Bronze: Stick it to the Man by Zoink!
Stick it to the Man is quite the surprise. Not only is it a surprise in that it kind of came out of nowhere, but also a surprise as it feels like the kind of game that people have wanted Tim Schafer to make this entire time. Deeply influenced by LucasArts adventure games of old, Stick it to the Man explores a bizarre world filled with bizarre characters through an incredible bizarre series of events. Stick it to the Man's sharp, funny writing goes for both the low hanging simple gags and the more complex social critiques that video games often trip upon and fail to navigate effectively. While it's not really the most engaging dramatic narrative in a game this year, Stick it to the Man's story is smart and fun and funny, all of which we could use more of in the video game industry nowadays.
by: Isaac Wagner
Silver: The Wolf Among Us by Telltale Games
Telltale have put out a ton of games, especially this year, all of which they remained close to the well-honed formula of adventure game that Telltale established with the incredible first season of The Walking Dead. But by far their most successful story of this year was The Wolf Among Us. While based off of a successful comic book franchise, it was most likely the least anticipated Telltale experience between the highly anticipated second season of The Walking Dead, the strange existence of Tales from the Borderlands, and their take on the beloved Game of Thrones entertainment property. The Wolf Among Us proved to be the smartest and most socially relevant of the bunch, introducing an intoxicating neo-noir narrative filled with some of the best characters Telltale has realized in a complex mystery that continually had me engrossed and guessing throughout its season 1 run. Indeed, an argument could be made that its episodic nature probably hurt its tale more than it helped, but after its incredible sucker-punch ending, it's impossible to deny that The Wolf Among Us was not one of the best stories that any video game told this year.
by: Isaac Wagner
Gold: Wolfenstein: The New Order by MachineGames
A dumb first-person shooter taking the gold? Get out of here, right? No, Wolfenstein: The New Order's story managed to blow away my expectations and it has actually raised the bar on terms of storytelling in a shooter. I love how MachineGames managed to take the classic Wolfenstein formula - one man army hero, Nazis and lots of weapons - and actually managed to make a surprisingly smart and engrossing tale. What makes Wolfenstein: The New Order so interesting is that it takes its story and characters seriously. Yes, BJ Blazkowicz is pretty much the same as he ever was and he is something of a relic within our industry. We tend to get more human and vulnerable heroes in our games now, and BJ feels anachronism in comparison. MachineGames play around with this concept excellently, firstly taking him out of the standard World War II setting that we have scene many times and now, he is battling even more technologically advanced Nazis in the 1960s. BJ's journey in Wolfenstein: The New Order is surprisingly compelling and I was shocked how good it was. The supporting characters are pretty good too and the game does a pretty good job of combining both ridiculous scenes and concepts with the horror and impact that the war is having on innocent people. Occasionally, The New Order's tone flip flops too easily between being serious and dumb but generally, the correct balance is achieved and yeah, just play Wolfenstein: The New Order!
by: Ross Hartley