One list to rule them all
2015 was the first time I felt validation for my current-gen console purchases. It offered up such a massively diverse selection of games that I found it inherently difficult to narrow my list down to just 10. Smaller games, with exceptionally unique mechanics and style were able to contend with the blockbuster heavyweights, making 2015 one of my favorite years in gaming since 2007. Here are my Top 10 games of 2015.
10. Rise of the Tomb Raider
Somehow, Crystal Dynamics was able to reproduce the feeling I had while playing the original Tomb Raider on my PS One. Creating cryptic puzzles, while simultaneously crafting precise platforming sections never looked as good as it does now. Although the story suffers from overused Hollywood tropes, Rise of the Tomb Raider manages to stay engaging and rips you through the same old story without letting up. Lara Croft proves that she can hang with the big dogs and I can’t wait to see where the adventure takes her next.
Read our review of Rise of the Tomb Raider here.
9. Until Dawn
Resting in a camp all on it’s own, Supermassive Games brought us Until Dawn and that camp is the perfect flavor of cheese I can’t help but bite into. I’m still taken aback by the beautiful character models and striking attention to detail in the environment. Every screen brings an uneasiness to the atmosphere, so much so that I jumped from my seat countless times over my playthrough. I’m not a big fan of adventure games, but the mechanics are so refined that I was actually looking forward to fumbling around on my controller during quick time events. My only hope is that Until Dawn doesn’t fall victim to the adventure game over saturation bug, it’s easily a game that could stand the test of time all on its own.
Read our review of Until Dawn here.
8. Dying Light
2015 could be remembered as the year of the open world game, and Dying Light is the most fun I’ve had in one. Techland was able to produce an environment that was not only fun to jump and climb around on, but legitimately made me afraid to be in. The day-night cycle forces drastic changes to anyone’s play style. Sure you can decide to stay in a safe house through the night, but that means you’re missing out on the extra experience and the unnerving atmosphere. This risk versus reward, along with extremely precise parkour and combat mechanics, makes Dying Light a welcomed addition to my top 10 list.
Read our review of Dying Light here.
7. Destiny: The Taken King
After playing well over one hundred hour of vanilla Destiny, I became one of the naysayers. I felt burned by the expansions, and stopped believing in the universe I was excited for during its initial release. “The Taken King, will be just as worse,” I told myself, but after extremely high praise, I decided to jump back in and I’m glad I did. What Bungie included in the expansion not only allowed newer, less experienced players to level up and contend alongside veterans, but it offered depth and nuance to a story that was originally very lack luster.
6. Rocket League
I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. I picked up my PS4 the same month that Rocket League was free to PS+ subscribers, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Not being a big fan of racing games, I downloaded it figuring it’s just a new game to try out on my new system, but boy was I wrong. Psyonix combines the fundamentals of a sport like soccer, with intense speed and erratic chaos of a rocket propelled vehicle. Rocket League balances the rare experience of being able to waste hours in a day playing match after match, or the ability to hop into a few games before work and achieve triumphant satisfaction.
5. Kerbal Space Program
It’s difficult to share my excitement of a game that I’ve been playing for three years. That’s the problem with early access titles, by the time they have reached a full release, I find that I’ve gotten what I wanted from them and moved on. Kerbal on the other hand offers a growing expanse of exploration and achievable goals that peak just above the horizon, forcing you to constantly innovate and tweak your next spacecraft creation. Initially, all of my experiments were basically very expensive time bombs, either erupting on take off, or careening glorious wreckage and debris back down to earth. The gratification you receive from successfully getting a spacecraft into orbit is indescribable. Not only is it an immense achievement, but you are simultaneously hit with the realization that there is so much more to accomplish and explore.
4. Fallout 4
Bethesda is the developer/publisher I wish all other would strive to be. They know exactly what players want, and they don’t sugar coat their experience with obviously unrealistic marketing campaigns. By announcing Fallout 4 at E3 2015 and delivering on the promise of a November 2015 release, they made everyone else look like amateurs. Not only is the game a well crafted, refined experience of their previous titles, but Fallout 4 is something of a revolutionary achievement. There are so many systems working together, I’m surprised I was able to put in a hundred hours without breaking down and feeling overwhelmed. The beautiful part about the systems is that you can choose to not partake in most of the ones offered to you. I still have so much to explore, that I can see myself playing well into this year.
Read our review of Fallout 4 here.
Unarguably one of the best multiplayer shooters of the year, Nintendo surprised even the hardcore gamers with a refreshing take on a stale genre. Splatoon showed fans that not only does Nintendo still spew out originality, but they lead the industry with new and diverse ideas. The game caters to fans of AAA multiplayer shooters, while also allowing casual gamers the opportunity to contribute to the overall goal of covering the map with your teams color of ink. It’s fast paced, seeping with style, and sounds like it was sent here through a time machine from 1993. One of the few games that makes the Wii U’s game-pad a creative necessity, Splatoon is a must have for any owner of the console.
Read our review of Splatoon here.
2. Hotline Miami 2 – Wrong Number
The gameplay of Hotline Miami 2, is almost identical to its predecessor, but the level design and mechanics are much more precise. Set before and after the events of the original, you’re able to control thirteen different characters all with their own unique abilities. While Hotline Miami’s story was a convoluted, psychedelic trip through the mind of a killer, the sequel finds it’s ground and manages to tell a coherent story that I couldn’t pull myself away from. Of course the MVP of the show is most certainly the soundtrack. I wouldn’t play Wrong Number without having my headphones on, and I believe that’s exactly how Dennaton Games intended it to be experienced. The music helps transport you into a hypnotic state, which manages to make you forget that you’re bludgeoning someone to death with a pipe. It still amazes me that a top down, 8-bit brawler makes me feel mournful as I trace my steps back to a levels exit, walking through the piles of colorful bloody bodies.
Read our review of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number here.
1. The Witcher 3 – Wild Hunt
While I loved playing every game on my top 10 list, one released this year that finally made me feel like the next generation had arrived. If you’re not a fan of the genre, or even a fan of this title in particular, we can still agree that The Witcher 3 is something to marvel at. Polish studio CD Project Red crafted the game after a popular book series, based on various myths and legends told throughout Poland and the surrounding areas. The world itself feels remarkable, not only extremely dense and filled with things to do, but very much lived in and alive. The Witcher 3 separates itself from it’s predecessors by diverging off the linear path, and allowing players to do what we’ve been told Witchers are meant for, killing monsters. In the previous games monsters were centered around predetermined boss battles, in the Wild Hunt you’re just as likely to stumble upon a massive Griffin as you are a Drowner or an Ice Troll. Exploring and collecting is what made the universe come to life. Side quest may lead you into an underwater cave system, filled with creatures you’ve never seen. Only to reward you with schematics to a set of armor, you then have to track down ingredients for. What sounds like a bothersome chore, quickly becomes an adventure all on its own, The Witcher 3 tells such a cohesive story throughout all of the quest, that I never felt like I was slogging through extra content. The decisions you make during a side quest may also impact the main quest hours down the road. What seemed like a throw away dialogue option, could become the decisive factor in an overarching campaign plot. That’s what sets The Witcher 3 apart from all of the other titles to release in 2015. The graphics are gorgeous, mechanics are precise and your actions have impact in a world that legitimately feels populated with intelligent life.
Read our review of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt here.
There you have it, the most important top 10 list on the internet. As I said before, it was extremely difficult to narrow down my decisions to just 10. 2015 offered up such an amazing selection of games that I feel super spoiled going into a new year. I hope developers are able to compete and keep up the trend of diversity and polish offered in almost every game of last year. Big releases have moved into winter and summer months, that were previously barren. With a new platform already promised from Nintendo, and the amount of investment and excitement towards virtual reality, the next ten years could truly usher in a revolution for our species. Artist and creators are dissolving the lines of the interactive medium, what’s real or fake will be an important discussion we have in the coming years. I’m extremely excited to be alive in an era where creative people are drastically altering the landscapes of reality, and instilling a potential we could only previously imagine.