The best plays from Overwatch's first year

Overwatch's anniversary event is in full swing, celebrating a very successful first year for Blizzard's breakout FPS hit. One of the things that has helped set the game apart from its peers is the robust Play of the Game system that highlights awesome, game-defining moments from the frenetic, flashy matches.

But Play of the Game doesn't always get it right. The system itself isn't perfect—it simply looks for whoever generated the most 'on-fire score' within a short period of time during the match. Most of the time, this means PotG goes to the Reaper who hit Q on a clump of enemies, or the Pharah who aims her barrage into a well-placed Graviton Surge (robbing PotG from Zarya the setup champion, I might add). But beyond improperly awarded plays, it's impossible for the system to quantify clutch moves like a perfect Lúcio boop or eliminating a D.Va bomb.

To celebrate Overwatch's first year, here's a collection of the best plays we could find. The Plays of the Year, if you will. More than just pressing Q for Play of the Game, these are the clutch moments, skilled moves, and unique strategies that stick out to us from the first year of Overwatch. Undoubtedly, there are some amazing plays we missed, so if you have a favorite we forgot, let us know in the comments below.

When you get an almost perfect earth shatter but you know your priorities

Reinhardt gets a lot of PotGs, and rightly so. His Earthshatter ultimate is one of the best setup tools in the game, knocking down any enemies hit and rendering them vulnerable for a few seconds. As any Reinhardt player knows, landing a well-timed Earthshatter on three or more people is almost irresistible to run up and start swinging at, but all that damage is for naught if Mercy can swoop in and resurrect all your fresh kills. This Reinhardt play resists the temptation—to great effect. 

Justice rains from below

Here's one from the early days of Overwatch—Seralumina learned that with proper fuel management, Pharah can fly underneath the map on Point B of King's Row. This is put to use to expertly flank the enemy team with a sneaky Rocket Barrage. Apparently the game awarded PotG to the Bastion with that string of eliminations in the kill feed, making the brutal vengeance of this move all the sweeter.

The full potential of Lúcio

There have been a lot of sweet Lúcio moves in Overwatch's first year. His wallriding ability paves the way for highly-technical movement that both keeps him out of danger and can catch the enemy team unaware. Rather than a single example of Lúcio escaping the pit on Illios or circling the dome of Nepal, this montage of tricks and plays from DSPStanky—widely considered one of if not the best Lúcio player in the world—expertly shows the Brazilian DJ's full potential. 

How to properly Graviton Surge

Like Reinhardt, Zarya is involved in a lot of Overwatch highlights, as her Graviton Surge is the setup that so many other ultimates can take advantage of. But Graviton Surge placement is as important as the ability itself, especially if the enemy team has a D.Va that can eat the whole thing with her Defense Matrix. In this clip, popular Zarya streamer Lassiz demonstrates how to properly Graviton Surge, baiting the enemy team into the ability while defending the second point of Volskaya Industries. 

How to properly protect your support

Support characters are the backbone of an effective Overwatch team. They boost your damage and keep everyone healthy, but sometimes they need support too. This Mei player knows the value of keeping her Mercy alive.

Breaking the Hanamura choke point

The gate at the first point of Hanamura is one of the most difficult choke points to breach in Overwatch, especially with a Reinhardt guarding the door and a Mei on hand to split the attacking team with a well-placed ice wall as soon as some of the attackers venture through. This strategy popped up in the STGCC esports Mountain Dew Cup last September, as Elvellon player Zest uses an offensive Mei wall to both bridge the attacking team through the choke point as well as preventing the defending Mei from splitting the team with a wall of her own. 

You... stay... I... go

When you're stuck at 99 percent in overtime on a control point, the last thing you want is to have to do is run for cover and dodge a D.Va bomb. This Roadhog knows this and sacrifices himself for the good of the team. The Iron Giant would be proud.

Breaking into Eichenwalde castle

Zarya ults make for excellent PotGs, but this play from South Korean player Zunba during the Overwatch World Cup is on another level—literally. Eichenwalde castle is notoriously difficult to breach once the payload is inside and the gate has fallen (so much so that Blizzard changed it so the gate only partially closes now). Zunba uses rocket jumps to position himself at the top of the gate, again using a rocket jump to hop through the small upper window and launch a Graviton Surge from above into the unsuspecting team USA. The crowd went crazy.

Where's that RIP-Tire coming from?

Junkrat's RIP-Tire can do a lot of damage, but it's also vulnerable while on approach. It's most effective when the enemy team can't see it coming, so this double jump to send in a Tire from behind is especially impressive. The move has been done in many ways over the last year, but this example is one of the smoothest we could find. A well-deserved Play of the Game.

Winston's flying bomb defusal

D.Va's Self Destruct earns her Play of the Game all the time, but credit is rarely given to the soldier who throws themself on the grenade to save their team. Winston, in particular, can shut down a D.Va bomb by trapping it inside his bubble shield—a move that, while tricky, can be seen fairly commonly across the internet. Pulling off the move in mid-air is another story entirely. 

Bo Moore

As the former head of PC Gamer's hardware coverage, Bo was in charge of helping readers better understand and use PC hardware. He also headed up the buying guides, picking the best peripherals and components to spend your hard-earned money on. He can usually be found playing Overwatch, Apex Legends, or more likely, with his cats. He is now IGN's resident tech editor and PC hardware expert.