I played a fair number of video games last year, and now that we’re in the second week of the New Year I think it’s time to reveal my Game of the Year (GOTY) for 2016. Game developers, journalists, and players all over the world have been waiting with baited breath for an insignificant online writer with effectively no social media following to announce his pick for 2016’s GOTY, and the wait will soon be over. This whole week I have dedicated to my GOTY award, so let’s get the hype train started.

But first, a few notes about the rules for my GOTY, as they are a little different from what you’ll find in most other places. The first rule is that for a game to be considered for the GOTY I must have played the game for the first time in 2016. That might sound straightforward at first, but keep in mind that I’m perpetually late when it comes to playing games, so that means we have nominees from several different years going head-to-head in the competition. The second rule is that I must have played a substantial amount of a game and/or completed it for it to be considered for the GOTY. If you’ve been reading my game commentaries from last year you know that some games I only put a few hours into, while others got in-depth playthroughs. Games like Overwatch, Driveclub, and Star Wars: Battlefront, which I only messed around with for a little while, did not make the cut, and honestly it would be really unfair if any of them won the GOTY award. At the same time, a game that’s inherently short can make the list, but only if I finish it.

Originally I was going to have a list of 10 nominees, but as I looked at the games I had played last year and thought about each of them I was having such a hard time picking only 10 that I increased the number of nominees to 12, but even then it was still an arduous process. While there were games that clearly were not GOTY material, there were plenty that, even if they wouldn’t win the GOTY, had a strong case for being on the list of nominees. To keep things fair, I took the time to reread some of my writings and I rewatched my gameplay footage from the games under consideration. After a lot of deliberation, and some agonizing decisions, the final list of 12 nominees is ready. For the first four days of this week I will highlight three games each day that are nominated for the GOTY, and on Friday I will make the big reveal.

And today’s nominees are…

Batman: Arkham Knight
The fourth and final game in the Arkham series brings Batman back for one long, final night of battling crime in Gotham City. Scarecrow, aided by the mysterious Arkham Knight, has Gotham under siege and it’s up to Batman and his allies to retake the city. The signature Arkham gameplay and storytelling the series has been known for, combined an impressive open world Gotham City, make for a powerful conclusion to the Arkham series.

 

Borderlands 2
The lone PS3/Xbox 360 game on this year’s list shows that a last-generation game can still stand with its contemporary brethren. Bullets, explosions, and jokes litter every last inch of Borderlands 2, and an addictive loot cycle continually supplies you with new gear to up your arsenal. Complimenting the nuttiness of the gameplay are a cast of absurd and memorable characters whose humor is perfectly fitting for the world they inhabit, with the standout being Handsome Jack—one of the best video game villains in recent memory.

 

The Order: 1886
An alternate history Victorian London is the backdrop for a tale of Arthurian knights protecting humanity from the beasts of lore. The Order: 1886 created a stunningly realized universe through its graphics and world design, and told a good story of both heroics and intrigue. Gameplay issues (or as some would say, a lack of gameplay) hold it back from reaching its fullest potential, but The Order: 1886 did so much right that I can’t help but love it in spite of its flaws.

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