Sasquatch in Repose: A look back on GOTYs past

Yalta I’m proud of everything we’ve done at Silicon Sasquatch over the last four years, but I’ll be the first to admit we’re not perfect. I’ve written my fair share of lopsided opinion pieces, after all. But now that we’re just a week away from kicking off our fourth Game of the Year feature, I think it’s worth looking back on the games that were cruelly omitted from lists in the past.

The Game of the Year voting process is simple but inherently flawed. We’re limited by the number of games we’re all able to play, which means it can be nearly impossible to land even the most groundbreaking game on our list if only one of us played it. Each year I’ve tried and failed to land at least a couple outstanding games on our list, as has everyone else here. It’s cruel, but it’s the price we all pay to collaborate on a project we all feel really strongly about.

Each year there have been a handful of games that, in hindsight, really deserved to be recognized as truly special. This is my attempt to make amends and to make sure some of our less-fortunate favorites finally get a chance to be seen.

2009

Game of the Year: Batman: Arkham Asylum

This was the easiest consensus we’ve ever reached in naming our Game of the Year, and in hindsight it still probably deserves top honors. But we neglected a couple landmark games from 2009, which is pretty crazy when you consider that New Super Mario Bros. Wii landed pretty comfortably in the middle of our top-ten list.

Like I said: we’re not perfect.

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Assassin’s Creed II

I’d just begun to sink some time into the sequel to the ambitious and flawed original Assassin’s Creed, so I didn’t feel qualified to fight for this one at the time of our deliberations. But once the rest of the staff had a chance to play through Assassin’s Creed II, we all realized we’d made a mistake. This was a massive improvement over the original game, delivering a compelling protagonist, a rich historical narrative and a beautifully realized Renaissance Italy to explore.

Now that we’ve seen three more games released with the Assassin’s Creed name, it’s even more clear to me that Assassin’s Creed II really was the high-water mark for the series. Brotherhood was perhaps the most polished from a game balancing perspective, but ACII’s expansiveness and audacity set it apart.

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Street Fighter IV

Before Street Fighter IV came along, it’d been years since we’d seen a truly excellent fighting game. The other big names in fighting – Soul Calibur, Dead or Alive, Tekken, Mortal Kombat – had all tapered off to some degree in quality and frequency of releases, and it seemed like the genre was all but exhausted.

A few iterations later, Street Fighter IV still stands as one of the best fighting games to come along in years. And since it was welcomed onto the scene with critical and commercial success, other struggling series like Mortal Kombat have made a comeback in a big way. From my point of view, Street Fighter IV made the case for the continued relevance of fighting games, and it raised the bar for quality and value.

2010

Game of the Year: Red Dead Redemption

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Bayonetta

What a weird, weird game. I wrote a pretty exhaustive analysis shortly after I finished it, probably because I was having trouble reconciling my love for the game with its absurd, hypersexualized presentation.

Almost three years later, Bayonetta’s still the best character action game I’ve ever played. Its immaculate, fluid combat system and tight level design are still unmatched in my experience, and it makes me wonder if any other major developer can match Platinum in daring, ambition and dedication to quality. If you missed it the first time around, it’s never too late to check this one out.

[Editor's Note - Doug thought this article wouldn't be complete without a rehashing of one of the most heated standoffs in this blog's history. Here's his recollection of that fateful day.]

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Our Personal Voting Hullabaloo

Hoo boy. This will be a little inside baseball for all you Silicon Sasquatch fans. As you may well know, each of our core group - Nick, Aaron, Doug, Tyler and Spencer - have disparate tastes in games. Often they overlap, but we also each have our particular niches. Voting for the 2010 Game of the Year became quite possibly the most contentious moment in Sasquatch history.

It became a Mexican standoff to decide number one. On one side stood Nick, Spencer, and Minecraft; on another, Doug, Tyler, and Mass Effect 2. Aaron was trapped in the middle, but without a strong allegiance to either. There was absolutely zero budging: the Minecraft crew pointed to how this wacky little survival-cum-creation game came out of nowhere with unique retail and gameplay styles while the Mass Effect stalwarts discussed the characterization and gameplay improvements from its excellent predecessor. They also didn't want to give the title to something still in alpha; Nick and Spencer thought that shouldn't matter. Votes were cast and re-cast, and finally, Red Dead Redemption was mooted as an alternative. The console crew shifted allegiance and joined Aaron, and Rockstar's spaghetti western wound up with the title.  — Doug Bonham

2011

Game of the Year: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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Saints Row: The Third

I’ve got a soft spot for games that try to do something totally crazy, even if it comes at the cost of delivering a cohesive and consistent experience. I’ve played enough games by now that I’d much rather be caught off guard or pleasantly surprised than spend time with an immaculate but overly familiar game.

For that reason, Saints Row: The Third would’ve easily trumped Skyrim if I’d been the only voter in last year’s top-ten list. When this was mentioned in voting for the 2012 GOTY awards, the feeling was almost unanimous. Now that we've all played it, we all get it. The game’s now infamous for its over-the-top humor, biting satire and brilliant knack for setting the player up for iconic, memorable experiences. All I have to do is mention two totally different songs by name – “Power” by Kanye West and Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero” – and if you’ve played Saints Row: The Third you’re already nodding your head in agreement with this sentence.

A year after the fact, I think Saints Row: The Third’s greatest contribution is that it finally nailed the concept of the videogame as pop-culture satire. From the word go, nothing was sacred in that game, and it made its statement with an acerbic wit and hilarious comedic timing.