Rise of the Tomb Raider
Before Nathan Drake, there was Lara Croft. This is important to note because recently, for a good number of years, Nathan Drake was Lara Croft. Shrewdly, developer Naughty Dog took the cinematic action baton and ran far, far away with it. The Sony subsidiary was so effective in copping from Tomb Raider that it actually made Lara feel like a relic of a bygone era, just as old as the treasure she was always chasing.
Square Enix eventually reinvented the Tomb Raider property under the tutelage of the Crystal Dynamics studio. Ironically (or maybe just fittingly), this was done by, you guessed it, copping from the Nathan Drake Uncharted formula. So, if you're keeping score at home, the Uncharted franchise was hugely successful for being better Tomb Raider games and then Tomb Raider later took that influence to become even better versions of Uncharted games. Crazy, eh?
The parallels between the two aren't exactly tenuous either. Just a month back, Steven was moved to write an editorial wondering if the newest Crystal Dynamics game, Rise of the Tomb Raider, is simply the best Uncharted. It probably is, because, if nothing else, it has the benefit of coming out a few years after the latest Uncharted. That's how cyclical this relationship will likely be as long as both franchises continue to see success.
It's enough to make you wonder why exactly Crystal Dynamics isn't held in the same public regard as Naughty Dog. It's certainly making games that are the same quality. The pedigree is there. That's nowhere more evident than in November's Rise of the Tomb Raider, the developer's best title yet.
We're giving Rise of the Tomb Raider some hardware as the Best Xbox One Game of 2015. In a year where so many of Xbox One's best experiences could also be found elsewhere, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a true (timed) exclusive that helps justify owning the big black box. It's not just good under the qualifier of "...for an Xbox game;" it's one of 2015's standouts, period.
It seems right to saddle Lara, an adventurer who spends so much of her time after fortune, with the treasure of an end-of-year award. And, because Uncharted 4 doesn't come out until 2016, this is one of the few times Lara Croft and Nathan Drake won't have to jockey for position.
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as standalone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]