It's impossible to talk about Crashlands [$6.99] without first talking about how it came to be. Last year you may have read the remarkable story of Sam Coster, one of the three brothers who founded developer Butterscotch Shenanigans, and how he fought off cancer–twice!–by the time he hit his mid-twenties. When Sam was diagnosed in 2013, Bscotch had already released a few mobile games from their fledgling studio, and two of them, Towelfight 2: The Monocle of Destiny [Free] and Quadropus Rampage [Free], were reasonably successful. They were in the midst of creating their next game, an endless runner called Extreme Slothcycling, when Sam received an official diagnosis of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and knew he'd have one hell of a fight on his hands if he wanted to survive. Faced with his own mortality, Sam decided that a silly endless runner (even if it DID star sloths on motorcycles) wasn't the type of game he'd want to leave as his final legacy should the cancer win. Sam turned to his brother Seth during a design meeting and said, "I don't want Slothcycling to be the last game I make before I die."

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Sam told Seth about the game that he had dreamt about making, a game that might not be the smartest idea in terms of making money but one that would be meaningful and provide Sam with an escape while dealing with cancer treatment. That game was Crashlands, and it was an extremely ambitious goal for a team of two–three when third brother Adam joined in–to make. Heck, it would be an ambitious game for a team of a hundred, but Crashlands was the project that the Coster brothers decided to pursue. Well, fast-forward a couple of years later and Sam was able to overcome cancer two different times and the Bscotch boys successfully launched Crashlands in January of this year. Maybe I should have prefaced that with a spoiler alert?

Anyway, all this heartwarming backstory has a purpose, and it's a large part of why Crashlands is our Game of the Year. Bscotch set out to make a grand open-world filled with adventures waiting to happen, and that's exactly what they did. When Crashlands finally launched, I spend hours just roaming the land, exploring, finding cool things to distract me from that mission I was supposed to do. The creatures that inhabit the game's world were all so interesting and full of personality, as was the characters and dialogue that made up the game's main storyline and many side missions. This really was this special little world that you could escape to, just as Sam had envisioned.

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I have to admit I'd never gotten the type of feeling I got playing Crashlands with a mobile game before. The first time I had truly gotten lost in a game was with Smuggler's Run way back at the launch of the Playstation 2. I'd get lost for hours just driving around and finding crazy jumps or interesting bits of scenery, ignoring whatever missions I was supposed to be doing. Not long after that Grand Theft Auto 3 took that feeling to the next level with a fully-realized and impressively detailed city that I could run around in and cause whatever havoc I desired. It was an amazing feeling. That a mobile game could give me that same type of joy, that same feeling of expansiveness and exploration that those other games had, all in a tiny package I could slip into my pocket, is simply remarkable.

Bolstering the open-world fun of Crashlands is an entertaining story to progress though, interesting characters and enemies, satisfying battle mechanics, an ingeniously streamlined crafting and inventory system, and equally streamlined building system, and what feels like an endless supply of cool things to see and do. It's exactly how a grand open-world action RPG should be designed for a mobile device, and for some reason it's taken the better part of a decade for someone to do it just right. Mobile games are usually at their best when they're stealing the brief moments of downtime throughout our busy days, and it's not often that it feels like you can truly escape and be totally absorbed into a game on your mobile device. Impressively, Crashlands offers that type of absorption but also manages to be a game you can easily pick up for a few moments at a time if you wish, meaning there's never a bad time to go on an adventure.

The most important takeaway of the whole Crashlands story is that… well, Sam is alive! He beat cancer, TWICE, and our world is a richer place for having the trio of Coster brothers intact. Nothing can trump that. However, as a very nice side benefit to that is the fact that now we all have this amazing game that we can escape into whenever and wherever we want. Whether it's through good times or bad, through difficult points in our life or simply during our moments of leisure, Crashlands is there for us as it was there for Sam. If the story behind Crashlands wasn't known and this was simply a game that came out of nowhere from that quirky developer Butterscotch Shenanigans, it would still have been our Game of the Year pick. It's just that damn good. That we know all that backstory and that the Coster brothers were able to so completely realize their huge vision only adds even more to what we feel was the pinnacle of mobile game releases of 2016.

  • Timmy2x

    No doubt.

  • Wizard_Mike

    Excellent pick!

  • rhinofinger

    Well-deserved.

  • sinanayurt

    It must be Steamworld Heist!

    • skylined87

      I loved Steamworld, but it cannot compare to the love, pain, and dedication that BS put in Crashlands.

  • skylined87

    Here here! 3 cheers for the game of the year! So many awesome games this year, but I cannot agree more with this choice. Crashlands is such an amazing game...it really pushed the boundaries as to what can be done with mobile games and a LOT of creativity! Sam and his brothers deserve this, and I wish him and his family a Merry Christmas! 🎄 Butterscotch Shenanigans 4 lyfe son, no ragrets! 😜congratulations! 🎉

  • Press2Play

    This is B.S.

    • Intendro

      "But-ter-scotch... SHENANIGANS!"

      • KanRox1

        I use to piss my friends off by turning on my speaker and blasting that bit through it. Haha.

  • Spudboy

    Total BS! Merry Christmas mofo's.

  • Quaze

    I agree with this pick. This, Reigns or Severed could all get the nod.

  • Ghostwalker

    Absolutely.

  • yoshthug

    I played the $#!t out of Crashlands! Great choice TA and thanks for another great year.

  • noteatino

    Well deserved! I think this gotta be the year that almost all of us agree with the GOTY award. It is incredibly fun and there are lots and lots of stuff to do!!!

  • loophole

    FANTASTIC CHOICE!! This game is such a good pick, especially with the story of the development. Time to load up the game again!

  • Amenbrother

    Very nice!

  • dingdongfootball

    Without a doubt! Great choice!

  • HippoHumper

    I think this is really the first time I've ever, wholeheartedly agreed with a gaming publications game of the year pick. It's a strange but good feeling.

  • Drizzt79

    Yes yes and more yes!! Crashlands ftw!

  • spsummer

    I wish MAGLOR was back. This is cat worthy.

    • Robbie1350

      I'm sorry to say maglor is no longer with us

  • GiHubb

    Bravo TA, bravo! The fact you haven't forgotten a game which came out so early in the year, shows you guys are the real deal! While my personal GOTY is either Clash Royale or Steamworld Heist, Crashlands definitely deserves to win. It is actually the choice I'm happiest won too. Bravo again and congratulations Butterscotch!

  • Hoodin

    This is making me consider restarting Crashlands!!! Omg this game is sooooo good!

  • Reignmaker

    Great choice. It also has true cross platform saving, which cannot be overstated. A gem of a game.

  • OrangutanKungfu

    A game so worthy of winning, it should take Land Sliders' title too. That said, I actually got into Land Sliders this summer. But Crashlands just swallowed my time and spat out nothing but joy.

  • TheVimFuego

    Yep, I played the hell out of this and it hasn't left my iPad nor is it likely to. The older BS games a worth a download too if you want to support the devs.

  • lezrock

    Damn right.

  • gakuka

    I love this so much. I was terrified the game of the year would go to that soulless P2W cash grab, Clash Royale (nothing against the game, it's well-made and fun, I was fourth in my league when I quit, but I stand by my stance that you either spend a ton of money or stay in mediocrity).
    Crashlands and its development story truly grabbed and inspired me. After I beat it I lost my phone to the ocean, but I still count it as one of the most totally touching gaming experiences of my life. Well done.

  • Luci0

    Super Mario!

    • Sebastian Gomez

      xD

  • Lifelike

    Crashlands or Teeny Titans, either would have been the right choice for me.

  • McGannahann

    Well deserved

  • korossyl

    I bought it early on and played for half an hour before getting bored and deleting. Crafting? Ugh. This article and all the praise in the comments section here is making me think I ought to give it another shot, though. Wish me luck!

  • Kahdmus

    My GOTY TOO!! Well played!

  • merlik

    So happy this won GOTY.

  • Wicked8146

    Excellent choice

  • graham

    A+

  • Dawn Stung atoms

    My GOTY as well. The only crafting-survival game I ever played.

  • Sabaki

    Wow! A very positive thread! Nice!

    Awesome choice on GOTY, even if Sky Force Reloaded was my pick

  • Ancientmoon

    ridiculous

  • metalsquid

    Omfg! Enough with the goddamn articles on Crashlands!! Everytime I get a TA app notification on Crashlands it's a freaking article! Update. News. Update. I just want to know when it's a price drop so I can finally buy the damn thing and take it off my watchlist! Arggh!

    • jati

      Maybe just spend 4,99?

      • metalsquid

        Maybe worry about how you spend your money and I'll worry about how I spend mine?

    • sivad

      Why does no one consider mobile robbery a real gaming platform.... see above comment

      • sivad

        *gaming not robbery lol

      • metalsquid

        Bit of an assumption to make from just one comment. You have no idea how much I spend on mobile gaming per year nor what I think of the platform.

      • eatthis

        Just add it to appshopper instead and it'll tell you whether its an update or a price drop in the notification itself

      • metalsquid

        Excellent. I'll do that, thank you.

  • Cigarekt

    Very well deserved! With so many GoTY contenders this year I had doubt if this would come forth and win. Played the hell out of this and got my 60 hours worth of money. Anyways, congratulations BS. Looking forward for a sequel!

  • Derprozess

    Brilliant game, so much to explore and craft, many bosses to fight and dozens of missions, plus very good controls and nice graphics! My game of the year too, well deserved!

  • curtisrshideler

    Agreed! I've got it on my iPhone, iPad, AND Mac. And it cross saves!

  • David Barajas

    Could never get into it. Maybe it's just one of those games that's not for me.

  • Daniel Schroeder

    I've only progressed a little through the second world or whatever, but have clocked so many hours in this game, it's ridiculous. The humor is really good, without being too on the nose or over the top, and it's perfect on touch screens. This game is amazing.

  • big bunss

    The art style for this game is hideous.

  • LordShad0wz

    Excellent pick. It's well deserved. They did everything right with this game. This game actually made me go and download and butter up every other title they've made. I'm a huge fan now. Their games are just awesome!

  • Xuchris11

    Not only deserving GOTY for mobile but should get the attention for being an excellent game period. Well done team TA for acknowledging Crashlands and well done BS brothers, thanks for Crashlands

  • raresloth

    Congrats b-scotch guys (and gal), you deserve it!

  • Nergal

    GOTY!

  • thumbs07

    Clash Royale raises its hand

  • Rashanii

    Do I need a controller to play this game?

  • kshriner

    This GOTY... it's just so.. it's just so BIIIGGG!!! *insert Techron/dance beat here..*. Heh, loved it, I lost some steam on the third world and never finished, but maybe I'll boot it up again with all the updates and such.. congrats BS and great choice TA!!

    • samkime

      I lost steam as well partway through the third world (although I think it was mostly that I had a stupid-busy few months at the time)... and then I rebooted it a week or two ago, chose to start from the beginning, and I've been totally sucked in all over again.

      Broke into unconscious dancing to the beat when I Embiggened my Wompit and Glutterfly for the first time again the other day. I LOVE this GAMEeeEee

      Also love them Bscotch Bros., a lot.

  • dalurkersteve

    I had a similar experience with the game. While I appreciated the game when I first tried it, I wasn't hooked as much as I thought I'd be.

    I jumped back in recently and fell in love. What helped me was playing it as a Diablo-style adventure game as opposed to the Don't Starve/Minecraft Survival sim elements. This game has many elements from various genres, and focusing on those elements you like best helps the game show itself in a new light.

    • Alexythimia23

      This does happen to me on quite a few games, where i dont enjoy it so much, but then i will reinstall it and im in love, so i really hope i this happens again with crashlands.

  • William Fuchs

    Any news on when the map creator is coming?

  • Ponyfox

    Absolutely deserved! My game of 2016 by far! <3