My Game of the Years for Every Year of my Life

In September of 1989, the world became a substantially greater place. That is to say, that’s when I was born.

It wasn’t long until I developed a deep love of video games, with my gaming life stretching back as far as I can remember. As the years have gone by, my love of video games has only intensified, as has my knowledge of them (at least I like to think so).

Starting around 2003, I decided to care more about what games I thought were best, or at least my favorites (which are the same as far as I’m concerned. MY WORD IS LAW!).  Specifically, I started to think about which games stood out the most to me in any given year. That is to say, my Game of the Years.

Since that time, I have retroactively named my favorite games of every year I have walked this Earth. From my days as a humble baby up to the present, I have more or less compiled a list of my Game of the Year from then to now.

Since I recently named my Game of the Year for 2015, I thought now would be a good time to share my Games of the Year from 1989 to 2015. Keep in mind that I go by the years of each game’s North American release, because I’m American.

Admittedly, some years aren’t as definitive as others, with a couple of the years being a toss up as it currently stands (again, many of these are retroactive, so if I catch up on a game from a particular year that I missed out the first time around, and it proves to be the best game I’ve played from that year, it will take the cake).

I may as well say right now that I feel 1989 through 1997 are pretty much set in stone, as are 2000, 2003 and 2005 to today. 1998, 2001, 2002 and 2004 are marginally more flip-floppy, while I feel 1999 is currently feeling like a placeholder.

When the day comes that I feel those less decisive years become more definitive, I will create a new section of this site dedicated to my Game of the Years with more detailed descriptions of each. For now, I thought I’d shed some light on what I can in this post, especially seeing as I plan on revealing my favorite games of all time in the near future, I figured it made more sense to write about my Game of the Years before then.

So without further rambling, let’s hop aboard a DeLorean, boost up that Flux Capacitor, and hit 88 miles per hour. We’re going back to 1989!

Here are my Game of the Years from then to now (more or less).

1989: Mega Man 2

Mega Man 2

Platform: NES

Developer: Capcom

Why it’s a Game of the Year: Can you think of another game from 1989 that holds up so well? Mega Man 2 is close to perfection. The level design, the gameplay, the challenge, the music… Everything about Mega Man 2 is great. It’s timeless, and undoubtedly 1989’s standout game.

1990: Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario Bros. 3

Platform: NES

Developer: Nintendo

Why it’s a Game of the Year: Basically the same reasons as Mega Man 2. Super Mario Bros. 3 is timeless and close to perfect. In fact, when most people think of classic games, Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of the games that will immediately come to mind. It’s sublime.

Other contenders: Mega Man 3

1991: Super Mario World

Super Mario World

Platform: SNES

Developer: Nintendo

Why it’s a Game of the Year: Everything that made Super Mario Bros. 3 a classic was improved upon with Super Mario World, and it added a sense of depth to the Mario series that still serves as a benchmark. Plus, can you think of a more solidly put together video game? No, you can’t.

Other contenders: Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter 2, Toejam & Earl

1992: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

A Link to the Past

Platform: SNES

Developer: Nintendo

Why it’s a Game of the Year: I have to repeat the word “timeless” again. That’s probably the key word for many of these early entries. These are games that haven’t aged a day. And few games have defied aging quite so well as A Link to the Past. It’s still arguably the definitive Zelda adventure.

Other contenders: Super Mario Kart, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Ecco the Dolphin

1993: Secret of Mana

Secret of Mana

Platform: SNES

Developer: Square

Why it’s a Game of the Year: Combine Zelda with Final Fantasy, and you get Secret of Mana. With a combination like that, it’s a wonder why you don’t see Secret of Mana show up higher up on lists of best games ever. But Secret of Mana is more than just a hybrid of two classic series, it also has great ideas of its own, like the ring-style menus, and the way you can level up just about everything (characters, weapons, each character’s skill with said weapons, and spells). Plus, it was a three player RPG on the SNES. And don’t get me started on that glorious soundtrack!

Other contenders: Sonic the Hedgehog CD, Kirby’s Adventure

1994: Sonic the Hedgehog 3

Sonic the Hedgehog 3

Platform: Genesis

Developer: Sega

Why it’s a Game of the Year: I had to give Sega some kind of recognition. And seeing how far the Sonic series has fallen since the Genesis days, the likelihood of Sonic claiming another Game of the Year is, well, very unlikely. More importantly, this is Sonic at his best. It’s just as fun as Sonic 2, but its difficulty has aged better, and the bonus stages are more fair. Sonic may have lost his luster, but Sonic 3 is still way past cool

Other contenders: Super Metroid, Donkey Kong Country, Mega Man X, Sonic & Knuckles

1995: Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest

Donkey Kong Country 2

Platform: SNES

Developer: Rare

Why it’s a Game of the Year: Because amazing! Seriously, everything about DKC2 is great. The gameplay, the visuals, the atmosphere, the level design, and that perfect, perfect soundtrack! How much do I love DKC2? Well, it claims this top honor in a year that also saw Chrono Trigger, EarthBound and Yoshi’s Island. Damn, 1995 was freaking awesome!

Other contenders: Yoshi’s Island, EarthBound, Chrono Trigger

1996: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Super Mario RPG

Platform: SNES

Developer: Square

Why it’s a Game of the Year: Same reasons as DKC2, but in RPG form. This is a game that took the Super Mario series, and placed it in a genre that felt like the complete opposite of what Mario games are. And yet it all worked. So well, in fact, that it’s still my favorite RPG.

Do I also need to add that 1996 repeated the awesomeness of 1995?

Other contenders: Super Mario 64, Nights Into Dreams, Kirby Superstar, Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble

1997: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Symphony of the Night

Platform: Playstation

Developer: Konami

Why it’s a Game of the Year: Because so few video games exude such excellence as Symphony of the Night. It mastered a genre, redefined a franchise, and remains a timeless and breathtaking gaming experience even today.

Other contenders: Mega Man 8, Star Fox 64, Diddy Kong Racing, Mario Kart 64, Saturn Bomberman, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee

1998: Banjo-Kazooie

Banjo-Kazooie

Platform: Nintendo 64

Developer: Rare

Why it’s a Game of the Year: I know, I know. I’m “supposed” to just place Ocarina of Time here and call it a day. But while Ocarina of Time may be excellent, I was more obsessed with Banjo-Kazooie as a kid, and I’ve replayed it more than Ocarina. So there.

Anyway, Banjo-Kazooie is one of the best 3D platformers out there, and one of the few N64 games that has held up exceedingly well with time. This was Rare at their best.

Other contenders: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Pokemon Red & Blue, Crash Bandicoot: Warped, Brave Fencer Musashi, Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus, Mega Man Legends

1999: Super Smash Bros.

Super Smash Bros.

Platform: Nintendo 64

Developer: Nintendo

Why it’s a Game of the Year: I admit, I don’t recall a whole lot of 1999 video games, and those that I do remember don’t exactly hold up swimmingly (Donkey Kong 64, Perfect Dark). So let’s go with Super Smash Bros. for the time being. After all, Smash Bros. has always been fun, and this is the game that kickstarted one of my favorite series.

2000: Banjo-Tooie

Banjo-Tooie

Platform: Nintendo 64

Developer: Rare

Why it’s a Game of the Year: In many ways, Banjo-Tooie is a great example of how to do a video game sequel right. It may not be quite as “perfect” as Banjo-Kazooie, but it does make everything bigger, and add more content to just about every category, including a surprisingly addictive FPS multiplayer mode.

These were the days where Rare’s games were seemingly endless bags of ideas. Banjo-Tooie exemplified this.

Other contenders: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, The Misadventures of Tron Bonne, Pokemon Gold and Silver, Diablo 2, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards

2001: Halo: Combat Evolved

Halo

Platform: Xbox

Developer: Bungie

Why it’s a Game of the Year: It’s easy to argue that the sequels added to the formula, but the fact remains that the first Halo got it right from the get-go. It’s also held up surprisingly well for an FPS, if the Anniversary Edition is any indication, anyway.  Not to mention it was one of the most important launch games ever. And don’t tell me you didn’t spend countless hours with capture the flag.

Other contenders: Paper Mario, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Pikmin, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Ico, Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy

2002: Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos

Warcraft 3

Platform: PC

Developer: Blizzard

Why it’s a Game of the Year: Ignoring the fact that Blizzard has some of the poorest storytelling capabilities in the medium, their games tend to be really fun. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend more hours in Warcraft 3 than any other RTS I’ve played. Its four armies were all distinct and varied, and the hero units added a fun RPG element to the mix.

Other contenders: Metroid Prime, Animal Crossing, Super Mario Sunshine

2003: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

The Wind Waker

Platform: GameCube

Developer: Nintendo

Why it’s a Game of the Year: While everyone else bemoaned Wind Waker’s cel shading from the get-go, I was one of the few who was immediately drawn into its beauty (it certainly caught the eye more than the generic Spaceworld 2000 demo). When the game was finally released, it lived up to my anticipation, and provided one of gaming’s greatest adventures. Not to mention it’s arguably the most timeless Zelda.

Other contenders: Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, Viewtiful Joe, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Mario Kart: Double Dash

2004: Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2

Platform: PC

Developer: Valve

Why it’s a Game of the Year: I’m going to be honest, 2004 could easily go to Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. But for the sake of some variety, I tip the scale to Half-Life 2 here. It’s one of the few FPSs that gets the combination of story and gameplay just right, and created some wonderful innovations along the way, like the Gravity Gun.

Other contenders: Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Pikmin 2, Katamari Damacy

2005: Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus

Platform: Playstation 2

Developer: Team Ico

Why it’s a Game of the Year: The poster boy for the whole “video games as an art form” thing, Shadow of the Colossus manages to tell a story that could only be told through the video game medium, and combines it with a unique gameplay experience, turning what is essentially a giant boss rush into something truly meaningful.

Other contenders: Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath, Resident Evil 4, WarioWare Twisted

2006: Okami

Okami

Platform: Playstation 2

Developer: Clover Studios

Why it’s a Game of the Year: The best Zelda not called Zelda, Okami is a truly breathtaking adventure. Gorgeous imagery, great gameplay, and wonderful Japanese aesthetics come together to create something beautiful.

Other contenders: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Wii Sports

2007: Super Mario Galaxy

Super Mario Galaxy

Platform: Wii

Developer: Nintendo Tokyo

Why it’s a Game of the Year: Super Mario Galaxy is pure magic. It captured that indescribable joy and high caliber excellence of Nintendo’s best titles from their heyday. It recreated the feelings one had when playing the likes of Super Mario Bros. 3 or A Link to the Past, and made it brand new again. Few games are so joyous.

Other contenders: The Orange Box, Halo 3, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure

2008: Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Brawl

Platform: Wii

Developer: Nintendo

Why it’s a Game of the Year: Yes, this is the Super Smash Bros. with tripping. But it’s also the Super Smash Bros. that had the most creative characters and level designs up to that point. It has its flaws, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend more hours in Brawl than any other game of 2008 (or any other game until Smash 4, for that matter).

Other contenders: Left 4 Dead, Street Fighter IV, Mega Man 9

2009: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Uncharted 2

Platform: Playstation 3

Developer: Naughty Dog

Why it’s a Game of the Year: Since I didn’t actually play Uncharted 2 in 2009, this would have originally gone to Batman: Arkham Asylum or Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story. But Uncharted 2 is simply a classic, and a fine example of everything a sequel should be. It exudes excellence, charm, and captures the feel of an Indiana Jones flick like no video game before or since.

Other contenders: Batman: Arkham Asylum, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, Left 4 Dead 2

2010: Super Mario Galaxy 2

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Platform: Wii

Developer: Nintendo Tokyo

Why it’s a Game of the Year: Super Mario Galaxy was a near-flawless game in its own right. Yet somehow, Super Mario Galaxy 2 managed to better it in virtually every way. From a technical standpoint, it’s one of the most polished video games ever made. And it’s also one of the most creative, inventive and fun. It’s pure gaming bliss.

Other contenders: Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Halo Reach, Mega Man 10

2011: Portal 2

Portal 2

Platform: Multiplatform

Developer: Valve

Why it’s a Game of the Year: Portal 2 is another example of what I consider to be a perfect game. Like the Mario Galaxy titles (of which the Portal series has a number of parallels), Portal produced a sequel that somehow outshined the sublime original, and polished its every aspect to near perfection. It’s genius.

Other contenders: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Batman: Arkham City, Dark Souls, Sonic Generations, Mario Kart 7, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

2012: Dishonored

Dishonored

Platform: Multiplatform

Developer: Arkane Studios

Why it’s a Game of the Year: I’m going to be honest, 2012 was probably the most empty gaming year I’ve experienced, as it seemed like few games were released that interested me, let alone wowed me. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that at least one gem was released that year in the form of Dishonored. A story-driven FPS that tried its hand at some gameplay twists, Dishonored was a surprisingly good game that has seen relatively modest acclaim. Hopefully the sequel gets more recognition.

Other contenders: Halo 4

2013: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Ni No Kuni

Platform: Playstation 3

Developer: Level 5

Why it’s a Game of the Year: Ni no Kuni is a game that took old JRPG conventions and made them feel new again. A quasi-hybrid of Dragon Quest and Pokemon, Ni no Kuni combined great RPG gameplay with one of gaming’s most touching stories, inspired by the films of the unparalleled Studio Ghibli, who also provided the game’s beautiful artwork.

Other contenders: Super Mario 3D World, The Last of Us, Pikmin 3, The Legend of Zelda: A link Between Worlds, Animal Crossing: New Leaf

2014: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Tropical Freeze

Platform: Wii U

Developer: Retro Studios

Why it’s a Game of the Year: Seldom has a platformer been this fun, or this challenging. Every level is something new, with each one of them given a staggering attention to detail. Few games have such a love of the craft so proudly on display. Also, David Wise!

Other contenders: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Mario Kart 8, Shovel Knight, Bayonetta 2, Dark Souls 2

2015: Undertale

Undertale

Platform: PC

Developer: Toby Fox

Why it’s a Game of the Year: Because it’s the best indie game I’ve ever played. An RPG where every battle is something different, and you don’t have to hurt anything. It’s funny, touching, and original. A modern classic

Other contenders: Super Mario Maker, Splatoon, Bloodborne, Rocket League, Yoshi’s Wooly World

Now maybe you have a good understanding of my taste in gaming. I think it’s pretty obvious that I most enjoy games that emphasize gameplay over all else, my favorite narrative games tend to be ones that are humorous and kind of sad, and I’m bigger on exclusives than multiplatform games. Also, Mario is totally the best series.

Again, not all of these winners are set in stone, but I think they give a good insight into which games I feel have proven the best of their respective years. Here’s hoping 2016 gives us a worthy successor to all the above games.

Guess I better start on my favorite games of all time list…

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19 thoughts on “My Game of the Years for Every Year of my Life

  1. AfterStory

    This is an excellent post with a very original idea ☺️ I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do anything like this before so kudos for you! I don’t think I’ve played enough games to select a game of the year for every single year of my life, but man after this post, I really want to give it a try! And I love the amount of variety you have here, a copious amount of different genres, so that there’s for everyone on this list 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. themancalledscott Post author

      Thanks much! 🙂 I try to be creative when I can, so I’m glad to know it’s appreciated. If you can come up with a similar list, you should definitely go for it. Also glad to hear someone thinks I have varied taste. It seems if anyone brags up Nintendo these days they are automatically labelled a fanboy. But dang it, Mario has earned his rep!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. ThatOneCommenter

    Man you sure have had your experience with games, I remember I once did something of the sort, but from 1991 onwards as my interest in gaming started to pick with the SNES and Genesis. If I had written that thing somewhere, I’d share it with you, but I don’t think I have…
    Anyhow, I agree that most of these are great games (and those that I don’t think they are is because I likely havent tried them yet). Mario World, Sonic 3 (which I put alongside with S&K because they were pretty much meant to be one game) and Symphony of the Night are all some of the best 2D platformers you could ask for, I feel neither has shown a single sign of age and it’ll likely remain that way. The Banjo series is one I have pending to play, but unfortunately my only current access to them is through emulators, which I’m already not a big fan of using them, but for a 3D platformer in particular is an absolute no. Looking at the release of 1999 games…I’d say if my choice isn’t Smash Bros it’d likely be Spyro 2, which I think is the only game in the series that has hold fairly well despite some obvious aging problems (although I’m sure many others would likely put System Shock 2 or Age of Empires 2 instead). I personally enjoy Okami moreso than any other Zelda game I’ve played, I still love Brawl despite the addition of tripping, and Galaxy 2 and Portal 2 are excellent sequels. 2012 was definitely a bore for games, I only recall loving Persona 4 Arena, there were a few other nice releases, but none of them I’d say were GotY material. Honestly though, I’d say I felt 2015 was more lackluster, so many delays of hyped games with very little noteworthy games left behind (at least as far as my tastes go). I’ve yet to try Undertale, but besides that, I feel I haven’t missed on anything last year.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. themancalledscott Post author

      Happy to see we have similar taste (albeit with some differences, which are always important). I can understand 2015 not being someone’s cup of tea in terms of gaming, what with all the delays and all. But I think the games that did grab my attention did so to great extents. But that’s just me.

      Definitely give Undertale, Banjo and the like a go if you get the opportunity.

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

      Like

      Reply
      1. ThatOneCommenter

        Welp, there I decided to make a quick list of my GotY, if you were curious to compare a bit.
        1991: Super Mario World
        1992: The Legend of Zelda a Link to the Past
        1993: Megaman X
        1994: Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles
        1995: Chrono Trigger
        1996: Kirby Super Star
        1997: Castlevania Symphony of the Night
        1998: The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time
        1999: Super Smash Bros.
        2000: The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask
        2001: Super Smash Bros Melee (whilst Melee is my least favorite of the series and there were a few other cool releases at the time, I can’t deny this one is the game I had the most fun of that year, and none of my contenders really are on the same category of quality)
        2002: Metroid Prime
        2003: Fire Emblem
        2004: Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne
        2005: Fire Emblem Path of Radiance (this one was kind of hard to choose, lots of great releases)
        2006: Okami
        2007: Shin Megami Tensei Persona 3
        2008: Shin Megami Tensei Persona 4 (lots of great releases here too! I’d have given it to Brawl originally, but with the new game I see little reason to return to it besides being able to use my main, Snake)
        2009: Shin Megami Tensei Devil Survivor
        2010: Super Mario Galaxy 2 (another hard year to choose a favorite, so many great releases)
        2011: Kirby’s Returns to Dreamland (same as 2010)
        2012: Persona 4 Arena (meanwhile this one was really easy)
        2013: Dragon’s Crown
        2014: Shovel Knight
        2015: Ori and the Blind Forest (and this one was also pretty simple)

        Liked by 1 person

    2. themancalledscott Post author

      Definitely a great lineup of games you have there. A lot of classics for sure. Unfortunately, I don’t have much experience with Shin Megami Tensei, so I’ll have to get around to rectifying that sooner or later. Again, great list! 🙂

      Like

      Reply
  3. alex9234

    Hey, now that I think about it, I think I’ll post my own list like yours! Here’s what I’ve got for the years I was alive:
    1994: Super Metroid
    1995: Chrono Trigger
    1996: Super Mario 64
    1997: Tie between Star Fox 64 and Mega Man X4
    1998: 4-way tie between Xenogears, Resident Evil 2, Metal Gear Solid, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (There’s really no easy answer for 1998 LOL)
    1999: Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
    2000: Front Mission 3
    2001: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
    2002: Super Mario Sunshine
    2003: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
    2004: Tales of Symphonia
    2005: Resident Evil 4
    2006: Mother 3
    2007: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
    2008: Tie between Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Persona 4
    2009: New Super Mario Bros. Wii
    2010: Super Mario Galaxy 2
    2011: Portal 2
    2012: Resident Evil Revelations
    2013: Fire Emblem Awakening
    2014: Smash 4
    2015: Super Mario Maker

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
      1. alex9234

        Oh, and if you haven’t played Xenogears yet, I highly recommend that you do. IMO it’s the best Square RPG on the PS1 and is the closest thing to a FFVI/Chrono Trigger experience on the PS1 that you’ll find. It will blow your mind. I cannot recommend it enough.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Matt

    Awesome and incredibly interesting read!

    I would place Super Metroid as the best of 1994 and The Thousand Year Door as the best of 2004. But other than that, there is not much I can disagree with! You have great taste, sir.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. themancalledscott Post author

      Thank you very much! 🙂

      There were definitely some years that were hard to pick, and 1994 and 2004 were definitely among them. But I had to give the classic Sonic games a mention somewhere. And like I said, 2004 was a toss-up with Half-Life 2 and Thousand-Year Door. I went with Half-Life 2 to show a greater variety, since I have five Mario games claiming GotY and over a dozen others as runners-up. Again, it was an either/or kind of thing. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
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      1. themancalledscott Post author

        Cool. If you do end up making it let me know. I’d be very intrigued to see how it turns out. I may even have to revise mine in the future, since I’ve recently come to remember how much I love the first two Paper Marios (one of them should have got GotY from year, now that I think bout it). I should also play more 1999 video games (had I made this list around the same time last year, I probably would have went with DK64, but after playing it again on Wii U, it hasn’t aged gracefully. So I’m clearly not set in stone with some of these selections).

        Also glad to see you have some extra years to work with. It will make for an even better read, I’m sure.

        Liked by 1 person

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