Boy this was a tough one for me. Largely because I had so much fun with Tales From the Borderlands that I wanted to put it in here. I had as much fun with that title as almost any other this year, due to great voice acting and hilarious writing. Cases could be made for Fallout 4 as well, and I wouldn't argue. Some already great games getting updates this year like Divinity: Original Sin - Enhanced Edition also deserve consideration. But at the end of the day, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt delivered a visual spectacle with characters I cared about and a world I was immersed in - much like I was with Dragon Age: Inquisition last year. The Witcher 3 never quite found that sweet spot that the above three games did for me, but it was really close, which is why it lands here.
Zestiria is definitely more than the sum of its parts which are all stellar to start off with. New combat system that allows for fighting right inside of the environment while not quite being anything new per say in the land of the JRPG as Infinite Undiscovery had already done this years prior, but it was something new to this series especially that the core mechanics are as they've always been. The Linear fighting system that has been around since the beginning still rocks as it has only ever gotten better. Add in that combos and artes have gotten a bit of a new work around and things were simply solid.
Characters themselves were great. What truly made things interesting and honestly awkward at times was the fact that most of them do not exist within the human realm, and thus, are invisible. This was amazing touch as in a lot of cases other than a simple nod to this fact, the fact that our characters are talking to someone else is ignored and or just simply passed over. Actually using this element to the narratives advantage was great and done much more than once.
Other than the ability to finally jump within this style, Victor Vran plays host to a lot of solid features that while could have been great on their own, are made better with jumping. Each zone around the map is an instance that comes with challenges of their own that each have their own rewards for completing. Unique in a manner to this style is that Victor himself does not have skills to draw upon but instead his skills come from the weapons that he is currently wielding. Swords, Hammers, Tesla Guns, Shotguns, Mortars, Scythes, and so on. Each weapon has its own advantages and disadvantages per situation which is why two separate weapons can be equipped at a time and changed on the fly in order to wreak maximum havoc upon your foes. All of these features combined makes for amazing gameplay that is easy to get lost in for hours at a time either solo or with a friend.
The controls were perfect.
And it had the Battletoads.
If you haven’t already played? WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? It’s now on all the systems and there are no longer any excuses!
I would have loved this in my Top 3 however the only reason it doesn't make it is because A) there are only three, and B) unlike the rest it is a remake. An incredible and stellar remake, but the rest are newer entries into the world of Video Games and have not been seen before.
The Re:Birth brand of the Neptunia series shows exactly what a remake or a re-release should be. Improved mechanics, added storylines and characters to the point of wholly new content at times, and improved system resource allocations. The third entry into the series broke away into a parallel world for its own set of shenanigans as NEptune in one way or another ends up needing to not only save this world, but the world that she came from. Originally having been one of my favorite games, Re:Birth 3 only made it more so with all of its additions and modifications making an already great game stellar.
Initially released in 2013 for iOS and Android, it is the recent PC port that I'm the most familiar with; hence the inclusion on this list. Developed by Kumobius, Duet is a minimal puzzle-action game in which you guide two orbs - red and blue - through a series of white glowing shapes. The objective is to avoid them and make it through the end of the stage successfully. Failure results in an immediate restart of the stage... and that's one of the many magic elements of this game. You see, anytime you screw up the game instantly rewinds to the start of the stage in a seamless, fluid, uninterrupted manner. Out of context, this mechanic may not sound much but when you see it in action, you too will experience the magic.
Duet's OST, composed by Tim Shiel, may very well be among the perfect video game albums in existence. Words cannot describe the heavenly nature of the album, with each title akin to that freshly brewed cup of herbal tea. Do yourself a favor and play this game!
What an awesome game. What an awful name. The following will sound cliche and over-saturated, but bear with me: Tembo is an addictive platformer that kept me hooked well past my normal gaming time. I play my games in short bursts because I like to stretch out the experience as much as I can - but with Tembo I made an exception. In one sitting I'd finished 75% of the game, before I forcibly yanked myself away from the computer... only to return to it a few hours later and finish it 100%. For a game with such a lame title, it sure is fun and entertaining as hell!
As we look forward to 2016 and for the promise of Doom 4 set in industrial hell, 2015 will forever remind me as the year in which I played hell-lotta addictive games than any of the years prior, with titles such as Duet, Tennis in the Face, Rocket League and of course, Tembo, taking up way too much of my free time than I normally allow.
Honorable mentions go Fallout 4, Pac-Man 256 and a big shoutout to the classics from yesteryears which I played for the first time in 2015: Fallout: New Vegas, Team Fortress 2, Sega Rally REVO and the eternal perennial classic, Interstate '76!
For all of the games I played this year, the one that I spent the most time getting lost in was Elite: Dangerous fox Xbox One. The fact that the PC version was released in 2014 is the only reason that Elite: Dangerous is not listed in my top three (taking the place of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt) as it is simply a stunning game. Boasting a 1:1 of the Milky Way galaxy, Elite: Dangerous is absolutely massive and as a space combat sim, can be complex. Though I went in with some trepidation due to not having my HOTAS and VoiceAttack voice-activated macros, I was blown away at how well the controller actually worked. Aside from a perfect port, any excuse to hop back into my Imperial Clipper and cruise the stars is a welcome one. Elite: Dangerous like its predecessor is a timeless classic that will be around for years and decades to come.
The world itself is fleshed out with tons of great locations and characters. Shades of grey abound; there are few one-note characters in this story. The side quests are significantly better than most RPG fare with fleshed out backgrounds and characters.
The main quest is fascinating to me because it also turns the typical RPG "save the world" cliche on its head a little bit. It has a similar backdrop to Game of Thrones: human kingdoms are warring with each other while a supernatural threat lingers that could wipe out the entire world. But Geralt's story isn't about saving the world, at least not directly. It is about saving his adopted daughter. Saving the world is really her story; you just need to make sure she can. It is a personal story, well-written, and ties very well into the existing Witcher canon.
From a gameplay perspective, it greatly improves on the systems from The Witcher 2. I could nitpick the way it handles group fighting, atrocious swimming mechanics, or your horse's pathfinding, but that is all it would be, nitpicking. It absolutely nails the most important criteria for RPGs: great characters, great stories, great side-quests, and a world that you enjoy being in for the 100+ hours you'll be playing. Throw in a great visual style and one of the absolute best minigames around (seriously, why is Gwent so good?), and this was an easy pick for my favorite game in 2015.
Fallout 4 has warts, no doubt. The character models are looking rough. The conversation system doesn't allow for true "role-playing" (most responses are the same no matter which option you choose). The game is more combat-focused than previous Fallout games. The lack of level cap means that given enough time playing, everyone's characters will have all the same stats. Ditto for crafting: as great as the crafting system is, once you've gotten a few perks, most people will have the same weapons. Keeping settlements safe and happy is a chore. It has plenty of bugs.
But I still find myself drawn to it. Why? The world that Bethesda has built is overflowing with little stories and experiences that most people will never even see. And I'm not just talking about all the terminal entries that people skim over (although some of those are really good). There some whole areas that have nothing to do with any quests (main or side) like the robot racing track or deep underground quarries. There are little environmental details that the level designers put in every nook-and-cranny. My wife and I started to point out the little things we'd seen. Two stuffed teddy bears set up to play chess, holding beer bottles. Two skeletons pushing a stroller with a plunger where the baby should be. An "intervention" note on a dead raider's body from his buddies saying he needed to lay off the chems.
Those little nuances bring the world to life and encourage you to keep exploring. I've spent a lot of time in Fallout 4's Commonwealth, and I feel like I've barely scratched the surface.
Any game that consumes that much of my time and forces me to ignore quality AAA titles on my shelf has to make my GOTY list.
I will confess: I'm a sucker for zombies, whether they are in movies, TV, video games, board games, whatever. Obviously, I'm not alone, because the last 5-10 years have been crowded with new zombie media, well into the "over saturation" zone. Nowadays, you have to do something different to make zombies interesting again. ZAT's hook is twofold. First the setting is WW2 era, which immediately sets it apart from the glut of modern games. The only thing better than shooting than zombies is shooting Nazi zombies! Second, by basing it on the Sniper series, it gives the gameplay a different feel than the usual shotgun/pistol-heavy zombie games.
Where it really shines for me is the co-op gameplay. The game is challenging without being frustrating. It has a real sense of tension and you really come to depend on your teammates.
I'm a big fan of co-operative campaigns and unfortunately, those really feel like they are on the decline right now. Does the story in ZAT stand up against Halo 5? No...but unburdened by expectations or an unnecessary desire to be "epic", the game itself feels funner. I may be the only one that feels this way, but if I want to jump online for some co-op with friends or family, I'd rather play ZAT than Halo 5.
Is it one of the three best games to come out this year? No. But the experiences I had playing it are some of the best and that makes it one of my favorites.
My top two games of the year were no-brainers. Of all the time I've spent playing video games this year, those two probably accounted for 80% of the play time. My third pick was unconventional, but I'm confident in saying that I enjoyed playing it more than many other games. That being said, there is a huuuuuge caveat in my list this year. I've only just started playing two of the year's biggest releases, Assassin's Creed: Syndicate and Rise of the Tomb Raider. From what I've seen so far, either one has the potential to slide into the top 3, but I just haven't spent enough time with them yet. Unfortunately that is the nature of the beast for Game of the Year lists when the vast majority of big games release in the last 2 months.
Assassin's Creed Syndicate is definitely one of the better games in the AC series (my personal fave is ACIV: Black Flag). The dual protagonists are an interesting twist and Victorian England is a great setting. As much as I'd like to see Ubisoft finally make some major improvements to the overall engine, as long as they keep producing games like this one, I'll keep buying them.
Rise of the Tomb Raider picks right up from where the excellent 2013 Tomb Raider left off. The world is more open, Lara herself is more mature, the puzzles are improved, the environment looks great, her new tools are a blast to use. I continue to be amazed at how Crystal Dynamics took a franchise that had become a joke and turned it into a compelling adventure story with a character that actually has real personality now and not just a ridiculous bra size.
I'll also toss a shout out to Disney Infinity 3.0, as I have enjoyed it quite a bit this year. It was only a matter of time before Disney added Star Wars to their little cash cow and they did an admirable job blending it into the universe. The figures themselves are awesome, but I didn't find myself enjoying the game itself as much as Infinity 2.0. I imagine it is because there feels is more variety in powers for the Avengers than there are for Star Wars. There are only so many things you can do with a lightsaber. But at the end of the day, lightsabers are cool, and this series is still one of my favorites to play with my kids.