GOTY 2015

A pre-emptive GOTY list for 2015

List items

  • From the makers of the tragically underrated Remember Me, this tale of friendship almost slipped past me this year if it wasn't for the Beastcrew. At first glance it appeared to be a rather mild story of teen problems with the appropriate level of depth that never really sold me on the premise. After seeing the first two episodes played by Vinny and crew I was hooked. The writing is all over the place and for every real moment there are at least a handful of cringe worthy lines or strangely detached cultural references. At the end of the day though there is an unmistakable sincerity to this story that manages to tug at your heartstrings in unexpected ways. For some people Undertake was a game that came out of nowhere and swept them off their feet, for me that game was Life Is Strange. While all the other games on this list have undeniably more exciting moment to moment gameplay, none of them managed to captivate me in such a deeply personal way as this simple story of two friends has done. I'm sure some, or even most, will play this game and think "well that was predictable and trite" and thats absolutely fine; I can't even explain why I was so affected by it, but I'm glad I was.

  • The year of open world games just kept on giving. The final entry in Hideo Kojimas 20 year old series surprised us yet again by completely reinventing itself in a brand new genre. MGS V certainly didn't feel like the canonical missing link we were all hoping for, but the fantastic gameplay and varied sandbox approach to stealth espionage went a long way in relieving the phantom pain left behind by the absence of a story that we all imagined. IF nothing else, it is incredibly impressive how well realized this first foray into the open world genre turned out for Kojima and his team, who have been making damn near scripted action movies for the better part of the last two decades.

  • A breath of fresh air in the Souls franchise, Bloodborne introduced us to a whole new universe full of cosmic terror and mystery while still retaining enough of the classic formula to help returning players feel right at home with axe in one hand and pistol in the other. The story remained as cryptic and esoterically pieced together as always, but it was the profoundly different atmosphere that made me fall in love with a Souls game all over again. The Chalice dungeons were a massive disappointment, and a nightmare on the way to the platinum trophy in their own way, but the base game remained a wonderful journey into the "cosm" of madness from beginning to end.

  • Geralt finally got the adventure he truly deserved. From humble beginnings of a very European feeling point and click RPG, the Witcher series has evolved into this sprawling world chock full of well written stories and interesting characters. Reminiscent of Red Dead Redemption in it's open approach to tracking down bounties or skinning griffons for their highly coveted scales used in a robust crafting system, the Wild Hunt was great at immersing you in a world of possibilities. By the time the credits rolled I really did feel like I've completed an adventure, even if there were some hiccups along the way. The only reason I might rate this lower on my list than Bloodborne, which had way more technical flaws, is because the world didn't surprise me nearly as much.

  • I loved Hotline Miami. Hotline Miami 2 initially felt like more of the same but I quickly realized that I was OK with that. In fact, more of the same was exactly what I wanted. Heart pounding action and throbbing beats from a great soundtrack kept me tackling some of the levels over and over again in order to hone in on the perfect path of blood and mayhem. The story offered up a bit of closure, if not in a disjointed and confusing manner, but ultimately it was second to second gameplay and uniquely psychedelic art style that kept me coming back for more long after the credits rolled.

  • A complete surprised from Ubisoft, Grow Home was exactly what I've been talking about all these years: a throwback, retro styled platformer that utilized modern technology to bring us a wholly unique approach to the genre. Delightful from top to bottom, Grow Home was as much a joy to behold as it was to play. We can only hope the small team behind this gem get a bigger budget and continue BUD's and MOM's adventure on a grandeur scale in the years to come!

  • I never got around to play Journey on PS3 and quite frankly all the rumbustious praise made me a little cynical towards how good it actually was. Just another over praised indie darling, I thought to myself. Well when it came out on PS4 in glorious double-HD I decided to find out for myself. Journey isn't the greatest game ever made, but I was surprised how impactful it's story turned out to be. By the time I was nearing the grand finale, to my own surprise I was genuinely moved by the experience. Many people tout the importance of the anonymous bond between you and your co-op partner and I have to agree it most certainly amplified those final emotional moments for me. Journey is a beautiful looking game with great controls, clever mechanics and mesmerizing level design that is enriched by it's non-intrusive co-op system. I might be a year late, but consider me a believer.

  • While the sister PC release was a smoking mess, the PS4 release of Arkham Knight brought with it the best playing Batman game to date. There isn't much to say really - a good open world, nice variety, and solid Batman combat make this the magnum opus of Rocksteady's dark knight franchise. Personally I didn't have nearly as many qualms with the batmobile as others did, and for the most part enjoyed my time spent in the cockpit. It is a shame that this, supposedly, final release was marred by a tidal wave of crippling technical issues that put a huge dent in the reverence people generally had for Rocksteady up to that point.

  • Her Story is my personal indie darling of 2015. You know, it's that really weird offbeat game that you hear people praise to high heavens while you skeptically look over the screenshots thinking "whats the big deal?" A detective story of sorts, Her Story has you unravel a murder mystery by cross-examining a series of recordings viewed randomly and out of order from a key figure in the investigation. The game combines some simple, yet clever mechanics and truly remarkable acting that goes a long way in drawing you in. If actress Viva Seifert were not as good as she was, the whole thing would fall apart rather quickly. I was intrigued from beginning to end, and even after I felt "satisfied" I continued to watch more and more of the tapes to flesh out the story - not because of some arbitrary game completion counter, but simply because I wanted to know for myself.

  • A remaster of a game nearly as old as I am helped me relive some childhood memories with colorful developer commentary. As an adult I was finally able to finish the game that my 7 year old self simply couldn't handle at the time. As a true sign of a great art style, even all those years later Grim Fandango continues to impress with it's colorful backdrops and a wacky cast of skeleton revolutionaries.

  • Potential candidate (if I buy an XB1 for Christmas)