By Bryan Smith on December 27, 2015 at 8:29pm
2015 has come to past and it has brought a plethora of great games. Granted, there are quite a bit of disappointing games and awful company decisions (which deserves another list of its own), but today I’m going to list what I feel are the best games that came out this year.
As always, rules for this list: This is my own list. These are the games that I think do the video game community justice and celebrate what video games are- fun and enjoyable. They’re basically love letters to the community. Other members of Player Theory will have their own games and opinions of what their best games are this year. Also, these games must have come out this year, or in the case with episodic games, mostly appeared in 2015. Lastly, these are all original games. I’ll make another list for remakes and re-releases, seeing that there are quite a number of them to work with.
10. "Tales from the Borderlands/Life Is Strange"
Don’t worry; this is the only entry that I will be cheating with, or relatively speaking on that note. While these two games are fundamentally the same, where decisions pretty much alter the game, the two offer completely different, emotionally charged angles of stories. TellTale Games are slowly drifting towards the “my decisions don't particularly matter for the bigger story, do they” category, but they crafted a mighty fine story with “Tales from the Borderlands,” which also incorporates “Borderlands'” shooter mechanics.
“Life Is Strange,” however, is a different beast. I want to lean towards this one, because there are... different outcomes, shall we say? Whereas “Tales” is more along the lines of giving the “Borderlands” series excellent writing from TaleTell, “Life Is Strange” is exactly what it says on the tin. When you are a young lady, or heck anyone young, life turns out to be strange. That's the point, where things aren't going to add up. It's an emotional ride, and I think Dontnod Entertainment struck that chord beautifully. Some of these decisions you make... my god, they'll tear you up. I guess the one downside is, and it's a pretty noticeable one at that, the presentation. Oh boy, does it get ugly at time to look at. The lip movement just doesn't look right and the movement at times isn't completely... consistently fluid.
However, I think that whether “Tales from the Borderlands” and “Life Is Strange” is better is purely on how you see these things. Both are essentially the same style of story telling with decisions mattering, but they are offer two different experiences that you just have to see to make an opinion on.
Our great editor Anni Bond reviewed “Splatoon” this year, and she saw that it was lacking some content. As I said earlier, that’s perfectly fine. For me, though, “Splatoon” became more of an important game for this year as Nintendo gave future updates. While the content was a little sparse at the beginning of the year, now we have loads of more stuff to keep coming back to “Splatoon” for free and without micro-transactions to justify free content. AAA games like “Evolve,” take note.
With the last few years getting strained by release after release of first-person or third-person shooters that were grey/brown and ultra serious, “Splatoon” is such a nice breath of fresh air. For once the main objective isn't killing each other (in multiplayer)... though you certainly can and should if an enemy is shooting at you. The goal is to use your ink to either paint the floor more than your opponents do, get an objective to your designated goal area, and more. You actually have to think of using weapons to do more things than just kill someone. As more weapons, gear, and maps get added, “Splatoon” continues to show how much fun a shooter can be where outright killing your opponents isn't necessarily the best idea.
8. "Until Dawn"
It’s absolutely refreshing to see a game knowing exactly what it wants to be- a throwback to cheesy horror movies and tropes. “Until Dawn” is a choose-who-dies-and-lives game to boot! So you got your eight friends who get together to party one year after their two friends accidentally die and horror shenanigans commence. Sure, some tropes are a bit silly and drawn out, but then other tropes explore parts where no horror movie or game has gone before.
The best way to envision “Until Dawn” is to think TellTale Games where decisions will actually impact later events. True that occasionally a decision might not have a greater impact, but trust me that being a dick to others will have consequences. People will die if you let them go that way. That's why I love this game. Decisions dictate how characters react to situations and if they live or die. “Heavy Rain” was probably the best in the “decisions have consequences” department, with “Life Is Strange” being how up there, but “Until Dawn,” in terms of production and just being enjoyable even to watch only, nails it out of the park.
7. "Super Mario Maker"
I’m sensing a theme this year for “making things the way you want.” The last traditional platformer Mario had was “Super Mario 3D World,” so it's been about two years since we had a main “Super Mario Bros.” game. Why? So you can make whatever Mario level! In other words MARIO KAZIO FOR EVERYONE.
So imagine this: You get to create levels with assets from “Super Mario Bros.,” “Super Mario Bros. 3,” “Super Mario World,” and “New Super Mario Bros.” Anything you can think of, you can make... within the limitations of that game anyways. You can't wall jump in “Super Mario World,” so you have to keep that in mind when making levels. Other than that, these levels you create play just like they did with a few tweaks, such as Bowser Jr. appearing in games he when he wasn't even conceived yet. Considering that Mario is still around to this day and is the definitive video game character, “Super Mario Marker” is super tight in controls and plays excellently. Whether you want to create your own epic (or dickishly designed) level or play other people's levels, the tools are open to you to play as you wish.
6. "Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain"
Even with all the crap that happened between this game, Hideo Kojima, and Konami, “Metal Gear Solid V” is one impressive game. I've seen some harsh words thrown at this game, such as the story not being so hot or how (subjectively) open-world gameplay is getting out of hand for games nowadays. Personally I'm just thankful this game got made in the first place and relatively in one piece considering how anal Konami got with Kojima.
I think it's safe to say this game is mechanically solid... pun intended. There are so many motions to get objectives done you can get really creative. The attention to detail is superb and the graphics are absolutely stunning. Sure, you can still say that the story work doesn't match up to other “Metal Gear” games at times, but you have to consider this nagging problem- Konami. This game is Kojima's swansong for the “Metal Gear” series and probably the last game we'll see from Konami that isn't free-to-play or pachinko machine related (hell, we may not even see another game from Konami again if things keep up for them. I'm just glad that Kojima put as much work and effort into this game as he could and move onto better pastures to make more games.
5. "Xenoblade Chronicles X"
Well there’s one way to end 2015, and that’s with a bang of a game. Despite Nintendo not ending so great with games like “Devil's Third,” “Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash,” and “Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival,” we have “Xenoblade Chronicles X for the holidays. Considering how rare the first game became and selling at $80 used, I think it was smart to hop on getting this game as soon as possible... despite it being rather easy to find at retailers but that's beside the point.
So what's in this game? We got your traditional RPG fights where your party goes to fight monsters, your story quest, giant mech battles, searching for scattered information parts, taking care of New Los Angeles, and more. At times, it feels like a MMO, but it certainly doesn't quite play like it either. The depth is absolutely stunning. With that said, however, the depth may be a bit daunting as this game is big. If you don't like fetch quests that much, there may be a few parts of this game you may not like. Just a fair warning. But hey, it's safe to say that the “Xenoblade Chronicles” series is a damn fine series that isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
4. "Fallout 4"
My first full-blown dive into the wasteland that is the “Fallout” series was fantastic. Keep that in mind as I approach “Fallout 4.” I don't have the firmest grasp of the “Fallout” series but I'm familiar enough with some of the lore and I have to say this was an excellent adventure into the nuclear wastelands. The loneliness is crisp and whatever remaining people left makes me want to get their help as fast as possible in order to survive. There's so much to do that I'm a bit daunted by the fact that Bethesda is considering more content in the future.
The action infused with RPG elements (or is it the other around here?) is really well done. I think that what is getting people so hung up about “Fallout 4” is that they're putting so much stock on “Fallout 3 & New Vegas” that their expectations are far too high, which is a shame. It's the same thing with “Far Cry 4,” where it's more of the great stuff with a few new things thrown in. That, and Bethesda games have some baggage of being buggy and stuff. To be fair, though, I haven't run into anything game breaking yet, so I'm still having a blast. That, and “Fallout 4” hasn't been built up from hype like other games this year that would have led to a untimely release filled with disastrous problems. Looking at you, “Batman: Arkham Knight” PC verison.
3. "The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt"
Remember when I said that my games this year should be love letters to people who love video games? Well, CD Projekt RED basically sent out thank you letters for being patient while they poured their hearts and souls into “The Witcher 3.” This world is filled to the brim with meaningful things to do, and they aren't the annoying “fetch quests” kind of things that plague RPGs. The story is well crafted for a mature audience and the combat is pretty darn good too.
My only concerns is that I'm hearing a lot of inconsistencies with the combat and those who are jumping right into this game. I'm not all that familiar with “The Witcher” series and as I looked into “The Witcher 2,” only Geralt was the common thing. I may not be reading close enough into the series, as there may be a lot more I'm missing, but it seems that it's really easy to get lost in the bad way with this lore. As for the combat, the inconsistencies are in terms of being either well intuitive or frustrating and non-cooperative. Considering that fighting is a pretty good part of an Action RPG, that's a bit of a concern.
However, these inconsistencies and concerns for lore is rather small. You can't deny how much effort CD Projekt RED put into this game, and I for one acknowledge most of the praise is well earned. Though those who are calling this “better than sex” might be overselling it.
For my surprise choice of the year, here comes “Undertale,” an indie game by Toby Fox and his developing name tobyfox (real imaginative, I know). At first, I had no idea this game even existed for a while. It took me probably a few weeks before “Undertale” popped its head into my line of attention. I pretty much said, “What on earth is going on here? There’s one of Brock’s siblings, a goat lady, two goofy skeleton brothers, and a flower that no one trusts. Interesting…” Then I go and check it out. My lord.
This is by far some of the most clever and complex implementation of being aware of the medium I’ve seen thus far. “Undertale” rivals the “Metal Gear” series and “Conker’s Bad Fur Day,” if not surpasses them, in terms of having medium awareness and player involvement. Anything you do, even as to load a game save, will have characters acknowledge your actions. The gameplay is also great. While simplistic with its battles at first, gameplay will bend at tropes you never thought could exist together.
Also, the writing in this game... this is by far the best writing I have seen this year. You will never cry as much before because of your actions against Goat Mom- I mean Toriel. This game is a massive feels trip that is not only not afraid to rip your heart out but will actively try to make you feel bad or sad whenever you're not looking. Or happy and filled with laughter. There's a lot of that too. Also, based on how you play in one particular... mindset... let's just say “Spec Ops: The Line” should be a big indicator that you're going to have a bad time.
Before we get to number one, I would like to name a few honorable mentions. We have “Rocket League,” “Ori and the Blind Forest,” “Her Story,” “Just Cause 3,” “Lara Croft Go,” “Downwell,” “The Beginning's Guide,” “Everybody's Gone to the Rapture,” “Kerbal Space Program,” “Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate,” “Cities: Skylines,” “Heroes of the Storm,” “Dying Light,” “SOMA,” and probably more that I missed. I was also surprised as to “Call of Duty: Black Ops III's” performance being pretty good. There were so many good games this year it was staggering. It hurts to leave some of these off this list, but I only have enough time to get to each game and a Top 10 List can only have 10 entries. For those who are wondering where certain other big profile games are, there are two other lists that they may pop up on. Remakes/releases will also get their own list.
I knew without a doubt that this game right here was going to be extremely high on my top ten list. Whereas “Undertale” was hands down the best story, “Bloodborne” has the atmosphere, the strategy needed to progress through the game, the absolute gorgeous backdrops, the staggering amount of effort put into the world, and gameplay that will keep people coming back for more and more. You can't go gung-ho with this game. You can eventually be this badass monster hunter that will slay beasts with a single swipe of your sword, but you need patience, planning, and training to get their.
It's fitting that the best game (according to me) of 2015 will make you its bitch. “Bloodborne” knows it is a video game and will make you knee before it, such as previous “Dark Souls” games before. The story is also one of those that isn't forced down people's throats nor is it especially stated. You are a hunter and you have to explore the city of Yharnam and piece the parts together to understand what's going on. It's all in the subtly of the game, which sadly isn't all that seen nowadays in modern gaming.
I honestly can't describe more of the praise for “Bloodborne.” This is one of those games you have to play in order to understand how well crafted the game is.
So 2015 was a pretty good year overall. Loads of good games. Of course... that doesn't mean there weren't plenty of disappointments and bad games. Check back with this list as I'll be looking at the games I saw that were disappointing and the worst for 2015.