Best of 2015

After last year’s quite lackluster line-up of video games, I thought I was becoming jaded to the medium. Either through just growing up, or from the lack of wonder and engagement from games of the previous few years. This year I was more than pleasantly surprised by many games, with a few still resonating with me today. Quite a few of those games have awesome gameplay mechanics, which are accompanied by a chock-full of content. Some of them may look deceiving at first and only be a few hours, but are powerful enough to give you an unbelievable emotional response that lingers in your mind for months. Whatever the case may be, 2015 has proven itself an excellent year, and I’m quite pleased with the change in tone from last year.

List items

  • I’ve never been much of a competitive person. I don’t stomp around the living room like Godzilla when my college football team is winning, and I don’t get stressed or angry when I’m watching a television show or playing a video game. Rocket League changed me. The barrier for entry is amazingly low, but the skill ceiling reaches Low Earth Orbit. Outsiders just see it simply as “R/C Car Soccer,” but the experience overwhelms you with adrenaline and dopamine. Every time you make an amazing score, you feel like a professional. Every time your team wins, you want to go give the closest person nearby a bear hug. I will not falter when I say Rocket League is the best multiplayer game this generation.

  • While I’ve played quite a few Metal Gear games, I never saw myself as a devout fan of the series. The Phantom Pain is Hideo Kojima’s last stand in the legendary franchise, and jumps off the ship spectacularly. Its open-ended gameplay allows you to either take the stealthiest route possible, or announce your presence to all of Africa and Afghanistan. The game still has its signature absurdity that makes it even more enjoyable and unique, even if the story hangs off at the very end. As much as I love it, it will be the last Metal Gear Solid game I will play. Thanks Konami for ruining everything yet again.

  • When I first saw Life is Strange, I laughed it off as pandering to a crowd I wasn’t accustomed to. But shortly, it proved to be something completely different. Life Is Strange is everything right about episodic games. It takes the awesome “remix” concept from 2013’s Remember Me, and is built upon the beautiful Oregon Pacific Coast town of Arcadia Bay, and it’s somewhat pretentious, yet absolutely charming residents. The relationship between Max and Chloe is beautifully nostalgic, and is a powerful reminder that the time we spend with everyone is fleeting, so cherish the memories that you have with them.

  • No one ever expected a simple-looking GameMaker game to become the most talked about indie game of 2015. But after playing through Undertale, the reception was more than warranted. The game sets itself up with an amazing and unforgettable score by the game’s creator Toby Fox. Undertale brings immature yet smart wit with its lovable cast and writing. I have not laughed this hard at a video game in quite some time. The shift from lighthearted chatter amongst hilarious friends, to the dark depths of humanity’s actions keeps you engaged at all times, and makes this game stand out amongst many indie games.

  • CDProjekt RED’s The Witcher has always been something of a hassle to me. The combat system and pacing of the story have always held me back from starting the series of which my best friend swears solemnly to. Compared to its predecessor, The Witcher 3 makes great strides in accessibility for newer players like myself, making the combat and inventory management more intuitive. Geralt’s snarky quips and cynicism help add to the incredibly vast spaces of Novigrad and Velen. So vast, I’ve put about 80+ hours into it, and I’m nowhere near finished. Much like the Bombcast crew, I don’t think I have the endurance to continue the journey, but my time with the game was outstanding and it drastically changed my view of the series.

  • Yeah, I heard you the first time. I already have this game on my list two years ago. Who said I couldn’t have it twice? I mean, of course it has the same jam-packed, satirical world with an equally delinquent set of characters. But it’s on PC now and it looks gorgeous! And I can play with my Steam friends now. Look, I already said what I wanted to say about GTA V two years ago. It’s the same great game with some fantastic modern additions. But what I’m really trying to say is: I put 200+ hours into this game's re-release just this year, so it’s back on the list. Let’s just say I really like Grand Theft Auto.

  • I’ve been playing this quirky, undefined arcade racing franchise since I was in elementary school. Need for Speed has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, as I’ve always had a fascination for cool cars doing cool car things. When EA announced a reboot to the franchise, I was excited yet remained cautious. To say this new 2015 iteration is without its disappointments would be quite the lie. But Ghost Games have started to listen to their fans, and have begun redeeming themselves. They have made an addicting street-racing game that has taken the feedback of the community into consideration. Even with some bumps in the road, I’m excited to see where my childhood franchise is going.

  • Since Dirt 2, the rally racing series from Codemasters had become a forgiving, arcade experience for any person lightly interested in learning the basics and the culture of rally-cross. Dirt Rally is not that game anymore. The new Dirt game is a serious simulation racer that does not hold your hand. It takes your hand, throws you in the mud, and screams at you to get back up quickly or the next time will be worse. My time with Dirt Rally made me realize that arcade racers make you perceive yourself as a badass wheelman. And that’s why I love Rally: It challenges me and forces me to learn patience, practice technique, and suffer consequences.

  • As someone who didn’t like Dead Island, when I heard about Techland doing another zombie video game franchise, I stopped listening immediately and went on my merry way. When I eventually picked it up however, I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Unlike Dead Island, Dying Light is a mechanically more fluid game. The time-of-day system, with the nerve-wracking super creature of the night, provide for a more exciting risk/reward style of gameplay. With the ability to scale buildings a la Mirror’s Edge, along with a more satisfying melee system, make Dying Light the superior first-person zombie slasher.

  • The developers of SOMA, Frictional Games, have quite the pedigree when it comes to getting a fright out of the player. So is it weird that I wish it wasn’t a horror game? The rich atmosphere and fantastic story-telling is hindered by the monster evading mechanic. What is supposed to be the fear tactic of this game ends up becoming a dulled annoyance that prevents you from continuing on solving your mystery. Maybe a different form of gameplay would prevent it from becoming a bit stale. This being said, SOMA is still a great source of scares, and its world will leave you thinking about existentialism in a slightly different light.