My favourite games of 2015
I’m not really writing this for anyone in particular, but I’m one of those who takes some satisfaction in looking back at the games I’ve played in 2015 and thinking about the ones that stuck out, for whatever reason. I didn’t think too hard on the order, so take the order it’s presented in as you will (For what it’s worth, I’ll point out when I think something is actually in its rightful place).
First, some honourable mentions. I really think this year was an excellent year for games, there was some really amazing stuff put out there. Stuff that I’m mentioning here could be because I didn’t finish it, because I didn’t stick with it or just because I enjoyed it but it didn’t leave that lasting impression on me that the other stuff I talk about has.
Dying Light, The Witcher 3, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Splatoon, Rocket League, The Swindle, Contradiction: Spot the Liar, Westerado.
Grim Fandango: Remastered
I was always a console gamer as a kid, so a good amount of the point and click adventure games managed to pass me by. Broken Sword was probably the first I played, because it was on the PS1, and I loved that, so I knew I had an affinity for those types of games, but was unaware of the much-beloved lucasarts and sierra games of the time. Of course, Grim Fandango was something I would hear talked about a lot. I finally got the chance to play it in 2015 when the remaster happened, and I adored it. Even in this day and age, a surreal story of love in the land of the dead which still, many years later, ranked above many in modern games in terms of writing and characters. I’m thankful I got my chance!
What a fascinating thing. It’s strange how compelling a game can be when it mostly amounts to typing in search terms, watching clips, and repeating. Great writing, an excellent FMV performance and an intriguing mystery are what keeps Her Story from becoming stale. Well, that and the length, I suppose. I didn’t see every clip, but I very much enjoyed what I saw. I’m still not entirely sure I understand it all, but I enjoyed it.
For many a socially awkward millennial, Cibele was reality. Truly a story with which I can relate, Cibele is as good an example as I can remember of a game that has so much of its creator in its DNA. It felt almost oppressively voyeuristic as I perused this young woman’s blog posts, her photos, in which she is in various states of undress, her E-mails between friends, turning down invites to social events to hang out online. I admire Freeman for putting herself under the microscope for this game and relating an incredibly personal story, and I think it deserves mention for that, if nothing else.
The Beginner’s Guide
Another exercise in discomfort, the Beginner’s Guide is a story that resonated with me for a different reason than I think it did with the majority of people playing. I suppose I’m not really in a position to make that observation, but I left the short experience incredibly unsure of what it was I had just been subjected to. What starts off as pleasant enough quickly becomes what looks like a cry for help from its creator. It’s pretty harrowing, actually, but it sticks with you, and I would be remiss to not celebrate its lasting effect on me.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
Ah, Assassin’s Creed, a fickle friend if ever there was one. From the lofty highs of Brotherhood to the deep, deep lows of Unity, the series has been all over the place, but it somehow always kept me relatively interested. After Unity I thought I might be done, but thank goodness I gave Syndicate a chance to win me over, as I think the series has never been better. Smart gameplay changes and a beautiful rendition of London only serve to make me more appreciative of the characters in this game. Jacob and Evie are the greatest AC protagonists since Ezio.
Super Mario Maker
I think this would probably have curried much more favour if I had a more stable internet connection, honestly, as I’d have probably engaged much more. Also lacking in me is an imagination to create the amazing stuff that has been coming out of Super Mario Maker. I appreciate all of that from a distance, however, and hell, if I was creative enough, then the tools provided would be excellent. Nintendo did a great job of creating an intuitive system through which levels could be created. I might even go so far as to say that it feels like the Wii U was made for this game. A perfect fit, and masterfully executed.
I came to the Souls series kind of late. Well, actually I was sort of ahead of the curve, I suppose. I got Demon’s Souls at launch, played a couple hours and thought “no, thanks”. I simply didn’t get it. Then Dark Souls came out and I got that at launch too. A few hours in and the same thing happened. I just couldn’t stay with it. However, once appetites for the series began to reach a fever pitch, I tried again with Dark Souls and I did it! It was awesome. All this is a long preamble to get to this point, which is that I honestly think Bloodborne is the best Souls game out right now. Unpopular opinion? Maybe. I much prefer the victorian gothic, Lovecraftian undertones to Dark Souls medieval aesthetic, however, and the fast paced combat suited me right down to the ground. More of this, please.
I’m not a big fan of horror, under normal circumstances. I’m even less impressed with jump scares, and the teen slasher genre does nothing for me. So why did I love Until Dawn so much? I’m not even really sure. I think I like the Telltale/Quantic Dream format quite a bit, but was dying for some new takes on that, and Until Dawn was one of the games this year that did that. The story feels truly malleable, the characters are actually pretty good, the visuals are ridiculously good, and I appreciated, even as someone not into its source material, the tributes the game made to classic horror.
Tricky one. It’s more of the same, that’s for damn sure, but the same is just so good, it’s hard not to be in love with this game too. Let’s put it this way, it’s definitely wearing somewhat thinner than it was by the time New Vegas had come out, but this time around, I was willing to just play more of that. Who knows what mood I will be in by the time the next one comes out.
Life is Strange
So going back to Until Dawn and its fresh take on the Telltale format; Life is Strange is an even better example of that. Life is Strange was honestly, a breath of fresh air. In a world filled with games about dudes shooting other dudes, Life is Strange felt like a truly human story, even when its supernatural elements went into slightly more bonkers territory. Some of the decisions I was asked to make in this game were a hundred times harder than anything The Walking Dead, Wolf Among Us, Heavy Rain, Until Dawn or anything like it had asked me to choose, and that might be owing to its innate ability to relate to the player. Truly one of the greatest things I played this year by a country mile.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Yeah, so I just waxed lyrical about a game being refreshing for not being dudes shooting dudes, and here I am saying MGS V is a great game. Yeah, well, it is. The sheer scope of it alone is incredible, the amount of tools available to you, the stealth sandbox, it’s all just so satisfying to play in. Removing the lacklustre story and the diabolical handling of Quiet, MGS V is one of my greatest gaming experiences of all time, let alone this year.
I may have said this list wasn’t ranked but I did sort of lie. The top few, you could kinda mix around, but I really wondered whether I could say that I preferred Undertale, a peppy little RPG by one dude, over an entry to my favourite franchise of all time, many years in the making, and here I am, saying that yeah, Undertale is the best thing I played this year. At every chance, Undertale completely betrays your expectations of it. On the surface, a very basic, old-fashioned JRPG style of game that has a novel little gimmick of being able to persuade enemies to leave you alone rather than murder you. However, there is so much going on under the hood, it’s pretty incredible, and the moments where Undertale chooses to reveal it’s hand? It’s mindblowing. The stark contrast between cutesy tumblr bait and horrible nightmare fuel is really quite impressive and evokes Eversion, but to the nth degree. The characters are great, the sense of humour is on point, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack while walking places… I can’t really level a complaint against it. It’s the greatest thing I’ve played this year, and I almost can’t believe it.