Game of the Year Award Winners: From the Year 2003 to 2023
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The Game of the Year award is an annual honor bestowed upon video games that demonstrate excellence in artistry, creativity, and gameplay. This coveted award was once facilitated by the “Spike Video Game Awards“, which operated from 2003 to 2013, but transitioned to “The Game Awards organization” in 2014. The Spike Video Game Awards were dissolved in 2013, and Geoff Keighley, a leading figure in the industry, stepped up to continue the tradition by creating his own video game award show, “The Game Awards”. The listing below is based on The Game Awards (2014 Onwards) / Spike Video Game Awards (2003 to 2013).
2003: Madden NFL 2004
Madden NFL 2004, released by EA Sports, was a revolutionary game in the world of sports video games. It not only offered enhanced gameplay mechanics but also expanded upon the strategic depth of its predecessor. The game introduced the groundbreaking “Playmaker Control,” allowing players to alter plays on the fly and deliver a more tactical approach to football. With immersive graphics and an impressive franchise mode offering players a deep-dive into team management, Madden NFL 2004 was a comprehensive package. The game’s dedication to authenticity, coupled with its engaging gameplay, earned it the Game of the Year award in 2003, cementing its place in sports gaming history.
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
- SOCOM II U.S. Navy SEALs
- Star Wars Galaxies
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
- Freedom Fighters
- SSX 3
- Tom Clancy’s Splinter cell
- Tony Hawk’s Underground
2004: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
In 2004, the Game of the Year accolade went to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, developed by Rockstar Games. Expanding upon the successful formula of its predecessors, San Andreas introduced players to a sprawling open world encompassing three distinct cities inspired by Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. The narrative followed the story of Carl “CJ” Johnson, who returned home to a life of crime after his mother’s murder. The game’s thematic exploration of gang culture, family, and the American dream set against the backdrop of the ’90s was both ambitious and compelling. San Andreas was also notable for its gameplay enhancements, including a more extensive set of side activities and character customization options. From engaging in turf wars to building CJ’s physical attributes, San Andreas offered a depth and variety of gameplay that raised the bar for open-world games, thus earning its place as 2004’s Game of the Year.
- Half-Life 2
- Burnout 3: Takedown
- Halo 2
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
2005: Resident Evil 4
The Game of the Year 2005, Resident Evil 4, marked a significant evolution in Capcom’s beloved franchise. Shifting from the traditional survival horror elements of its predecessors, Resident Evil 4 emphasized action and introduced an over-the-shoulder third-person shooter perspective. The game’s protagonist, Leon S. Kennedy, faced new horrifying enemies in a mysterious rural village in Spain. Resident Evil 4 impressed critics and players alike with its tense atmosphere, intelligent enemy design, and innovative gameplay mechanics. It not only reinvigorated the Resident Evil series but also had a lasting impact on the broader world of action-horror games.
- God of War
- Call of Duty 2
- World of Warcraft
2006: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, developed by Bethesda Game Studios, won the Game of the Year award in 2006. Oblivion provided players with an enormous, detailed fantasy world to explore, filled with diverse quests, complex characters, and deep lore. The game featured a dynamic character leveling system and an impressive voice acting ensemble, including Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean. Oblivion’s detailed world-building, immersive storytelling, and freedom of choice offered players an unparalleled role-playing experience. Its successful blend of fantasy world exploration, combat, and decision-making set a new benchmark for open-world RPGs.
- Gears of War
- Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
- Guitar Hero 2
Bioshock, a first-person shooter with profound narrative and aesthetic depth, bagged the Game of the Year award in 2007. Developed by Irrational Games, Bioshock transported players to the undersea city of Rapture, a place defined by its Art Deco architecture and a dark history of utopian ideals gone awry. Bioshock’s unique blend of gripping storytelling, atmospheric world-building, and inventive gameplay, like its DNA-altering Plasmids, made it stand out. The game masterfully intertwined philosophical themes with a deeply personal narrative, providing a thoughtful exploration of objectivism, free will, and the nature of humanity.
- The Orange Box
- Halo 3
- Mass Effect
2008: Grand Theft Auto IV
In 2008, Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto IV emerged as the Game of the Year. The game took players to Liberty City, a satirical reimagining of New York City, seen through the eyes of Niko Bellic, an immigrant from Eastern Europe. With a compelling narrative, rich characters, and a meticulously crafted open world, GTA IV took the series to new heights. The game was renowned for its thematic depth, exploring the American Dream’s pitfalls and the struggle for success in a morally complex world. The sandbox-style gameplay, coupled with intense story-driven missions, made Grand Theft Auto IV an unforgettable experience.
- Fallout 3
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
- Gears of War 2
2009: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, developed by Naughty Dog, won the Game of the Year title in 2009. This action-adventure masterpiece told the story of Nathan Drake, a charismatic treasure hunter, who embarks on a perilous journey to discover the lost city of Shambhala. Uncharted 2 was notable for its cinematic storytelling, breathtaking visuals, and pulse-pounding gameplay. From thrilling gunfights to nail-biting platforming sequences, Uncharted 2 offered a perfect blend of action and narrative, establishing itself as a milestone in video game storytelling. Its rich characterization and emotional depth made the player’s connection with Nathan and his companions profoundly engaging.
- Assassin’s Creed II
- Batman: Arkham Asylum
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
- Left 4 Dead 2
2010: Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption, another masterpiece from Rockstar Games, won the Game of the Year award in 2010. Set in the twilight years of the American frontier, the game introduced players to John Marston, a former outlaw seeking redemption. Red Dead Redemption offered an immersive open-world experience, rich with narrative depth and populated with memorable characters. From its sprawling wilderness to the frontier towns brimming with life, the game presented a meticulous and nuanced representation of the Wild West. Coupled with a captivating narrative and compelling gameplay mechanics, Red Dead Redemption established itself as one of the most iconic video games of its generation.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops
- God of War III
- Mass Effect 2
- Halo: Reach
2011: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim, the fifth installment in The Elder Scrolls series, was recognized as Game of the Year in 2011. Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, Oblivion, Skyrim improved upon the open-world formula by offering an even more expansive and detailed world for players to explore. The game’s main narrative, involving the player’s character as the Dragonborn, was enriched by countless side quests and the freedom to explore the high peaks and deep valleys of Skyrim. With its breathtaking visuals, intricate quest design, and robust character progression system, Skyrim left a lasting impact on the RPG genre.
- Batman: Arkham City
- Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
- Portal 2
2012: The Walking Dead: Season One
2012’s Game of the Year award went to The Walking Dead: Season One from Telltale Games. Based on Robert Kirkman’s comic series, The Walking Dead brought a profound narrative depth to the realm of video games, focusing on character development and difficult moral choices. Players experienced the harsh realities of a zombie apocalypse through the eyes of Lee Everett, tasked with protecting a young girl named Clementine. Its episodic format and the emphasis on choices and their consequences made The Walking Dead a standout title, creating a deep emotional connection between the players and the game’s characters.
- Assassin’s Creed III
- Mass Effect 3
2013: Grand Theft Auto V
Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto V, the winner of the Game of the Year award in 2013, pushed the boundaries of the open-world genre. Featuring a sprawling, satirical representation of Southern California and the city of Los Santos, the game offered players an unprecedented three playable characters to control. This ambitious narrative structure, along with the game’s improved mechanics, expansive world, and the inclusion of GTA Online, made Grand Theft Auto V a ground-breaking achievement in the realm of video games.
- BioShock Infinite
- Super Mario 3D World
- Tomb Raider
- The Last of Us
2014: Dragon Age: Inquisition
In 2014, Dragon Age: Inquisition, developed by Bioware, claimed the Game of the Year title under The Game Awards organization. This epic fantasy role-playing game presented a vast, beautiful world filled with diverse regions, compelling characters, and intricate quests. As the Inquisitor, players embarked on a journey to close the Breach in the sky and restore order to the world of Thedas. Inquisition’s branching narrative, deep character development, tactical combat, and rich lore earned it widespread praise, setting a new standard for the genre and Bioware’s storytelling prowess.
- Bayonetta 2
- Dark Souls II
- Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
- Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
2015: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, developed by CD Projekt Red, was a crowning achievement of the decade, bagging the Game of the Year award in 2015. It followed the story of Geralt of Rivia, a seasoned monster hunter, in his most personal and ambitious adventure yet. The Witcher 3 offered a vast open world rich with narrative depth, complex characters, and meaningful side quests. The game was lauded for its superb storytelling, dynamic combat, and mature themes, making it not just a memorable RPG, but a groundbreaking narrative achievement.
- Fallout 4
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
- Super Mario Maker
In 2016, the Game of the Year award went to Overwatch, a team-based multiplayer first-person shooter developed by Blizzard Entertainment. Overwatch set itself apart with its vibrant, diverse cast of characters, each with their unique abilities and roles. The game emphasized teamwork and strategy over individual skill, making every match a unique and dynamic experience. With its inclusive character designs, engaging gameplay, and commitment to continuous updates and community engagement, Overwatch quickly rose to prominence in the world of competitive online gaming.
- Titanfall 2
- Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
2017: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, developed by Nintendo, was honored as Game of the Year in 2017. Breath of the Wild offered a reimagined, expansive Hyrule for players to explore, filled with puzzles, secrets, and danger. The game was renowned for its open-ended gameplay and attention to detail, which encouraged players to interact with the environment and learn through experimentation. Breath of the Wild’s innovative design, compelling story, and stunning visuals have made it one of the most memorable entries in The Legend of Zelda franchise.
- Horizon Zero Dawn
- Persona 5
- PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
- Super Mario Odyssey
2018: God of War
In 2018, the Game of the Year award was taken by God of War, an action-adventure game developed by Santa Monica Studio. This iteration of God of War beautifully reimagined the iconic character, Kratos, now a father guiding his son, Atreus, through a perilous Norse-mythology-infused world. The game’s narrative depth, impactful combat, and the powerful dynamic between Kratos and Atreus provided an immersive and emotional gaming experience. The combination of mythic storytelling, impressive visuals, and innovative gameplay mechanics solidified God of War as a landmark title in the industry.
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
- Monster Hunter: World
- Marvel’s Spider-Man
- Red Dead Redemption 2
2019: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, developed by FromSoftware, won the Game of the Year award in 2019. This action-adventure title transported players to a mythical version of Sengoku-era Japan, where they took on the role of Wolf, a shinobi on a mission to protect a young lord from a powerful clan. Sekiro was known for its high difficulty level, complex combat that centered around precision timing, and exploration of a rich, interconnected world. The game’s tense swordfights, stunning environments, and the intricate, rewarding nature of its gameplay made Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice a truly remarkable gaming experience.
- Death Stranding
- Resident Evil 2
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
- The Outer Worlds
2020: The Last of Us Part II
The Last of Us Part II, developed by Naughty Dog, received the Game of the Year award in 2020. This sequel to the critically acclaimed The Last of Us, brought players back to the post-apocalyptic world and the lives of Ellie and Joel. The game explored darker and more complex narrative themes, focusing heavily on the cycle of violence and its consequences. Its storytelling was deep, emotional, and often uncomfortable, challenging players’ perspectives and morals. Coupled with highly polished gameplay, detailed environments, and unparalleled character development, The Last of Us Part II presented a gaming experience that was as thought-provoking as it was technically impressive.
- Doom Eternal
- Final Fantasy VII Remake
- Ghost of Tsushima
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons
2021: It Takes Two
In 2021, the Game of the Year was awarded to It Takes Two, an innovative cooperative action-adventure platformer developed by Hazelight Studios. The game told the story of a couple, Cody and May, transformed into dolls by a magic spell and navigating through a series of wildly imaginative and diverse scenarios. It Takes Two’s commitment to cooperative gameplay—where each player has unique abilities and the game constantly introduces new mechanics—offered a refreshing experience. The blend of clever gameplay design, a heartfelt story, and a beautiful art style made It Takes Two an unforgettable journey, well-deserving of the Game of the Year title.
- Metroid Dread
- Psychonauts 2
- Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
- Resident Evil Village
2022: Elden Ring
Elden Ring, the ambitious action RPG from FromSoftware and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment, was honored with the Game of the Year award in 2022. This masterpiece, resulting from the collaboration between Hidetaka Miyazaki and “A Song of Ice and Fire” author George R.R. Martin, delivered an expansive and richly detailed open world. The game’s intricate lore, diverse ecosystems, and deep narrative invited players into a captivating experience, while its strategic and challenging combat scenarios, which echoed the celebrated Souls-like formula, consistently tested players’ skills. The wealth of options for character customization and the cryptic nature of the world exploration deepened the players’ investment in the game. Elden Ring’s acclaim as the Game of the Year in 2022 served as a testament to its groundbreaking design, compelling narrative, and remarkable impact on the gaming industry.
- A Plague Tale: Requiem
- Horizon Forbidden West
- God of War Ragnarök
- Xenoblade Chronicles 3
2023: Yet to be announced
Stay tuned. We will update this once this is announced by The Game Awards.