God of Simulated People

My Game of the Year, 1985-2014

Reading this should give you not only an interesting walk through gaming history but a look at the evolution of my gaming taste. Admittedly, in some cases I had to try and put myself back into my childhood mind, and I may have disagreed with my nine-year-old self entirely by accident, but I’ve formalized this list since 1999 or so (as long as I’ve been posting on the Internet about video games), so anything since then is word of the gods. Only rarely do I post-award change a game of the year selection, usually on “how in the black fuck did I miss this?!” grounds (most notable example: Morrowind, which I didn’t play for the first time until 2006 but I had to retroactively make my 2002 GOTY over the first Medieval: Total War.)

(Oh, and these are based on US release dates, an important point when considering NES games especially.)

1985: Super Mario Bros.

1986: Metroid

1987: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!

1988: Super Mario Bros. 2

1989: Mega Man 2 (Game of the Decade 1980-89)

1990: Phantasy Star II

1991: Final Fantasy IV

1992: Aerobiz

(yes, I know that A Link to the Past came out in ‘92. Aerobiz was the game I played to death, and 15-year-old me would agree with 37-year-old me about this.)

1993: Secret of Mana

1994: Final Fantasy VI

1995: Chrono Trigger

(Square had such an amazing run in the 16-bit era...)

1996: Civilization II

1997: Final Fantasy VII

1998: Final Fantasy Tactics

(pipe down, Starcraft fans. I’ve never been a fan of Blizzard games. So sue me. Fallout 2 makes a great case, but I didn’t play it for the first time until 2009, and by then it just hadn’t held up well enough.)


1999: Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (Game of the Decade 1990-99)

2000: Final Fantasy IX

2001: Tropico

2002: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

2003: Rise of Nations

2004: Rome: Total War (Game of the Decade 2000-09)

2005: Hearts of Iron II

(this was a hell of an argument on GameFAQs at the time when I put it ahead of Civilization IV, but until Crusader Kings II got expanded out the wing-wong and supplanted it, HoI2 was Paradox’s crowning achievement.)


2006: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

2007: Europa Universalis III

(I’m making a note here: Huge success. At inciting a flamewar, but I didn’t have any fun with Portal. It was a game I played so I’d know what other people were on about but got no actual joy out of.)


2008: Mount&Blade

(lest we forget, Fallout 3 was disappointing until Broken Steel came out in May of ‘09. I dinged it and said that no game with such a head-up-the-ass ending deserved to be Game of the Year, and I still believe that.)


2009: Empire: Total War

(just an awful, awful year for games. Reading the major release list on Wikipedia is a catalog of missed expectations and disappointments.)


2010: Fallout: New Vegas (current choice for Greatest Game of All Time)

2011: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

2012: Crusader Kings II

(which gets better and better every time a major DLC is released for it. Paradox might be inadvertently inventing the perfect modular game platform with its Clausewitz engine.)


2013: Papers, Please

(Yes, Papers, Please, not The Last of Us, because Papers, Please is as close as gaming has yet gotten to Pulp Fiction. Pulp Fiction was the first film to truly achieve greatness purely using film tropes and references rather than previous efforts that still owed a debt to theater. Papers, Please did the same thing by using game mechanics to tell its story—-gaming doesn’t need a Citizen Kane. Final Fantasy VI was that 20 years ago. It needs a Pulp Fiction to legitimize itself as a medium that can stand apart from what came before.)


2014 (so far): Banished. Might even give it to goddamn Goat Simulator. What a wretched year for games so far.

(UPDATE 5/7/2017: For those wondering, my 2014-16 GOTY picks: Banished, Cities: Skylines, and Stardew Valley, respectively. Four straight years for indie games. How ‘bout that?)

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