The editors of Game Developer Magazine and Gamasutra choose an Advisory Committee, made up of distinguished game industry veterans, to select Special Honors winners following public nominations.
Game of the Year
The best game of the previous year decided by the game developers themselves.
Celebrating the one game that best advances the medium in ways previously unimaginable.
- 2023 - Immortality
- 2022 - Unpacking
- 2021 - Dreams
- 2020 - Baba is You
- 2019 - Nintendo Labo
- 2018 - Gorogoa
- 2017 - No Man's Sky
- 2016 - Her Story
- 2015 - Monument Valley
- 2014 - Papers, Please
- 2013 - Journey
- 2012 - Johann Sebastian Joust
- 2011 - Minecraft
- 2010 - Scribblenauts
- 2009 - LittleBigPlanet
- 2008 - Portal
- 2007 - Okami, Line Rider, Wii Sports
- 2006 - Nintendogs, Guitar Hero
- 2005 - Katamari Damacy, Donkey Konga, I Love Bees
- 2004 - Viewtiful Joe, EyeToy: Play, WarioWare Inc.: Mega Microgame$
- 2003 - Animal Crossing, The Thing, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, Battlefield 1942
- 2002 - ICO, Rez, Black and White, Grand Theft Auto III, Majestic
- 2001 - Crazy Taxi, Deus Ex, Jet Grind Radio, No One Lives Forever, Counter-Strike
The Best Audio award takes into account all forms of audio including music, sound effects, voice over, and sound design.
Formerly known as the Rookie Studio award, this is awarded to a development studio who release their first publicly available game.
The Best Game Design award encompasses gameplay mechanics, level design, playability, and balance.
Formerly known as the Excellence in Writing Award, this award celebrates the game with superlative storytelling, plot, and dialogue.
The Best Technology Award celebrates the best in artificial intelligence, programming, physics modeling, and networking.
Best Visual Arts
The Best Visual Arts award is not simply celebrating the best graphics in a game, but is more specifically about art direction, character design, animation, and textures.
Introduced in 2013, the Audience Award is the only award not selected by the advisory committee.
Social Impact Award
Introduced in 2022, the Social Impact Award celebrates equality and justice represented in games.
Three special honors, selected by the Game Developers Choice Awards advisory board, are presented annually at the ceremony.
Lifetime Achievement Award
The Lifetime Achievement Award celebrates ones entire career of achievements as a game developer.
Pioneer / First Penguin Award
The Pioneer Award (formerly known as the First Penguin Award) celebrates those whose contributions were groundbreaking and/or paved the way for future generations.
Ambassador / Community Contribution Award
The Ambassador Award (formerly known as the Community Contribution Award) celebrates those who best represents the industry as a whole whether it be from within or from the outside.
The Maverick Award, retired after 2007, celebrated those who recently introduced exceptionally new ideas to the industry.
Best Handheld/Mobile Game
Celebrating the best game that was released exclusively for mobile platforms whether they be handheld consoles or mobile devices such as phones and tablets.
Best VR / AR Game
Introduced in 2017 to celebrate the best virtual or augmented reality games of the year.
The Character Design Award was given to the game with the best well-rounded, non-licensed characters based on design, story, and originality. Prior to 2005, the award was given to a single character and was known as the Original Game Character of the Year Award.
Introduced in 2008, the Best Downloadable Game Award celebrates the best game that was exclusively available via digital distribution.
The Excellence in Level Design Award was given to the game with the best created environments and worlds. After 2003, level design was lumped into the Game Design Award.
After 2004, the Excellence in Programming Award became part of the Best Technology Award.