2015 is no doubt the finest year of this young generation of games, but it is also, in many ways, the most confounding. Before I talk about the games that did make my list, I want to mention the ones that didn’t:
- The Witcher 3
- StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void
- Until Dawn
- Cities: Skylines
- Halo 5: Guardians
- Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
- Transformers: Devastation
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
The games that didn’t make the cut could be the foundation of an entirely different top 10 listing. That doesn’t even go into the games I didn’t like this year. Who would have thought that after having both Danganronpa games in my top 10 last year and giving the first my number one spot, that I would hate Ultra Despair Girls? How about the fact that not single Vita game made my list after nearly giving one the overall Game of the Year just a year ago? Worse yet, why couldn’t I fall in love with MGSV the way I had previous entries, and why couldn’t Halo 5 have a campaign worth playing? The list you are about to see is about as far away from the list I had expected when 2015 was just starting, and while every single game earns its place, it’s the games I didn’t expect to love that truly stole my heart away. 2015 was a year of surprises, and some of my top games are among the very best of them.
I almost don’t know what to say…an Assassin’s Creed game made my top 10. This franchise has never sat well with me. This was only the fourth title in the series I ever played, only the second I ever enjoyed, and the first I ever played to completion. I cannot put into word how delighted I was that this game not only didn’t suck, but was full of delightful characters and a powerful score. The city of London is a sight to behold and whether darting across rooftops or racing down crowded streets, it was a true standout…if you could ignore the still awful controls. Despite that, or perhaps in spite of that, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is one of the few games this year that I think everyone should play.
9.) The Order: 1886
If this was for overall Game of the Year I’m sure there would be a lot of negativity directed at this selection, but luckily this is my list and I can do what I want. Yes it was short, yes it felt poor in value, but damn it if I didn’t enjoy the heck out of my multiple playthroughs of The Order. This beauty had an interesting, if criminally under realized, story full of intrigue and mystery. The gameplay, in my humble opinion, was more than enjoyable and was capable of carrying me through many hours more than most people would ever spend with this game. I wondered if my judgment was clouded by all the potential I could see for this title, and for its future, but when I think back on my time with The Order, I just want to jump back in for another go. If you skipped out on The Order because of the reviews, word of mouth, or what have you, but you enjoy a very story driven game with capable mechanics and what may well be the finest visuals you’ll ever see on the PlayStation 4, then please give this game a shot.
There was a point this year where Arkham Knight sat alone at the top of this list. Being the Batman was never as satisfying as it was in Rocksteady’s final entry in the Arkham series. Unfortunately, I chose to play on PC, but it is a testament to just how superb this game is that I stuck it out through the problems and played to completion. It also helped that some of the highlights of my time with the game involved the Batmobile. In order to truly love Arkham Knight, you have to love the Batmobile. I did, and I likely enjoyed the game the most out of everyone else here at TGN. Even still, I was surprisingly close to removing Arkham Knight from this list because I really have no desire to go back to it. This is more than likely because I did purchase the terribly awful PC port. However, it ultimately did make the cut because it absolutely was one of the most enjoyable games I played all year, and is one we might be talking about again when this generation wraps up.
America in Space the Game, Helldivers is all about defending Super Earth and spreading controlled Democracy by any means necessary. If a few nukes need to be dropped along the way or a few mullion bullets fired, then by god we’d better get started. The chaos that ensues in Helldivers is blissfully frustrating as you’ll spend about as much time trying not to get killed by your enemies as you do your allies. Whether being murdered by giant armored bugs or having a friendly supply drop land on you, you’ll die a lot. Helldivers isn’t an easy game, but it is an incredibly fun one. Thanks to the recent PC port I’ve been able to get back into the game with a new group of friends who can appreciate the quirks and laugh at the chaos and I’m enjoying every minute of it all over again. The war rages on, and if we don’t spread Democracy across that stars, then who will?
6.) Life is Strange
There were so many things that I dislike about Life is Strange. I hated their almost cookie cutter approach to the pacing of each episode, I hated the pacing itself, I disliked Max, the main character for her stupid hipster attitude and attempts at sounding profound, I hated the fact that she used the word “primordial” in one of her countless internal monologues, and then talked about her spirit animal. Damn it I dislike so much of this series, but I just…couldn’t…stop. I waited on the edge of my seat for each new episode and played it as soon as I could. I enjoyed just about every second I spent with Chloe and struggled to decide who was worth being friends with. Oh, and I also REWOUND TIME LIKE IT WAS A VHS TAPE BEING RETURNED TO BLOCKBUSTER. Yeah that was hella awesome. Each episode had a powerful ending, often emotionally so, which really made Life is Strange stick with me long after playing. It’s a shame that the finale didn’t have a fitting conclusion, but all in all the series is among the very best episodic games you can play. Unlike Dontnod’s prior efforts, Life is Strange is a game you’ll remember.
If Life is Strange is among the very best episodic games, Tales from the Borderlands stands firmly at the top. Anyone who followed our lists last year saw one common game across all lists, The Wolf Among Us, which was also our overall Game of the Year. With Tales from the Borderlands, TellTale has outdone themselves and delivered a Borderlands game worthy of the title. As well as they’ve done with the likes of Fables and The Walking Dead, they really took it to the next level with TftB. Any of their characters could fit right in with the likes of Scooter, Moxxi, and the vault hunters. In fact, they surpass many of those characters (but never Scooter). The writing is excellent and the laughs are abundant. There is really nothing bad to say about the series, and it really helped fend off the growing episodic game fatigue. I was already pumped for the inevitable Borderlands 3, but now I’m kind of hoping Gearbox borrows some inspiration from TellTale. Gearbox may have built the universe, but TellTale have officially taken it to the next level.
4.) Rocket League
I might have been one of the few people to look at Rocket League when it was announced and think, “This looks awesome!” Boy was I right. There was no other game this year that was as purely fun as Rocket League. I can’t keep track of all the dumb, hilarious, and amazing things I did in my time playing, and there are sure to be plenty more. Rocket League is a rare breed of game that does something so crazy so well that it is impossible not to like. Controls are top notch, gameplay is a blast, and hey, it’s not bad on the eyes either. It checks all the boxes of what makes a great game great. Of all the games on this list, Rocket League is the one I wish I’d spent more time with. As I write this, I am even toying with the idea of moving it up on this list, but alas, here it shall remain. All you Xbox One owners, you’d better pick this one up when it finally hits your platform, I know I will.
3.) Fallout 4
I was pretty hype for Fallout 4 when it was announced earlier this year. I didn’t like Fallout 3 but loved New Vegas. I was hoping that this could be the game I’d spend the rest of 2015 playing, and one of the 2015 games I’d want to come back to in 2016. It is all those things and almost too much more. I’d put off playing for almost the first week after release, fearing that I either wouldn’t like it or that it would engulf all my time. The latter was true and I was amazed at just how quickly my play time was climbing. I can’t remember a game that I hit 40 hours in faster than Fallout 4. Not since Oblivion have I been so entranced with a world that I would wander aimlessly in hopes of finding something to brag to my friends about that they hadn’t found. I could spend an hour telling you stories about what I’ve already seen, and I know that when I’m finally “done” I’ll have hours more. Originally, when I made my list a few days ago, Fallout 4 was number 1. Looking back, were it not for the lasting impression the next two games left on me, this would be an easy choice. This year, consider 1-3 a tie. It might be cheating, but I don’t care, it’s worth it.
2.) Dying Light
Ok, Dead Island was a pretty lousy game, even if it had its moments of fun. Forgive me if I was more than a little pessimistic when Dying Light was coming out. Techland, a developer that only released Dead Island and then an even worse “sequel”, was making yet another zombie game, but now with parkour. Yeah, ok Techland, better luck next time. Of course, being January when it released, it was about the only new game for another month. I gambled, and it’s probably the biggest win I’ve ever had. I enjoyed every moment I spent playing Dying Light. The gameplay was superb and the story wasn’t half bad, heck even the main character was fairly likable. I completed more than half the game before I finally convinced Ross, who hates zombie games, to take the chance on it. I gladly started over to play with him and even he was impressed. By my 40th hour I was Batmaning my way across the city from memory, grappling from roof to roof and dodging or murdering every chump zombie who got in my way. What a feeling. We have plenty to look forward to with the massive expansion hitting in 2016, but even the core game of Dying Light is a fantastic buy. No matter what platform you play on, and even if you don’t like shootin’ zombies, you need to play Dying Light.
I can’t explain why Bloodborne is here. I never finished Demon’s Souls and never got into Dark Souls. I only bought Bloodborne because I wanted a real killer (HA!) app exclusive for the PS4. By all means, this game shouldn’t be here. Even more confusing is that I consistently found the motivation to drudge on through all the frustrations and all punishment to actually finish, that’s right, FINISH the game. Never in my life have I felt more accomplished finishing a game than I did with Bloodborne. Each complete boss was like another trophy on my mantle, further proof of my prowess. I am the type of person who puts down a frustrating game and just never comes back, but something about Bloodborne, even when things looked impossible I always found the faintest hint of, “if I just do this,” or, “if I can just catch it doing this, I can get him!” When I’d finished and dabbled in New Game +, I noticed my reflexes were better, my patience was better, overall I was better. The feeling of satisfaction is the ultimate high and one I’d gladly put up with hours of BS just to feel again. Maybe I have a problem, or maybe it is just that good. Bloodborne is not a universal recommendation by any stretch, but if you think you have the mental fortitude to survive then it is the most satisfying game you’ll play this year.