By TheBlue 1 Comments
I've been wanting to do Game of the Year lists for a while now, but I never seemed to play enough games in any given year to justify a list. This year, however, I came somewhat close! Truthfully, there were about 11 or 12 games that came out this year that I played, but I didn't feel good about putting them on a list by default. There are probably a few other games that came out this year that would almost certainly make this list if I had the capacity and/or time to play them.
Firstly, some honorable mentions:
Super Mario Maker
I'm gonna be honest, I played about two hours of my brother's copy of this game. However, being a subscriber and follower of Giantbomb, I feel like I've seen enough of this game to say that it's pretty damn good. I considered putting it on the list as I did actually play it, but I like a list of 8 better than a list of 9. A list of 9 just feels incomplete.
Dragon Quest Heroes
I've never played a Musou before. I probably won't start playing more anytime soon. I really like Dragon Quest. The fanservice was plenty to keep playing this game which I think is a decent game for the most part. The optional superbosses showed a glimmer of interesting and challenging combat that I didn't expect. I wish the rest of the game gave me that as well. I will most definitely play the sequel if it comes to the west.
Another case of a game that I don't have but I've seen enough of it to give it some praise. I watched GBEast play it, I watched Mary Kish play it, and I watched some of Dave Lang's extra life playthrough of it. I never need to play this myself, but I'm confident in saying that it's a pretty cool game.
Alright, so here's my Top 8 games of 2015 in a mostly particular order. Prepare to be shocked and amazed by all of my unique choices and opinions that no one else had this year.
You may have heard about it. Rocket powered cars hitting giant balls into giant-er nets. This game came out of nowhere for me. The month it was free on PS+ I heard some murmurs about how it was incredibly addicting and awesome. I figured I'd give it a shot since it was free even though I'm not a big sports guys. BOY, were those murmurs right. Anyone who has played Rocket League knows how fun and addicting it can be and how easy the phrase "just one more game" rolls out of your mouth at 3am while playing. I played some fantastic online matches even with my kinda garbage internet, but definitely not as much as I would've liked to. I fell off of it pretty hard after platinuming it, but I will always be down for a game or seven.
Now I know what you're thinking, man what a cop out. Or at least, that's what I'm thinking. But I honestly can't decide which one I liked better. I like Metroid games. I like games that are similar in structure to Metroid games. (I've heard the term "Metroidvania" thrown around before.) I also like games that divert themselves from Metroid by having unique and interesting weapon and traversal mechanics. Both Ori and Axiom Verge are fantastic games in their own right and fantastic Metroidvania (there's that word again) games.
So here's the thing, Ori and the Blind Forest is an absolutely gorgeous game. The art design is inspired and beautiful. The story is simple but heartstring-tugging and controlling Ori is an absolute joy. I wondered if I would ever unlock warp points or be able to get across the map quickly, but once I got all of the powerups I no longer cared. Making my way finding all of the powerups turned from being a chore to enjoyable because of all the neat movement powerups you get. I, like most I think, did not expect the game to be as difficult as it was. There were a number of sequences where what the game was asking you to do seemed unfair. Way too many instant death traps and timed trial and error sections hurt my enjoyment of the game. The quick respawn and the ability to create your own checkpoints mitigated this somewhat, but it was still a little off-putting. That said, nothing ever seemed impossible and it felt rewarding to complete it.
I played the hell out of Axiom Verge. I played it on hard mode and even did the speedrun mode and finished it in under four hours for the trophy. This game is pretty rad. The powerups and items pull a unique spin on the classic Metroid powerup designs and you get excited every time you find something because you have no idea what it could be. And once you do it always ends up being way cooler and way more useful than you thought it would be. The story contains some interesting twist and is much more involved than you would assume on the surface, though I think most would agree that the protagonist is a bit...well he could use a haircut. My only real knocks against the game are the weapons and the environments. The are a LOT of weapons in this game. Some are way better than others. Some are downright useless. Only a handful actually do anything useful other than killing dudes. I would've preferred all of the weapons to have a unique effect even if that meant not as many, I ended not using 70% of them anyway. As for the environments, I just found them very samey and hard to navigate. Some areas have unique looks but I think it's the first few areas that look way too similar and the backgrounds are so loaded with pixels that areas blend into one another and it's not exactly easy on the eyes. I just prefer a little more variety.
And that's that, my pros and cons for Ori and Axiom Verge. They are very similar yet very different. I liked both of them a lot. I'm a sucker for sincere games with beautiful art like Ori, but I think Axiom Verge is the better Metroid game. Gun to my head, I'd put Ori at 7 and Axiom Verge at 6.
Every time a new episode was about to drop I put off playing the previous one as long as I could. I just didn't feel like playing it. Then when I would finally sit down and play it, Life is Strange always pulled me right back in and I couldn't wait for the next one. The teens were annoying, the adults were out of touch, and the dialogue was occasionally stilted and at times felt forced. But honestly, it only added to the charm. Much like actual high school, I groaned every time I had to go back, but I look back at it fondly and the experience will stick with me for a while.
This game used to be higher on my list. After mulling it over for a while it slid down a little. Watching Drew play all of the Metal Gear games was my first experience with them. It was somewhere early into his run of MGS4 that I decided that I was pretty heavily invested in this series and I wanted to see the rest and play the others for myself. I'm one of those crazy people that enjoyed the amount of cutscenes in MGS4, the anime-as-fuck story was a huge draw for me. So when MGSV came out and was the polar opposite of MGS4, I was disappointed when the story fell short of...just about everything. But whatever, I could complain about that all day, but I'd rather talk about how MGSV is the most fun game to play. Honestly though, you know if you've played it and I'm sure we'll hear all about it on Day 5 of the GOTY podcasts. Just know that I consider MGSV to be one of the finest gameplay experiences of this or any generation.
Contrary to MGSV, Undertale is a game that slowly crawled up this list. I initially put it somewhere around the 6 or 7 mark. Turns out I had roughly the same experience Austin did while playing. It wasn't until the end of my first playthrough and into my second that I realized just how involved this game is. I finished my first run and thought, okay, that was neat and all, but I'm not sure if I want to play it again. I then decided to just look up the stuff I missed and I discovered just how much was left to see. I was blown away by how much was crammed into this simple little package. I could go into more detail, but you should probably just play it for yourself if you haven't. The characters are charming and funny, the soundtrack is one of the best I've heard and remains lodged in my head, and the overall package is honestly something special.
Let's talk about how rad this game is. Before this game came out, people just assumed it was Dark Souls in Victorian London. It turned out to be something much more. The bait and switch to the Lovecraftian horror put a much more interesting spin on this game. The trick weapon system alone is enough to put Bloodborne high on this list. The initial game lacked build diversity and replayability that the DLC only somewhat solved, but the DLC is honestly what put this game so high on my list. The sheer amount of new, badass weapons and some of the best bosses and areas in the Souls series elevated the base game to, in my opinion, the best in the series. I've played through this game like 7 or 8 times and even though I have literally nothing left to do, I'll probably end up playing it a few more times.
So I played this game twice. Yes, the long-ass, enormous game that people barely had time to finish (or didn't), I played it twice. It's mostly the reason that this list is a Top 8 and not a Top 10. Granted I didn't do everything there is to do, there are about 8,000 question marks in Skellige that I assume are just random treasure that I couldn't be bothered with, but I generally completed most of the quests. God damn, this game hits just about every pleasure point for me in terms of what I like in games and I wish I was better at articulating why that is. The Witcher 3 is everything that I wanted Skyrim to be. Dynamic characters with complex story arcs, consequences to my actions and the actions of characters around me, and a world that was lived in and revolving around me. The first time I experienced a storm in The Witcher 3, I got goosebumps. It wasn't triggered by a cutscene or entering an area, it just happened. Now I know that dynamic weather is nothing new, but it happened out of nowhere with such a ferocity that I felt tiny and insignificant in the world. It sounds dumb on paper, but it was an extemely immersive experience. Sure the game has flaws with combat and inventory that has since been fixed, but the positives heavily outweigh the negatives. I don't know if I've ever been so immersed in a game before and I absolutely cannot wait to jump back in when the next expansion drops.