The year 2015, in relation to the massive gaming medium, was surprisingly spectacular; it of course had its fair share of disappointments, which will receive an elaborated post within the coming weeks, but managed to preserve a steady pace and exude a profound sense of unrivalled quality, possibly delivering one of the greatest years in gaming. Not only were we given a copious amount of phenomenally crafted additions to well-established franchises, but 2015 also introduced us to some new, breath-taking IP’s which acted as a palette cleanser to the ubiquitous sequel-itis. These nuanced experiences and pivotal continuations have undoubtedly left a significant imprint onto the colossal medium of gaming; the versatile and accessible nature of these next ten titles have undoubtedly captured the essence of their corresponding genres, catering to every, individual need beautifully. There will undoubtedly be a few omissions from this list, certain titles that you would’ve expected to see; one small little game called Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will sadly not make this list. Its omission is in no way a representation of a negative opinion towards it, I simply have no opinion to evoke as I haven’t played it; I haven’t played a single Metal Gear Solid entry in my entire life. I’m sure The Phantom Pain is every bit as amazing as everyone unanimously claims it to be, but before I rectify its absence, I wish to complete every prior entry in the series and experience its masterful nature appropriately. If you don’t see one of your 2015 favourites on this list, it can mean one of two things: I either didn’t get the opportunity to play the game or I just didn’t enjoy it as much as you did. So without further ado, here are my top 10 games of 2015!
10. Yoshi’s Wooly World
Yoshi’s Island, released back on the SNES in 1995, is my favourite 2D platformer of all time, and although Yoshi’s Wooly World is unable to match Yoshi’s Island’s sense of nuance, brilliance, and sheer imagination, it retains its iconic level of polish, charm, and unadulterated fun, becoming a worthy spiritual successor to the 1995 classic. If you couldn’t already tell, Yoshi’s Wooly World is nothing short of adorable, catering to an entirely knitted aesthetic that will simply melt your heart. It’s vibrantly gorgeous, with an excellent focus on detail, the soundtrack is impeccably cheerful with a pristine ability to instill the player with an innocent, gleeful sensation, and the level design, as is the case with most Nintendo titles, is brilliantly and imaginatively designed, with each world and level encapsulating a distinctly unique feel through design and mechanics which are never replicated. Granted many of Wooly World’s mechanics were derived from Yoshi’s Island, with new implementations found here and there, but in terms of gameplay, there’s not much innovation to be found here. Yoshi’s Wooly World is a fairly easy game if you want it to be, but it can also be challenging if you choose so; the sheer act of completing a level is far from difficult, but trying to collect every last, brilliantly hidden flower, wonder wool, and stamp patch will prove to be challenging enough for you veterans out there. Plus Yoshi transformations add a pleasant level of variance to the traditional formula and are unsurprisingly adorable. Yoshi’s Wooly World is simply a delight and is excellent for both solo and/or cooperative play.
Splatoon is a righteous breath of fresh air in a cesspool of a genre that is quickly headed into the world of monotony. The online shooter is a formulaic genre that caters to a “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality and is far more content with sticking to the core fundamentals as opposed to straying off the beaten path and exploring new possibilities. Splatoon is easily the most innovative shooter I have played in recent memory, retaining that core addictive nature that we’ve come to know, but also implementing that pristine Nintendo charm that never fails to put a smile on your face. Its single-player component is rather shallow, acting as an appetizer to the main course; it’s extremely unmemorable at best and monotonous at worst, with only the boss fights being engaging as they entwine the gunplay and platforming together seamlessly. The unparalleled attention to local multiplayer that Nintendo are renowned for is fairly disappointing with Splatoon as “Battle Dojo” is a rather shallow and restrictive inclusion in comparison to its online counterpart. And while Splatoon’s online content was a fairly sparse back at launch, I’m happy to report that as of now, Splatoon is nothing less than an exquisite package that is filled to the brim with pure addictive content. Nintendo should be commended for their efforts as Splatoon’s heavy emphasis on team-orientated objective gameplay is an impressive feat, one that is rarely explored by the “one man army” temperament that has plagued the online shooter for years. Given Splatoon’s infancy, it’s extremely impressive that Nintendo’s first take on the online shooter is able to match and arguably exceed the unadulterated addictive nature of Nintendo’s already existing catalogue, with Splatoon landing a spot indefinitely.
8. Until Dawn
Very few games have the profound ability to rise up from development hell and see the light of day. Initially a first person, PlayStation Move title for the PS3, Until Dawn is easily the best surprise of 2015 as it managed to capture the hearts of both critics and fans alike, exceeding expectations greatly. Until Dawn is an excellent interactive horror experience, paying a successful homage to the tried and true formula of the slasher film genre. Traces of I Know What You Did Last Summer can be found here, and little bits of Friday the 13th and Halloween can be found there; every single stereotype, plot twist and staple that are affiliated with the genre is present and developer Supermassive Games flaunt each idiosyncrasy with the utmost confidence which in return shows that game is, in and of itself, aware of these idiosyncrasies and further enhances its success. With Until Dawn’s innovative “Butterfly Effect” system, all 8 main characters can be killed based on the vast number of decisions you make throughout your experience, and unlike many other games with similar intentions, Until Dawn’s decisions bare significant weight as the results are extraordinarily haunting and can shift relationships and interactions into multiple directions. It’s undeniably intriguing to test out all of the possibilities and see how a simple mistake made early on could unknowingly trigger a character’s death towards the endgame. Watching certain friendships mutate and decay, and having love blossom from unrequited love are events that were only made possible through my decisions and though these choices effect the characters more so than the story, it’s still a rewarding sensation nonetheless. Simply put, I absolutely loved this game and if you’re a fan of the slasher film genre and own a PS4, you’d be hard pressed at finding a better game than Until Dawn.
7. Rise of the Tomb Raider
As someone who liked, but didn’t love the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider, I must say that I absolutely adored this second instalment. I’ve always had a fixated fascination with arctic themed aesthetics, so the placing the setting of Lara’s next expedition in the enriched winter wonderland of Siberia is absolutely fine with me. Simply put, Rise of the Tomb Raider is in every way, shape or form, better than its predecessor. The story is more tightly paced and although it has its fair share inconsistencies, it’s still a more focused, well written experience in comparison to the 2013 reboot. Characters were a severe weak point for Lara’s 2013 reboot as they were poorly written and forgettable. While characters are definitely not a strong suit this time around, Rise of the Tomb Raider portrays Lara as a more independent character, constantly moving forward towards her destiny; although she is unquestionably scared of the consequences that would befall herself or her friends, it’s her iron-strong will to press onward, despite the dangers, that highlights her tenacious nature and is further evidence as to why she is one of the greatest, if not the greatest female gaming character of all time, with Rise of the Tomb Raider undoubtedly being best representation of Lara Croft to date. Tombs bear a heavier emphasis this time around, as they weave a perfect balance between traversal and puzzle solving. These puzzles aren’t necessarily perplexing in nature but they are extremely satisfying to solve nonetheless. Tombs are simply breathtaking in terms of scale; from the abandoned ruins of a desolate uranium mine to the obtuse discovery of a frozen Mongolian warship embedded into the icy wall of a glacial cavern, each one is significantly different from the next and requires different tools to solve. In simple terms of exploration, Rise of the Tomb Raider embodies an excellent sense of progression as every minute detail is documented, so it’s extremely easy to track your current progress on special weapon parts, crafting materials, legendary animals to hunt, or collectible relics. Rise of the Tomb Raider is simply the best action adventure game of 2015, not only is the combat tweaked to your convenience, but its traversal and breathtaking set-pieces are merged impeccably, delivering an adrenaline inducing, heart-pounding experience that no other 2015 title could possibly rival.
6. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Arguably the biggest game of 2015, The Witcher 3 enamoured fans with its rich, exquisite lore, impeccably crafted side quests – which were arguably better than the main story – and well-written characters who made the 150 hour experience all the more enjoyable. The Witcher 3 has been declared by many as their “Game of the Year”, and you’d have a difficult experience trying to argue against that; I’d say that I enjoyed this gargantuan title slightly less than the norm as I was extremely disappointed by its derivative, uninspired narrative and main quest line, and its questionably repetitive combat system, which I understand is a polarizing opinion, but one that is in the minority nonetheless. Don’t mistaken my criticism for any form of cynicism towards the Witcher 3 as I actually love the game wholeheartedly, despite my obtuse qualms. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a near masterpiece with unlimited potential as the sheer amount of tasks to do is insurmountable, and luckily every little thing you can partake in is exceptionally joyous and engaging. The world of the Witcher 3, in and of itself, is an absolutely perfect example on how to create a living and breathing world with defined purpose and character. Each fragment bears significant weight and meaning, as civil and political events surrounding the world, pertaining to the characters I had grown to love, are extremely captivating and drive the core story forward, leaving an imprint of your actions onto the world itself. With so much to see and with such little time to spare, I can understand if the Witcher 3’s massive amount of content and commitment intimidate you in any shape or form; it’s most definitely a commitment to say the least but I implore you to perhaps chip away at this experience leisurely over the course of a couple of months or perhaps even an entire year, if not, you’ll be missing out on one of 2015’s very best.
5. Tales from the Borderlands
The Borderlands series has always been a fun experience but rarely has it ever deviated from the beaten path, constantly adhering to the safe and familiar. Even though it lacks the traditional sense of gameplay, Tales from the Borderlands is without a doubt the best Borderlands game. When Telltale announced this project, like most, I was fairly perplexed as to why they would choose the Borderlands license. The story was always rendered to an after-thought in the main series and the writing was admittedly decent, but I never thought a rich story could derive from the wasteland that is Pandora. In short, I simply thought Tales from the Borderlands would be a tale not worth telling, and boy was I wrong. Tales from the Borderlands is not only one of the best games of 2015, it is arguably the best game Telltale has ever made, rivalling the likes of the first season of The Walking Dead. The story is expertly produced and brilliantly written, as the exposition is intricately weaved in an ineffable manner, exuding thrilling elements of mystery, hilarity, and poignancy which prove to be far more entertaining and comical than Gearbox’s efforts. The characters are exceptionally well-rounded and are undoubtedly the best written characters in the Borderlands universe, with some being my favourite characters in gaming period. While Gearbox’s main series focuses on the derivative “badass” persona of the Vault Hunters, Telltale’s approach to character is far more accessible as our two leads, Rhys and Fiona, are ordinary everyday people either trying to survive in a desolate wasteland filled with unquestionable dangers or a corporate space station filled with executives who’ll murder without batting an eyelash. They’re simply seizing any opportunity in hopes of it leading to a better life, a relatable trait in which we should be familiar with. By the end of the experience, I was fairly saddened by the farewells I shared with these fantastic characters as I loved every single moment shared with Rhys, Fiona, Vaughn, Sasha, Loader Bot, and Gortys, a sensation of bittersweet melancholy that I haven’t felt since Persona 4. Lastly, I feel the need to mention the final confrontation in episode 5, The Vault of the Traveller, as it is arguably one of the most hilarious, yet epic moments in gaming period. I admittedly hate using the word “epic” but I couldn’t find a more accurate adjective to fit the description.
4. Super Mario Maker
Super Mario Maker is the absolute pinnacle in level creation as it’s incomparably accessible and intuitive, managing to strike a harmonizing equilibrium between playing and creating. Although I am in no way shape or form adept in level creation, I was still able to make sense of the given tools and create intricacies that matched my level of creativity but emitted room for potential. Not only is Super Mario Maker one of the best games of 2015 and arguably the best game on the Wii U, it also justified the very existence of the Wii U’s Gamepad which had struggled to find a purpose for three long years. Super Mario Maker is an excellent, well balanced experience like no other; regardless of your preference between creating or playing, and your experience with the Super Mario series as a whole, there is something enjoyable here for everyone as Super Mario Maker is pure, unadulterated fun. Due to its infancy, there is still obvious room for improvement as the need for a tagging system when searching through user-created levels is heavily understated as the interface as filtering through the massive amount of content can be fairly unintuitive. Granted a major complaint of mine during launch has thankfully been rectified since; Super Mario Maker has finally implemented the use of the iconic checkpoint flag, so players won’t have to complete your creations in one swift go, which as a satisfying relief to say the least. For Mario’s thirtieth birthday, Nintendo has given us a phenomenal gift that transcends most gaming experiences to date, giving us a Mario experience that arguably lasts forever. If you own a Wii U, you owe to yourself to experience this masterful title as Super Mario Maker is arguably the best game on Nintendo’s struggling system.
3. Fallout 4
Probably my most anticipated game of 2015 – although I wasn’t even aware of its existence when 2015 began – Fallout 4 is essentially Fallout 3.5 with some minor tweaks here and there; it rarely strays from the safe and familiar and at times clings onto the success of its predecessor, but none of this detracts from the fact that Fallout 4 is a phenomenal game and arguably transcends certain elements that attained Fallout 3’s massive critical and commercial success. Yes Fallout 4 didn’t nearly have the colossal impact as its predecessor as Fallout 3 was the series’ first entry into the 3D realm of gaming and embracing an immersive first person approach, which was a noticeable departure from the traditional turn-based combat system of the originals. Fallout 4 doesn’t necessarily do anything innovative, lacking certain nuanced qualities as it only slightly expands on the existing formula, finely tweaking core gameplay elements which Fallout 3 established. Don’t be too fixated and distracted by its limitations and setbacks because Fallout 4 is an excellent game that impeccably nails the iconic franchise’s sense of immersion. One aspect of Fallout 4 which triumphs its predecessor is its gunplay; the actual moment to moment shooting is far more responsive and intuitive than it was in Fallout 3, as it embraces certain mechanics that’ve become staples in the shooter genre such as hit markers and the ability to aim down the sights. However, there is no need to worry as the improved shooting doesn’t detract from the convenience and satisfaction of Fallout’s VATS system – which was introduced in Fallout 3 as an homage to the original’s turn-based roots. One innovative addition to the Fallout series is Fallout 4’s dynamic and accessible crafting system, one that is never intrusive and bears extreme value, amazingly finding purpose for the copious amount of junk scattered throughout the Commonwealth. Players can also meticulously craft a settlement or town of their own, which proved to be surprisingly satisfying when done correctly, but for the less creative folk like myself, this inclusion is more of an afterthought rather than an imperative addition. As usual, Fallout 4’s sense of progression and immersion is unparalleled, as the game is extraordinarily massive, catering to a profound sense of player freedom, where every little grey decision bears extreme significance. Every little thing in Fallout 4 encapsulates meaning and purpose, and while it is in no way a revolutionary entry to the series, it’s still an amazing experience that builds upon a substantial structure.
I have never played a game that nailed art design quite as impeccably as Bloodborne; the iconic scenery of Victorian London and the eerie gothic atmosphere encapsulates a dreadful sensation which appropriately mirrors the combat’s sense of desperation. Bloodborne is also one of the most, if not the most, rewarding games I have ever played. Playing Bloodborne is always a risky experience and it constantly kept me on edge as I could either return to the Hunter’s Dream, cashing in my blood echoes or I could satisfy that addictive itch and audaciously accumulate more. It’s an extremely addicting no risk, no reward mentality. Having so much to lose is what makes the experience worthwhile, that’s what makes each death so tragic, but also makes each victory so satisfying. Truly overcoming the odds and defeating a boss after countless hours and sleepless nights is a gratifying accomplishment and few games manage to emit the same rewarding sensation that Bloodborne nails so immaculately. Monster designs share the same immaculate quality as they are an impressively, grotesque ode to classic horror which instills an unsettling aura of dread as these monstrous beings were ripped straight out of your nightmares. The combat is extraordinarily satisfying as each weapon has its own form of varying transformations which prove to be both visually and mechanically satisfying. In comparison to From Software’s previous efforts, Bloodborne is far more visceral and agile, placing a higher emphasis on agility as opposed to the meticulous defensive nature of the Souls’ series. Bloodborne also sheds light on certain Metroidvania elements as deviating from the beaten path and exploring the malevolent world of Yharnam is highly recommended as certain hidden goodies and shortcuts will ease the arduous journey immensely. Bloodborne is an excellent experience that rewards player independence; it doesn’t hold your hand and walk you through the basics step by step, it throws you in a pit and leaves you on your own to fend for yourself and to learn as you grow. If you’re on the fence with Bloodborne and feel that its difficulty is too daunting, just understand that it’s all indeed manageable. I admittedly have never played a Souls game before; I’ve watched plenty of gameplay videos but never gave it a go for the slower combat and medieval setting personally turned me off. I easily put in over 80 hours into Bloodborne and not only is it arguably my favourite game on the PlayStation 4, but it is also one of my favourite games of all time.
1. Ori and the Blind Forest
Ori and the Blind Forest is arguably the most beautiful gaming experience, both visually and thematically, in recent memory and not only is it my favourite game of 2015, it has quickly become an all-time favourite of mine. A successful homage to the impeccable metroidvania genre and thematically inspired by the beautiful works done by the prestigious Studio Ghibli and Disney, Ori and the Blind Forest is a near masterpiece which encompasses brilliant level design, breathtaking escape sequences, a forgotten sense of challenge that’s never too punishing or unforgiving, a sublime orchestral composition, and a simple, yet endearing coming-of-age story that will undoubtedly pull on your heartstrings. The melancholic elegance of the game’s intro is a feat in itself and mirrors the initial sentimentality of Pixar’s Up. Ori and the Blind Forest encompasses a beautiful story of loss, sacrifice, responsibility, and the true beauty of paternal love. Aside from the beautifully, harmonized story, Ori and the Blind Forest is also well adept in the gameplay department. Puzzles segments are an excellent hybrid of the complex, mind bending intricacies in Portal and the anti-gravity mechanics of Super Mario Galaxy. Escape sequences are jaw-dropping, exceptionally gorgeous, and are easily my favourite part of Ori and the Blind Forest. These segments truly showcase your platforming skills and how well you utilize your repertoire of abilities, and is a bona fide spectacle to mindlessly observe. They are extremely challenging however, so the immense satisfaction of completing one of these sequences is an unparalleled sensation. Tied together with the exquisite, heart-pounding soundtrack and the exceptionally gorgeous visuals, these escape sequences are arguably the best that gaming has to offer and are absolutely breath-taking to say the least. I initially played Ori for its heartfelt narrative and gorgeous art design, but found myself truly staying for its addictive platforming goodness, breath-taking escape sequences, and innovative checkpoint management. Ori and the Blind Forest is an endearing experience that unquestionably surprised me left and right; its brutality is subtle and charm is flamboyant, and both are the fundamental key as to why Ori and the Blind Forest just works.
So those are my top 10 games of 2015! What were your favourite games of 2015? Be sure to sound off in the comments below!