Erik Wolpaw is the writer of two of the greatest video game-related things of all time: the Portal series, and this Final Fight One review. He also co-founded the legendary Web Site Old Man Murray, currently works at Valve, and is involved in the upcoming sequel to Psychonauts. He never uses Twitter, but we're linking to his account anyway, in the hopes it might shame him into tweeting more (it won't).
Getting old sucks. I can literally hurt myself sleeping now. That said, I HAVE discovered one good thing about aging: You eventually become comfortable with your own taste. Here’s an example: I love Louis L’Amour novels and the Olive Garden. Genuinely. Non-ironically. Tough shit, 20-year-old me. I know this wasn’t what you were hoping for. All I can say is I’m having a great time! And also you’re going to hate my top 10 list. Oh my God, you’re going to hate it.
Holy crap, I just looked and this didn’t even come out in 2015. I played it in 2015, so... I don’t know what to tell you. Get used to it. Anyway, here’s more or less all I want from a game anymore: you go into a dungeon and collect stuff and also you have stats that go up. That is a description that describes Sorcery Saga. Plus, I sit at a desk for 10 hours a day, so in my leisure time I need to stretch my legs.
Unfortunately, you can’t operate a PS4 while lying down with your legs stretched out, so mostly I want my dungeon adventures to take place on either a Vita or a 3DS. Sorcery Saga is on the Vita! If this sounds like the best game imaginable, it is. Feel free to end the list here.
This is more like it, right? It even came out this year! But, you’re probably saying to the people you’re reading this top 10 list out loud to in court, "Crusader Kings II isn’t about going into a dungeon to collect stuff". Well, if you say so. I wouldn’t know. Once a year I start thinking, you know, I’m arguably not a complete idiot. In fact, I’m the type of petite sophisticate who should probably be playing--and enjoying!--these grand strategy games. So, once a year, I reinstall Crusader Kings II (and prior to 2012, Dominions) and give it a shot and quickly become bored and go spend the rest of the afternoon grinding the post-game dungeon in Sorcery Saga. No more. 2015 is the year I retire these pointless acts of serious and committed self-delusion. So this number nine spot is simply a tribute to my old arch-nemesis, the first five minutes of Crusader Kings II.
Here’s how I play Disgaea games: I do just enough story missions to unlock all the crap in the hub, and then spend the next 100 hours happily grinding item dungeons. I love Disgaea games. I have never finished a Disgaea game. In fact, I can’t tell you the difference between any of the Disgaea games. All I can tell you is they’re all perfect. This year’s model is on the PS4, which would be tough for my only-playing-games-while-lying-down Game of the Year criteria, except it works great over remote play on the Vita.
There are three things I love: my family, Etrian Odyssey games, and Mystery Dungeon games. And much like this top 10 list, those things aren’t in any particular order. So you can imagine my joy when somebody who I don’t know in Japan decided to cram Etrian Odyssey into my Mystery Dungeoning.
That said, somebody else in Japan, or maybe the same guy, also decided this year to add more story to Etrian Odyssey and make Etrian Odyssey 2: Untold something something something. I don’t want to get political, but I’m a single issue voter: No more fucking story in Etrian Odyssey. Jesus.
6. The Crew
Here’s another type of game I love: Open-world driving games. I replay Burnout Paradise at least once a year, and I swear to God I will play these things regardless of quality. For example, this game. Which is being unfair to The Crew. It’s better than you’ve heard! If you’re me! Plus, it has lots of grinding. It’s basically Ford Fusion Mystery Dungeon.
This is 100% true: Until recently, my plan for when I inevitably get fired from Valve was to start writing and publishing absurd Choose Your Own Adventure games and sell them for one dollar each. This year Clickhole began writing and publishing absurd Choose Your Own Adventure games. And they’re good!
And they’re free! Which pretty much screws me, retirement-wise. Still, they really are terrific. But, you’re probably saying, they’re not games! Well, neither was Gone Home and you (Jeff Gerstmann) all loved that. Alright, calm down. I’m joking to prove a point: What’s wrong with you?
4. Demon Gaze
I like breasts. I spend at least some small part of each day thinking about them. Better yet, they’re usually attached to women, a category of person of I’m fond of because many of them have been very kind to me over the years. Surprisingly, then, I’ve been largely indifferent to boobs in games. Demon Gaze is a dungeon RPG starring giant-bosomed people. Actually, I’m not 100% sure they’re all people. I’m positive about the enormous breast part, though. Anyway, does the occasional sight of a half-covered, supernaturally huge chest make dungeons even better than dungeons usually are? Yes.
Something to explore in 2016.
I didn’t like Operation Abyss. It’s on the list to send a clear message to Japanese game developers: Just because you made a loot collecting dungeon crawler on the Vita or 3DS, that doesn’t mean you get a free pass. Those free passes are reserved for open-world driving games. Also, I couldn’t think of ten games. I did play a couple hours of Undertale and enjoyed it. Let’s call this one a tie between the first two hours of Undertale and my stern warning to Japanese game developers.
I’m playing this right now and enjoying it, but it’s mainly here to make another point: Operation Abyss aside, I will spend 20 hours grinding your Mystery Dungeon game even if it’s explicitly targeted at four-year-olds.
This one breaks all the rules: It doesn’t take place in a mystery dungeon, there’s no driving, and it’s not on the Vita and doesn’t work well over remote play. Still, I love, love, love Souls games. Love ‘em. Love the combat. Love the atmosphere of dreamy oddness. I even love Dark Souls II. And Bloodborne is a lot better than that. The first nine games on this list are in no particular order, but Bloodborne is number one. I new-game-plussed it a few times, and even spent a ton of time in the Chalice dungeons. If Bloodborne 2’s Chalice dungeons incorporate better loot progression, more visual variety, and a few blouses magically exploding off some giant busts, I will never play another game.
Well, that’s it. My first ever totally honest top 10 list. One ancillary benefit of this new policy of truth is that I can already announce next year’s list: eight interchangeable, grindy Japanese porn RPGs and Dark Souls 3. And probably The Crew again.