 

The Witcher 3 delivers an intricate combat system that demands patience and care, as even a group of bandits can pose a threat if you aren't careful. With the right preparation and upgrades, though, you'll be capable of taking down some of the ugliest, most fully realized monsters in gaming history, in fights that are dramatic, dynamic, and rewarding. 

Read more of our thoughts on The Witcher 3 in our review

And the Golden Crate goes to...

Fallout 4

How did we ultimately decide on Fallout 4 over The Witcher 3 as our Game of the Year? In the end it came down to the simplest thing imaginable: fun. For most of us here at GameCrate, Fallout 4 was just more fun, moment to moment, than The Witcher 3. It's the game we want to go back and play again and again, and it will likely consume many hours of our lives in 2016. We've written a ton of articles about it already and we're going to write a bunch more, because Fallout 4 is a game that just keeps on giving. The more you play it, and the more the gaming community as a whole plays it, the more secrets it reveals. 

From crazy weapons to powerful punches, from the glorious possibilities of trash to a world full of Easter EggsFallout 4 offers many different ways to have fun. As we discussed in our review, the game takes everything players loved about the previous two games in the series and makes them richer and better. The hybrid FPS combat has never felt this good before. The storyline gives you factions to choose from that actually make your choices tough. This is a game that drips replay value before you even consider the world of mods, as its very possible to "beat" the central storyline while only seeing a small fraction of what the Commonwealth has to offer.

What really pushes Fallout 4 over the top, though, is its settlement gameplay. By adding a system that rewards intelligent scavenging and provides players with a compelling in-game reason to explore the crumbling ruins spread across the Wasteland, Fallout 4 seems to have found a critical piece that was previously missing from the franchise, and it's difficult to imagine a future Fallout game that doesn't feature a similar mechanic. 

Fallout 4 isn't perfect, but it provides a deep, endlessly entertaining gameplay experience that stands above everything else we played in 2015. 

Congrats to Fallout 4, GameCrate's 2015 Game of the Year.