Nilson Carroll's Awards

5) Her Story
Part CSI and part David Lynch, with just a tiny pinch of Edward Albee, Her Story proves that the potential of FMV remains untapped even in 2015. Through the clever use of language and monologue, the narrative compels players to push forward in one of the most engaging adventure titles in recent memory. Chilling, atmospheric, but also charming and human, Her Story is best played with headphones on, deep in the quiet of the night. The finest games totally absorb their players. This is one of those games.

4) The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is the most concise and heavy game in a series of consistent masterpieces that is basically 30 years old. With some slight updates, the 3DS version preserves the atmosphere and mystery of the original and puts the game in the hands of a new generation of players. Majora's Mask is poetry, offering only players willing to think and experiment an unforgettable journey through Termina, the bizarro-Hyrule.

3) Bloodborne
Bloodborne consolidates the Souls experience in one tight Lovecraftian swoop. It's a Souls game stripped of all excess — its greatest strength and weakness. The game lacks the overwhelming quality that makes the series for me. Still, the game is pure From at its best and is probably the most disgusting game in the series. Bloodborne, a weird, decidedly gross and obtuse game with a niche birthright, somehow, is a hot PS4 seller and I love it (it just needs more skeletons).

2) Undertale
I was worried that Undertale wouldn't be the real deal. I was worried that it'd capitalize on the charms of EarthBound and then sneak out the back exit during the standing ovation. With a carefully crafted meta-narrative and colorful cast of goofballs, Undertale was a sure hit. But what ultimately makes Undertale shine (and continue to shine) is its sense of highs and lows, deadly seriousness, genuine playfulness, and deep longing. Oh, and the soundtrack is killer.

1) Xenoblade Chronicles X
Tetsuya Takahashi once said something in Nintendo Power along the lines of Xenoblade Chronicles being 5% of the scale he wants to achieve in his next game. XCX may not be 20 times the size of its predecessor, but it's pretty close. XCX is for those who wanted more from Final Fantasy XII, for those that want to be overwhelmed and smothered by their JRPGs. XCX barely satisfies that Xenogears itch, yet there is some level of maturity in its director's storytelling restraint. It might be hyperbole, but it's still true: XCX is the future of JRPGs. It's ecstasy.

Best Non-RPG of 2015

Tie: Downwell & Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
One, a single-dev love letter to retro gaming. The other, a AAA marvel of maximalist content. The former, an addictive single player experience that is as enjoyable as it is genuinely cool, a meditative game. And the latter, a sprawling multiplayer sport that induces inexplicable rage from you and all your friends at 4am. Both games seem at odd with each other and yet both are wholly necessary and almost perfect at what they seek to do.