by Sam Desatoff
2015 was a solid year for gaming. The triple-A and indie scenes both saw their share of high-profile releases, and we are now closer than ever to virtual reality being, well, a reality. To save you the hardship of playing all these great games yourself, I have taken the liberty of separating the chaff from the proverbial wheat. You’re welcome.
Below are my five favorite games from this year. Because of real-life responsibilities including school and work – and a lack of money – I didn’t have a lot of free time to play all the new titles I would have liked. For this reason, I will follow this article up with another that lists five games I wish I got a chance to play. But in the meantime, here’s the best of the best of what I got to play in 2015. But first, the honorable mentions.
Now on to the list!
A cross between a demolition derby and socer, Rocket League is a picture of elegant game design. The simple 3v3 matches offer bite-sized fun, but the steady stream of unlockables and holiday themed events offer enough incentive to keep coming back. The cars control simply but reward players patient enough to master them. The game exploded in popularity earlier this year and has produced a sea of YouTube highlights. I put a lot of time into Rocket League myself, and it reminded me that “arcade-style sports” is a genre that needs to make a comeback (NFL Blitz, anyone?). Not bad for a game that released for free with a PlayStation Plus subscription.
It’s a sad fact that high-profile platformers are a rarity these days. They’re far more common in the indie space (and indeed I have one of these on this very list), but when triple-A developers announce a new platformer it’s something of a novelty. Luckily, Nintendo has us covered. In June, the House that Mario built released Yoshi’s Woolly World, and it’s charming as all hell. The cloth-textured backgrounds, the cute characters made of yarn, and the child-like music combine to make this the most adorable game of the year. This is the best Yoshi game since the original Yoshi’s Island for the Super Nintendo, which is relief given the series’ recent history. Kudos to Nintendo. Now if only we could get a new 2D Metroid.
Click here to read my review
As I said above, the independent game scene is ripe with 2D platformers. From Axiom Verge to Adventures of Pip, 2015 saw its share of new platformers from indie developers. It can be difficult to stand out in such a crowded market, but Ori and the Blind Forest manages to do so with gusto. The first thing you’ll notice when you boot up the game is the beautiful art style. As colorful as it is charming, this game is a pleasure to look at. The platforming is finely tuned, and new powers are doled out at a satisfying pace. What will truly draw you in, though, is the touching story. Right out of the gate, Ori is not afraid to tug your heartstrings. The narrative is something straight out of a Pixar film and absolutely left a lasting impression on me. I didn’t get to play as many games I wanted to this year, but I’m very glad I got to play Ori and the Blind Forest.
I don’t have a lot of experience with From Software’s popular Dark Souls series. I played a bit of Dark Souls, but didn’t touch Dark Souls II or the series’ spiritual predecessor. After playing Bloodborne, however, I am now fervently looking forward to Dark Souls III. Perhaps my favorite setting in any game this year, exploring the Victorian town of Yharnam and its surrounding areas is both haunting and satisfying. The art style and creature design challenge your preconceptions of what a video game setting should be. The gameplay is tough but fair, and punishes players who rush headlong into a pack of enemies. It is refreshing to experience a game paced this way. We have become so accustomed to fast-paced, explosion-riddled Hollywood blockbuster action in our games that the success of Bloodborne is surprising. Or perhaps is isn’t surprising at all. Perhaps the fact that Bloodborne has garnered both critical praise and financial success illustrates that gamers are hungry for unique experiences. Whatever the case, Bloodborne is a can’t-miss if you own a PlayStation 4.
When I was putting this list together, I really struggled with my choice for game of the year. Bloodborne took the top spot for a time, but the longer I waited to write this article, the more I played Fallout 4. I understand the game isn’t perfect; there’s very little tutorial (a few of my friends confessed to being confused by the game’s perk chart and leveling system), the game shoehorns you into shooting first and asking questions later where past Fallout games presented options to avoid combat all together, the AI leaves a lot to be desired. But something about Fallout 4 just resonated with me more than any other game this year. The settlement building is a great way to put your personal touch on the world, as is the gun modding. Each level up brings a new decision that has a tangible impact on the game.
There is something addicting about exploring the ruins of Boston. Each time I discovered a new location, I felt compelled to check it out. This lends an unexpected “just one more” feeling to Fallout 4 that is more typical of a mobile game, or a game of Civilization. Seeing the little “[CLEARED]” above each locale triggered the completionist in me and drove me to keep playing. I haven’t even finished the story yet, and Fallout 4 is still my game of the year. A game hasn’t had its hooks in me like this in ages.