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Celeste splash screen. (Matt Makes Games Image)

The Vancouver, B.C.-made indie game Celeste picked up a surprise Game of the Year nomination as the annual Game Awards announced their nominations Tuesday. It’s the only independently-produced game in the category, up against five multi-million-dollar blockbusters from major studios.

This puts Celeste up against Spider-Man (2018), Red Dead Redemption 2, Monster Hunter World, God of War (2018), and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey for the award. Celeste making it this far makes it a dark horse contender by default.

Celeste also picked up Game Award nominations for Best Score (by Seattle-based composer Lena Raine), Best Independent Game, and “Games for Impact,” a category that honors games that, in the words of last year’s presenter Andrew House, “don’t just entertain us, but also inspire us.”

Celeste is a retro-styled game from Noel Berry (creator of the terminally-delayed Skytorn) and Matt Thorson (director of 2013’s TowerFall), who created the initial prototype in four days for the Pico-8 “fantasy console.” The final version came out in January to immediate critical acclaim, both for being a challenging platformer in the spirit of old 16-bit games, and for its story, which deals frankly with issues of depression and mental illness.

The official announcement of nominees for the Game of the Year category at the 2018 Game Awards. (Source: Twitter)

Celeste is going into the Game Awards with a goodly head of steam, having already picked up a nomination for Best Indie Game at this year’s Golden Joysticks, and it won an audience award at the Independent Games Festival during this year’s Game Developer’s Conference.

Several other Pacific Northwest-produced titles have picked up nominations, including Subset’s Into the Breach (Best Independent Game, Best Strategy Game), Harebrained Schemes’s BattleTech (Best Strategy Game), Microsoft and Rare’s Sea of Thieves (Best Multiplayer Game), and PolyArc Games’s Moss (Best Debut Indie Game).

Nintendo also got nods for Best Role Playing Game (Octopath Traveler) and Best Family Game (the Nintendo Labo); however, Smash Brothers Ultimate is coming out too late in the year to be considered for this year’s awards.

The Game Awards ceremony will be broadcast live via multiple digital platforms, including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Steam, Xbox Live, and the PlayStation Network, at 5:30 p.m. PST on December 6th. It has been held every year in December since 2014, serving as a continuation of the cancelled Spike Video Game Awards, and selects its nominees via an international jury of “global media and influencer outlets, selected for their history of critical evaluation of video games.”

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