2015 was a great year for gamers. The Xbox One and PS4 finally started getting some proper games released. Nintendo showed why you should buy a Wii U with a great lineup of exclusive titles. And the indy scene made even louder noise on both consoles and PC.
Yeti, Andrew, Daniel, and Aaron give you their picks for the best video game releases of the 2015! Enjoy!
I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve not played too many games this year. I started a new job, got my own apartment and had to get a new car, all of which cut my gaming budget down. But the games I did play were great!
Game of the Year!
Also Available On: Microsoft Windows & Xbox One (Feb. 2016)
Psyonix killed it on the PS4 and PC with Rocket League. They developed a game that not only die hard gamers love, but the average gamers really enjoyed as well.
Rocket League takes the fun playability of Mario Kart and adds the greatest game on earth, soccer. My brother and I got it as a free game on the Playstation Network (PSN) and we both sucked at it. We lost 7 in a row, but after learning the controls and playing style we went on a run. We earned awesome cosmetic upgrades for our cars and continued to enjoy the game.
The online community seems to be an all-round friendly bunch and it helps that you get matched based on your skill level and their isn’t any performance upgrades to make one player have an advantage over the other. Both help keep the game balanced and focused more on skill of actually playing the game. My brother and I always played together so we were always in the same ballpark on skill level and paired with players of our caliber, which made the game even better.
Rocket League gets a 10/10 for overall fun factor and it earned my Game of the Year pick.
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Publisher: CD Projekt
Also Available: Xbox One & Microsoft Windows
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a beautiful game. The third installment of The Witcher series has great game play and a pretty good story to go along with it.
I started off wanting to burn through the story on the first play and then come back and play it again with the included side quests. That didn’t last long. The first town you come to has so much you can do and, before I knew it, I had spent hours on side quests. To me, it’s worth playing the side missions first as it makes the game more enjoyable and, if this is your first Witcher game, it gives you time to learn your powers and fighting technique. Even though you are part of a bad a** group of monster hunters that uses magic and sword skill to take out their targets, you will die, and you will realize that you’re not a super hero. Knowing how to use your magic and weapons in the early parts of the game will help you as the game becomes more difficult.
The reason The Witcher is not my Game of the Year is I enjoyed playing Rocket League with my brother. We’ve played video games with each other since I was old enough to pick up a controller, and a game like Rocket League lets me play with my Bro and enjoy playing it so much that time seems to not exist. In short, those reasons made it hard for The Witcher 3 to beat out Rocket League.
Game of the Year!
Also Available On: PS3, Xbox One, & Xbox 360
It’s hard to talk about Destiny: The Taken King without first pointing to what Destiny was prior to the massive expansion. As Colin Mullins documented in his first experience with the game during its first month of release, the crisp shooting and mostly satisfying loot system made Destiny: Year One a memorable experience.
However, it was not without its issues.
The plot was nonexistent outside of grimoire cards, which were only accessible from Bungie’s website. The bosses were bullet sponges and outside of the Vault of Glass – which is a crowning achievement in FPS level design – the boss fight mechanics were uninteresting. Even more frustrating was that the more you played, the more these imperfections became nuisances.
With TTK, Bungie took large steps forward in correcting Year One’s problems. The characters are fantastically more interesting. The story exists in-game. The missions no longer tell the player, “Here, shoot this boss for ten minutes.” While it didn’t seem that way at the time, all of the improvements make Destiny feel like its first year was a large scale beta. Now, the reins have been taken off and Bungie’s online shooter has become a must-play adventure.
To avoid going into full-fledged review mode, I’ll just take a moment to discuss TTK’s new raid, King’s Fall. As I said above, Year One’s Vault of Glass raid was a fantastic piece of FPS level design. Its unique mechanics required teamwork, communication, and rarely allowed for success if one or two of your six-man team were down. And TTK’s King’s Fall is better than VoG in almost every way.
From the opening slam dunk-a-thon to the stunning tombship jumping puzzle, King’s Fall delivers one compelling section after another. The three boss fights are challenging, but reasonable. And perhaps most importantly, the entire raid is designed in such a way that even one weak teammate will likely hinder progress. No one can be carried. There’s nowhere to hide. If one team member is killed, it usually leads to a wipe (all fireteam members intentionally dying) and starting the encounter over. Design at that level is extremely difficult, and Bungie truly nailed it. You owe it to yourself to play this game and this raid, even if you’re using someone else’s account for a one time run.
There is nothing like your first time through King’s Fall. It is visually stunning, mechanically challenging, and wonderfully satisfying. Do yourself a favor and play Destiny: The Taken King.
Also Available On: Microsoft Windows & Xbox One (Feb. 2016)
There isn’t a whole to say about Rocket League. It’s soccer with cars (and now hockey with cars, too!). I don’t really know how to make it sound any better than that. The cars can jump. That’s fun. The cars can do barrel rolls. That’s fun too. They can ram each other hard enough to explode. That’s a blast. Rocket League is fun for the sake of being fun. It’s beautiful. And when there’s no lag, it’s perfect.
I don’t know if I’ve ever had more fun with a group of six people in a PlayStation party than I did the day we all played 3v3 Rocket League with one another, and that includes several runs through King’s Fall mentioned above. We let the game choose our teams and we barely cared who won. It was about the journey, man. And what a journey it was. Psyonix has already promised a steady stream of updates through the coming year, and I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeve.
I have no doubt that the Witcher 3 would be my Game of the Year. If I had time to actually play it. Since my daughter was born, I can’t really sink 100 hours into an RPG even if it probably is one the best ever made. Instead, I have to talk about the games I actually had time to play this year and, of those, the ones I enjoyed the most. So, with that in mind, here are my picks for the Top Games of 2015.
Game of the Year!
Platform: PS4 (Exclusive)
Developer: Supermassive Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Anyone who has read this blog knows that I really, really liked Until Dawn. (You can read my previous story about it here).
Until Dawn, a tribute to B-horror movies, follows eight teens at a cabin in the woods on a snowy night. A story driven experience, you guide characters through the night by the decisions you make. Every horror movie trope is here: horny teenagers, poor decision making, and cheap jump scares. It’s always campy, occasionally frustrating, and often predictable.
And despite all of that, I could not put this game down. The atmosphere, characters, and story drew me in and left me constantly wanting more. I agonized over every decision and fretted over characters’ fates. Even after I saw the end credits, I had to go back and relive decisions to see how it changed my experience.
Until Dawn was an excellent story-driven experience that I had a lot of fun with and is one of the best experiences available on any console.
Developer: Sam Barlow
Also Available On: Mac (OS X; iOS)
Her Story was released exclusively for PC and Mac in June, but it’s a pretty basic design that even my five-year old, very basic, laptop had no problem running it.
Here’s the premise: You, the player, sit at your computer and search a library of videos involving a murder investigation in 1994. All of the videos are interviews with the victim’s wife. The only problem is that all the interviews are out of order. You search using keywords in the videos. So, if you type in “murder,” you will see all videos of the interviewee saying that word. Slowly, you start to piece together the interviews revealing what actually happened.
Like Until Dawn, this story-driven experience really sucked me in. What keyword should I search for next? What’s this woman’s role in the murder? Where does this interview clip fit in with the others?
Her Story is a truly unique experience that must be played to fully understand.
Game of the Year!
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
Also Available On: Xbox One, Microsoft Windows (maybe?), Mac, & Linux
My Game of the Year is Arkham Knight. No one that knows me should be surprised by this. I even broke my golden rule and pre-ordered it, and even went to pick it up at the midnight release event at my local Gamestop. This is how much the anticipation for this game clouded my judgement. Did I mention I bought the Season Pass as well? Well, I did. Judge me if you want, because I would do it again. And again. With bells on. Everything about this game was a fitting end to Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy and is the quintessential Batman, and super hero, video game of the last decade.
In short, mic drop.
Arkham Knight is an excellent game that combines beautiful graphics, smooth gameplay mechanics, and a story the continues to explore Batman’s rich comic book history while throwing more curveballs at you than a young Barry Zito.
The game gave us Gotham in all of it’s grimy and noir soaked glory. Rocksteady gave us a complete city to traverse with everything from giant skyscrapers to the dangerous back alleys. Arkham City gave us a partial Gotham, but Knight gave us the entire city to protect. That by itself would have made the game the best in the series.
Aside from the Batmobile, which needed some fine tuning but wasn’t as bad as some let on, the game was nearly flawless. The free flowing combat returned and added even more enemy types to make you think before you execute your next move, but the addition of even more gadgets and combat upgrades made handling the mobs of thugs fun and engaging from start to finish. And even though it is a blast to drive the streets of Gotham in the Batmobile, gliding and swinging through the city has never been smoother. I actually preferred to take flight through the city at times just to see Batman’s cape ripple in the wind and the beads of water roll off the end of it. It is a true technical marvel on every level and showed what this generation’s hardware can really do.
Arkham Knight is the perfect sendoff for the series and gives long time fans the full Batman experience they’ve wanted since Asylum. It isn’t perfect, but Knight is far and away the best game I played this year. As a comic book fan, it is a Batman story that brings in a different take on some of Batman’s comic book mythos, and as a video game fan, the combination of all the gameplay components that made the series great with a bigger city to explore made it a must own for my PS4.
Rocksteady may have retired their cape and cowl, but their legacy, like a certain Dark Knight, will forever be synonymous with Gotham City.
Platform: Wii U (Exclusive)
Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 2
Nintendo and online multiplayer is not a combination you see very often. And when you do it is usually followed by “lacking” or “non-existent”. Some even wondered if Nintendo knew what the internet was let alone how to design a game to use it.
You can imagine the reaction when Nintendo announced Splatoon, a competitive online multiplayer game at E3 in 2014. This was strictly a new Nintendo IP that depended on its online multiplayer as the meat of the experience. Everyone thought, me included, that Nintendo had lost their minds. Did they really think, after years of basically ignoring the internet as a whole, that they could just develop a game that focused solely as an online experience!?
They sure did. And Splatoon was very close to becoming my Game of the Year.
Splatoon‘s biggest advantage was refusing to be just another online military shooter, and instead created a competitive online game that was based on covering the playing field with ink and the winner being declared the side that covered more land with their color. Players gained experience points and money for upgrades not by eliminating their opponent, but by how much ground you personally covered with your weapon.
It was a genius move by Nintendo to give players that hated playing Call of Duty or Halo multiplayer, and the negative environment that those games create, and gave them a fun and quirky online experience that didn’t involve energy drinks and swearing 8-year-olds. Nintendo did an online game that included it’s trademark imagination by making the participants in the game squid kids with an drive to win and look good doing it with high fashion gear. The world is full of bright and vivid colors splashed on a backdrop of pure personality. This game may have the most original world of any game this year as it brings you wacky weapons, fly gear, and a world straight out of 1990s Nickelodeon. Throw in a unique and colorful soundtrack and you got a game that is dipped in all sorts of uniqueness that truly makes it a great gaming experience.
The weird and crazy world of Splatoon is a gateway to a game that has fantastic controls and gameplay that gives you the choice to play the game like you want to with a variety of unique weapons and special abilities. The game is a truly original vision for online multiplayer that quickly became one of my favorite games of the past year.
What are some of your favorite video games of 2015? Leave us your list in the comments!