Peel away the hype trailers, the spectacle of the midnight release, and all the maddening pre-order exclusives that require a math degree to parse, and you’re left with the real reasons why we play. When you settle into your favorite chair, kick back, and lose yourself in a game, it’s the moment to moment experiences that keeps us coming back.
Each year, we celebrate those memories that stick with us long after the credits have rolled. This year, we’ve strapped into the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars Battlefront, moved the dang payload in Overwatch to score a Play of the Game, and barreled through the streets of Madagascar in a wild Uncharted 4 car chase.
The nine moments below all stand out as some of the best experiences in gaming this year. Only one can walk away with the Golden Joystick, though. It’s up to you to decide.
Be warned, though. There are spoilers galore that follow. Proceed at your own risk.
The world's biggest gamer-voted awards show is upon us, with the Golden Joystick Awards taking place on November 18th at the Indigo at The 02 in London. We're looking to crown this year’s Best Gaming Moment, and the power is in your hands to help choose which it will be.
You can see the full shortlist for Best Gaming Moment below, and cast your vote here at the Golden Joystick Awards 2016. Tune in on Friday, November 18, to find out who takes home the honors.
OK, here we go. Spoilers begin... NOW.
The City of Glass is a pristine playground built for risky climbs and daredevil jumps. But the best way to take it all in is from the top of the world.
The skyscrapers peak out above the clouds below. The air, likely thin, isn’t going to keep Faith from prying loose Gabriel Kruger’s stranglehold on the city. From up here, you can see the City of Glass for the bright beacon it should be and not the corrupted facade masking the Conglomerate’s control.
Click to vote for Mirror’s Edge Catalyst at the Golden Joystick Awards 2016.
She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts. In this case, what she’s got is immense firepower. Sure, X-Wings are more maneuverable, but if you want to quickly swat annoying TIE fighters like gnats, the Millennium Falcon is where it’s at.
You can’t fly Han Solo’s modified YT-1300 Corellian Light Freighter in most modes, so if you’re itching to strap into that famous cockpit head on over to Fighter Squadron mode. Don’t fret if you land on the Imperial side of the fight. Boba Fett’s Slave-1 is yours to command… if you get to the Hero pickup before your teammates.
Click to vote for Star Wars Battlefront at the Golden Joystick Awards 2016.
Overwatch isn’t the first game to reward players with post-match highlights, but Blizzard has ramped up presentation to make it a gleeful experience. Mercy players know that scoring a Play of the Game is a rare treat. Torbjorn mains expect their turrets to get all the glory. And as for Bastion scoring Play of the Game? What’s the emoji for “please stop”?
Click to vote for Overwatch at the Golden Joystick Awards 2016.
Dark Souls 3 isn’t sentimental. Things you love about the first game are frozen and decayed, buried beneath layers of frost. But you can’t help but feel some distant sense of melancholy when you stumble back across Anor Londo. It’s like reading a lost diary or walking around your old school - a swirl of memories, coupled with the knowledge that the moments that made them are lost forever. For a game about looking forward and surviving your next encounter, it’s a brilliant, introspective pause for breath. Nothing in Dark Souls 3 makes you stop and wonder about where you came from and where you’re going quite like the return to Anor Londo.
The Commonwealth isn’t a terribly hospitable place (where in Fallout’s wasteland is, really?). And while Bethesda’s latest epic RPG is full of memorable moments, few stand out like The Brotherhood of Steel arriving on the scene. An enormous dirigible pierces the night sky, as a booming voice heralds the arrival of the series' most iconic faction. These post-nuclear knights mean business, which is why you’ve been crafting that power armor all game, right? Time to meet the fam.
Click to vote for Fallout 4 at the Golden Joystick Awards 2016.
Wherever Nathan Drake goes, mayhem is sure to follow. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End dials that up with a lengthy car chase that starts high atop a Madagascar hill, barrels through the city, and ends up dragging our hero through the mud. Naughty Dog not only nails this enormous set-piece moment, but reminds us why we’ve been tagging along with Nate all these years. Why does it have to end? Sniff.
Click to vote for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End at the Golden Joystick Awards 2016.
Inside keeps you maddeningly in the dark about its nightmare world from the very start. As you guide the red shirted child through their flight to freedom, the question pops up again and again: where is this all going? Nothing prepares you for the unfathomable answer when you infiltrate a bizarre experimental facility and merge with an impossible creature straight out of H.R. Giger's sketchbook of drawings rejected for being too unsettling. What starts as a gleeful rampage against your oppressors culminates in an image of despondent peace as disconcerting as it is beautiful. Playdead made a masterpiece.
Click to vote for Inside at the
Most of the time, we’d be the first to tell you that size doesn’t matter. This is the Big F****** Gun, though, and it is everything its name promises. Grabbing it during Doom’s campaign is a perilous process filled with laser traps and explosions. It’s worth it though. Let that puppy rip and you’ll tear down a demon horde in a heartbeat. Yours, not theirs. They don’t have heartbeats anymore, because giblets aren’t alive.
Click to vote for Doom at the Golden Joystick Awards 2016.
The Witness is full of secrets, but there's none more challenging or rewarding than unlocking The Secret of Psalm 46. To do so, you have to solve one of the most difficult gauntlets in the entire game: a randomly generated series of puzzles testing every single skill you've learned thus far. Oh, and you have to finish it all in under seven or so minutes, all while the quickening tempo of In the Hall of the Mountain King tries to harsh on your Zen.
You try, and you fail, but you continue, stubbornly, over and over, assuring yourself that this time will be the one, until suddenly - it's over. You've solved it. The door unlocks, the Trophy pops, and hours of effort culminate with the code for a fascinating hour-long lecture about the nature of secrets and Easter eggs, not only in video games, but throughout human history. Well, that's it, you've found the final secret of The Wit-wait, is that another line there?
Click to vote for The Witness at the Golden Joystick Awards 2016.
Be sure to vote in the Golden Joystick Awards 2016 by October 31. Find out which of these great PlayStation games comes away with the coveted award on Friday, November 18.