- The British Academy Game Awards celebrate the achievements in gaming from all over the world and include categories for animation, narrative, and music.
- Some of the notable Game of the Year winners include Call of Duty, Half-Life 2, BioShock, and Super Mario Galaxy.
- These winners have been praised for redefining their respective genres, offering impressive graphics, gameplay, and narratives that have stood the test of time.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts, more commonly known as BAFTA, has been hosting annual awards shows for over fifty years. They were quick to recognize video games as media worthy of accolades and recognition and established the British Academy Game Awards in 2004. The show is held towards the beginning of the year to celebrate the previous year’s achievements in gaming, with the Game Awards celebrating 2023’s games on April 11th, 2024. Video games have come a long way in the last few decades, and the British Academy Game Awards have grown to celebrate achievements in gaming from all over the world.
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There’s a plethora of categories that reward all aspects of gaming, from animation to narrative to music. One of the biggest categories of the awards show is the Game of the Year, which considers the best of the best in gaming each year and rewards one brilliant entry. It takes a lot of work and dedication to make any video game, but these winners have gone above and beyond by redefining the gaming landscape each year. After one of the best years in gaming history, and before the 2023 Game of the Year is announced, it’s a great time to celebrate the evolution of the industry by looking at every Game of the Year winner so far.
1 Call Of Duty – Winner, 1st Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released October 2003
Call of Duty (2003)
- October 29, 2003
The first-ever winner of BAFTA’s Game of the Year was the original Call of Duty, which was an apt choice since the franchise has gone on to release dozens of games and sell millions of copies. BAFTA wasn’t the only awards show to name it Game of the Year, and across most reviewers, the game received numerous accolades.
Call of Duty was hailed as redefining the genre of first-person shooters, bringing new life to both the genre and the WW2 setting. It’s clear that developers Infinity Ward had created a distinct FPS from which to grow, and its impressive success since is evidence enough.
2 Half-Life 2 – Winner, 2nd Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released November 2004
- November 16, 2004
Half-Life 2 is another highly celebrated title in gaming that has maintained its celebrated status well into the 2020s. At the second ever BAFTA Game Awards, Half-Life 2 won six of the seven categories it was nominated for – and has overall won over thirty Game of the Year awards since its release.
The game was celebrated for its brilliant graphics and genre-defining narrative. It was instrumental in the evolution of first-person shooter games, as well as computer gaming as a whole – executing it all with professional polish. Most gamers will claim that the title holds up just as well today as it did upon release.
3 Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter – Winner, 3rd Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released March 2006
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
- Red Storm Entertainment , Ubisoft Paris
- Tactical , Shooter
- March 9, 2006
The third ever BAFTA Game Awards named the tactical shooter Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter its Game of the Year. Released on multiple platforms, the Xbox 360 version is widely believed to be the best. It was nominated in eight categories, winning both Game of the Year and Best Technical Achievement.
Advanced Warfighter was praised for its brilliant graphics and action scenes, as well as its advanced AI system, which gave the game more realistic stealth abilities than ever before. It was hailed as revolutionary in both technology and gameplay.
4 BioShock – Winner, 4th Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released August 2007
Unsurprisingly, BioShock took home the fourth-ever BAFTA Game of the Year award. The 2007 first-person shooter not only had fantastic gameplay and graphics but genuinely challenged the constraints of its genre. BioShock is often cited as one of the best games ever made and was one of the earliest popular examples of video games as a legitimate art form.
Despite being a first-person shooter, BioShock integrates elements typically only seen in RPG games, such as moral dilemmas and being able to choose how to encounter an enemy. These mechanics complement the challenging nature of the narrative, which incorporates political, philosophical, and moral themes. Over a decade after its release, BioShock continues to make waves in the gaming space.
5 Super Mario Galaxy – Winner, 5th Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released November 2007
Super Mario Galaxy
- 3D Platformer
- November 1, 2007
Thanks to its November release date, Super Mario Galaxy was entered in the fifth annual BAFTA Game Awards celebrating games released from October 2007 to December 2008. Whether or not the game would have beaten BioShock had it been released a bit earlier will forever be a mystery, but it did mark the very first BAFTA Game of the Year win for Nintendo.
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Super Mario Galaxy is generally believed to be one of the best Nintendo games ever made, ranking incredibly high on sites such as Metacritic. Its biggest draw was its vivid art style and brilliant graphics, which made the world immersive and unlike any Mario game released prior. It also introduced the fan-favorite character Rosalina, who was so popular she began to appear in other Mario games immediately after her debut.
6 Batman: Arkham Asylum – Winner, 6th Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released August 2009
Batman: Arkham Asylum marked the first ever action-adventure genre game to win Game of the Year at the BAFTA Game Awards. The game was released on the cusp of superhero media, a year after the first Iron Man movie, and is widely believed to be the best example of a comic-book-inspired video game.
Batman: Arkham Asylum was praised for its dark atmosphere and narrative, portraying the grittier versions of Batman seen throughout both the comics and the shows. It was written by Paul Dini, a longtime Batman writer who was deeply familiar with the character and environment of Arkham, and saw the return of iconic Batman voice actors Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Arleen Sorkin – proving that being loyal to the source material is often the right choice.
7 Mass Effect 2 – Winner, 7th Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released January 2010
Mass Effect 2
- Action RPG , Third-Person Shooter
- January 26, 2010
The seventh annual BAFTA Game Awards saw Mass Effect 2 be given the title of Game of the Year, beating the likes of Heavy Rain and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. The action RPG is set in outer space during the 22nd century and added more mechanics typical of a shooter game.
Mass Effect 2’s characters were a huge point of acclaim, all of them with more complex personalities and stories than the first game. The gameplay was also praised as much better than its predecessor, although it did stray further away from the RPG elements than many expected. Nonetheless, the game managed to be evocative, beautiful, and atmospheric.
8 Portal 2 – Winner, 8th Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released April 2011
- Puzzle , Platformer
- April 18, 2011
Portal 2’s win at the eighth annual BAFTA Video Game Awards was the first for both puzzle and platformers. Valve’s iconic sequel to its already acclaimed original game saw the introduction of further characters and doubled down on the dark humor of the franchise.
The game is thought to have a fantastic learning curve for new players, and the gameplay perfectly accompanies the atmosphere created by the visuals and narrative. Portal 2 also had a huge voice cast behind it, seeing Ellen McLain return as GLaDOS, as well as new characters voiced by Stephen Merchant and J.K. Simmons – along with music by Jonathon Coulton and The National.
9 Dishonored – Winner, 9th Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released October 2012
- Action , Adventure , Stealth
- October 9, 2012
Action-adventure game Dishonored won Game of the Year at the ninth BAFTA Game Awards celebrating the best in gaming from 2012. It was praised for its interactivity, which seemed to come at a time when critics felt the gaming landscape had grown a bit mindless.
Dishonored’s world design was one of its most acclaimed components, along with the brilliance of the individual missions. The game also has one of the biggest voice casts in video game history, with critically acclaimed actors such as Carrie Fisher, Chloe Grace Moretz, Len Heady, and Susan Sarandon.
10 The Last Of Us – Winner, 10th Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released June 2013
The Last of Us is easily one of the most talked about games of all time, and it’s no surprise that it walked away with Game of the Year. It beat out other iconic titles like Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and Grand Theft Auto 5, but the emotional story and evocative world design certainly set Naughty Dog’s action-adventure game apart from the others.
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The Last of Us received universal acclaim from critics and fans alike, quickly being named one of the best games of all time. It breathed new life into both the horror and zombie genres, creating a fresh take on the apocalyptic future with unique dynamics and brutally honest portrayals of humanity, survival, and hope. The gameplay has great variety when it comes to taking down enemies, with a range of weapons and styles. The voice acting for the game has also been universally praised, with Ashley Johnson also taking home an award for her portrayal of Ellie.
11 Destiny – Winner, 11th Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released September 2014
- First-Person Shooter
- September 9, 2014
Halo creators Bungie released the online first-person shooter Destiny in 2014, and it beat out Mario Kart 8 and Alien: Isolation to win Game of the Year at the eleventh BAFTA Game Awards.
The game was something of a risk for Bungie since its online component was newer to them. However, critics felt the developers drew upon their experience with Halo to create highly successful multiplayer modes. A lot of the appeal comes in the gameplay, with some criticizing the story aspects of the game. Compared to some other Game of the Year winners, Destiny had less of an overwhelmingly positive status – but made a classic title that is very popular among gamers.
12 Fallout 4 – Winner, 12th Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released November 2015
- November 10, 2015
2015 was a great year for games, and the Best Game category was stacked with titles like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Life is Strange, and Metal Gear 5: The Phantom Pain. Only one game could prosper, and that game was Bethesda’s open-world action RPG Fallout 4. After creating their character, players witness immense devastation and must set out across the nuclear wasteland to find their child.
The game sold well over 10 million copies and was received very positively by both audiences and critics. Fallout 4 noticeably elaborated on its post-apocalyptic open world, creating even more experiences and things for players to encounter. It was praised for the depth that came with that expansion, and quality was not traded for quantity.
13 Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End – Winner, 13th Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released May 2016
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
- Third-Person Shooter , Adventure
- May 10, 2016
The thirteenth annual BAFTA Game Awards had a diverse selection of nominees for the 2016 Game of the Year. From Stardew Valley to Inside to Overwatch, basically none of the nominees were in similar genres. This means it was a tough call to choose a winner, but undoubtedly Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was a worthy recipient.
As the final Uncharted installment following Nathan Drake, A Thief’s End was everything players loved about the games, elevated to an artful level. With a long and popular legacy behind the franchise, Naughty Dog was able to develop the most emotional and sincere addition to the series and couple it with incredible visuals. From voice acting to graphics to fluid gameplay, A Thief’s End was breathtaking and heartfelt, and its Game of the Year award was a perfect send-off for a beloved character.
14 What Remains Of Edith Finch – Winner, 14th Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released April 2017
What Remains of Edith Finch
- Giant Sparrow
- April 25, 2017
What Remains of Edith Finch is an exploration game that follows Edith Finch, the last surviving Finch, as she tries to discover what happened to her family. The story is told from the first-person perspective through a series of collections where Edith will experience the memories of her various family members – although it becomes clear that not everyone’s memories are as reliable as they seem.
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The game managed to beat out the Nintendo Switch’s heavy hitters, with both Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey nominated in the same category. Some players may find What Remains of Edith Finch lacking in gameplay, but it more than compensates with its narrative and attentive storytelling. It was critically acclaimed for its poignant and well-executed story, and the game managed to subvert certain expectations with borderline self-awareness. It’s a brilliant game that’s perfect for players who enjoy a good story and a game undoubtedly made with love.
15 God Of War – Winner, 15th Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released April 2018
Santa Monica Studio redefined the God of War franchise with its eighth installment, aptly named God of War, in 2018. The action-adventure game shifted focus to Norse mythology and introduced a new major character: Atreus, Kratos’ son – which added a more serious dimension to the story and the characters.
Notably more emotional than previous installments, God of War was highly praised for its portrayal of Kratos and Atreus’ relationship – particularly thanks to the personal and loving story. The narrative wasn’t the only applauded aspect, with its art and graphics receiving major attention. The lore, story, music, design, and gameplay were all near-infallible, making God of War a perfect package of art and genuine passion. It’s one of the highest-rated Playstation 4 games ever and managed to score Game of the Year over Celeste and Red Dead Redemption 2.
16 Outer Wilds – Winner, 16th Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released May 2019
- Mobius Digital
- May 28, 2019
Outer Wilds is an action-adventure game unlike anything most gamers will have experienced before. Stuck in a time loop in outer space, an unnamed protagonist has 22 minutes to discover various pieces of information and secrets before a star goes supernova and resets the time loop. The game has puzzle-solving elements as well as an emphasis on exploration.
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Outer Wilds has a beautiful art style and prioritizes players discovering and achieving things on their own. At the 16th annual BAFTA Games Awards, Outer Wilds took home Game of the Year, Best Game Design, and Best Original Property. 2019 saw a wide range of games nominated for Game of the Year, with Outer Wilds trumping Disco Elysium, Untitled Goose Game, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
17 Hades – Winner, 17th Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released September 2020
- Action RPG
- September 17, 2020
Hades is indie developer Supergiant Games’ hack-and-slash roguelike game inspired by Greek mythology. It follows Zagreus – the son of Hades – as he fights to escape the underworld. The game can be completed in multiple ways and therefore tells a story through branching narratives with an emphasis on replayability to discover the whole truth.
Hades was critically acclaimed upon release and was nominated for multiple accolades across many award shows. It was praised for its design, narrative, brilliant characterization, and equally brilliant voice acting. Out of the eight categories Hades was nominated for at the 17th BAFTA Games Awards, it took home five wins – including Game Design, Narrative, and Artistic Achievement. In terms of its Game of the Year win, it took down heavy-hitters from well-established developers. Impressively, Hades won over The Last of Us Part 2, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
18 Returnal – Winner, 18th Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released April 2021
- Third-Person Shooter
- April 30, 2021
Returnal marked the second consecutive win for a roguelike game and, unexpectedly, another win for a time-loop-themed game. It follows astronaut Selene Vassos as she becomes stuck in a time loop after landing on the planet Atropos. Although it is a roguelike game, Returnal was cited as being difficult, particularly because certain areas needed intense replay to improve weapon proficiency, as well as a lack of checkpoints.
The main praise for the game came from the technical achievements, with Atropos having phenomenal visual and audio design. Additionally, the difficulty of the game due to a lack of checkpoints has been compared to the narrative and themes of the game, with many critics claiming the form mimics the story very deliberately. The game was nominated for a whopping nine categories at the 18th BAFTA Games Awards and managed to claim four wins, including, of course, Game of the Year.
19 Vampire Survivors – Winner, 19th Annual British Academy Games Awards
Released October 2022
- Luca Galante
Vampire Survivors marks the third consecutive win for a roguelike game at the BAFTA Games Awards, and this time it’s a roguelike shoot ’em up by indie developer Luca Galante. Originally released as a web browser game in 2021, Vampire Survivors is a success story for the ages – with the game slowly gaining traction thanks to some YouTube fame and building a reliable enough fanbase for Galante to focus on developing a fully-fledged title.
Officially released in late 2022, the game was ported to multiple platforms relatively quickly and saw success across the board. It quickly inspired a new wave of roguelike manic shooter-style games, but none managed to achieve the fresh yet nostalgic take that Vampire Survivors has. Adding to the success story, Vampire Survivors managed to win Game of the Year over titles like God of War: Ragnarok, Elden Ring, and Stray – essentially making history with its massive achievements.
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