It’s that time of year when websites and blogs all over the world run down their favourite things of the year in an easy to read list (or terrible slideshow) in order to ignite debate and/or force their opinions down your throat. And as a proud member of the human race with a blog, this is what I’ll be doing with this year’s crop of games. My judgement of last year’s output may be clouded due to the fact that 2014 was a terrible year that should be destroyed, but I feel that overall 2015 has been very strong, whether you’re a PC gamer, console owner or both. It’s probably helped that I got my gaming mojo back a bit this year too.
Unfortunately as there are not enough hours in the day I didn’t get the chance to play through every single game released this year, so it means that some titles that I potentially may have enjoyed (or indeed hated) won’t be given any recognition – apologies to the likes of Fallout 4, Metal Gear Solid V, SOMA and Invisible Inc. It’s a shame, but until we manage to create an extra day of the week this will continue to happen.
Anyway, on with the list. If your favourite didn’t make it, don’t worry – I deliberately left it out just to antagonise you.
Honourable Mention – King’s Quest Chapter 1
Sierra games and specifically the King’s Quest series were a big part of my childhood so when I saw it was being brought back I was filled with anticipation and obvious trepidation, given that Activision had their grubby mitts on the series. Happily, the game is a lot better than I expected; it retains the humour of the Quest games and their world while also creating something fresh for the series (the text parser and basic point and click mechanics have had their day). There are of course comparisons to be had with the Telltale games, but it certainly stands as its own entity. It didn’t quite make my top 10 but for being such a pleasant surprise I had to include it somehow.
10 – Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
I found a lot to like in The Chinese Room’s PS4 exclusive; the recreation of a now deserted 1980s Shropshire village was obviously lovingly created and it really looks stunning. Wandering around and learning the stories of Yaughton’s inhabitants never felt like a chore and the tales told were interesting personal stories. The game certainly isn’t hindered by gaming’s best soundtrack of the year – another sterling piece of work by Jessica Curry.
9 – Bloodborne
I’d never really been a fan of the Souls genre of games before this year – to me, all three just felt like they were hard for the sake of being hard and didn’t feel fun in the slightest. Turns out all the game needed was a gothic Victorian setting and the ability to use firearms to win me over. Battles feel intense but also exciting now in a way they didn’t before.
8 – Her Story
I thought I’d try this game out for a half hour before bed during the summer. Four hours later after sifting through every single piece of video evidence on offer, I could actually see light returning to the world outside, which would have been fine had it not been a Wednesday and work was just a few more hours away. Captivating in a unique way, I started off with a pen and paper ready to solve the mystery but ended up putting it aside as I got drawn into a great story and fine performance by Viva Seifert.
7 – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Why is this so low do you ask? Well, I have a lot of difficulty with this game – from what I’ve played (about 7-8 hours) I know it’s great. I know it’s a step forward for the Action/RPG genre, I know it looks and sounds amazing and I know I should play it more. But I can’t – there is actually too much to do in the world and it’s preventing me from being able to enjoy the game. Very easy to say to ignore the side quests but it really isn’t that simple when you have the attention span of a puppy.
6- Super Mario Maker
Nintendo had a very strange year. After pretty much knocking it out of the park in 2014, this year also saw some strong releases for the first half of the year; Yoshi’s Woolly World (which missed out on the list just by… a thread. Ahem) and Splatoon, which we’ll get to later. Then they kind of just stopped. There was a disappointing E3 (though it wasn’t as disastrous as the world would have you believe) and delays which took the wind out of the sales too. Thankfully, one game stepped up to fill this void – Super Mario Maker. Aside from Super Mario World, 2D Mario had never really been my bag but with this I got really into playing people’s courses and, unlike the robust but heavily overwhelming and convoluted creation tools of LittleBigPlanet, I really enjoyed creating levels. The whole game feels like a love letter to the series as well as a toybox for aspiring creators.
5 – Life is Strange
This has actually been a great year for the adventure game, with a lot of credible forces coming out to challenge Telltale’s stale monopoly (Tales from the Borderlands notwithstanding) on the genre. Life is Strange felt like a breath of fresh air, dealing with more mundane but at the same time a lot more interesting issues and dilemmas such as depression and bullying in the life of college student Max Caulfield, who also just happens to have discovered she has the ability to rewind time. There’s some sloppy writing which is to be expected when a predominately male French game studio tries to write female American teenager dialogue but that can be forgiven thanks to an engaging story and surprisingly well developed characters.
4 – Splatoon
Are you a kid now? Or a squid? Turns out my wife was a squid all long. That’s all I can assume from the tens of hours she’s piled into the game, and for good reason – this is probably one of the best shooters of the past two-three years from Nintendo of all places. It turns the genre on its head in the most Nintendo way possible in that kills don’t matter, it’s all about covering the ground in paint, immediately taking away some of the stigma of multiplayer gaming. It’s fun, responsive and the post launch support for the game has been amazing and best of all free.
3 – Until Dawn
The surprise of the year. Given pretty much no attention by Sony’s marketing, the game was sent out to release to die with a whimper against Metal Gear Solid V, a fate that was completely undeserved. Supermassive did a great job of realising the vision of David Cage but without the problem associated with being a David Cage game. The game plays out like a classic ‘cabin-in-the-woods’ horror with some nods to classic films throughout, but it’s the games butterfly effect choice system that really sets it apart, making you feel like the director of your own little B-movie, almost choosing if and when characters will die.
2 – Rocket League
Definitely the game I’ve piled the most hours into this year. Rocket powered cars that can fly playing football is such a simple premise but the fact that Psyonix have done such a good job in making the game easy to pick up and play but difficult to master really cannot be understated. It’s also devilishly addicting, with a quick 5 minute game turning into 2 hours in front of the screen screaming at yourself for a stupid aerial miss. And now you’ve lost you have to play until you win again…
1 – Undertale
My favourite and most unique RPG I’ve played in years. I recently did a review on this where you can see my full thoughts, but I was enraptured by Undertale. It was genuinely funny, felt very clever and defied my expectations at every corner. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea thanks to the visuals or pop culture references ; but there was a lot that I loved. The characters felt more real than many triple AAA titles I’ve played this year, how the game toys with you and your expectations is fascinating and this is all topped off with some wonderful genre meta-commentary.