There’s no doubt about it; 2015 was a fantastic year for video games. One need only look at the honorable mentions that I list at the end of this article to understand just how many high quality games were released. For games like Rise of the Tomb Raider and Metal Gear Solid 5 to not make my top ten (yes, I understand if you stop reading at this point), there had to be a quite a list of phenomenal games. 2015 was a good year to be a gamer.
I should take a minute to note the usual disclaimer: this is a list of my favorite games of 2015, and that means you probably disagree with some or all of my picks. That’s ok! These lists are a fun exercise and nothing more. Take it for what it is and enjoy!
10. Ori and the Blind Forest
Developer: Moon Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
The beginnings of the story had me emotional before I even began playing, and the beautiful but heavy relationship makes for a perfect segway to the vibrant colors and soft but unyielding world ripe for exploration. This arrangement in conjunction with masterful platforming action makes this yet another excellent gaming experience. If you don’t have an Xbox One, play it on PC – it’s simply not to be missed. Read the full review.
Developer: From Software
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Being perfectly truthful, I bought this game early on and sold it. I had never played a Dark Souls game, got my butt kicked quickly and painfully time and time again, and at the beginning the load times were excruciating, sometimes taking almost an entire minute after each death. In addition, I didn’t understand how to manage the inventory system, leading me to waste all my blood vials and basically ensure complete and utter failure.
After hearing so many of my fellow podcasters rave about this game, I decided to give it another chance, and I’m really glad that I did. Load times have been vastly improved, the game offers tips after you die, and a little research on my part made it so that I could actually play the game without feeling completely helpless. And there’s a masterpiece behind it all.
Feeling. It’s really the feeling of the world that makes Bloodborne so special. Developers From Software created a masterful blend of gothic architecture, dark and dreary atmosphere, horrific creatures and bosses, and despair. These environments mesh perfectly with the unforgiving combat that requires a focused mind making sure that every move counts. There’s a steep learning curve, but it ends up being worth the effort. Bloodborne was a surprise hit, coming from behind to win me over, and I highly recommend it to those who can stomach the content and combat.
Developer: Toby Fox
Publisher: Toby Fox
An unconventional yet familiar JRPG in the same vein as Earthbound, you can manage to progress through Undertale without a single fight. How many games can say that? Add a fun and engaging story, lovable characters, multiple endings, and an outstanding soundtrack, and you’ve got the recipe for a good time. Read the full review.
Developer: 5pb., Nitroplus
Visual novels might seem pointless to play as a “game” to some, but not me, and Steins;Gate is a great example of why. With tons of different endings based on the choices you make, you do have influence, and given the way the game introduces you to its main cast makes you really care about how it all turns out. The main protagonist, Rintaro, is hilarious for starters, and the supporting crew all have their quirks that make them unique individuals that I continually wanted to learn more about. Plus, there’s a lot of advanced concepts about time travel at the center of the plot, and though you have to suspend your disbelief for some of it, none of that affects the overall enjoyment of the experience. I look forward to playing this again when I have the time. Read the full review.
6. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Publisher: CD Projekt
200 hours. Developers CD Projekt Red claims that’s how much stuff there is to do in this game, and a dozen hours in, I’m not about to challenge that assertion. The Witcher 3 is the biggest and most ambitious game I’ve ever played, and while I haven’t come close to finishing it, I have no doubt that it deserves to be on this list.
Why? Because I’m not usually especially keen on universes like this, but The Witcher 3 has thoroughly sucked me in and made me care about its characters. Story aside, there’s an endless source of adventure around every single corner. Want to explore that forest? Sure! Just don’t be surprised if you get attacked and slaughtered in a few brief seconds. Allowing the player to truly explore a gigantic world can be a mistake, but CD Projekt Red has created the most polished experience imaginable at this point in time with the technology we have available. If you don’t mind long, story-driven games, give Witcher 3 a chance.
Update: Read the full review. After sinking in almost 100 hours, the Witcher 3 has become my favorite game of all time.
5. TriForce Heroes
Developer: Nintendo, Grezzo
This game has had a rocky road thus far. Initially criticized for its reliance on multiplayer, something that didn’t work out especially well for its predecessor Four Swords, those who are able to find two friends to play with are in for a treat. Some of my most enjoyable experiences of the year have been with two friends playing TriForce Heroes. Screaming, laughing, and bouts of intense silence while cooperating on a task were commonplace each and every session, and we frequently played until our 3ds systems went dead from an exhausted battery.
The game does offer some single player experiences – you can either play the regular stages with doppelgangers or fight others in a coliseum – but it’s clear the most fun can be had with friends. Don’t let the lackluster story and non-traditional format keep you away from experiencing one of the most engaging and entertaining games of the year.
Eating over 30 hours of my game time this year, Splatoon has become more frustrating for me lately. As I played more hours and advanced in my ranking, opponents became better, quickly to the point where if I’m not playing regularly, I will lose, and lose badly. But that’s ok; the quality of the game shouldn’t be diminished because of my own inadequacies, and Splatoon is a phenomenal game. It started out light on content, but to this day it seems like we have received free weekly updates for over six months now, and it’s now bursting with things to do.
Leave it to Nintendo to reinvent a genre. There’s nothing quite like it out there, and you simply need to give it a shot if you own a Wii U. Read the full review.
3. Rocket League
Comfort food in every sense of the phrase, Rocket League is easy to learn but tough to master. Ever played a soccer game and been exhilarated by the rush towards your goal, but confused by the intricacies of a game you’re not especially familiar with? Rocket League has got you covered. Few games this year have had me jumping out of my seat with excitement, or screaming at the television in frustration, but this game had me run through a full range of emotions.
With incredible staying power, Rocket League is still in my rotation after dozens of hours, and it should be in yours too. If you only have an Xbox One and feel left out, stay tuned: it’s coming to Xbox One in February of 2016.
2. Transformers Devastation
Developer: Platinum Games
A love letter to fans of the original G1 series, Platinum Games nails the feel and experience of sentient transforming robots engaged in a classic battle of good vs. evil. A short experience with a budget price, there’s plenty of beautiful, rewarding, action-packed combat to keep you coming back for more. Read the full review.
1. Until Dawn
Developer: Supermassive Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Hearing about Until Dawn’s development helped sway me towards a PS4 over an Xbox One, and upon release the game did not disappoint. The game delivers a full blown movie experience in a video game package where your choices truly affect the outcome. If you like cheesy horror movies, you simply must play this game. Read the full review.
11. Super Mario Maker
12. Life is Strange
13. Rise of the Tomb Raider
14. Axiom Verge
15. Resident Evil Revelations 2