Game Critic Awards: best original games over the years

Horizon Zero Dawn,black friday

The Game Critic Awards is an annual event that “recognises the games that will shape the future of interactive entertainment”. The awards are reserved for gaming titles that had a hands-on demonstration at Los Angeles’ Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the winners being determined by individuals that represent various prominent global video game publications.

In the next few weeks we will be taking a look at the winners of the various categories, providing us with a glimpse of the changing landscape of games over the last decade.

In this piece we will pay homage to the champions of innovations, the Best Original Game award winners…

2016 and 2015 – Horizon Zero Dawn

I wasn’t sure what to think when I originally had my first look at Horizon Zero Dawn. It seemed so different from anything I’ve seen before but I was undeniably captivated I think most people felt the same way as took the Best Original Game award two years in a row.

The game takes place a thousand years in the future, after the collapse of the civilization we know today, in a world where man and machine struggle against each other to survive in the breathtakingly but hostile wilderness. You play as Aloy, a skilled bow-wielding female huntress and outcast who sets out to explore the worlds beyond.

After its release, Horizon Zero Dawn received a lot of positive reviews and was praised for its lush open world, narrative and female lead. It did receive some criticism though, with some reviewers feeling the quality of the character models and melee combat left a lot to be desired. That being said, it did go on to become the highest selling new IP on the PS4 to date, selling over 2.6 million copies as of March 2017.

2014 – No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky will remain as one of the greatest example of hype in the gaming industry and the dangers of getting caught in its illusionary web. I can remember it’s reveal in 2014 like it was yesterday. I was awestruck by its complexity and unrivalled vastness, an open-world with no boundaries where everything could be explored.

Unfortunately, most of the promises we were made turned out to be empty and the game turned out to be a shell of what we were shown.

The latest “Pathfinder” update did restore some of Hello Games’ tarnished reputation by fulfilling some of the original promises, such as basebuilding and ship/weapon specialisations. That being said, the game’s score on Steam sits at a very average five out of ten.

Let this be a lessons to both developers and gamers alike, hype is a dangerous game to play…

2013 – Titanfall

Titanfall is action-ridden multiplayer FPS designed by the developers that formerly worked on the Call of Duty franchise.

It absolutely dominated 2013’s E3, garnering an impressive sixty awards at the event. It also went on to take home an additional six Game Critic Awards, them being the Best Original Game, Best of Show, Best Console Game, Best PC Game, Best Action Game and Best Online Mulitplayer.

Titanfall was praised for its fresh approach to the already stagnating FPS genre, providing a high quality shooter but with added abilities to do Mirror’s Edge style wall runs, jump incredible heights and take control of brutally destructive mechs. It was the spectacle we had all been waiting for.

2012 – The Last of Us

I don’t think there is much doubt as to why The Last of Us stole the show at E3. Its masterful blend of action, narrative and atmosphere captivated the crowds and it ended up winning Best of Show, Best Original Game, Best Console Game, Best Action/Adventure Game and received special commendation for its sound design.

The game went on to win over 240 Game of the Year awards, becoming one of the most awarded games in history. Today, it is widely regarded as one of the most influential and important games of the seventh generation of video games and an experience, I’m sure, we’ll hold dear for quite some time to come.

2011 – Bioshock Infinite

As one of my most cherished digital experience, I am not too surprised that Bioshock Infinite took away four Game Critic Awards in 2012. Except for the ultimate Best of Show award, it also added the Best Original Game, Best PC Game and Best Action/Adventure Game awards to its trophy rack. It provided us with a much less claustrophobic setting and a whole new world and narrative to explore.

From the villainous Father Comstock to your loveable companion Elizabeth, it was filled with an exciting cast of characters, each filled with personality.

Bioshock Infinite went on to become a universally acclaimed title, receiving a plethora of Game of the Year awards, and is also considered to be one of the most significant titles of the seventh generation of video games.

2010 – Dance Central

When one considers the world of video games, dance-themed titles are rarely the first to come to mind. With the release of the Xbox Kinect in 2010, Dance Central put booty-shaking back on the map, with the President of Nintendo America claiming that “Dance Central is, by far, the best Kinect game”.

Beyond the GCA Best Original Game award, the game received many positive reviews after its release and, as of August 2016, has sold over 3.18 million copies worldwide.

2009 – Scribblenauts

The winners of the best original game are usually titles that boast cutting-edge visuals, action-packed gameplay or deep and dramatic narratives. This made the Nintendo DS’s Scribblenauts quite the surprise win back in 2010. But considering the masterful execution of extremely unique gameplay, there are few titles that could match its originality.

In Scribblenauts you solve puzzles by summoning object into the in game world by writing their names on the Nintendo DS’s touch pad. The database of objects numbers I the thousands, providing you with the opportunity to solve a puzzle in a plethora of different ways.

Following its success, it spawned a number of sequels such as Super Scribblenauts and Scribblenauts Unlimited. To date, the series has sold over 13 million copies.

2008 – Mirror’s Edge

The reveal of Mirror’s Edge is still, and will probably remain, one of the most memorable moments I’ve had in my gaming years. In a time when developers seemed to struggle to find new and innovative ideas, Mirror’s Edge came along and threw the whole industry on its head.

It wasn’t like anything we’ve seen before. Not only did it provide us with a worthy female lead of colour but also gave us the opportunity to traverse a cityscape with tremendous agility.

Mirror’s Edge placed you in the nimble shoes of Faith, a “runner” that is tasked with delivering sensitive packages (as the heavily government-monitored internet is no longer an option) by leaping across rooftops, scaling walls, and occasionally kicking the ass of those who stand in her way.

Following its release, Mirror’s Edge was praised for its unique mechanics and “brilliant sense of motion”. It did receive some criticism for its “trial and error” approach to gameplay and short duration. But, with that being said, it still remains one of the most important games in history.

2007 – Little Big Planet

Little Big Planet is a charming and unique puzzle-platformer that places a big focus on creativity and the freedom to express it. As either “Sackboy” or “Sackgirl”, you are thrown into fantastically imaginative worlds where you are able to build around and manipulate the environment via a massive library of usable objects.

A lot of emphasis was also put on sharing these creations with the greater Little Big Planet community, allowing other to play and explore your worlds as you can do theirs. The game has a pleasant and light-hearted atmosphere, conveying a tone not too different to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (with Stephen Fry narration included).

Before its release, Little Big Planet garnered a lot of positive attention with BBC’s Darren Waters calling it “one of the most dazzling demos I’ve seen in the last ten years”. After its release, it received universal acclaim and was praised for its near limitless creative potential.

Wiehahn Diederichs


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