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Dan Teasdale's Top 10 Games of 2015

Finally, a top 10 list with the guts to both stand up for one extremely specific part of Mario Party 10, and take the Ouya down a peg.

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Dan Teasdale accounts for approximately one half of the developer known as No Goblin. When he's not filming ludicrous FMV sequences or making giant robots play golf, he enjoys playing the bass, monitoring John Drake's every move, and losing handily in PAX Rumbles. Follow him on Twitter so you can brag to all your friends about how you follow an Australian person.

2015 is definitely a year in which video games were released. Here’s the definitive list of what the ten best ones were. I guess you’re out of luck if you liked a different video game. Sorry!

10. Sparrow Racing League

Let me go out of my way to make this clear: This is not a vote for Destiny, nor is it a vote for The Taken King. I haven’t shot a gun in Destiny beyond the first three levels I played at launch before shelving it. I have played absolutely zero Taken King content. I have less-than-zero desire to play in a group with friends or level up Light Grimoires or do just about anything associated with what Destiny is meant to be.

I do, however, have a Sparrow Racing League character. My SRL character is at max level, almost entirely from SRL events which I have also reached the end of. I have spent silver to buy a virtual racing logbook for a game that won’t exist next month. There are only two courses, the rewards system is broken (I keep getting legendary weapons and armor, but can’t seem to find a way to use them to improve my racing), and it seems like the lobby could just be the hangar instead of that weird area with useless quest givers, but hey, it’s Bungie’s first racing game--I’ll cut them some slack.

Most importantly it’s a game that won’t exist soon, thereby making it high art. The IGF has it all wrong: Sparrow Racing League is the Nuovo winner for 2015.

9. Until Dawn

I’m not a big horror guy, but I mainlined Until Dawn. It’s as if a FMV game transcended video and became a Real Grown Up Video Game. If you haven’t played Until Dawn yet, I strongly recommend you invite a group of friends over and play it as a group--as a group activity, this may be the strongest successor to the VHS board game hit Nightmare yet.

8. Cities: Skylines

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I own two copies of SimCity (2013) on DVD. I ordered pre-order copies to be delivered to me at my home address. Technically it’s unrelated, but I immediately abandoned my house and drove multiple states away to start a new life away from that location.

Cities: Skylines made me forget about that dark time in my past. For the first time since SimCity 2000, I had a city builder that refused to let me build a perfect city. This is exactly what I am looking for in a city builder: constant city drama.

7. Just Cause 3

I keep thinking of Saints Row: The Third when talking about Just Cause 3. Both Saints Row 2 and Just Cause 2 were janky-ish games with a whole lot of heart. The difference is that Volition embraced the heart and went full A+ wonderfully bonkers for SR3, whereas Avalanche continued along the destruction path to perfect things and make a polished AAA game.

The result is great and I still love blowing things up, but it also meant the heart has been polished out too. Areas in JC2 had their own unique feel and personality, whereas JC3 feels like it’s me choosing between “small town” and “military base." I think Annika and Teo are great characters, but imagine if they existed in the same world as Bolo Santosi.

(Damn, just typing “Bolo Santosi” makes me say that name with that wonderfully terrible accent. BOLO SANTOSI. Say it. Take a minute and just repeat that to yourself under your breath, I’ll wait.)

Still, blowing up stuff remains fun. Using a grapple to kick a guy is great and feels wonderful. You’re in my top ten for 2016, but I’m also sad that the franchise is charting a path out of the top ten of my heart.

6. Mario Party 10’s Bowser Party Mode

Much like Sparrow Racing League, the bulk of what surrounds Bowser Mode isn’t worth thinking or writing home about. HOWEVER, Mario Party 10’s Bowser Party Mode is the pinnacle of this skill based party game masterpiece franchise.

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In Bowser Party Mode, you play 4v1 Mario Party--Bowser on the gamepad, the other four clowns in a literal clown car that they have to share. Imagine taping four confused and panicking cats together, putting them in a slow golf cart, then summoning Godzilla to just completely trash them if they don’t drive perfectly. Imagine those four people are your friends, and you are Godzilla. That’s Bowser Party Mode.

It reminds me of board games like Battlestar Galactica, or that co-op Lord of the Rings game that came out a while ago. The game is not about “winning”, it’s about how long you survived as a group before you got trashed into the ground. Changing Mario Party into a no mercy survival game where one person in the room is grossly overpowered is exactly what this franchise needed.

The thing that makes me sad is that this is most likely an unintentional balancing accident, and that the poor long suffering people working on Mario Party will balance this to be more friendly in Mario Party 11, thereby destroying this accidental perfection. If anyone can pass them a note to make Bowser Party instead, that would be great.

5. Kerbal Space Program 1.0

Kerbal is on my list every year I do a list. I’ve said everything I can, yet I still keep playing it. This year it came out of Early Access, so it’d be criminal to stop this year.

How about this: We just assume from now on that Kerbal is always in my Top 5 for the rest of time, and we’ll treat any future lists as an unspoken Top 11. Sounds good? Good.

4. TIS-100

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TIS-100 is Yet Another Zachtronics Game where you make programs to solve problems. In this one, it’s a fake assembler language!

The real reason I love it because all of the programmers I’ve worked with play it. This means their scores show up in the per-level leaderboards. This also means that I, as a designer, can compete in fake programming against people who are paid to be real programmers. You have not experienced real satisfaction until you have made a more optimized fake program than the CTO of your ex-employer.

3. Duck Game

It has a quack button.

(Note: I am counting this as a 2015 release because nobody sane ever considered the Ouya to be an actual platform. Releasing on Ouya was like saying I released a video game into a small water damaged shoebox that I buried as a time capsule but then forgot to tell people about.)

2. Fallout 4

Fallout 4 is a game I’m generally ho-hum on when talking about it, yet I still played it for 12 hours a day non-stop for multiple days because I loved being in the world.

Yeah, the mainline story is the worst Bethesda story in a long time, the side stuff is constrained, radiant questing is super weak, the UI is clunky as all hell. But it’s a Fallout game and a Bethesda game, which means I end up drinking from a world, lore, and emergent event firehose for weeks on end and secretly love it.

Ugh, I’m probably going to buy the season pass too. Is this what Stockholm Syndrome is?

1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

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Never change, Hideo.

Metal Gear Solid V is amazing for all of the long standing design struggles that are solved seemingly as a side point. Fultoning solves the “why bother even being stealthy” problem, as well as the “how do I collect enough animals to build a zoo” dilemma that designers have struggled at since time immemorial.

What’s remarkable is that Kojima Productions made an amazing game even with Konami doing everything in the Bad Publisher Playbook to ruin things. I can’t wait to see what Kojima comes up with without a publisher telling him to extend the game length, or add microtransactions, or to add a Hollywood actor to improve sales, or to tone down his insane Kojimaness.

I used to think Kojima needed an editor, but now I embrace a world where people should just airlift a stack of money to him and let him do his thing.