Compared to last year, 2015 was one of the best years for games that we have seen in a while. Finally out of the funk of 2014, it was good to see a lot of games come out that were a blast to play. I painstakingly brought my list of 30-40 games I played this year to the ten best games you should play. Ordered lists are kind of silly nowadays, but regardless of ranking, these are ten games that everyone should check out. First though, let’s give out some awards to games that did not make the list.
Best Old Game of 2015 - Final Fantasy IX
Ever since credits rolled on Final Fantasy IX, I’ve been kicking myself for it taking so long to play probably one of the best PSX JRPGs. From the characters, the story, the music, the combat, and everything in between, Square (EA at the time) went back to what made the original 6 Final Fantasy games so good. IX also holds the title as the only Final Fantasy game I have completed; even though I still sort of count getting to the moon in IV as a completion.
Best Anime Inspired Free-to-Play Mobile Game - Love Live School Idol Festival
There were quite a few anime free-to-play games that hit mobile devices in 2015. Most of them involved collecting characters and forming teams while also feeding your leftovers to your team so they got stronger. None quite hooked me as Love Live School Idol Festival. I probably spent way too much time playing this silly rhythm game, but gosh darnit, the songs were too catchy and fun to put down. I also ended up watching both seasons of the anime and the movie thanks to this game. My crowning achievement with this game was ending up in the top 1000 during one of the events, though it killed a part of me in the process.
Best Surprise – Until Dawn
As my playthrough of this going live on YouTube this week will attest, I am not a big fan of horror games. Until Dawn falls into this category with it having a few jump scares that got me when I wasn’t trying to casually avoid looking at the screen. Beyond the genre and how it tackled the prototypical teen slasher flick, Until Dawn is a game that by all means should not have ended up as good as it did. In fact, it is the best Quantic Dream game that Quantic Dream never made. The Hollywood talent involved also does a fine job of walking the line between cheesy acting and good acting, plus Peter Stormare’s performance is top notch. The latter half of the game might not hold up as much as the beginning, but it is definitely a game that should be checked out. Just be weary of getting monked.
Best Mediocre Game – Fallout 4
Woof. If there was a hotly anticipated November release this year, it was Fallout 4. I was real interested since I’ve liked Oblivion and Skyrim, but never really played any of the Bethesda Fallout games. What arrived in November was a game that was just not particularly interesting in terms of design and story, and on consoles, it is a technical nightmare. The only time I had a “wow” moment within Fallout 4 was entering Diamond City. Of course, this was mostly due to seeing where they had placed the city and thinking how cool it is. The overall design is just the same as every open world Bethesda game since Oblivion which came out almost 10 years ago. It is time that the games industry takes a good hard look at how Bethesda makes game and figures out if we should be okay with it. I believe that we should not have to deal with the same technical shortcomings that have been occurring for 10 years and Bethesda really needs to do something to make their next big open world game interesting since especially this year, there were far better open world games than what Fallout 4 brought to the table.
Best New Character – Rabbit from Nintendo Badge Arcade
I’m sure when Nintendo was localizing the Nintendo Badge Arcade; they had to figure out a way for people to come back after the first time using this app and spend more money. Enter the Rabbit mascot who greets and chats with you before you are off to get badges. No other character felt as impactful as the Rabbit did, mostly because it is charming and interacts with the player as if you have been old pals for a long time. Plus, if you don’t spend any money after it asks, the Rabbit is just like “Hey, that’s cool. Come back tomorrow and we can chat about a new game I’ve been thinking of.” Just watch out when the Rabbit gets real buff out of nowhere.
Game of the Year
10. Contradiction: Spot the Liar! (PC)
FMV games usually can either work well or just be very bad in terms of the acting and execution. The creators of Contradiction looked at this and went; oh we can walk that line and be in on the joke at the same time. As a murder mystery game, Contradiction is decent in terms of its mechanics and how they are implemented. The joy of this game is seeing what crazy shenanigans the actors and their characters get into next. There are cults, a girl who thinks demons are after her, a guy who is totally not selling drugs out of his farmhouse, and one of the best villain performances seen in any sort of game in quite some time. Contradiction is rough around the edges, but makes up for it in charm and just overall fun.
9. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS4, PS3, XBONE, 360, PC)
I really wanted to adore this game. As a huge fan of the Metal Gear franchise, I have played through each iteration and mostly stuck around for the story since the games themselves weren’t the best to play. The Phantom Pain flips the formula that games in the franchise have stuck to and has the best gameplay out of a game this year, but a very weak story. There are parts of this game I really like. The ability to tackle a mission in any way you see fit is incredible. I’ve seen other people’s attempts at missions and seen them be completely different from how I did the same mission. The Phantom Pain has my favorite boss fight of 2015 with the Metal Gear Sahelanthropus final encounter, and D-Dog is the best companion. The twist at the end of the story is not as bad as other people have made it out to be either!
Unfortunately, there are a lot of problems that The Phantom Pain has as well. At the forefront would be how the game handles the character of Quiet. As a character, Quiet is actually really interesting and complex, but then she is dressed in a super skimpy bikini because she has to absorb water in order to live. It also doesn’t help that anytime she is on camera in a cutscene, the camera just happens to make her breasts the focus of the shot. There are also some very gross bonus scenes that involve her that are among the worst of shitty Kojima fan service. The story also has weird issues being that it is not a Metal Gear story as one would expect. It is a different story telling approach, but as someone who’s favorite in the series is MGS2, I expect the story to be completely bonkers. On top of that, Konami micro-transactioned the hell out the game post-launch making the online features worse, the drama between Kojima and Konami left the development of the game in question, and the multiplayer launching a month after launch only to be mediocre. Metal Gear Solid V plays great, but could have been so much better in a multitude of ways.
8. Undertale (PC)
The Tumblr game of the year is actually surprisingly good considering the amount of hype that can be shoved down your throat. Undertale harkens back to games like the Mother series with its weird and quirky nature. The first third of the game is rather rough in terms of getting the game going and building a narrative for the player to be interested in. Once you are passed that, the different ways of utilizing combat, the humorous dialogue, and colorful cast of characters really support the rest of the game and make it something that is a lot of fun to play. The way Undertale handles its endings is also interesting in the fact that you can screw up and not get one of the true endings, but the game allows you to pick back up and even hints you in the right direction. Though, the non-true ending features some intense nightmare fuel and even does things with the game that the player certainly won’t expect. Don’t let Undertale’s ravenous fan base dissuade you from playing this as it is an enjoyable experience.
7. Cibele (PC)
My review on this site will pretty much tell what I thought in more words than this, but Cibele was certainly the game that resonated with me the most after playing it for days and even still. The ways that Cibele presents its story in the two hours the game takes to complete are fantastic. From the desktop interface where you go through e-mail, blog posts, old photos, to the MMO where you play and experience interaction between the two main characters, and finally the FMV portions. Cibele is one of the better games on the market now that tackles issues like long distance relationships and sex in a mature and non-typical game way. As someone who has been through something similar, Cibele hit me so hard in ways I was not expecting, but can also be relatable to people of different situations. This is a game that is well worth anyone’s time if you are looking for a game that tackles more adult subjects in a smart and mature manner.
6. Rocket League (PS4, XBONE, PC)
Here is a game that came out of left field to sweep away everyone that played it. Rocket League is one hell of a good time and an even better multiplayer experience. There were few games that can match the excitement, tension, and amount of yelling Rocket League brings forth when playing. Essentially, this is car soccer, like was seen a few years ago on the car program Top Gear. The simplicity of the gameplay ensures that anyone can pick this up and immediately be enthralled with everything. It is a game that even if you got it for free, it doesn’t feel gross to support it with the DLC they have been consistently releasing post launch. Rocket League is all about fun and it does that very well, so grab some friends and hit the field and be prepared to get very excited when you barely miss the ball for a goal. Oh, and it has mutators like Unreal Tournament. Like, what?!
5. Persona 4 Dancing All Night (PSVita)
P4DAN is a game that almost never made it to store shelves. A year ago, original developer DINGO split leaving Atlus and the Persona team left to figure out how to complete this game and have it at the same quality of previous games in the franchise. Luckily for everyone, they were able to pull it off and make the best Persona 4 spinoff yet. Considering this is the swan song for Persona 4, Persona 4 Dancing All Night gives a great farewell to characters that I have come to know and love. Dancing All Night’s story shines as it feels like the writing has returned to top form after the fighting games were a mess. The gameplay is not the best for a rhythm game, but it works and is still a lot of fun. Persona 4 Dancing All Night is fan service for people who have stuck around with these games since 2008 and is a very fun way to let these characters ride off into the sunset for hopefully the final time.
4. Splatoon (Wii U)
It may have taken Nintendo years to figure it out, but the company has finally made a multiplayer game that not only works, but is the best new game that Nintendo has put out in a long time. Splatoon takes the standard multiplayer shooter and makes it applicable for all ages, removes voice chat to get rid of garbage people yelling words that no one needs to hear, and makes the metagame not just about racking up kills. When I first saw this game at E3 2014, I didn’t have faith that Nintendo could pull off what they were pushing. It took me finally getting my hands on it to finally understand why everyone was praising it. Splatoon is just a whole lot of fun. With the constant updates that the game has received since the summer, Nintendo also is giving players a reason to continue to come back which is a big problem for most multiplayer games. The single player campaign is nothing to write home about, but the multiplayer is just fantastic and if this were any other year, it would be the best game Nintendo put out all year.
3. Bloodborne (PS4)
During the last generation of consoles, I never really got into the Souls series. I’d sit back and watch videos of them and think they were interesting, but the barrier to entry seemed daunting. Enter Bloodborne. Some fans have labeled this the easiest of those types of games, but that doesn’t stop it from being very challenging and also very fun. Considering this was my first game of this type, it took a few hours for it to click and not just be a frustrating mess. Once everything came together, I was hooked and constantly enjoyed the tense atmosphere that came with entering a new area not knowing what was lurking that could kill you instantly. Bloodborne is also a gorgeous game with amazing looking architecture that looks straight out of an early gothic novel. The boss designs are also very memorable, even when they are seen multiple times from them destroying you. This is one of the few games that I have felt an immense amount of adrenaline and relief when battling and beating a boss. My friends can attest to this when they would hear me yelp during boss fights and scream excitedly when finally defeating one. One of these days, I’ll get around to playing that DLC that recently came out, but as for the standalone product, I highly recommend it.
2. Life Is Strange (PS4, PS3, XBONE, 360, PC)
Ever since The Walking Dead Season One blew everyone away, myself included (2012 Game of the Year), adventure games have been trying their hardest to reach the pinnacle that The Walking Dead achieved. Life Is Strange is the closest any of these types of games have come to that yet. While a majority of the game revolves around time travel, Life Is Strange is also grounded in a reality that anyone can understand. You are Max, a high school student dealing with the shittiness that is high school when all of a sudden; you have time altering powers and use it to save your best friend you haven’t seen in years. There are times when the game misses with its dialogue and choices, but the times it hits, it hits especially hard. The ending of episodes 2 and 3, the beginning of episode 4, and the ending of episode 4 are where Life Is Strange shines the brightest. Those moments were as impactful as any other moment in gaming this year. There were times where a choice was given to me and I had to lay the controller down and contemplate how I would choose between either of the choices. There are some complaints with how the ending basically whittles your choices down to two by the very end, but that is just the nature of the beast in games that utilize user choice. Life Is Strange is probably not for everyone, but if it is for you, it will be one of the most enjoyable experiences you’ll have with a game this year or maybe this decade.
1. Super Mario Maker (Wii U)
Super Mario Maker is not just the best game this year; it might end up being one of the most important games ever made. If you were to tell me twenty years ago that I would be able to make my own Super Mario World courses, I probably would not have been able to comprehend that and also would have my mind blown. If Nintendo supports this game and adds in features for creators like the ability to string levels together and create worlds, there would never be a need for another new 2D Mario game ever. Some of the things that people are doing with the creation tools are just incredible. Whether it is creating pixel art, levels that show off engineering skills to automatically move Mario across a level, complex and fun levels in the vain of how Nintendo would make them, or nightmare levels that Giant Bomb’s Dan Ryckert makes, anyone can find a level and find enjoyment. The creation tools are simple and easy to use while also making you think how to make a level fun for everyone, but also challenging and incorporating your own touch on it.
It is going to be real interesting to look at this game a year from now, 5 years from now, and 10 years from now to see how the community has evolved and how level creating has changed from the beginning. This is all of course dependent on Nintendo supporting this game well into the future, which they have been doing an okay job thus far. If they can add in checkpoints, pow block hidden doors, etc., I certainly hope they are able to add in features from the four games tile sets that have yet to be introduced like the giant stompers in castles in Super Mario World and multiple exit ghost houses. Maybe even add in a Super Mario Bros. 2 (Doki Doki Panic or the original Japanese version for poison mushrooms) to really see how crazy level creation can get. Whether Nintendo does this or not, this is the one Mario game that has come the closest to usurping Super Mario World as best Mario game and best Nintendo game.