Great Games I Played In 2015

I'm not good at keeping up to date with games.

I don't own a PS4 or an Xbox One. I've got a Wii U! And a 3DS! And even a PC that can handle... some games. But I generally don't play a lot of games as they come out. I don't have that much money to burn. I scavenge sales and Platinum-Hits style releases to get my fix. So a lot of the games I played this year were older. But I'm counting them anyway.

List items

  • Release Year: 2015

    This game is something else. It's a far bigger game than what's actually on the disk. The way that the Youtube and streaming culture has embraced this game has made it into something far more interesting than just a Mario-themed level editor. It's a tool for social interaction; it allows people to engage with each other through the medium of level design, and it is fascinating to watch.

    That, and it really is also a great game in a vacuum, too. The design tools are smart and easy to use, and while finding other people's levels could be easier, the 100-Mario Challenge is a pretty brilliant way to surface that stuff. They've also been steadily adding free content post-release, which is rad.

  • Release Year: 2012

    I don't know how good I feel about my newfound addiction to Puzzle and Dragons, but it's something I have to acknowledge exists. I downloaded the free-to-play iOS game around the time that the Mario-branded 3DS game was released, as all the talk around the game really piqued my interest. I was hooked almost immediately. While some of the hooks are admittedly pretty gross from a "these guys really want my money" standpoint, they sunk into me nonetheless. There's a thrill to pulling the [slot] machine to see what rare Monster awaits you, to see if it fits your current playstyle or if it's cool enough to let you build an altogether new playstyle around it. There's a million different progression systems layered on top of that, from an overall level, to an individual monster's level, to how many special abilities each monster has unlocked, to minor stat-boosts acquired through rare monsters. The game is so deep, and while it absolutely wants to take all of the money out of your pockets, it's still really fun when it does.

  • Release Year (Wii U): 2015

    This game was a surprise for me. I was browsing through the Nintendo e-Shop and decided to buy Elliot Quest almost on a whim, expecting something I could play for an hour or two and move on. Turns out, this is one of my favorite games of the year. It plays a lot like Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, but not quite as balls-hard and with a number of cool new gameplay elements. The spells are more usable, as the resource expended upon their use isn't nearly as scarce as it is in Zelda II. There are more upgrades for Elliot in general, with (now-standard) things like a double-jump awaiting you behind dungeon walls.

    This isn't even everything that makes Elliot Quest rad, though. The game is very old-Zelda-esque in that it absolutely requires exploration, and doesn't hand-feed you any clues about where to go. You might complete an entire dungeon without finding its secret item, or move on to a new part of the map without realizing there was an entire area you failed to explore. (You can always backtrack, if you're wondering. The game never locks you out of areas, save for one special case.) And while Elliot Quest isn't as hard as Zelda II, that doesn't mean it's without difficulty. The game does actually get incredibly difficult at times, almost frustratingly so, but it is usually checkpointed well and the reward for clearing difficult areas feels substantial.

    The game even has a cool story! It's not the deepest story ever told, but the way it's told is intriguing, and the tone the game sets is really strong.

    This game is absolutely worth checking out. It's on Steam, too, I hear, so you should pick it up. It's fantastic.

  • Release Year: 2015

    I didn't know how I felt about this game until listening to the Giant Bomb "Best Music" discussion a few hours ago. It's weird, how the game was just kind of sitting in some nebulous part of my brain until then. My opinion of it was kind of along the lines of "this is a video game" until hearing ASGORE's theme again made me think about the game in a different light. When playing through the game, I didn't feel too much. I didn't laugh very hard. It didn't seem to do a lot for me, but the whole thing seems so much better in retrospect. Maybe that's not a great way to evaluate a game, but once I reflected on this game even the slightest bit, it all clicked for me, and I adore it. There's something truly special about it, and the way that music makes me feel now is a huge part of it. There seem to be real, emotional memories attached to those songs, even if I didn't seem to be having those feelings in the moment. This game is even unique in the way I feel inclined to evaluate it, which is why it's so damn high on this list. It's worth playing, even if only to have an opinion on it.

  • Release Year: 2014

    Similar to the situation with Elliot Quest, I bought Shantae and the Pirate's Curse after browsing the Nintendo e-Shop for some amount of time. However in the case of Shantae, I had expectations. I had heard good things. And the game exceeded those expectations! The game is reminiscent of a Metroidvania-style game, though not overbearingly so. The game can be played in a relatively linear fashion, if that's your jam. I just found the whole experience to be absolutely wonderful. Controlling the character feels great, and the expanded movement abilities you get over the course of the game only serve to make it feel even better. At no point was I awkwardly struggling with the controls, as I might when attempting to grapple in a Metroid game. Everything is intuitive, and the levels are all expertly designed. This game is a fantastic 2D platformer, and if you're into those, I'd call it a must-play.

  • Release Year: 2015

    Alright, now that we're past number 5, I'll try to keep these short.

    I think this game is underrated. I had a blast playing it with my siblings, and playing it with randoms online is fun for entirely different reasons. Trying to communicate entirely through gameplay and a few (adorable) emotes is a really fun challenge. And the lack of chat means you don't really hate anyone you play with, kind of like Journey's co-op.

  • (Together)

    Release Year: Still in Early Access

    I've only sunk a few hours into this, but from what I can tell, playing Don't Starve with friends is the way to go. It's been a damn blast, and the game's aesthetics and unforgiving mechanics provide a great outlet for a deadpan-gallows-humor rapport with your friends.

  • Release Year: 2013

    I enjoy AC games. This is one of them. It probably wouldn't have made it on this list if the character of Edward Kenway wasn't handled so well. He has a really great arc, where he goes from a selfish ass unafraid to die to a man with a cause, and this happens through a series of powerful story events. It takes a lot to coax Kenway out of his assery, but it does happen eventually. His story also ended beautifully and poignantly. If character arcs were this good in more AAA games, I'd be really happy.

  • Release Year: 2015

    I've only owned this game for a few days, so maybe it's unfair to have this high on the list, but it is so much fun.

  • Release Year: 1996

    This is a weird inclusion. I've beaten this game numerous times already, normally that would be cause for exclusion from a list like this. But the way I played it this year changed, and it changed in a way I felt was worth mentioning. You see, I saw my first ever Mario 64 speedrun this year. It was a full 120-star run, meaning I got to see every little trick to getting every star as quickly as possible, and it was fascinating.

    I didn't attempt to learn to speedrun this game or anything, though if I were to pick a game to do that with, it'd be this game. I did, however, start looking at the levels in a new light; I started looking for ways to break them, and it changed the way I played completely. It was an all-new experience, and it was so much fun.

  • Release Year: 2008

    This game surprised me. The entire final arc of the first ending I reached was one of the best stories I've experienced in games. Sure, a visual novel might barely count as a video game, but it's just enough of one that it counts for me. If you're able to look past some of the egregious issues that visual novels tend to have (like weird, needless sex scenes for example!) then I recommend this one, especially if you like music, and punk music in particular. The characters' first impressions of punk music and their initial attempts to become punks are hysterical, but the love of the music is there, and that ending... It was something special for a variety of reasons.

    "I will play with all I've got.

    With all my love, to this fucking world."

  • Release Year: 2009

    I don't know what inspired me to play this one. It was fun! This was my first RE game, actually, and the action-y nature of it made me totally not hate it!

  • Release Year: 2014

    Not much to say about this one. It's a cool game, nothing special about it really, but I happened to have one of my most fun gaming moments of the whole year with it, due to some fluke circumstances.

  • Release Year: 2013

    I got this for free on PS+, and it turned out to be super fucking cool. Highly recommended.

  • Release Year: 2009

    Having played both Xillia and Graces f this year, I can tell you that Graces f is one of the good Tales games, while Xillia falls pretty flatly into the camp of bad ones. The characters in Graces are good, and relationships they have are done better in this game than they are in a lot of JRPGs. In fact, the game is about friendship, and what that really means. It sounds corny, and it is in places, but it explores different facets of the concept, rather than opting for the typical "the power of friendship will win the day" kind of bullshit. Rather than go that route, it deals with feelings of abandonment, and how to repair broken friendships, and whether or not certain friendships are even salvageable. It's done well. Also, (SPOILERS!) the whole game takes place on a fucking man-made moon and the (typically overused in JRPGs) "ancient civilization" the game has is from the planet the moon orbits. The sky of the moon is made out of water. Weird, creative world design and I like it a lot.

  • Release Year: 2015

    A really cool game that I burned out on quicker than I would have liked to. It was still really fun while it lasted!

  • Release Year: 2015

    I don't have much to say here. It's game that I played this year and enjoyed.

  • (The Knife of Dunwall)

    Release Year: 2013

    Dishonored is rad. I played more of it this year. Rad.

  • Release Year: 2015

    This game is maybe the best game starring Yoshi I've ever played. Maybe that's not super high praise, but it's still something. The secrets are really fun to look for.