The Best & Worst Games of 2015
2015 was a year of three games. That is of course if you don't count the other twenty eight games I played over the last twelve months, or the hundreds of other home console releases I chose to ignore.
So yeah, three games.
There were three new games that made a lasting impression, but that isn't to say that I didn't have lots of fun playing other things in 2015.
This year I enjoyed series debuts and finales, cars playing football and squids fragging squids. I played games on the big TV and others in the palm of my hand, and for the first time I didn’t play anything new on 7th Generation hardware. I stayed up well past my bedtime for E3 bombshells, accidently-on-purpose bought another 3DS and was treated to improved versions of two of my all-time favourite games.
In 2015 I played games, thought about games and occasionally wrote about games. Games are good and these are the games that I played in 2015.
PLAYED: 3D Outrun, 3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2, 3D Space Harrier, 3D Streets of Rage, Alien Isolation, Assassin's Creed Unity, Bloodborne, Dragon Age Inquisition, Driveclub (PS+ Edition), Entwined, Game of Thrones S1, Geometry Wars 3, Hotline Miami 2, Killzone: Mercenary, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, OlliOlli 2, Persona 4 Dancing All Night, Resident Evil HD, Rocket League, Rogue Legacy, Skulls of the Shogun, Splatoon, Super Meat Boy, The Order: 1886, The Unfinished Swan, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, Valiant Hearts, Yakuza 0
CURRENTLY PLAYING: Just Cause 3
BOUGHT BUT HAVE YET TO PLAY: Call of Duty Advanced Warfare, Final Fantasy Type 0 HD, Xenoblade Chronicles X
What follow are the best and worst games of 2015, according to me. Let me know what you think in the comments.
1. Game of the Year: Bloodborne
This year’s GOTY could’ve easily been MGSV. Gameplay-wise it is near faultless, but ultimately it’s an unfinished game that struggles to tell the story that I, and I think its creators wanted to tell. Bloodborne was more consistent and complete in its brilliance, and that’s why it’s my GOTY.
Bloodborne tweaks the Souls formula just enough to make it a very different and distinct experience, but there’s no mistaking its lineage. Just like its spiritual successors, it is constantly teaching you without resorting to laborious tutorials; the learning is in the doing and it’s up to the player to pay attention and adapt. This approach isn’t for everyone, but if it clicks, then there’s nothing quite like it.
Bloodborne’s combat is much faster and more fluid than Dark Souls’. Aggression is rewarded by way of the health regain system, though your lightly armoured hunter is very susceptible to damage. This is more seat-of-your-pants than deliberate slog, as you weave in and out of danger, choosing when to pounce and when to hold back. Jump in at the wrong time and even the most elementary of enemies will make short work of you. Choose the correct window for action and you’ll be dancing around your helpless foe, weaving in and out of danger, perfectly in-sync with the rhythm of combat. It’s a great feeling when you nail it.
The atmosphere is fantastic, the story vague yet fascinating, and I love the nightmarish Victorian-London-like setting. While it isn’t always easy going, it is always worthwhile, and the sense of accomplishment when you defeat a troublesome boss is unmatched.
I revisited it earlier this month to play through the Old Hunters expansion, and I couldn’t put it down. It served to convince me, if I even needed convincing, that Bloodborne is the very best of 2015.
Honourable Mentions: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
2. Best pre-2015 Game I Played This Year (for the first time): Dragon Age Inquisition
I started Dragon Age Inquisition at the very end of last year, but didn’t play enough to seriously consider it for GOTY honours. Having since played it to completion, I feel that it was definitely one of the two best games of last year. I appreciated the vastness of it all, the interesting cast and liked the way it kept me busy over 70+ hours. The Witcher 3 has since raised the bar for Western RPGs, but Inquisition is still an excellent game and a welcome return to form for the DA series.
Honourable Mention: Alien Isolation
3. Biggest Surprise: Rocket League
Cars and football: two things that do not interest me in the slightest. I should have hated Rocket League, but instead I found myself stuck in a “just one more match” loop for much of the summer. A simple game at first blush, it is surprisingly deep and nuanced, which you discover after investing hours trying to get a car to volley a football.
Honourable Mention: Splatoon, Skulls of the Shogun
4. Biggest Disappointment: Narrative Delivery in Metal Gear Solid V
I have never so readily and so easily found fault with a game that I love. At times, MGSV takes your breath away, at others it frustrates and confounds. It is hugely disappointing that the concluding chapter of such a narrative-focussed series should be so lacking in this area. I understand the reasoning behind the audio files, but the game relies on them far too much, often turning major plot points into background noise. Entire plotlines disappear without conclusion and lead villain Skull Face is one of the most underdeveloped and forgettable baddies of the entire series.
Dishonourable Mention: Uncharted 4 delays
5. Best New IP: Splatoon
I’m giving Splatoon the nod as it gave me a reason to turn on my Wii U in a year that I otherwise wouldn’t have. Also, the only other serious contender, Rocket League, was a spiritual successor to a similar game by the same developer, so I’m not sure it really counts. Splatoon outperformed even the most optimistic of sales forecasts and proved that good things happen when Nintendo takes a risk on something entirely original.
Honourable Mention: Rocket League
6. Best Update: Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection
I enjoyed playing Uncharted 2 as much as any other game this year. It is the best of the last decade and I need little encouragement to play it again. Blue Point made the series shine on current gen hardware and I enjoyed trying my hand at the new time trials. I can’t get enough of these games, and was more than happy to take up the challenge of re-platinumizing the trilogy - one and two are done and I’ll tackle part three in the New Year.
Honourable Mention: 3D Sonic 2, Resident Evil HD
7. Best Game Mechanic: Fulton Recovery in MGSV: The Phantom Pain
Anything that isn’t nailed down can be ballooned back to Mother Base, and I sent all sorts of shit back home. Hunting for desirable objects became a game in and of itself, a constant and very welcome distraction that often took precedence over whatever I was supposed to be doing. People, animals, weapons, vehicles and shipping containers, I swiped them all in an effort to strengthen my nation of balaclavas. It is a simple mechanic, but one that I cannot imagine MGSV without.
Honourable Mention: Health-regain in Bloodborne
8. Standout Moment: The Bloody Baron, The Witcher 3
The Bloody Barron is the defining plot line in a game of narrative excellence. Featuring memorable and complicated characters, plenty of sword swinging action, horrific foes and a conclusion that is satisfying yet harrowing, at least in my game, The Bloody Baron is the best of The Witcher 3. When I think back to Geralt’s adventure, it’s this part of the story that I recall.
Honourable Mention: MGSV - the first time you improvise your way through an enemy base undetected. Bloodborne - figuring out how to beat Father Gascoigne.
9. Fastest Shelving: Assassin’s Creed Unity
Unity, not Syndicate, because I didn’t even bother with this year’s instalment of Assassin’s Creed. I played it for the setting - Revolutionary Paris is beautifully realised - but I quickly put it back down, once I’d tired of gameplay that has not changed in any meaningful way in six years. Compared to sandbox stars MGSV and The Witcher 3, AC is decrepit and I don’t plan on giving it any more of my time.
10. Best Nostalgia Trip: 3D Sonic 2
They even kept the slow-down in the Casino Zone levels - now that’s authentic! This was the best of an excellent collection of 3D remasters on the 3DS and a welcome reminder that Sonic was once a force to be reckoned with.
Honourable Mention: Resident Evil HD
11. Most Surreal 90 Minutes of 2015: Sony’s E3 Press Conference
Do you remember when Sony showed The Last Guardian, unveiled a Shenmue 3 Kickstarter and announced Final Fantasy VII Remake all during one press conference? The mad bastards!
12. Best Character: Geralt and Ciri, The Witcher 3
I was completely invested in this pair’s complicated but believable relationship. Ciri in particular was an outstanding character, far more powerful than those who sought to protect her, yet vulnerable enough that I could accept the urgency in Geralt’s quest to find her and keep her safe. I really enjoyed being able to play as both characters and experience both sides of their journey.
Honourable Mention: Young Goro Majima (Yakuza 0)
13. Most Rose-tinted Glasses Potential: Splatoon
As the years pass, I cherish the memory of playing some games more than I actually enjoyed playing them; I inflate their worth and choose to forget most of their failings. Past examples include Lost Planet 2, Prince of Persia and Max Payne 3. Splatoon is this year’s prime candidate, a game I enjoyed for a fortnight, while never playing for more than thirty minutes at a time. In five years, I’m likely to recall a game with the spirit of TimeSplitters and all the style of a Dreamcast stunner, when really it was just a decent shooter about squids fragging children.
14. Game I’m Most Likely to Sour on: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
It’s already happening. I had MGSV as my GOTY until I started writing this post and began tallying all the issues I had with it. If you had asked me what I thought about it a couple of months ago I would have said something silly about it being sublime and generation defining, or something equally gushing. Right now, I think it’s a flawed but excellent game; ask me in a year and I might have it ranked below MGS4 in the series hierarchy. If you hadn’t noticed, I’m still feeling pretty conflicted about The Phantom Pain!
15. Wasn’t Quite What I Hoped it Would be: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is an excellent game. I sunk almost forty hours into it, but it just wasn’t the same as MH3U, which was my game of the year in 2013. It wasn’t down to any failure on the game’s part, as it’s clearly an improvement on 3U. Instead, my disappointment stems from the way in which I played it. MH3U was a shared experience with my wife, and was all the more special for it. Unfortunately, she wasn’t up for a reprise, and playing with strangers just wasn’t the same. Sorry MH4U, it’s me, not you.
Dishonourable Mention: Yakuza 0 – decent enough, but I was expecting something special
16. Prettiest Moustaches: The Order 1886
The Order is quite the looker. It is a linear experience that isn’t interested in trying anything new, but it looks stunning all the same. To be fair, I enjoyed it far more than I expected, given all the negative reviews, and I’d highly recommend picking it up at a discounted price, if not just to marvel at how pretty it looks.
17. Best Multiplayer: Rocket League
Cars playing fucking football! If you’re playing Rocket League on your lonesome, then you’re doing it all wrong.
Honourable Mention: Splatoon, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
18. Most Annoying Trend: Crowdfunding Announcements as Game Reveals
"We'll make this game if you pay us to make it" announcements should be banned from press conferences, and anyone who applauds them should be shot and/or escorted from the premises. Unless it’s TimeSplitters, in which case it’s fine.
Dishonourable Mention: Unnecessary remasters (Prototype, Darksiders 2 etc.)
19. Best Dog: D-Dog, MGSV: The Phantom Pain
A throat-ripping, eyepatch wearing, enemy sniffing bad boy. I never leave Mother Base without him.
20. Mashing the Skip Button: Persona 4 Dancing all Night
I love Persona 4 and I love the Investigation Team, so I was well up for Dancing All Night. I was expecting a Hatsune Miku clone, only with characters I that don’t want to throttle and a lot more story. Unfortunately, what I got was a dull visual novel interspersed with the occasional dance off. It’s not too bad when the focus is on Yu and his friends, but far too much time is spent on new, uninteresting characters. Before long, I was skipping every optional dialogue sequence and I eventually abandoned the game entirely.
Dishonourable Mention: Just Cause 3
21. Most Likely to Have me Checking Wikis at Work: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
How many dead Rathalos does it take to make a Rath set of armour? Fourteen, but only if you hit the last one in the head really hard. The further you progress in MH4U the more time you’ll spend scouring the internet in search of charts, graphs and ingredient lists to ensure that you are the sharpest dressed motherfucker in the village. Time well spent.
Honourable Mention: Bloodborne
22. Most Frustrating: Just Cause 3
I want to blow shit up and fire my grapple hook at unsuspecting locals. What I don’t want to do is spend time trying to figure out stupid upgrade systems, unclear mission parameters, listening to characters I don’t care about talking rubbish, or sitting through yet another lengthy attempt to reconnect to the online servers. Just Cause 3 is great fun when you’re allowed to just get on with it, but unfortunately there’s too much shit getting in the way.
23. Wish I'd Made Time For: Xenoblade Chronicles X
This year, I was able to play most of the games I wanted to. My list of “games I bought but have yet to play” is tiny in comparison to previous years and I haven’t paid any attention to the end of year sales, as there’s next to nothing left that I want to play. Xenoblade Chronicles X is one of the few exceptions, though there’s no guarantee that I’m going to like it. I didn’t love what little I played of Xenoblade Chronicles, but I do enjoy a JRPG romp every now and again and I’m keen to make use of my Wii U. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Honourable Mention: Galak-Z (waiting for a sale)
24. Most Looking Forward to in 2016: Uncharted 4
The same answer as last year! I’m a bit concerned about the delays, but I do trust Naughty Dog to finish the series in style. If they don’t, I can always console myself with Dark Souls 3, No Man's Sky, Ni-Oh, Yakuza Kiwami & Yakuza 6, Fire Emblem Fates and possibly Mass Effect: Andromeda, The Last Guardian and Persona 5 if they don’t slip to 2017, which they almost certainly will.