My Top Video Games of 2015
Just like I have for most of my life, I spent a lot of time playing video games in 2015. This was quite the transition year — it was the first year I accepted that amazing graphics can create an amazing experience that is impossible to achieve on a Nintendo Gamecube. Emotions can be put on full display with some beautiful crafted words, but seeing tears fall on a face in high definition has quite the effect. I now own a PS4 and a gaming desktop (as a longtime annoying Mac junkie I never thought this would happen) to go along with my Wii U and gaming has never been so glorious.
In any case, I played a lot of games this year. Here are ten that stuck with me. They probably weren’t all the “best” games of the year, but my mind still does 28 circles when I’m thinking of most of these. Isn’t that what makes gaming so great anyway?
I don’t have the attention span for sandbox games. I never know where to start and without a great, central task I just run far, far away (usually). Still, “Cities Skylines” reminded me of my time playing “Sim City” as a kid and I figured I could try to recreate Austin to “fix the traffic problem.” Hell, maybe I could come up with some crazy ideas that actually work in real life (I didn’t come close). This city simulator is just that, a simulator, which means you’ll have to do just about everything from laying down plumbing to creating bus routes. There’s never any hand holding—if your city is full of dead bodies because the ambulances don’t know how to take the short route, you better fucking figure it out on your own. “Cities Skylines” is an amazing experience that will definitely keep you glued to your desktop for at least four hours on your first session.
Hint: YouTube has videos to help you get started. I needed them.
I played “Rocket League” more than anything else in 2015. It’s an addiction. “Just one game before I [whatever real chore I have to do]” and then the clock arm teleported two hours forward. Cars, rockets and soccer balls are the perfect combination that no one knew they wanted and I don’t regret a single minute of play. This game is continuously being updated with new modes, including one where you play on ice with a hockey puck. These changes force you to switch up the strategy while playing, which keeps it fresh. I just love having a game I can always throw on to entertain me and my friend for hours on end. Buy it and 1 v. 1 me.
I can’t get a grasp of the scope of “Fallout 4” and you already know it’s good. I’ll tell you more about it in like two years. Go play it.
My brain on video games was neat, beautiful and focused until “Her Story” came along and threw it into an industrial food processor. That’s dramatic, I know, but the game puts “you just have to play it” on full display. It doesn’t look remotely fun at first, but you’ll actually feel like a detective as you put together pieces of a story from five second to three minute clips. “Her Story” forces you to come up with your own conclusions based on what you hear from Hannah (or Eve?). Viva Seifert’s performance as Hannah (or it is fucking Eve?) is fantastic — I was worried it would play like a “Legend of Zelda” CD-i game, but that is far from the case. If you like true crime, mysteries or just a new gaming experience, play “Her Story.” It’s like $6, you spend that on your shitty tacos.
NBA 2K16/Madden 16
“Undertale” is in an echo chamber for the hype machine. Escapist, Giant Bomb and Destructoid all gave it perfect scores, while a few outside voices like Kill Screen said it was average. When I looked up video reviews, the compliments were lining up like elementary school kids heading to lunch. I was waiting to hear stories about money being slipped under the table, especially since this is Toby Fox’s first game (as far as I know). But yeah, the hype is accurate and “Undertale” is the most fun I’ve had with a game in awhile. The “Earthbound” influence is obvious, but how could you not love that when it is ACTUALLY pulled off?! Every single combat scene in “Undertale” can be done nonviolently, but that’s not always the easy path. But hey, the easiest path isn’t always the best path, and when you take 10 minutes to figure out you can give mercy to a dog character by rubbing its belly five time, the laughs make it all worth it. This game is so fucking good. If you’re an RPG junkie, you better play it. If you’re a casual gamer, you should play it. If you think the 8-bit art style is shameless nostalgia-appealing, you should shut up and play it.
“Cibele” is one of those “not for everybody” games (but I think everyone should be playing games like this for ~new perspectives~). It’s voyeuristic and if you’re a decent person will make you feel a bit uncomfortable. The story of “Cibele” is no secret — it’s about a 19 year girl losing her virginity to someone she meets while playing an MMO. The game plays like a visual novel, where most of the work is reading text and watching a few videos, but you’ll do a bit of clicking while in the MMO world. The story is short and has a depressing ending, but it’s a real one. Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich tonight and spend the $9 on “Cibele”. If you hate it, don’t tweet me please.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
I was sure I was going to hate an open world Metal Gear Solid. “Snake Eater” was my favorite game for a long time and IT’S ALL ABOUT THE STORY! “The Phantom Pain” puts the story in the background, although you can get a basic grasp of what’s going on through optional audio tapes. To be clear, this is nothing like any of the other Metal Gear Solid games. Hideo Kojima took the combat system and let us do whatever we wanted with it. If you want to feel like Rambo, you can set up a loadout with C4, Rocket launchers and mounted machine guns. If you want to do missions the right way, you can get set up with a tranq pistol and silenced rifle like God intended. There’s so much to do and every main mission is repeatable, so you can run them again however you want. This is my game of the year.
I barely got into horror this year upon being forced to watch scary movies by my girlfriend. I went in head first and even though it wasn’t love at first sight, it opened my eyes to some really cool shit like “It Follows.” Supermassive Games’ “Until Dawn” is a choose-your-own-adventure-style horror movie, with some gameplay thrown in. There’s enough twists to keep things interesting, and even if the story loses its spark towards the end it’s still entertaining. The camera angles were a common complaint by critics, but I thought they were one of the strengths, since you never knew what was coming around the corner. The horror style is a mix of jump scares and psychological mindfucks (the “Saw” influence is alive and well). There is some star power like Rami Malek (who plays a MUCH different character than he does on Mr. Robot) and Hayden Panettiere, and they pull off a great performance. Turn off the lights in your house and play Until Dawn if you get the chance!
Seeing a new first party IP is exciting as hell, especially from the company that brought us so many different video game characters that are household names. “Splatoon” basically sold the Wii U to me — a multiplayer shooter that needs the Gamepad. It’s cute, creative and fun, which is the holy trinity of Nintendo. One of the coolest things about “Splatoon” is that the replay value continuously (even now) shot up without any costly DLC. IGN even improved the score nearly a whole point because of this new content! Nintendo still has some things to figure out when it comes to online gaming, namely the lack of voice chat and a true sense of a community, but “Splatoon” was a big step forward.
Sorry if I missed your favorite game. Tweet me at @JayEggr.