Best of 2015

Yet another year rolls by and so it is a another year of putting together an arbitrary list of all the cool video games that I like! This is the seventh one of these, and I'm honestly just taking the piss at this point.

As I hunch over the keyboard of my gaming PC (I built one of those!) I reflect back on a year of delightful vidja games. Like pretty much every year since the turn of the decade for me, this year's batch of games was varied, with crazy new experiences coming from all directions, and some reliable ones coming from some old franchises. While nothing's perfect - with a continued slump in the quality of big budget games and the constantly worrying (not in comparison to Actual Real Terrifying Things) under performance of these expensive video game TV machines - this year gives me plenty of hope for this silly industry going into 2016. Hopefully I can keep up with most of the great stuff next year, as the march forward into dwindling free time begins to rear its ugly head. A class of cheap bubbly to this year's finest, alongside the other cool stuff which doesn't get a nifty number, but gets a dollop of love for good measure anyway.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Cities Skyline: A game which showed me I do have an interest in city-building games, except when I gave up once I had to build the actual urban city bit.

Life is Strange: This is a strange weird one. Life is Strange has been pretty fluid in terms of how I like it. It started strong, and has plenty of elements that I greatly enjoy, but its ultimately dragged down by some stodgy decision system, clunky dialogue and a middling ending. I like what DONTNOD was going for, and I was along for the ride, but it doesn't have a place in the top 10.

MASSIVE CHALICE: In the wake of there being no XCOM 2 this year, this had to do. I held some pretty high hopes for this one (perhaps unreasonably so) so it didn't quite hit all of them, but this is a fun (albeit limited) turn-based romp.

D4 Dark Dreams Don't Die [PC version]: SWERY, you magnificent bastard, don't ever change (this would be on the list, but it did technically come out in '14).

The Beginner's Guide: This one is likely let down by the slightly weak script and performance by Davey Wreden but it is still an interesting little exercise in personal gaming stories. Those always end up being the cool indies I miss out on, but Beginner's Guide is an experience that I defiantly didn't regret, especially in the eternally lovely Source engine.

Her Story: The annual Number Eleven game (not) on the list. Like the intentions of The Beginner's Guide, Her Story is a delightful take on structure and FMV. It is more successful, in my mind, than the former game, as it really was fascinating little procedural capped off by a great performance. It is yet another entry in the "indie game that come out from nowhere" category. Bonus points for being the only video game I've ever played with a Ready, Steady, Cook reference.

DISHONOURABLE MENTIONS

  • The disappointing shooty-bang and garbage PS4 port of Just Cause 3.
  • The garbage PC port of Mortal Kombat X.
  • The significantly more garbage PC port of Batman: Arkham Knight.
  • The second part of Broken Age, which completely unsold me on the whole thing.
  • And finally, my slowly evaporating opinion of Hotline Miami 2.

List items

  • …and despite all of that The Witcher 3 is still not my favourite game of 2015. That rests with this monster of a game. I don’t think I’ve ever loved a game as deeply flawed as the Phantom Pain. When I talk about expectations in regards to The Witcher, the inverse was the case here. Despite acquiring a love of Metal Gear last year and playing through all those games (I even put in a good few hours into Peace Walker, a game I certainly do not like) my expectations were super low going into MGS V. With all of the nonsense going on at Konami, alongside the game seemed to abandon the formula which worked so well for Metal Gear Solid in the past, the game seemed to be going in a direction I did not particularly care for. I was wrong. Very wrong. Once I got a good dozen hours into MGS V I realised that it may be one of the delightfully fun things I have ever played. The action, traversing the opening world, and sneaking through bases is so incredibly fun. Everything is just perfect. This is a game which constantly reuses its locales, but despite that, it manages to make the crawling through all of these giant concrete bases incredibly exciting. The game falls in on itself by the end but it doesn’t matter, Metal Gear Solid V is such an unabashed triumph in gameplay. The story is nothing; the characters are limp but I could not put it down. Despite it turning its back on everything that Metal gear once was, MGS V showcases a highpoint in how a video game should feel and move. Despite the changing nature (and my own taste) of video games, I can’t help but marvel at the hours of delight at had with Kojima Production’s creation. Game of the year.

  • I was incredibly excited by The Witcher 3. Its predecessor is an amazing but flawed game and I was anxious to see what CD Projekt Red was cooking up. I was not disappointed. The Witcher 3 is one of the finest RPGs I have ever played. It is gorgeous, and its sprawling landscapes were a joy to explore. Like the previous entry in the series, it contained some of the most well-realised dialogue and video game characters you are ever likely to find, wrapped up in a world which is filled with varied quests of all sorts. It is terrific when a game this big and exciting comes along and hits all your expectations, leaving you with a feeling that it is one of the finest games in years…

  • Rocket League may be some of the most fun I've had in a video game in years. When the bug originally hit, and when the whole world seemed to be tilted off axis by Rocket League Fever, I was all over Speedy Car Football. Scoring a goal is an almost primal pleasure, and scoring three gives a feeling akin to existential bliss. What started off as a PlayStation Plus sequel to a game I had never heard of, became a multiplayer sensation that is near and dear to my heart.

  • YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN MARIO LEVELS WHY DO YOU NEED ANY OTHER VIDEO GAME. THIS GAME MADE ME A BUY A WII U SO FUCK THIS GAME BUT AT THE SAME TIME ITS A FUCKING DELIGHT AND ANYONE WHO DOES THINK SO IS A MOUTH BREATHING IDIOT

  • Undertale came in like a storm, and like many others, it was a slow fight to win me over. But once the game had me dating a cool dude skeleton, it had successfully captured my heart. From there, Undertale is a collection of memorable moments and characters. So much of its narrative work is subtle, its music is excellent, and its humour gets stuck in your head. It is always a great sign when I think back on moments from that game, I feel a wry smile on my face.

  • Bloodborne absolutely kicked my ass in the first handful of hours. It was a rough introduction to Yharnam, one that I thought would break me. Once I knuckled down (FINALLY defeating the Blood-Starved Beast is a triumphant memory this year for sure) I got through that early cliff. Bloodborne takes Dark Souls and speeds it up greatly, making its predecessor sluggish by comparison. You fuck up some monsters in Bloodborne, maybe a bit too easily, as by the back half of the game I was just breezing through the bosses. Either way, Bloodborne is another dark and Gothic journey through a heavy metal album cover from your "friends" at From Software. It was intense, it was atmospheric and a bloody fun trip through a Lovecraftian nightmare.

  • Ori made me cry in the first fifteen minutes. Perhaps I am just easily exploitable emotionally, or the start of that game is some heartfelt tragedy. The thing is, once you get past all of that, that game turns into a very tight blending of Super Meat Boy and that Metroid formula. And Christ is it gorgeous. Even with its challenging difficulty, which nearly had me in tears in a different way, Ori challenges your expectations and earns a rightful place in a very busy genre - and my list!

  • Fallout 4 does not move Bethesda games forward like it should. It took FOREVER to come out, but it is just more of the same. I still ended up greatly enjoying it, and it is a better game than Fallout 3, even if it is not that revelation that game was. The city itself is significantly more interesting, backed up with some improved shooting and expanded colour palette. It took well over a dozen hours to properly settle in, and even despite its issues, I can't help to look back on my time spent with my hard-boiled buddy Nick Valentine as we cruise the wastes.

  • Westerado: Double Barreled is fucking great. It's pretty, sounds great and plays into my love of the western genre. Westerado is a terrific and short experience, as you dynamically roll across the western landscaper looking for that dastardly shooter. If they made more, I would easily dive into it's sun-bleached arms. The shooting is incredibly satisfying for what it is, and the quests tow that line between action and investigation very nicely.

  • It probably says something about my experience of Invisible Inc that I never really played through it a second time after beating it originally. That's likely because I'm a stupid oaf, but regardless, Invisible Inc is a delightful take on the turn based genre. One of the most heart pounding moments of the year is EVERY time you get caught in that game. It is such a terrifying caper. Like the other Klei games, this a great looking piece of work backed up by some great art. While I didn't fall for it like other rogue-likes, I still really liked what I played.

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