Happy New Year to you! And what better way to ease you into the undiscovered country of 2016 than with a look back at the games of last year? And with a Shakespeare reference that we only know because of Star Trek.
Anyway, here’s the list of your top 50 games of 2015, as compiled by public vote, and complete with proof that you should probably be writing the site, and we probably shouldn’t be handling the comments.
50. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D
What we said: “Majora’s Mask 3D demonstrates that the art of a good remake is in knowing which flaws to leave in. It’s much better, even if it’s not as good as you remember it. It’s slick and gorgeous but it has been allowed to age. It’s still the most ornery, problematic, weird and haunting Zelda game – and perhaps the most fascinating one.”
“Never finished it on the N64 so this was my chance,” writes hegartyhead. “A tough game by today’s standards, but some real Nintendo magic here!” Pipiu, meanwhile, keeps it short and sweet. “Best Zelda game ever.”
49. Heroes of the Storm
What we said: “Heroes of the Storm has been made by people who understand the joy of play and, much more crucially, that it’s not just about the numbers. In the end it doesn’t matter that it has 37 heroes, and the competition has hundreds. It doesn’t matter that it has more maps, or no items, or shorter games. It doesn’t even matter how many players it has. All that matters is it’s more fun.”
“Never played a MOBA,” says russta. “Never had any intention to play a MOBA. The whole idea of them was completely lost on me as a concept and the legendarily toxic communities that infest them sealed the deal. That all changed when Hearthstone decided to introduce a card back for any player that obtained level 12. I grabbed a friend that played it to help me through and… never touched another game for over a month.”
48. Sunless Sea
What we said: “Sunless Sea’s method of storytelling isn’t unique, but it has never been realised with such impact and elegance. Every playthrough is singular because it’s composed of the fragments of your decisions. A writer hasn’t pre-laid a narrative for you to trace. They’ve simply created scenarios and opportunities. It’s broadly up to you how your chosen beats of drama link together. You are the architect of your victory or downfall, the only one that must live or die by the consequences of your actions. This is the video game at its most mystical and revealing.”
“I like Neil Gaiman & Lovecraft,” said Ra_Ra_Rasputin, “This is like if they had a love child and it was a computer game.” “Some of the most brilliantly written video game words wrapped in a brutal, unforgiving world,” added Romeric. “I have never been so invested in a virtual life before.”
“Excellently written rogue-ish adventure, normally ending up with me eating the crew,” said Immaterial. Remind us never to get on a ferry with you.
47. Final Fantasy 14: Heavensward
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Square Enix
What we said: Nothing, shamefully, as though we wanted to review Heavensward when it came out earlier this year, no-one had a character high level enough to engage in this generous expansion. Plenty of you did, though, and were happy to share your experiences.
“A wonderfully inventive world to explore and a compelling and engaging story made Heavensward my game of the year,” said elbrian. “Discovering each new zone was a real adventure, and the new dungeons and primals were a hell of a lot of fun. The music is incredible, almost worth the entry price alone.”
“The meatiest expansion to an MMO I’ve ever come across,” said Ryuke. “The amount of new content, the continuation of the awesome story, the new classes and systems added, expanded the game more than I had expected and definitely breathed some fresh air into a game that wasn’t even becoming stale to begin with thanks to the three-monthly update schedule. This was value for money, and how an MMO expansion should be done.”
46. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
What we said: “The flashes of verve in Zombies and during the Black Ops 3 campaign’s more deranged, self-referential chapters suggest that an unreservedly marvellous Call of Duty solo experience is out there. Let’s hope the multiplayer can hold our attention long enough for a developer to find it. “
“Surprise!” says cptmold as he wall-runs behind us and stabs us in the throat. “For all its letdowns in singleplayer (at least it had one) and a rough launch on PC, Black Ops 3 compensates tenfold with its multiplayer. The maps complement gameplay nicely, and the new mechanics add so much more to the game. Easily the best Call of Duty in years, with mod support on the way, Treyarch really went all out and their latest Call of Duty installment shines above many current releases with ease.”
“Shootiest multiplayer since Modern Warfare 2,” adds Revfosco. We’ll take that.
45. Yakuza 5
What we said: “Yakuza 5 is all about refining what was already a great series, and delivering the ultimate version of it. There’s just so much of it to do and, unlike many ‘content-rich’ games, almost none of it feels like filler. You can go hunting and fishing, play baseball or golf, darts or pachinko, take on NPCs at Shogi or Mahjong, cook noodles, have snowball fights, dabble in chicken racing or flutter it all away at the casino. It’s an imaginary world of such richness that, once you’re in, the Yakuza are the least interesting thing about it.”
“I don”t care that it initially came out three years ago,” says Yamibito. Neither do we! “The Yakuza games are still the best example of what only Japanese developers are capable of producing.”
eddiehitler – no relation – has reasons for picking Yakuza 5 as 2015’s best that are simple and true. “Because it finally came out!”
44. DriveClub Bikes
What we said: “DriveClub Bikes is a very pleasant surprise, another fascinating chapter in the exceptional turnaround of Evolution’s game. Don’t expect it to change any of the fundamentals – multiplayer races are still overly aggressive, and the progression system still feels stunted and dumb – but do expect to see the work of a developer that’s now firing on all cylinders. I can’t wait to see what they do next.”
“Nice addition to what I think is still the best and most exciting racing game on the new consoles,” says SuperShinobi. “The bikes really showcase DriveClub’s speed and snappy vehicle handling. I wouldn’t want to try those intimidatingly fast bikes in real life though.” Not sure we’re brave enough, either.
“I’m entirely biased having worked on the game,” says Rushy. “But for me the Bikes handling on a pure ‘fun’ level is unmatched.” Hang on – are you allowed to say that?
43. Pro Evolution Soccer 2016
What we said: “Is PES 2016 a FIFA-killer? Does it pass the taste test? The truth is it’s too early to say. What we can say about PES 2016 is that it offers a very clear vision of what it thinks a football game should be, something that in itself deserves praise, and makes enough improvements to suggest a longevity not seen in recent versions. It’s easy to forget that this console generation is still in its relative infancy, and if this year’s release can be best described as a rough diamond, I feel very confident about the series’ future.”
“Quite simply the greatest football game ever made,” says Solid_Snake_Eater. “Just don’t mention the roster update.” We won’t if you won’t.
“Despite Konami not handling the transfers and updates very well at all, this is the best footie game I’ve played yet,” says Zebula77. I thought we weren’t going to mention the roster update?
42. Kerbal Space Program
What we said: “It’s a sandbox experience that starts out feeling somewhat restricted – build a rocket, how hard can that be? With every fresh realisation that the answer is ‘Surprisingly!’ comes ever-greater personal challenge – to do it in style, to go one planet further, to slip the surly bonds of Kerbal and break those pesky laws of physics over your knee. There’s no better way to both appreciate the real-world achievement that made it possible for us to go to the Moon in the 60s, and to enjoy the vicarious delight as your army of adorable little astronauts finally make it to the Mun, and beyond.”
“Hard to think of it as a 2015 game but it should be part of the schools physics curriculum,” says Subquest. “Gives you a great understanding of the forces at work in space whilst being great fun too.” “It’s a fully functioning space program with Kerbals,” adds Khrae.
41. Invisible, Inc
What we said: “I love Invisible, Inc because its systems come together with one aim: to make me decisive. A ditherer by nature, it is fun to roleplay as someone so clear-eyed and free from doubt – someone who’s able to ditch a team-mate when things get bad or decide, on a steely whim, if such a thing is possible, to risk absolutely everything on a hunch. With limited resources, warrenous maps, deadly enemies and short sight lines, Invisible, Inc prompts you to make one quick decision after another – and then dark emergent joy erupts as you try to live with the consequences of what you’ve just done.”
“Simple to pick-up, fiendishly difficult to master,” according to lord_jamie. “Klei continue to produce awesomely crafted games that sink their hooks in and do not let go.” Ouch. Further proof the peerage are into some weird things.
40. Yoshi’s Woolly World
What we said: “A bad game, then? Not at all. Most of the time it’s quite a good one. But Woolly World sails perilously close to a genuinely great game, and with little of its own to add, it can only ever feel diminished by the proximity.”
“I wasn’t expecting to vote for so many Nintendo games,” says georgiek. “But they have released some corkers this year.” Furrykitty agrees: “Fluffy fun, with some nice music.” Sold.
39. StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void
What we said: “If the appellation of space panto is too emasculating, then what Legacy of the Void most feels like is space rock. No, space metal: Bombastic, elaborate, shiny, often silly and yet still a lot of fun. It’s the Iron Maiden of video games and, while some might consider Iron Maiden to be somewhere between ludicrous and outrageous, they are nevertheless, accomplished, capable and undeniably entertaining.”
Have you frittered away Christmas wondering what FSRedWing made of Legacy of the Void? “A worthy ending to StarCraft 2,” apparently. “On paper this shouldn’t be a good game,” counters fragglerocks. “Nothing has changed really, the story is daft and I’m never going to spend the 100s of hours needed to play it online.” It’s all a fake-out, though. Deep down, fragglerocks loves it. “The mission design is so good, the cut-scenes are amazing and creating a deathball is SO much fun.”
38. Her Story
What we said: “The experience is admittedly different to that of a well-constructed detective novel, or carefully charted HBO thriller, but the effects are similar. You are captivated, manipulated and spun around by the plot. Perhaps, in an era where filmmakers so keenly play with chronology, and regularly leave conclusions unwrapped, we are prepared for this kind of patchwork narrative, which leaves you, mostly, to draw your own conclusion of what really happened by the end. Or perhaps it would always have worked this well. Regardless, Her Story is a singular, unfamiliar work, essential viewing for both filmmakers and game designers.”
“Unique games are a rarity these days,” muses Subquest. “Her Story managed to be unique and compelling in equal measure.” “I haven’t spent this long typing things into a basic console input since text adventures on the Spectrum,” adds Phattso, who clearly avoided that awful temping job at Royal and Sun Alliance in 1999. “Just as engrossing now as it was then, but the payoff is so much more vivid.”
37. Just Cause 3
What we said: “It’s easy to be bowled over by Just Cause 3 at first. It’s big and brash and gives really great explosion. There’s just not much more to it, and over 30 hours, what was once exhilarating becomes rather wearying. Add in some technical issues that are especially damaging to a game as action-driven as this, and you’ve got a sugar rush of a game whose appeal wears off long before the end credits roll.”
“Freedom of movement makes this the ultimate game for when you want to just kick back and relax, and have fun to boot,” says pearlmuter. Humfredo, meanwhile, is busting out the superlatives: “The best set of mechanics in any action game. The combination of which creates some absolutely amazing moments of gameplay, so that you forgive all the times it didn’t go to plan for that one moment of amazement.”
36. Elite: Dangerous (Xbox One)
What we said: “There’s a lot of balancing to be done in the long term, then, and the big hurdle for new players will be getting up to speed without losing interest in those stodgy early hours. The mid-point, where everything coalesces, is so liberating, so brilliant in its scope and possibility, that it’s hard to be too upset about these wrinkles. For all its frustrations, you’ll spend much longer in the sweet spot than you spend getting there. Elite: Dangerous demands much, but repays your devotion many times over.”
“Mile wide and now more than an inch deep.” Who said that? It can only be nicfaz, the ludic geologist!
35. Captain Toad Treasure Tracker
What we said: “Perhaps aiming to satisfy a younger audience, Treasure Tracker prefers to drop in a colourful boss-fight or format-breaking set-piece than to push the puzzle designs as hard as they can go. Solving most of these levels is more a matter of following your nose than exercising your brain. Captain Toad also doesn’t achieve as reliably perfect a synthesis of puzzle and platforming as Game Boy Donkey Kong did, occasionally failing to fully scratch either itch – though at other times it finds something truly original in the space between them. And there is always that moment when you load up a new level and spin it, beholding another perfect microcosm, made just for you. 18 years on from Super Mario 64, Nintendo’s designers are stillgoing further in their exploration of the third dimension than almost anyone else.”
“A perfect confection of a game,” according to gormster. “Every pixel is loaded with fun and personality and nothing overstays its welcome.” We have openings at Digital Foundry for people who understand pixels. Gamblix, meanwhile, was glad to be proven wrong. “What I thought was going to be a short and repetitive game turned out to be quite the charmer. Classic Nintendo style. Level design. Everything about this game is pure Nintendo and it’s wonderful. Would love a cooperative sequel!”
- Publisher: Frictional Games
- Developer: Frictional Games
- SOMA review
What we said: “That Frictional has been able to take such an overused concept as exploring an abandoned research base, populated by bloody corpses and monsters, and turn it into a sombre philosophical adventure that is also exciting and even funny, is quite the achievement. It may not move the genre forwards much in terms of mechanics, but it spins a story you’ll be glad to have experienced.”
“Frictional are one of a handful of developers who have my complete trust to execute every time,” says thesombrerokid. “Even after the genre they created becoming so stale with clones, they refuse to rest on their laurels and successfully produce one of the finest science fiction games of all time.”
33. Forza Motorsport 6
What we said: “Forza Motorsport 6 is too square to be cool, too rational to capture the romance of motorsport, too formulaic to capture its gritty, high-stakes drama. But it’s also too good to ignore.”
“It’s only just matched Forza 4 for content on release but what a fine game it is,” says KD, perhaps constantly craving an update or two. “Forza Motorsport 6 delivers content, thrills and tinkering in spades,” says 43n1m4. “The pad controls are sublime for a driving game.” Hear that, Greenawalt? Readers like content.
32. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
What we said: “Even when the loose ends have been tidied away, it’s hard not to be drawn back to this beautiful village where the cars don’t move, where the birds have fallen dead from the trees, and where everybody who was ever anybody is gone. A way of life has drawn to a close, just as it largely did in the real world in places like this, not with the bomb but with the analogue giving way to the digital. It’s fitting that one of the final great mysteries here is the player: a camera drifting along, tugged between signposting and your own whims, but also a definite physical presence in the landscape, opening doors and crunching through dry grass, bearing witness to a place that is beyond saving.”
“It’s like the Archers but after everyone has died,” says ozzit, presumably in rather a sombre mood. (We haven’t tuned in since they killed off Nigel.) “Really beautiful game, great script and an amazing soundtrack (that oddly kept making me think of the opening credits to the Vicar of Dibley). It just requires a bit of patience and acceptance of the fact that you can’t make anything explode – something that some reviewers no doubt couldn’t handle, but I loved it.” Still ozzit. Burn, some reviewers.
31. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
What we said: “If you’re in any doubt, this is easily the best Monster Hunter so far, for veterans and newcomers alike. With it, I think Capcom has achieved exactly what the series has been aiming for since it started edging gently Westward: a perfect balance of Circus Maximus and just plain old circus. Get it. Stick with it. Buy yourself some thumb plasters.”
“MH4U succeeded at what is a tough ask for a decade-old series with so many interlocking systems and gameplay deep enough to have occupied veteran players for hundreds of hours.” Redcrayon – take a breath, mate. “It’s both more welcoming to new players and offers fresh challenges and weapon options to returning players. The guild quests and expeditions added a huge amount of content to both single-player and online, and months after seeing the online bosses fall, I still return just to step out into the unknown once more, wondering which creatures will cross my path, rather than just always choosing my mark from a list.”
30. Rainbow Six: Siege
What we said: “Ubisoft seems torn between a typical big-budget release and a more focussed multiplayer shooter, and the rift often shows. But what a multiplayer mode it is. If you’re able to pull together a squad of friends, and able to make the plans necessary to see this at its best, there’s nothing quite like it. Measured, tactical and frequently surprising, Rainbow Six Siege is one of the best multiplayer experiences of the year – but it comes at a cost.”
“Siege came as a complete surprise, after I only purchased it to play with a friend who refuses to buy Halo 5,” says Technoishmatt. “And it’s such an engaging experience – building up defences, being forced to work together, the hectic dash on some of the bigger levels to find where the objective is, and then from the silence comes the terror in a series of breaches, flashbangs, and ambushes. Top marks for the audio work.”
Not everyone gets top marks, though. “The best game that no one will play due to terrible marketing,” says Sonshi, who’s clearly forgotten Code Name: STEAM.
29. Divinity: Original Sin – Enhanced Edition
What we said: “Certainly, I have no hesitation in recommending Original Sin to RPG fans old and new, provided that you’re up for a challenge from very early on and don’t expect to romp through, Diablo-style. While Skyrim is obviously more freeform and immersive, and the likes of Mass Effect are more cinematic, Divinity: Original Sin is hands down the best classic-style RPG in years. It’s obviously not Ultima 8 in name (and that’s probably for the best, because the Ultima 8 we got in reality was bloody awful). It is, however, in every way that counts, the best successor ever to those classic journeys to Britannia, and a triumph on its own terms as a modern RPG with no shortage of fresh ideas.”
“The first game since Portal 2 I have convinced the wife to play in co-op,” says mcchinmi. “Hands down the best traditional RPG in years, great on console too.”
28. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate
What we said: “Syndicate’s legacy is its memorable cast of characters, its entertaining script and – most importantly – how it manages to recapture the series’ sense of fun. Its success is a testament to the work of Ubisoft Quebec, which found itself in charge of its first Assassin’s Creed game at a critical point for the series. Thankfully, in the game’s leading duo, in its new London playground and in the greater sense of freedom that Syndicate brings, it delivers.”
“I’m British and really enjoy fiction from the Victorian era of our great nation,” says Bulbatron. Not entirely sure where this is going, darling. “With that in mind, how could I not enjoy Assassin’s Creed Syndicate? The only thing that would have made it better is if the bloody Sherlock Holmes-style outfit hadn’t been limited to the Gold Edition!”
“It wasn’t Unity!!!”, adds AgrippA1. “I don’t mind yearly releases if they are like this or Black Flag!” I bet AgrippA1 bought the Gold Edition. They’re probably wearing that deerstalker right now, Bulbatron.
27. Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection
What we said: “The impression I’m left with after playing all three games in The Nathan Drake Collection back-to-back: progress. For all its confident swagger, its unchallenging mass appeal and its overstated influence – for all its apparent sunny complacence – this is a series that’s always striving for something more. Always pushing forwards.”
“Having switched to Sony this generation,” says Stroller4, “I was finally able to see what I had been missing out on: a lot of fun!” If you think this is good, you should try Hohokum. “Drake fix until Uncharted 4!” says beatleben, weighing in with a sentence that you might have to read a few times before you stop hearing it in the voice of The Incredible Hulk. Actually, it sort of sounds like a cryptic crossword clue?
26. Cities: Skylines
What we said: “Skylines is a merely competent game that’s smart enough to let the community innovate for it. All its problems and all its genuine innovation will come from the creative ambition of its players. It’s comforting in a way, because with that you feel that you share your struggles with a larger community, but there’s still the nagging feeling Cities: Skylines lacks a magic of its own.”
“Showed EA / Maxis / SimCity how a city builder SHOULD be done,” says MikkyX. “Awesome pre-apocalyptic city building game,” adds myk, who seems to know something we don’t?
25. Mad Max
What we said: “You’ll have played other, better examples of the genre, and you’ve likely been a tourist to the post-apocalypse a few too many times before, yet Avalanche wears the fiction so well it’s hard not to be charmed by this brutal, beautiful open world.”
“The most underrated game I have ever played,” says AlPacino10. (Again: Code Name: STEAM?) “Is disgusting how much undeserved hate this game gets.” “A real surprise,” says bosseye. “Despite the potential for repetition, Avalanche absolutely nailed the world/environment. It’s huge, evocative, immersive; it really sells the fiction of the wasteland and the core gameplay loops are pleasingly robust.”
24. Project Cars
What we said: “If you make the effort, you’ll find that Slightly Mad has built a motorsport game for the people, at once flexible and uncompromising: a single-minded hymn to the gritty thrills of the pit-lane and the back straight. There’s room for improvement and we’ll be watching future updates with keen interest, but these foundations are strong indeed.”
“A great career mode, unusual in a driving game,” says ChrisBrowne, whose entire life is presumably spent yelling “With an E,” to new acquaintances. “Between this and Forza 6, this wins out overall to me,” says samharper, “(although Forza is still amazing). That said, in its released state it was a huge disappointment, very overly aggressive AI, race-ending/breaking bugs in seemingly every race and very basic multiplayer. It’s come a long way though, the AI can still be a bit too crash-happy in open wheelers but for GT racing nothing comes close, it can be very tense in the right situations. Great handling model and a very good track selection.” It’s hard not to feel that if everyone was as even-handed as this guy, the world might be a sweeter place.
23. Dirt Rally
What we said: “Considering what thrills Dirt Rally offers, though, it’s easy to overlook its shortcomings. Codemasters has been long overdue a return to the form that made its name, when it regularly churned out genre classics such as Colin McRae Rally, TOCA and Grid. Dirt Rally does more than restore some glory to a name that’s become slightly tarnished in recent years; in its passionate portrayal of rally, delivered with brutality and beauty, Codemasters has delivered what’s quite simply its finest driving game to date.”
“Yes. I like racing games,” says mannyYearsAgo, though, granted, you’d need to see his other choices to put this in the correct context. “A proper rally game!” says mega-gazz. You racing fans keep it short and sweet.
22. Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin
What we said: “To Scholar of the First Sin’s credit, it’s given Dark Souls 2 a new ability to surprise, even if it’s also introduced some nasty shocks – Pursuers who spawn behind you in the moonlight of Bastille, say, or fallen bosses who are now resurrected and stalk later areas. They’re changes that are unlikely to win Dark Souls 2 any new fans, and will have seasoned players switching off their consoles in frequent fits of frustration. As can often be the way in Souls games, though. If you’re already addicted to that loop, it’s likely you’ll be wanting to come back to Scholar of the First Sin for more.”
“Unfortunately, due to no PS4, I cannot comment on Bloodborne (yet),” says rumbo. If Santa sorted you out, get back to us? “More Dark Souls. More frustrating fun,” pleads Balacus, one of the only Scholar commenters who doesn’t invoke Bloodborne.
21. Star Wars Battlefront
What we said: “Star Wars Battlefront’s simplicity cuts both ways, embracing new players while most likely leaving more seasoned ones cold after a short while. As a multiplayer shooter, it’s good but never quite great, but maybe that’s besides the point. As a piece of Star Wars merchandise, wrapped in the glorious trappings of one of cinema’s most intoxicating franchises, this is pretty much exemplary.”
“My favourite shooters are usually slightly stressful,” says a confessional Ben-Stewart. “Battlefront just puts a smile on my face.” Let it all out, Ben-Stewart! “It’s great fun for everyone and looks fantastic,” adds Bush-Killa-73.
20. Ori and the Blind Forest
What we said: “Lush appearance and polished mechanics are not to be sniffed at, of course, and even if the game’s long term appeal never quite reaches the dizzying heights its first impressions hint at, the difference is barely worth quibbling over. It’s no exaggeration to say that Ori and the Blind Forest is still arguably the best Microsoft console exclusive of the last six months.”
“Looks amazing, chucks the feels at you in the first five minutes and plays like a dream. The weight and response is pixel perfect. I’m a sucker for a decent platformer and this is one of the best in recent memory.” pablodiabloescobar said that, and they have a truly glorious name, so they’re probably right. “A stunningly beautiful game with pleasing Metroidvania gameplay,” says MrFlay. “A wonderful visual makes the occasionally irritating trial-and-error gameplay more than worth enduring.” Props for the Gormenghast nod, MrFlay. You are welcome around here anytime.
19. Pillars of Eternity
What we said: “In keeping so close to the Baldur’s Gate/Infinity Engine template, Pillars of Eternity can’t help but inherit a few old flaws, and it would have been nice to see a bit more personality of its own shine through its carefully traditional design and shell. That said, what most stands out is just how well it manages to modernise the experience of playing those games and stand apart from them as an epic adventure in its own right. It’s an RPG with design firmly rooted in nostalgia, but one that absolutely doesn’t rely on it to be enjoyable today. Instead, it’s both a great reminder of why those games worked so well, and a brand new adventure well worth the hours upon hours (upon hours upon hours) that it takes to pick away at its secrets and its world.”
“It’s Baldur’s Gate!” says n3rdh8r, whose name, right, is some sort of code, but we think we’ve cracked it. “Nostalgia. You can’t beat it, can you?” That was Sorbicol, whose name just sounds like a prescription drug.
- Publisher: Tobyfox
- Developer: Tobyfox
What we said: Ulp! We missed it! But it turns out that it’s brilliant.
“Good…” says beyondkk. “I’d have put Age of Decadence here, but it’s not even on the list,” says hyttling. “An absolutely charming surprise of a game,” says Lython, “that took the internet by storm with its unique gameplay, memorable characters, high replayability, fantastic writing, and a beautiful art and sound direction.” We probably should have reviewed this one.
17. Tales from the Borderlands
What we said: “Tales from the Borderlands is much, much better than it seemingly has any right to be. What at first may resemble a licensed cash-in for a popular shooter has turned into Telltale’s finest work to date. It retains the emotional punch and complex characters of The Walking Dead while resurrecting the humorous side of Telltale the studio excelled at with titles like Sam & Max, Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People, and Tales from Monkey Island. Telltale has also fine-tuned the pacing issues and technical foibles the held back its last generation of episodic adventures and it found an art style that both looks great and remains true to its source material. Tales from the Borderlands may not be a shooter, but it’s firing on all cylinders.”
“It was really, really funny,” says DesignationDDDirtyD. Sometimes that’s enough.
16. Halo 5: Guardians
What we said: “Competitive multiplayer, clearly, is where Halo 5’s at. And it’s here, five years after Bungie waved goodbye to its billion dollar baby, that 343 finally stamps its authority on the Halo series. Warzone takes the formula Bungie concocted and drags it, kicking and screaming, into a new era.”
“Solid growth in multiplayer thanks to Warzone,” says jasonfletcher, before heading firmly into spoiler territory, so that’s quite enough from you, Jason. “Makes Halo fun again,” says ukslacker. Nailed it.
15. Dying Light
What we said: “As a follow up to Dead Island, Dying Light represents an improvement on the technical front, but has lost some of its knockabout charm in the process. It shares its predecessor’s pace and shape, as things start on a relative high as you explore the game’s systems, but then tails off as the hours tick by. Dying Light mixes up Techland’s own recipe to enjoyable effect, but can’t fully disguise its regurgitated flavour.”
“One of the most underrated titles of the year,” says AyeUp. (Haven’t you played… never mind.) “Has a bit of a learning curve regarding the control layout.” (Seriously, Code Name: STE–) “Very atmospheric, night time travels eerily reminiscent of early Resident Evil.” “Slightly wonky in a loveable way but hugely enjoyable,” says MrFlay. Lovely to have you back! “The story is utter nonsense but that’s never stopped me from enjoying a game. The best parkour since Mirror’s Edge. Slicing zombies to bits is worryingly delighting due to the visceral visual and sound effects.”
14. Until Dawn
What we said: “It may be over-stuffed, and most of its gameplay ideas have been pioneered elsewhere, but I left Until Dawn with the sense of satisfaction that I usually get from a really fun B-movie, not the sense of completion I get from finishing a game. That may be a warning or a recommendation depending on your tolerance for the dreaded ‘interactive movie’, but there’s certainly nothing quite like it around at the moment.”
“Nearly gave me a heart attack,” says NotSoConcerned, who does, admittedly, sound pretty blithe about it. “Scary and exciting,” is the pAK-76 verdict.
13. Grand Theft Auto 5 (PC)
What we said: “Most importantly, though, it’s the first game in the series where you feel as though you can strike out in any direction and find something entertaining to do. You can wander onto a golf course and find yourself in a reasonable facsimile of a Tiger Woods game, enhanced after every shot by Michael swearing and banging his club on the fairway. There are innumerable well-hidden items to recover, some of which are well protected. At one point I drove into the desert and found some sort of camper van, got out of my car, heard a weird zapping noise, then woke up naked on a railway line. Mystery! Serendipity! There’s a huge prison complex I haven’t even been to yet. It goes on and on.”
“Whilst hugely enjoyable first time round (on 360 for me), GTA opened up on the PS4,” says gamingdave. “The jump to PC was another step forward showcasing what a sublime game Rockstar created.” “The definitive version of the best GTA yet,” says CaptainTrips.
“After waiting so long, and suffering three delays, I rested a lot of expectation on GTA,” gingerninja7 begins. “But it lived up to them fully. There are still issues with ‘hackers’ Online, but it looks good on slightly out-of-date hardware and, more importantly, Rockstar actually took their time optimising this game for a wide range of GPU performance. Money and time constraints mean that I haven’t played any other big (and non-yearly) releases, so this gets my GOTY.”
12. Rise of the Tomb Raider
What we said: “Can Tomb Raider, and by extension any modern action-adventure game, really not survive without some extraneous lunge for life after the credits roll? Is it too old-fashioned? Just too expensive to make? Rise of the Tomb Raider is a well-made game. It’s a handsome and solidly entertaining, if seldom inspired, way to while away a dozen hours. It has a famous name and an avatar of real dynamic power at its centre. It has tombs to raid. That ought to be enough. It shouldn’t have to reach. But reach it does – for an emotional hook it doesn’t have, and for trendy gimmicks it doesn’t need.”
“A superb, very underrated, unfairly reviewed (by Eurogamer) and unjustly ignored game,” says alimokrane. “Yes, the tombs are still not up to the level of the original Tomb Raider games but this game is so well crafted and gorgeous that you are willing to forgive those shortcomings. Crystal Dynamics are on the right track! Just less shooting and more tombing please!” “Amazing Tomb Raidery goodness,” adds vast.
“Now with some actual tombs,” concludes JonFE.
11. Destiny: The Taken King
What we said: “After a week, The Taken King is still yet to reveal all of its secrets, but the impact is clear: with this expansion, Bungie has changed the foundations of Destiny for the better. This expansion is far larger, its focus far wider than anything that has gone before, and it has lifted the entire Destiny experience as a result – whether you start the game now, return after some time away or never stopped playing. By focusing on improvements to the game’s story, as well as the stories players will forge themselves, Bungie has made The Taken King a hugely successful addition.”
“I kept faith that it would get better and with The Taken King, Bungie gave the game such an overhaul it was unrecognisable from what it was,” says Xephon1970. “Yes, there’s a lot of work to do and yes, there’s still many things that need fixing, but when I get home there’s still only one disc in my PS4. Here’s to Year 2 and beyond.”
“Digital crack,” agrees vurt. “Lots of flaws but unable to stop playing. 2015 has been a bumper year for quality titles yet this and its updates keep drawing me away.” Listen, can you just knock it on the head with all the Destiny chat?
10. Super Mario Maker
What we said: “It’s fun just to play with the bits and pieces here: I spent a happy afternoon tinkering with a cannon that fires squid, and another creating a maze that a warp pipe then pumped full of Goombas. I’ve learned that you can do so much to change a level just by slicing away at the time limit, and I’ve learned the alchemy that comes from watching players wrestling with something stupid you’ve done and using their intuition to fix it.”
“‘I should have been a game designer,’ I mutter again as another level is unleashed on the world,” says Buenos_Estente. New year and all that. Make it happen? “I have never played it, nor do I even own a Wii U, but I have derived many hours of pleasure watching other people try and fail other people’s dastardly creations,” adds Kmfrob, and if that isn’t the spirit of gaming in 2015, what is?
9. Batman: Arkham Knight
What we said: “The gameplay is good, and very often great, but we knew that already. It’s a known quantity. As a Batman story, this is something else. It dares to tackle not just the surface details of the character, but explores his psyche. It portrays him as, frankly, kind of a dick and also as a man of unflinching honour. The Batman of Arkham Knight is a complex, contradictory figure, a hero with real depth and dimension, and we get to wear the iconic cowl for one last mind-boggling night of mayhem. Miss out on that? You must be joking.”
“God knows how many hours I sunk in to 100% this,” sighs K0rrupt. Probably more than they spent on the PC port? “A fitting end to a compelling trilogy of games.”
“The jewel in the crown of this incredible series,” says tiddex. “Did not change too much compared to Arkham City but why would it? You might criticise the Batmobile sections but the ability to pull off a perfectly timed jump into the cockpit – from a skyscraper – just makes up for that.”
8. Xenoblade Chronicles X
What we said: “This is contemporary Japanese RPG-making at its boldest and most imaginative in years. For every clich – the helium-voiced furry mascot who totters along behind your group, the incongruous, schizophrenic rock-cum-rap soundtrack – there’s an invention that hauls the open-world JRPG into the present, and then another that shunts it breezily into the future. Perhaps the game’s greatest achievement is that, over the course of this journey, you settle into Mira and, in that mystical way of all video game greats, Mira settles into you.”
“READ THE MANUAL!” says CynicallyOptimistic. “It’s very Japanese at times. It’ll happily play 20 minute cutscenes for a couple of lines of exposition before condensing important information like the combat tutorial into a few basic bullet points that’ll leave you wondering what the hell’s going on. Then there’s some pretty horrendous pop-in.” Still, I think that’s a thumbs up?
“Truly, immensely, enormous,” begins Dijon. “A greater sense of scale than any other open world game, with stunning geography that is wonderful to behold. Chronicles X builds on the systems of its illustrious predecessor but is unique enough that it avoids the question of whether it is a better game. It’s a different game of equal quality, but with the benefits of more powerful hardware. Also runs uncommonly smoothly for a console RPG. All around impressive. Just wait until you’re piloting a mech around a colossal environment free of loading screens. One of the great gaming experiences of 2015.”
Bet Dijon read the manual.
7. Rocket League
What we said: “Aside from the compact drama of the five-minute matches, this is one of those rare games where the simple act of throwing a car around an arena is enough to keep you at it. Newton would approve and so would Batman. What more would you want?”
“Simple and fun,” is the VoxyGon verdict. (He wrote a bit more, but you had to be there.) “May be the best pick-up-and-play experience that has ever been created,” says cjb_bjc. “An amazing way to spend five minutes, an even better way to spend an hour! The post launch support is something that should be praised too!” DeLoreans, right? “Can’t. Stop. Playing,” says Leolian.
What we said: “It’s those three minutes that really count, though, and it’s there you’ll find the genius and the joy of Splatoon. It’s where you’ll find a genre distilled, broken down and reassembled, with each piece snapping perfectly in place. It’s where you’ll find Nintendo charting new territory, and sharing with you the thrills of their own discovery. And it’s where you’ll find what happens when Mario’s maker steps away from the comfort of the Mushroom Kingdom and tries something new: a true modern classic, and one of Nintendo’s finest games in a generation.”
“Splatoon is beautiful not just because it’s fresh, but because it flips everything we know about multiplayer shooters on its head. Instead of the target practice you’re used to, it is about all the space that is not inhabited by the opponent. And while you breeze through the expanse, shooting at the void, it creates space to shine for the shooter and the non-shooter aficionado alike.” Testify, spekkeh. Nobody’s going to top that.
5. Life is Strange
What we said: “I can’t think of any other games I’ve played that have become huge talking points across a diverse range of players, tackled surprisingly dark subject matter with sensitivity and respect, and made me feel nostalgic for a time in my life long past while still damn glad I’m not a teenager any more. Life is Strange has achieved so much more than anyone ever expected it to. It’s interesting. It’s a must-play.”
“Life is Strange is the best Telltale game, not made by Telltale,” argues buzby_bill. “Square Enix have managed to surpass Telltale as masters of the episodic game.”
“A surprise hit for me,” says Khari. “While it came across a little cheesy in the first episode, this little gem soon picked up and became completely compelling. Episodic storytelling works well for this type of game as it gives you time to connect with the characters which really heightened the game’s impact.”
“I was the last person on the planet who thought a game featuring a shy teenage girl with time travelling superpowers would be the game for me,” says Stefaroo. “I am a male in his late thirties. But Life is Strange stuck just the right amount of pathos, humor, excitement and great story-telling to get under the skin and make it one to remember.” Don’t limit yourself by age and gender, Stefaroo! Live free!
4. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
What we said: “Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain is not just a high watermark for the series. It is the greatest ever stealth game by a distance, a true masterclass from a designer and team who bow out at the very peak of their creative powers. This is one of the greatest blockbusters our medium has ever had as well as the perfect ending to one of gamings’ great series – and the end of one incredible, extended journey from Hideo Kojima. For decades to come, players will see the legacy of Metal Gear Solid, and have no choice but to salute.”
“Sad to see so much of it got cut at the 11th hour,” says dominicwhite. “But what did survive is still a near-perfect stealth/action experience. It does everything Far Cry has aspired to, but better.” “A game of two halves,” counters Makariel “First part the perhaps best AAA game this year, second part the perhaps worst AAA game this year.” A game of three halves if you throw in the godawful opening hour?
“It speaks to The Phantom Pain’s level of achievement here that it doesn’t matter that it’s incomplete,” says lucassmith, drawing all threads together. “The refined gameplay mechanics and the immersive open world offer so much room for invention that the narrative is secondary. MGSV is something of a miracle.”
“They hardly make games like this anymore,” concludes Renato84. “Brilliant masterpiece. Thank you Kojima.”
3. Fallout 4
What we said: “Fallout 4 has given me some of my best gaming memories of 2015, along with some of my most frustrating. These are legacy problems that aren’t going away any time soon, and as fun as the settlement crafting is here, I’d gladly do without it for a game engine that offers a more dependable foundation for future adventures. Fallout 4 is a great game. It’s also kind of a mess. Caveat emptor.”
eddiehitler’s back: “Granted it’s not New Vegas and has lost its karma, but it’s still amazing and deserves a place on this list for the USS Constitution missions alone.” “What can I say?” adds KlingonDouchebag, who, frankly, could have said anything after that name. “It’s everything I’ve been waiting for since New Vegas. Sure, Bethesda could have tried more changes to the formula, but it’s better for respecting the formula that won it Game of the Year in past incarnations.”
“Not a very good RPG or a good Fallout game for that matter, but still fun,” says jakeochsner. “The only game I completely finished this year,” says Longrange. “By that I mean I replayed it for the two other faction endings.”
What we said: “The structure underlying Bloodborne is not just original but coherent, and because of this the impact of everything it does is commensurately greater. This is total design. It feels wonderful to have a world like this and, over a week of solid play later, feel that there’s so much more to discover. And it’s awful to know that, in all likelihood, it will be a painfully long time until I play anything else that matches up to Bloodborne’s breadth of vision, generosity of content, and – yes – genius.”
“A more action-oriented, offensive-focused affair than its spiritual antecedents,” says slint. “Bloodborne manages to stand out while retaining much of the excellent design which marked the Souls series.”
Plenty of agreement: “Oh such dark and grim atmosphere! My Halloween parties will never be the same again,” says Chufty, who never invited us anyway, so we can’t hold them to that. “One of the best games of all time,” says dogonthewall, while Jim-Bob has a narrative for us: “Stuffed my PS4 into my suitcase, boarded the plane to Spain with the wife and kids, bribed the hotel staff to loan me a big HDTV, boarded inflatable animals in the pool, played Bloodborne, drank and ate too much, played Bloodborne, spent inordinate amount of time in shops with ‘stuff’, played Bloodborne, boarded the plane to Scotland with the wife and kids, rinse and repeat with expansion in 2016.” You’re making us kind of sad, Jim-Bob.
Bring it home, Bulbatron: “I’m really not a very skilled gamer at all and I had never played any of From Software’s previous games. However the promise of a mixture of gothic and Lovecraftian horror really piqued my curiosity before reeling me in. I found the game incredibly challenging of course, but frustration only set in a few times throughout the whole game. The trial-and error gameplay was quite addictive and the atmosphere was incredible.”
1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
What we said: “It is crass in some places and overreaching in others, but despite its grandeur and its fantastical setting, it is a game made by, for and about human beings. It’s lewd and perverse and poetic and hot-blooded. It’s huge yet crafted; its systems are purposeful and it doesn’t have a whiff of design by committee. It will last you months, yet not waste your time. Above all, it has a vivid, enduring personality, something that is exceedingly rare among its breed of mega-budget open-world epics.”
“GOTY,” says royben-ami, to much agreement. “What made Witcher 3 game of the year for me was that it allowed you to assume the role of a character in a way most other games could not,” argues xjlxking. “The immersion was incredible, every dialogue had a cutscene, every quest had immense back story. The narrative between quests and during quest allowed you to understand the pain these characters felt. The graphics for an open world this big was incredible; the wind and rain combo that you see on the environment in the game was lifelike. The world felt more real than any other game I’ve played. While Witcher 3 did not do anything revolutionary, it did set a new high for gaming.”
“Waayyy tighter combat than 2, fantastic story, and beautiful graphics – an improvement in every sense of the word,” croons AlvieH. “Those sunsets,” sighs Leolian. “Great game 8/10,” says ProXyCortex. So, recommended then? “Incredible world that I can imagine still being explored in three years time,” says Fat-monkey. “Cos its AWESOME :D,” says Netranger.
“A fantastic card game with a good RPG tacked on,” says Dogfingers. Well put. You massive hipster.