Oh MAN 2015 was a helluva year for games, wasn’t it? Although, it makes a decent amount of sense when you think about it: it’s been two years since the newest generation of consoles came out, and now that developers have had enough time to properly get used to the new hardware, we’re now out of the grey zone that gave us only halfway decent tech demos (god, 2014 was terrible. But at least it all wasn’t for naught). Before I get started on this year’s list, two things I should point out: first, I mainly play on my Xbox One, so if you’re wondering why titles like Undertale, Rocket League, Bloodbourne etc aren’t here, well... wait until I get enough disposable income to get another system or two. And second, while I did plan to play Metal Gear Solid V and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, changes in the plan that is my personal life meant that I couldn’t get to them in time. Still, ten decent to great games: that’s more than enough, right? Anyhow, let’s start with the:
Honorable Mentions: Prune
Yes, a mobile game is making the list, but don’t worry yourself too much. It’s the only one here, and it is a really good game that more than deserves at least a shout-out. An aesthetic that’s like a brighter version of Limbo, a relaxing but still active soundtrack, and gameplay that’s casual but still requires a decent amount of strategy to make the most out of what you’re given. For a mobile game, it’s kind of a knockout. It may just be about growing a variety of trees in various and increasingly difficult locals, but Prune managed to take up a worrying amount of my free time when I was indisposed on a bus or a train at various times throughout the year. Hell, it’s so good it’s even available on windows phones. If you have a mobile device and want a good looking, simple, yet quite involving game, I highly recommend this title.
Life is Strange and Tales from the Borderlands
I already did a whole article talking about these two games back-to-back in detail, and while my piece did kind of suffer from me keeping it as a draft for a bit too long, I still see both of these as standouts of 2015, even though it’s more for their storytelling and not so much for their gameplay. After planting my feet for so long against the Telltale hype-train, I’m rather glad I gave both of these titles a shot, with Borderlands being the more outright entertaining of the two, and Life is Strange being rightfully recognized for having some of 2015’s most progressive storytelling in almost any medium. I really hope that both of these games get second seasons (although I have no idea which direction Life is Strange would go in), but if like me you’re still aching for some real Borderlands action, don’t forget: The Handsome Collection came out earlier this year, and it’s as great as playing a good version of Destiny... which it actually is, now that I think about it...
Yeah, it does kind of break my heart that this is the third Halo in a row that’s undeniably good, but not great enough to be GOTY material. Heck, this one probably has the best multiplayer since Halo 3, given that it actually broke my Destiny addiction for good. Sadly, this game does fall into the good/bad ratio I’ve developed for rating games: for every two or three good things it does, there’s one bad decision it made that could’ve been easily remedied. The way too short campaign (which did bring back interesting level design, and had plot developments that could make 6 amazing), the microtransactions that guarantee free map packs (YAY!), but lock nearly all of the customization options behind a slot-machine paywall (god, dammit...). Hell, I’m not too mad about the lack of splitscreen, but hopefully it won’t be the only welcome change 343 puts back in Halo 6. Although at this point, I’m praying for firefight to make a glorious return...
Batman: Arkham Knight
Believe me, this game does some... okay, A Lot of stuff wrong. It doesn’t have Paul Dini as the main writer, which noticeably hurts the story. It treats nearly all of its female characters in such a wantonly terrible way that you could write an entire article on the matter. The PC edition... fuck, you guys know the joke by now. But aside from this game’s Baggage, it does earn a place in the honorable mentions just for its gameplay, which is nearly perfect. If you’re a racing guy like me who also plays World of Tanks from time to time, the Batmobile was Fucking Awesome. The game looked great no matter which console it was on. The voice acting all around was excellent, including a unexpected but truly glorious performance by Mark Hamill. And the freeflow combat (while slightly annoying at times this time around for some reason) is as enjoyable as its always been. Now though it’s probably time for Rocksteady to go somewhere else for their next game, be it a turn at getting Superman a game that’s worthy of him, a full on Justice League game or... maybe an earlier Batman game, like a good version of Arkham Origins. If they do go with the latter though (and if RS somehow ends up reading this), please, For The Love Of God, GET DINI BACK TO WRITE IT!!!
[watches the last two trailers] Hey... how about we also stop using Muse songs in our trailers? Couldn’t hurt, all things considered...
Anyway, here are Take That Proper’s Top 5 Games of 2015!
5. Ori and the Blind Forest
Imagine if Dark Souls was known for something, anything, besides how difficult it was, and you’d have something like Ori and the Blind Forest. A devilishly deceptive game in how hard it actually is, but never comes across as too difficult in turning you off by feeling impossible to complete, or that it knowingly toys with you for shits and giggles. Also, it is downright gorgeous (if not outright the prettiest game that came out this year), the story actually makes you want to play through just to learn about the world it takes place in, and help the titular character complete his journey, and while the gameplay is Difficult at times, it feels like you’re playing a natural speedrun. I’m more of a person who likes to explore a game rather than burn through it, but Ori’s somehow managed to strike a perfect balance in letting you truly enjoy the world it created, and play through it at a breakneck pace that never feels like you’re missing out on its sheer beauty. Who wants demon slaying when you can something that’s hard, and actually pleasant to look at, at the same time?
4. Forza Motorsport 6
Before you judge me, let me make one thing clear: this is the first Forza since 2012 that can, hand on heart, put as one of my favorites of the year. Forza Motorsport 5 sadly, while gorgeous and fun, was marred by microtransactions and a wonky physics model, and Horzion 2 somehow managed to lack the soul of the original classic (hey, two years of disappointing pop music will do that do a music reliant game). Forza Motorsport 6 however manages to not only fix the problems both of its predecessors had, but also incorporates much appreciated features that aren’t gimmicks, but radically change the nature of how you play. Weather effects that test drivers and tuning designs, a retuned physics engine that make the cars feel like you’re test driving the real thing, a thorough career mode; hell, even the soundtrack this time around captures the magic that makes each race feel like an epic event. I still stand by what I said: the result is, without a doubt, the best sim racer out there right now. Maybe Turn 10 should take a year off before they make another Motorsport or Horizon, but not because they need a rest, but because they’ve truly earned it.
3. Fallout 4
I know, I know: a lot of you were “disappointed” by this game. And I can get the sentiment(s), largely due to it feeling like a Fallout 3.5 rather than a full-on 4 (and for you people who took points away just for it launching with a few bugs: it’s a Bethesda game, you know what you were signing on for. You’d have to have been under a rock for the past decade not to have seen that coming...). But the thing is, this is actually the first Fallout I’ve really played, and god, damn, it’s my favorite time sink of the year. I know it should look better, I know it probably should’ve (and could’ve with little to no backlash) gone through another month of testing before it hit shelves, and I know the dialogue system is pathetic. But, when all is said and done, this is probably the best FPS that came out this year, and it actually came to the closest of any game this year to making me cry. There was a moment where I was patrolling the Commonwealth at night under a bright, full moon, and while I was going through a destroyed neighborhood a song from the game’s trademark soundtrack came on, and... it all came together somehow. I’m not sure what the song was (I want to say Easy Living, but I’m not 100% sure), but Fallout 4 achieved an atmosphere that few games really hit on, and in a single instant this game hit it out of the park. It may just be Fallout 3 but with better gameplay, and that’s it... but that’s hardly what I’d call a terrible thing. In fact, I’d call that nearly a perfect thing. Now if mods can come to consoles like Bethesda said they would...
2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
This game is probably the greatest thing the medium has seen in years, and deservedly so. Everything, from the soundtrack, to the almost perfect hack-in-slash gameplay, to the story and characters, to its massive and downright jaw-dropping open-world that’s filled to the brim with enjoyable things to do, to its graphics and aesthetics; nearly everything in this game deserves a 10 out of 10. But it doesn’t take first place for, and I know what I’m gonna sound like when I say it: personal taste(s). The thing is that last year, I chickened out at the last second making my best of list, and while I lay part of the blame on how terrible 2014 was, and I do stand by the rest of my choices on that list, I still feel regret over putting Dragon Age: Inquisition at number one. I still say Inquisition is a really good game, but I haven’t finished it. Something about it just doesn’t grab me, and hold me until the end. While Witcher 3 does fix the one major issue that Dragon Age had (which was the gameplay), it still has the same problem somehow. Maybe I’m just not a fan of fantasy RPGs, maybe its sheer size scares me too much, but I haven’t finished it yet regardless. I’ll readily call it one of the greatest games of all time... but it somehow doesn’t capture my heart like my favorite games of all time. And that is the key issue that my number one choice somehow not only got past, but achieved with flying colors.
1. Rise of the Tomb Raider
You heard me. Not just right now, but since this game came out last November I’ve been raving about it, and a month later I still love this game. It’s a mix of things: how it not only lived up to how good the excellent reboot was, but outright surpassed it in every area possible. How it destroyed the Playstation flagship series that is Uncharted, despite being a multiplatform title (shut up, everyone will get it in due time) from an aged franchise. How it got so much hate from its supposed “fans”, despite Sony doing the exact same console-exclusive bullshit with Street Fighter 5 (once again, Fuck You Capcom). How no one noticed it due to the console exclusivity, and releasing alongside Fallout 4 (also, Fuck You Microsoft and Square Enix. Geez, were you guys actually trying to kill this thing?). I should have pity for this game, and in some ways I do, but it’s all completely overshadowed by the sheer admiration I have for it. It had so many reasons to not be good in any way, shape, or form... and yet, here it proudly stands. It’s actually kind of like Mad Max: Fury Road in a couple of regards: it shouldn’t be any good, and yet here it is, a true standout of the year.
The other regard I’m talking about is probably one of the reasons Rise is so great: it is technically a simple creation, but it uses its supposed simplicity to be stronger than almost everything else out there. Think about it: it’s a single player, story driven title with no multiplayer and no vast open world RPG like Witcher nor Assassin’s Creed, and it’s almost completely reliant on just its campaign, gameplay, characters and story. When was the last time you saw a AAA title that took that kind of risk? Hell, the only replayability it really has is its speedrun/score mode, and DLC that actually looks rather interesting (although it is all as paid add-ons). But let’s look back at the base game: devastatingly gorgeous (with outstanding lighting effects), solid gameplay with only one really hiccup (the aiming, which is only a real issue if you tend to get into firefights, but can be overcome through stealth combat), fantastic puzzle design, a world that actually looks at religion without having too much of a commentary on it, and characters that include probably the strongest, most well developed female protagonist ever in a mainstream game.
If you are sticking with a PS4, you owe it to yourself to pick this game up once it comes out for the system. If you have a PC, you should definitely get it once it comes out later in January. If you have a Wii U... well, sucks it be you. And if you have an Xbox One (or even a 360!), well, what are you waiting for? It’s my 2015 game of the year, and even in this year’s packed field it deserves the place.
TGRIP is a film student studying in Portland, OR. TAY’s resident Xbox and racing game fan, he also (part time) reviews and does opinion pieces on games, movies, television, comics, and anime. He also runs his kinja sub blog Work(ing Title) In Progress. You can follow this third person narrating weirdo on Twitter @Dennis_wglasses, and his Gamertag on Xbox Live is “Aventador SV”.