My Top 10 Games of 2015

Here's my favorite (and not-so-favorite) games of 2015.

10. Halo 5: Guardians

Halo 5 was a return to form for the series. It didn't reach the highs of 3 or Reach but it was much better than 343's first entry in the series. Just give me Grifball and Infection in multiplayer, please.

9. Massive Chalice

The strength of Massive Chalice is what the game leaves undefined, allowing the player to fill in the gaps. On the surface, it's a simple turn-based strategy game with lite civilization building. You build up your empire over 300 years to fight off the evil force (called the Cadence) that's slowly overtaking your home. There isn't much detail given about your empire's inhabitants. Some will become warriors, others will help build your defenses, and others will marry and raise children.

It seems bare-bones but it's actually what I loved so much. Instead of being spoon-fed a story, I was able to create my own stories. My favorite of which was of the first two children born at Fort Summerjams. Anna Davis was the firstborn and it was obvious from early on that she would become a great leader. She had charisma (from her father, Taswell) and strength (from her mother, Maxim). The second daughter, Typh, was the opposite. She was sickly from birth and grew up in her sister's shadow. Anna went on to inherit the regency of Fort Summerjams but Typh would leave the greater legacy. Forced into battle, Typh overcame her physical limitations and became the most skilled warrior in the army. Affectionately called "Slim", her prowess in battle became legend and generations of the Davis family would use a weapon bearing her namesake.

Other than the names and a couple of character traits, none of that was actually in the game. It simply provided the framework for me to write my own stories.

8. Life Is Strange

I haven't finished Life Is Strange yet. In fact, I stopped playing to finish writing this. But, I've played enough to know that it belongs on this list. I've found myself actually caring about Max, Kate, and the rest of the people of Arcadia Bay. Some of the dialog is a little cringey ("Go fuck your selfie") but it actually makes it a little more endearing. I'd write more but I need to get back to playing to make sure that Nathan Prescott gets what's coming to him.

7. Until Dawn

Until Dawn came out of nowhere for me. I didn't know it existed until it was out and I started seeing videos of it online. I genuinely enjoyed the campy, trope-filled horror story and the game did a great job of making it feel like your choices made a difference.

6. Super Mario Maker

This is a bit of a weird one for me as it's on this list mostly because I've loved watching what's come from the game and not necessarily playing it. I've never been much of a level creator and even with the extremely easy-to-understand level editor, I haven't spent much time creating levels. I've also only played a small chunk of user-created levels online. There's been more variety in the last couple of months but around launch it seemed like the only levels that were being created were self-playing levels that are impressive to watch for about 30 seconds or incredibly challenging levels that I just don't have the patience for. However, I've had a blast watching people make and play these monstrosities. There's been the feud between Dan Ryckert and Patrick Klepek that spawned the Ryckoning, Klepocalypse, and Armageddan. Panga and others have made some insane levels that are fun to watch and the stuff that was at AGDQ last week was incredibly entertaining. All of that was enough to get it on my list even if I wasn't actually the one playing.

5. Rock Band 4

The Rock Band series has been one of the most important game series to me. Rock Band 1 and 2 were basically the only reason why I made it through my freshman year of college. Rock Band 3 and LEGO Rock Band were my escapes when dealing with my father's cancer. Rock Band Blitz was the only thing that kept me sane during my extremely stressful final semester of college. And with what I've been going through during 2015, Rock Band 4 couldn't have really come at a better time. It's far from perfect, re-downloading purchased songs should have been easier, the new instruments aren't great, the career mode and character customization options are shallow, the on-disc soundtrack is mostly bad, but at it's still Rock Band at its core. All of the other stuff is ancillary to why I love this game.

4. Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise fixed most of the problems that I had with the first Tomb Raider reboot. There's more actual raiding of tombs. The cringe-inducing torture porn death animations for Lara are mostly gone. It's less reliant on quick-time-events. This time around, I actually enjoyed the combat as well. Being able to upgrade the bow to use explosive or flaming arrows and crafting molotov cocktails and homemade grenades was slightly more believable than a young woman mowing down hundreds of trained soldiers with a shotgun. Did I mention that the game is absolutely gorgeous?

3. Rocket League

Rocket League was the perfect game to play when you only had fifteen minutes or so to play. And then the next thing you know, it's 3 am and you're still playing because of course you can't go out with a loss. And you can't quit after that win because you're on a roll now.

2. Ori and the Blind Forest

To me, Ori is a nearly perfect game. It's amazing in nearly every facet. Absolutely gorgeous, amazing soundtrack, tight controls, and they were even able to tell a good story without any of the characters actually speaking. (Seriously, the first five minutes in this game made me as emotional as the first five minutes of Up). Most years, Ori would've been an easy choice for GOTY for me if it wasn't for...

1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

I'm a real sucker for huge fantasy worlds and the world of the Witcher is an easy one to lose yourself in. The brutality and hopelessness of the world can be off-putting for some but it just made it feel more real, well as real as a place where magic and monsters exist. I wanted to explore every inch of that game and experience as much of the story as possible. CD Projekt Red did an amazing job at creating interesting characters and storylines (unlike another game this year...more on that later). I could spend hundreds of hours with Geralt and Ciri going on Witcher adventures.

And the actual game part was solid as well. I enjoyed the combat, especially when taking on the bigger and more deadly creatures. Researching their strengths and weaknesses and using oils and potions to gain an advantage was much more fun than just running in blindly and mashing X until everything's dead.

Oh, and have you heard about Gwent?

And now for some honorable or not-so-honorable mentions.

Most Disappointing Game: Fallout 4

I thought I was ready for another Bethesda RPG. I got Fallout 4 on release day and put 40 hours in in the first few weeks. But, after getting nuked at the start of a quest that I had to reload multiple times because it kept breaking I gave up. There was nothing pushing me to play more. I looked back at the 40 hours I had played and struggled to think of anything that had been memorable. None of the factions were interesting and I had completely lost my motivation to finish the main storyline. It was clear that Bethesda was trying to go for a more BioWare feel to the storytelling with the branching dialogue system but they failed to create any characters interesting enough to care about like in BioWare's RPG's. Nick and Piper are fine but they're nowhere near Garrus or Cassandra. I also could not care any less about the base-building and while it was cool that they gave some use for all of the junk around the world, it started to feel like busywork making sure I picked up every piece of crap I could find.

Mediocre Game I Spent Way Too Much Time Playing: Batman: Arkham Knight

I got Arkham Knight right when I suddenly had a lot more free time and not much desire to do anything. I ended up 100% the game for reasons that I'm still not sure of. Knight was better than Arkham City and Arkham Origins, but was still nowhere near the great Arkham Asylum.

Dota 2 Award for Best Dota 2: Dota 2

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