GOTY 2016: Best Moment

This year we've brought back our category awards to recognize achievements in specific areas of game development. There are ten awards in all, with two new ones being awarded every day this week. Keep checking back for more winners!

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Best Moment: “Absorption” - Inside

Playdead | June 29, 2016 (initial release) | PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One

Runners-up: “Domestic bliss” - Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End; “Breaking through a planet’s atmosphere for the first time” - No Man’s Sky

Do I have to warn anyone reading this about spoilers? Fine, there’s your warning.

If you haven’t played Inside, I do recommend experiencing it for yourself. The final 30 minutes of the game made my jaw drop. Not until the ending did I catch myself, a slight bit of spittle at the corner of my mouth, and snap out of the trance I was in. The game’s climax and subsequent shocking decrescendo were perhaps the most memorable in-game events of 2016. Despite the pedigree of our top 10 list, Inside will stick with me for years to come.

So maybe I’m cheating a bit: The final chapter of a game is not quite a singular “moment” as this award is named, but I’ve expanded the definition to suit my justification for labeling Inside a gloriously disturbing shock. Developer Playdead, of Limbo fame, went beyond its prior work to offer a spin on body horror and pen a gruesome homage to John Carpenter’s The Thing.

Some previews and internet pundits painted Inside as a tired repeat of Limbo. But Playdead pushed the player in the final act by tossing out the strategies that had been useful up until that point, and grossing us all out with a disturbing final sequence.

After I finishing the game I thought that maybe Inside’s final act makes it a one-hit-wonder, a singular shock value experience that undercuts its long term merits and negates any need to play through the story a second time. There’s some truth to that argument. However, as far as moments go, Inside had the best one this year. — Aaron Thayer