2015 was a great year for gaming. As hard as it was to accomplish, I selected the top ten games I feel every gamer should play from last year.
10) Lara Croft GO
It takes a lot for a mobile game to crack a Game of the Year list. Lara Croft GO excels in very unexpected ways. Gone is the board game mechanic of Hitman Go being replaced by a predestined path through the level with multiple hazards placed between points A & B and it is up to the player to maneuver Lara safely through. Tons of collectibles and some truly intelligent puzzle design make this game very hard to put down.
9) Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate
Ubisoft has created a beautifully depressing 1860’s London. The industrial revolution has completely taken over with smokestacks belching into the sky and trains running constantly. It is this world that we are tasked with guiding twins Jacob and Evie Frye to taking down the Templar power that has taken hold. New mechanics such as ziplines, independent leveling trees, fighting styles, and mission types freshened up the series and kept me engaged in ways that the series had not since Brotherhood.
8) Her Story
A computer, a video library, and a search bar. That is all you are given as a player to solve a murder. As videos play and give you more clues to explore and more rabbit holes to run down what is reality blurs until you are left to an ultimate conclusion that does not disappoint. Her Story stands apart as an amazing exercise in story telling that must be experienced.
7) Broken Age (The Complete Game)
Granted the first half of this classic-styled point and click adventure released in 2014, but the game in it’s entirety saw a full release this year, and I simply adore it. The story is classic Shafer, full of humor, heart and ideas that make the player ponder on thoughts they probably wouldn’t otherwise. The art style and graphics are wonderful, creating a bright vibrant world to explore and expand the imagination. So why is it so low on this list? Sadly, because it is a classic point and click adventure game. The puzzles can be head smashingly difficult and nonsensical. The lack of hint options will drive most players to the internet for the solutions to see the end of this wonderful story, and in 2015 that just shouldn’t happen.
6) Batman: Arkham Knight
I was very prepared to be let down by this game. The last Arkham game was a big step back and while that game was not made by Rocksteady, it did create enough doubt as to what could really be done to revive this franchise. The answer was paying painstaking attention to creating a graphically stunning powerhouse with incredibly tight controls, and a great main story that demands to be finished, while the side quests call for exploration. The only misstep they make is a weird reliance on missions that require the “Bat Tank” later in the game, making it more of a slog than necessary.
5) Rocket League
Soccer…with cars. An idea so simple and kind of dumb sounding premise that I most assuredly would have never played unless it was offered as a free title on PS+ this year. That would have been an amazing error on my part. The simple and herion like addictive gameplay is one of the best examples of e-sports to come out this year. This game is the quintessential “Just one more match” game, making a session that was intended to be 15-30 minutes turn into hours. Simple controls that give way to unknown depth and finesse as the hours rack up and smart matchmaking give Rocket League legs that most online competitive game wish they had.
4) The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt
How in the world could a game be this high on my list when I never finished it? That would be because it was simply that great of an accomplishment in gaming. The world CD Projekt RED created lives and breathes as the player moves through it begging to be explored. Even on consoles the graphics and weather pop and amaze filling the environments with colorful characters, architecture, and wildly inventive monster design. The side quests are often better than most RPG’s main quests populate the massive map often pulling the player far off course but somehow it’s never a burden. The combat and inventory systems are a drag after a while, and for me after around 30hrs or so I just sort of had my fill and was ready to move onto something else, but that doesn’t dampen or negate my wonderful memories I had with this stunning RPG.
Billed as the next horror title from Frictional Games (Amnesia) this game had a lot to live up to if it wanted to be compared to their prior works. It doesn’t at all. What they produced this time around isn’t a horror game per se, it is a science fiction master piece that takes on the question of “what is humanity?”. While there are indeed horrifying moments, and terrifying monsters that are scattered around the landscape for the players to encounter, they are most definitely not the point. The story that starts innocently enough and quickly unravels around you is the driving force, “Where are you?”, “Who are you?”, and ultimately “What are you?” are the questions to be answered with a payoff that is rarely seen in gaming.
2) Halo 5: Guardians
Easily the strongest game in this long running franchise since Halo 3, Halo 5 brings jaw dropping visuals that run at a solid 60fps and marries them to the familiar “best in class” shooting that Halo is known for. While the story suffers from being the second part of a trilogy and really only serves to set up the final battle that I’d rather be playing, it isn’t bad. The only serious complaint I have is the weird lack of variety in enemies specifically boss encounters. Basically having to fight The Warden so many times almost took this game off of the list for me it was so maddening. That being said, the level design and settings are once again top notch and inventive making multiple passes through a level actually interesting to play as different paths offer different strategies. I’m no online multiplayer expert, but through my limited view, Halo 5 seems to correct most of the sins of Halo 4, but the Warzone mode seems better in theory than in practice.
1) Ori and the Blind Forest
Have you ever been watching a television show that was a comedy, or action based, and all of a sudden something happens that is really poignant and an unexpected wave of emotion crashes over you? That is Ori and the Blind Forest in a nutshell. Behind the hand painted beauty of the world that Moon Studios has pieced together from developers all over the globe is an very unexpected yet incredibly tight game experience in the mold of a Super Meat Boy. As abilities grant the player more access to the map (ala Metroid/Castelvania) the gameplay becomes more frenetic requiring the player to lean on the prior skills the game has taught them. Like Meat Boy however, as the difficulty increases the game never feels unfair. When the player dies it feels like it was the players fault or accident, not as a result of cheap or cruel level design. In the middle of all of the map exploration, and difficult but rewarding gameplay, is an emotional powerhouse of a story. The story of Ori discovering who he is and restoring the Spirit of the forest is a journey of discovery and rebirth that really stuck to me like no game has in a very very long time. It is this reason alongside many others that Ori is easily my game of the year.