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Lies of P is a good game, who knew!?

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GOTY 2015

2015 was a great year for me; personally, professionally, and also for video games. I’m not ready to back the sentiment that it rests among the best years in video game history, but I can’t deny that 2015 gave us a lot of fantastic games of all shapes and sizes. I certainly never felt wanting for fun games to play, and I even wound up with more than 10 I wanted to showcase on this list. But that tough annual constraint is precisely what makes such a list meaningful, and after much internal debate I’ve finally settled on these 10 games as the ones I enjoyed the most. Thanks for reading, and here’s to an equally awesome 2016!

List items

  • Axiom Verge is a treasure for explorers. It creates a fascinating world imbued with an exhilarating sense of discovery, and checks all the boxes along the way: top-notch level design, exciting enemies, awesome style, absolutely killer music, and inventive weapons and abilities that frequently defy expectations to turn the game on its head in surprising ways. It embodies the qualities I love most about video games, and manages to spin them into a fresh and bold adventure that’s very much its own, special thing. Axiom Verge stands alongside the very best of its kind, and it’s also my favorite game of the year.

  • Super Mario Maker brings level creation to the everyman. I’ve never been one for level creators, but this game’s slick, intuitive interface makes diving in to create your own Mario masterpieces (or nightmares) a fun game unto itself. That simplicity doesn’t betray robustness either, with strong underlying physics and tons of smart tools allowing for some real nuance in design. The cherry on top is the online community, which has brought endless creativity and enthusiasm to “making Mario” that’s proved inspiring. Super Mario Maker is a joyous and magical thing, and easily one of the year’s best.

  • From Software doesn’t show any signs of slowing down with Bloodborne. This is another fantastic action RPG in their patented style, which means it has an atmospheric, memorable world to explore that’s full of tough, awesome foes to fight. And while it may lose a little in the way of customization, it makes up for it by being the tightest, best playing game they’ve made yet. Combat hits harder and faster than ever, which made dodging and slashing my way through this game’s many exciting challenges a blast. As long as each entry remains as high quality as Bloodborne, I say keep ‘em coming.

  • While it may be inspired by games of decades past, Pillars of Eternity doesn’t rely on nostalgia as a crutch; it shines by offering engaging combat and sharp storytelling. I got really into developing and micromanaging my party through challenging, epic encounters, and I got further attached to these characters as I traveled with them and heard their stories. The world itself is wonderfully supported by lovely art, interesting lore, and a plot that ends up having some pretty cool twists. Pillars of Eternity feels like a fresh and modern D&D adventure, and I mean that in the best, most sincere way possible.

  • The Witcher 3 presents one of the most raw and real video game worlds to date, and I couldn’t help become invested in this hellhole and all its troubles. Sky-high production values, sharp, cinematic dialogue, and great characters further frame this highly engaging tale, and fighting through gorgeous landscapes and gruesome monsters round out the experience nicely. Best of all is Geralt himself, an endearing professional who’s as witty as he is determined to improve the shitty world around him. If The Witcher 3 truly is to be his final video game outing, he couldn't have received a better sendoff.

  • What a gorgeous, delightful experience; Ori and the Blind Forest simply looks incredible in motion, and sounds just as good. This is an artistic, emotionally resonant tour de force that hits all the right notes at all the right times, and it’s backed up by a surprisingly well-playing platformer too. Tight controls, devious level design, and dangerous enemies create some exciting challenges, and its sprawling, varied world is full of fun abilities and upgrades worth seeking out. Ori and the Blind Forest is a joy on all fronts, and I didn’t want to put it down until I had squeezed every last drop from it.

  • Despite being an expansion pack, Legacy of the Void manages to be every bit as robust as most full-priced sequels. Its fun, lengthy campaign still showcases some of the best RTS level design around, and new modes (including co-op) offer additional ways to play. Most importantly, lots of meaningful, well-considered updates to the competitive multiplayer made shaking off the rust and diving back online more thrilling and rewarding than ever. Legacy of the Void is a meaty package that undoubtedly makes StarCraft II the biggest and best it’s ever been, and cements it as an all-time multiplayer favorite.

  • Life is Strange is a wonderful and charming coming-of-age story about friendship, loss, and accepting the choices we make. Its nifty time-rewinding potion makes experimenting with those choices more poignant too, and the way it incorporates your actions and inactions of all sizes into its pivotal moments is powerful. Plenty of games prompt you to make choices, but never have they caused me to reflect on my own life choices so heavily. Full of relatable characters and events that are sometimes all too real, Life is Strange is an emotionally affecting game that will stick with me for a very long time.

  • Rise of the Tomb Raider is the perfect “popcorn” game; it’s never that deep, yet it assembles a ton of polished pieces together with enough craft to be consistently fun to play. Its solid shooting, stealth, and platforming form a robust core that is highlighted by some awesome set pieces. It also looks and sounds fantastic, has plenty of clever tombs to puzzle through, and provides large areas where you can hunt and scrounge for parts that are used towards satisfying upgrades. Rise of the Tomb Raider is a lengthy, varied, and well-paced adventure that I had a blast with from start to finish.

  • I’ve been a fan of N’s buttery smooth platforming since it was a free flash game a decade ago, but N++ pulls out all the stops to deliver the ultimate N package. It sports over 2,000 (!) levels spanning single player, cooperative, and competitive modes, and offers a surprisingly robust level creator to boot. It simply has no shortage of ways to test your ninja skills, and the precise controls, fluid physics, rewarding challenge, and phat beats that have defined the series remain at the heart of the experience. N++ builds on an already solid foundation to deliver an excellent, content-rich platformer.