Another year, another batch of listing games, yay! It's always nice to look back at the year that was and remember just what did actually come out this year. I typically don't write these, but this year I'm shaking it up by giving it a go. This post is really here for a couple of specific reasons...
1. So I can get it straight for myself.
2. To tell everyone how I voted in the weighted list.
3. As an exercise to see if I can justify my decision to put some games above others in an arbitrary and ultimately meaningless list.
Before we get into the list proper, I need to acknowledge some games that weren't released this year that I still played lots of. Super Smash Bros is still a favorite and the DLC characters add just enough spice to keep me and a few friends coming back for more. Minecraft is still fun, whether surviving or creating, I still like it. Finally, Threes. Yes, Threes. It is my iPhone's solitaire. I play it more than is healthy, but at least I haven't gotten it for Xbone... yet. Anyway, on to 2015.
10. Rock Band 4
If you've been to my house, you've seen my collection of plastic guitars, my mic stands, and you've probably played a lot of Rock Band. I love the series, they nailed something almost perfect with RB2 and managed to improve on it for RB3. After far too long, we are finally getting more music to jam to... thought it's not perfect. The reason this game is at the bottom of my top 10 is that I've had an absolute blast playing more Rock Band, but everything surrounding it is troublesome. No Ion drum support, no wireless mic support, no RB2 or RB1 or Lego RB exports yet, the download process is still annoyingly long-winded for someone like me with 1,000+ songs... but the game itself is still a fun time with or without bandmates. Keep plugging away at those updates, Harmonix.
9. Halo 5: Guardians
Boy, I expected this one to be higher on the list too. Don't get me wrong, Halo 5 is stunning visually, the jump to 60 fps really helped. The design of everything is beautiful, the game moves fluidly, its controls are sharp as ever. I even like the basic multiplayer modes, something I rarely get into these days due to the incredibly toxic nature of online gaming... however, the main reason I go to Halo games (as opposed to other shooters) is story. I like the characters and the universe in the Halo series. The campaign in Guardians though, it just doesn't have the oomph or the impact that even Halo 4 had when *SPOILER FOR HALO 4* Cortana died. That scene was impactful to me as a longtime Halo player. The constant fighting of Warden Eternal, a character we are given no context for and is not fun to fight, doesn't help. All that aside, the rest of the game is exactly what I come to Halo for, I just wish firefight mode would rear its grunt-popping head again.
8. Grow Home
What an adorable game Grow Home is. It's a great little concept, the animation is charming, the world is fun to play in (a concept shockingly few games get right) and I was compelled to get 100% of the trophies in the PS4 version. The only complaint I can really level is that it's kind of a one trick pony, but that trick is fun enough to keep you growing higher and higher. If you need a good simple game to play on the weekend, I cannot recommend Grow Home more strongly.
7. Mortal Kombat X
Mortal Kombat is the Joker of video game series. What I mean is that changes its style so radically from game to game that it's hard to know which version you're getting next; the lovable but incompetent clown, the semi-violent trickster, or the outright violent serial killer. I'm more a fan of the middle of that group for MK, with that style kind of peaking in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Things were "violent" but still had a funny sense of humor surrounding them at times. MKX would be higher if more of that silliness were injected back into the game, but they seem to have taken their design doc from the makers of the Saw film series. A lot of it is just violent for violence sake. That being said, this is probably the best playing MK game since the last one and it's good to see Netherrealm moving that bar up rather than descending to their old depths.
6. Grim Fandango: Remastered
Confession time: I hadn't played Grim Fandango until the remaster came out this year. I know, it's an unforgivable sin to some, but hey, I didn't have a gaming PC growing up (and I still don't, I'll work on that in 2016, seriously). As a result, I'm one of those people that had certain landmark games pass me by, only playing them at friend's houses or the occasional high school computer lab. That being said, Grim Fandango is a game I'm really bummed that I missed the first time around because it still holds up as an awesome bit of world building. The story still holds water, the characters are still engaging, the whole thing is very well done. If you haven't tried it and dig on old adventure games, maybe pick up the redone version sometime. It's well worth your time... even if you'll occasionally need a FAQ.
5. Rise of the Tomb Raider
I loved the rebooted Tomb Raider. It was fun, a nice take on a usually over-sexualized character, looked stunning even without the tress effects (or whatever her hair tech was called). The only reason this game is not higher on the list is because I haven't gotten to spend much time with the game (it was a Xmas present so I've had 4 days to play it). The first impressions are very good though. It's amazing how good the game looks, even on the Xbone. From time to time I just stop and stare at the lighting, the lens effects of the light, the way fire flickers. If this is how good console games are getting, I cannot imagine the next generation of PC cards and what VR will do to interactive entertainment.
4. Keep Talking & Nobody Explodes
Every year, my friends and I who used to work in retail stores spend Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) holed up in my house playing video games. It's a tradition we take very seriously because to hell with shopping. This year, we spent a couple of days doing such game marathons (the other being Extra Life) and this game was a favorite at both. Amazingly simple in concept, the actual game is less about the mechanics of the bombs in question and more about you and your friends learning morse code or getting familiar with the modules you know well. It's about developing a shorthand for the symbol page (weird alien with a pitchfork, then copyright symbol, then omega sign and barbell on its side) or figuring out how to explain what a VGA port looks like. So much fun in large groups or in pairs.
3. Batman: Arkham Knight
I'm sure this is a sore point for people who play on PC, but this is the culmination of the Rocksteady Batman Arkham Dynasty and deservedly so. I've been a Batman fan since seeing Tim Burton's take on the character at the age of 3 and, though that version is flawed, it set me on a path to enjoying all kinds of dark knight-ery. This is about as close to my ideal Batman as I think we will ever get in interactive gaming. He's powerful, intelligent, gadget riddled, and voiced by Kevin Conroy. What more could I ask for? I even liked the Batmobile sections, something that I know rankles a lot of folks, but you like what you like.
2. Super Mario Maker
Like many gamers today, Super Mario Bros for the NES was one of the first games I ever remember seeing, playing, and getting good at. By now, Mario games are practically second nature and part of the gaming vocabulary. To be handed the keys to the castle (even if the princess is in another one) in such a powerful way is astonishing and something I thought Nintendo would never ever do in a million years. To be perfectly honest, half the fun of this game hasn't been creating levels because I'm not that creative when it comes to level design. I try to make levels that don't kill you cheaply and possibly would fit in an actual game. The fun of this game comes in two flavors; playing the creations of others and watching Patrick Klepick flail against the combined might of Ryckert and Gerstmann. Sorry Patrick, but I like laughing at your pain.
1. Rocket League
I'm kind of indifferent to sports. They're not fun to watch, they aren't particularly fun to play with competitive people, and I don't get the city wide obsession with them whenever a season comes around. That's why it's so shocking that my number one game of the year is essentially a sports game... with some caveats. Rocket League is utterly stupid. It's cars with jet engines and tires that let them stick to walls playing 3v3 soccer. It's also the most fun I've had with a game this year. I got this game for free from PS Plus and didn't expect to still be playing it months later, much less paying for every single DLC pack they release as my way of saying thank you to Psyonix for making something that honestly makes me giggle when I get that perfect goal or leap just in time for an epic save.
So that's my list. Keep in mind this is my opinion and shouldn't detract from yours in the slightest. It's just a list of what I played and enjoyed this year. Some notable omissions are Metal Gear V (not a Metal Gear fan), The Witcher 3 (didn't want to fall into that deep a content hole, maybe next year), Just Cause 3 (having put a lot of hours in it, I agree with Brad that it just doesn't quite capture what was great about its predecessor) and Splatoon (because I didn't play it).
Catch you later, see you in 2016.