R.G. counts down the best games 2015 has to offer.
Here we are again at the end of another year, when everyone makes a list of the things they liked or disliked to rank them based on preference. 2015 was a good year for gaming, with many solid titles coming in left and right! There were some disappointments and the usual utter crap, but it was a huge improvement on a lackluster 2014 that was filled with over-hyped disappointments and messy launches. If you refer to my end-of-year list for that twelve month period, the majority of it was indie games, meaning the Triple-A side of the industry didn’t impress the masses. This year, though, things are a little bit different…
This is, as always, a subjective list as I am only including games I have played and enjoyed throughout 2015. If your favourite isn’t on the list, I probably haven’t played it yet and will do so as soon as possible. Anyways, here are my top ten picks for the best games of the year. Let us know your own in the comments.
10. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate
So, apparently, Ubisoft do listen to feedback and complaints. Well, mostly. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is more or less an apology for how unbelievably messy and painfully dull Assassin’s Creed: Unity was. In short, this is the most competent Assassin’s Creed title since Black Flag and the most fun I’ve had with Ubisoft’s flagship franchise in years. Gone is the multiplayer that has been a staple since Brotherhood, using that extra space to create a beautiful Victorian-era London map; definitely the best-looking entry in the series to date. Aside from its authentic setting, it also boasts the best cast of central characters in the series since Ezio’s family. Twins Jacob and Evie Frye, while mechanically the same in terms of gameplay, have a sibling rivalry and contrasting personalities that really make their story quite charming and lighthearted in a sense. I hope to see these two again in another adventure throughout London. Gameplay-wise, it’s still fun climbing rooftops and planning out assassinations whilst trying to do bonus objectives as you progress. The ending, unfortunately, was a rushed, anticlimactic disappointment, and it’s a shame since the plot was so much fun before it.
The biggest problem is its overall gameplay and progression structure becoming pretty outdated, even if there are tidbits of improvement. The missions – though quite varied – are the same song and dance as previous Assassin’s Creed games, and the parkour can be quite clunky in how the Assassins are animated. All this needs revamping for future titles. Also, since the beginning, the modern day storyline has always been a huge bore, and it’s the same in Syndicate. No-one gives a shit about it as everyone cares more about the historical settings. Still, it has been quite a while since I’ve played an all-around fun, thankfully not-too-buggy entry in an annual franchise.
Nintendo being synonymous with the phrase “brand new Intellectual Property” is comparable to how frequently we see Halley’s Comet pass Earth. Not only is Splatoon a massive surprise from a company renowned for sticking to franchises that have been with them since the beginning, it is one of the most refreshing and downright enjoyable multiplayer titles in recent memory. While it does have some issues like restricted map selection and a pretty sub-par single-player, Splatoon delivers an original experience that you rarely see in games.
An antithesis of sorts for online shooters today, the game is ridiculously colourful, the ammo is ink rather than bullets, and it has an all-around joyful and lighthearted premise. While you do get some advantages in dispatching other players, it is all about covering as much territory as you can by using unique and diverse weapons, along with a mechanic revolving around using your own ammunition as a strategic tool for maneuvering and ambush. And unlike online-focused shooters like Star Wars: Battlefront where they charge you beforehand for future content with overpriced Season Passes, every single Splatoon DLC pack is absolutely free, including new modes, maps and weapons. All of these free updates just make the game better and better as the months go by.
8. Fallout 4
Definitely this year’s most anticipated and played title, Fallout 4 is more of the same following Fallout 3 and New Vegas, but slightly prettier, more responsive and streamlined to accessibility. The gunplay is highly improved, it has probably the best story in the Fallout series, the world is highly atmospheric, its setting and lore is fascinating, there’s great community-building and a good crafting system, and there is a crap ton of stuff to see and do.
Like every modern Bethesda RPG, it has a huge emphasis on exploration and character-building, with many customisable options at your disposal, though it is way too similar to the previous Bethesda Fallout titles, feeling more like a cut-and-paste job rather than a refinement or improvement. It’s difficult to see it as a huge step up like Bethesda’s own Skyrim being a star-bound improvement over Oblivion, which isn’t a bad thing, but you cannot rely on nostalgia all the time. Oh, and as Bethesda tradition, it is riddled with bugs. Not game-breaking bugs but they’re bugs nonetheless, and a huge developer like Bethesda can’t get away with murder all the time. They should learn their bloody lesson in optimisation. Regardless, it’s fun and absorbing as hell, and you will lose countless hours just getting engrossed in its post-apocalyptic world.
7. Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance
If there is one video game series that will seriously test your patience and endurance, Disgaea will fit that criteria. These video games have ridiculous amounts of content within them, and to make things even longer, the level cap is 9999! Some players take years just to reach that level. Aside from its daunting amount of content, the Disgaea series is renowned for its snarky, self-referential sense of humour and incredibly deep strategic RPG gameplay, with its downside being an outdated visual aesthetic and steep learning curve.
The fifth numerical entry in the series follows suit from what Disgaea is all about, but from my perspective, this is the definitive entry point for anyone new to the series. It has great characters, it is funny and silly, and the tiled, turn-based strategy RPG combat and character customisation has never been better. The visuals – while still outdated to a degree – are probably the best-looking in the series so far. This is also the most accessible, as most of the flabby bits that made getting into Disgaea difficult in the first place are better-explained, like stat manipulation and combat situations. If you’re looking for a fun, funny, time-wasting piece of RPG goodness, this is the go-to title of this year.
6. Until Dawn
Until Dawn is the type of game where, on Halloween, you get together with a couple of friends, some drinks and snacks, and play the game to completion whilst having a right laugh in the process. Aside from its surprising social aspect, Supermassive Games’ debut PS4 exclusive was a fittingly massive surprise in terms of how incredibly engrossing it is. Yeah, the plot is a clichèd horror wet dream, but the way it plays around with tropes you usually see in the genre makes it surprisingly compelling, even if the latter part of the story strayed from its tongue-and-cheek momentum. The characters aren’t the most relatable or the most complex, but again, the way the title plays with conventions makes them likeable. While not the most gameplay-centric title, it has fantastic visuals and atmosphere, overzealous but otherwise uncanny character animations, and a butterfly effect where even the smallest choices can affect the outcome of the story, making Until Dawn a worthwhile experience.
And David Cage should learn a lesson or two from Until Dawn. I’m still torn on what he did with Beyond: Two Souls…
5. Xenoblade Chronicles X
This was my most anticipated title of 2015, and overall, it didn’t disappoint. Possibly the biggest game in a literal sense that I have ever played, Xenoblade Chronicles X is a staggering juggernaut of an RPG. Five continents, stretching for 400 kilometers, and a fifty-plus hour story campaign with a plethora of side quests, this title is just bloody huge. The spiritual successor of the now highly-overpriced and difficult to find Wii gem Xenoblade Chronicles, X is designed as a more open experience focused on custom character-building and exploration in comparison to the story-driven style of its predecessor. The game’s sheer size and numerous quests make it more comparable to an MMORPG. Yes, the story could have been better and should have had the same charm as Xenoblade Chronicles, and there is a huge abundance of fetch-quests, but the positives overshadow the negatives. Not only is the world gigantic, it’s a wonder to look at and it has a lot of diversity, from those creative monster designs and sweeping landscapes to a more exhilarating combat, with more variety in Art attacks and weaponry.
Oh, and you can drive huge mechs that turn into air or ground vehicles and fight giant monsters with them. Sold.
4. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
2015 is the year we witnessed Konami – one of the most iconic video game companies in the world – literally sabotage themselves. They cancelled the development of one of the most promising horror reboots in Silent Hills, treated Hideo Kojima – their most famous developer and the man that has kept them afloat in the last decade – like trash, turned their most prolific franchises into pachinko machines, and did pretty much anything to piss off the gaming public. Even Metal Gear Solid V couldn’t escape the clutches of Konami’s breakdown, with rumours that pieces of content were cut from it. Oh, and it has horse armour DLC. And we thought we learned our lesson from Oblivion.
As a last hurrah from Kojima, this being his final foray into the MGS franchise, V still turned out to be an amazing title. It is not a Konami game, it is a Hideo Kojima game, and it will be remembered as such, even if they try to remove his name from it. By Metal Gear Solid standards, The Phantom Pain is the least story-centric title in the series, but it definitely has the best and most refined gameplay. Kojima always had a knack for telling incredibly outlandish, convoluted yet amusingly tongue-and-cheek plots that you will either take seriously or just laugh at. Since the original Metal Gear Solid, that has always been his major focus. This time, though, all the eccentricities are completely focused on an exhilarating open-world experience that proves Kojima to be the formidable game designer that he is. On the current gen, not only does it look gorgeous, it runs at a smooth 60fps. The stealth and infiltration has never been better, with numerous mechanics like fulton extractions to add a bit of quirk to it. Also, the open-ended structure gives it a lot of diversity in how you approach a level. It also has one of the most intricate base-building mechanics I’ve ever seen in a game. The only problem I have with it is its out-of-focus story and disappointing ending, which was rumoured to be caused by tampering from Konami executives. Man, if Konami didn’t have to be such dicks and let Kojima finish this game with complete control, who knows what the outcome would have been?
From my perspective, From Software exist solely to feed our glutton for punishment. Since Demon’s Souls on the PS3, they have developed some of the most difficult games we’ve seen in the modern era. Continuing with the trend, Bloodborne is as hard and as engrossing as its predecessors. A faster, reflex-based title in comparison to the Souls games, this is the first definitive PS4 exclusive since the console’s launch. Gone is the shield and the way to fight monsters is to dodge fast and hit hard. Great atmosphere and visuals, fantastic world-building, inventive monster designs, and as expected by From Software, it is hard as balls but fair and rewarding nonetheless. Nothing is more satisfying than finally defeating that boss that has killed you so many times. You can argue that it lacks the combat intricacies of the Souls series, and in hindsight, it is probably the easiest “hardcore” RPG From Software has made so far, but the Japanese developer hasn’t dropped the ball yet and delivered another harrowing and downright challenging experience.
2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Unlike Konami, who did everything considered anti-consumerist this year, developer CD Projekt Red was the complete opposite. On the release of the third entry in The Witcher series, they released fifteen free DLCs as a simple thank you for buying their game. Not only that, but their first entry of paid DLC has more content than the entirety of Batman: Arkham Knight’s Season Pass. (Short Arkham Knight review: It’s okay.) The Witcher 3 is a luscious, vibrant and expansive RPG that completely delivers on what CD Projekt Red had promised. There’s a dynamic combat system, a massive and environmentally-diverse map, complex RPG elements, an interesting story accompanied by equally interesting side quests, and a genuine challenge in terms of how you progress your character through the world. My one and only criticism for this game is that it proves the PS4 and Xbox One are not as powerful as you think they are. This is a PC game from top-to-bottom as the console versions have a lot of frame-rate dips, especially when it is raining or if there’s a lot of enemies on-screen, ruining the experience quite a bit. If you have a powerhouse PC, that is where you should play one of the best RPGs of this decade.
1. Super Mario Maker
Ranking all the games here in numerical order has been quite difficult because it has been a pretty good year for games, and I have played enough of them that narrowing it down to ten was hard. For the number one choice, I had to debate which game was the most fun and engaging to play, and beforehand, it was like a tug of war between The Witcher 3 and Super Mario Maker. Alas, the mustached plumber prevails yet again as Nintendo delivers one of the best Mario games ever. Standing on an already foolproof foundation, Super Mario Maker is as solid as any Mario title in terms of its controls and mechanics, but where it really shines is in its endless possibilities of how you can manipulate those already-established systems and create something that is out of this world. Not only that, but the creation process of building your own Mario level is also a great joy in itself, thanks to its highly accessible and intuitive editing system and robust community sharing. Creating a level brings out the inventiveness in you and makes you appreciate how complex level designing could be. The ability to share them also gives this game an almost endless amount of replay value, as there are millions upon millions of stages out there to try. Yes, you will encounter junk, but the ones that are made with actual effort makes me question whether we even need another 2D Mario game from the Big N. As of now, Super Mario Maker is the best game on Nintendo’s highly-underrated Wii U console and my pick as the best game of the year.