Including a shit ton of honorable mentions.
2015 was a great year for games overall. Not necessarily in terms of number of all-time-greats, but the sheer volume of really good experiences across multiple genres. There was pretty much something for everyone. (Although, 2015 didn’t have Puyo Puyo Tetris so calm the fuck down.)
As such there are a lot of games that would have made my list in a normal year that didn’t make this list. I was much more willing to cut off games whose flaws pissed me off than I might have been in a year where new releases had left me more unfulfilled. Maybe that’s not true, but with every frustrating experience having an entire lists worth of games that I really liked sitting below it, the difficult cuts became easier.
This list is about games this year that I really liked. So If a game isn’t on my list I either don’t like it, didn’t play it, forgot, or I just didn’t feel like putting it on this list because I’ve got enough shit already and I feel pretty eh about it. (Shoutouts to Evolve and Elite: Dangerous)
Honorable Mentions: Not Actually Released Games
There were some games this year that I had a lot of fun with, that weren’t together enough to make the list this year, but who knows what the future holds.
Unreal Tournament (Pre-Alpha)
This was a great jump in, jump out game for me this year. Gameplay is fast and exhilarating, guns look real good. Maps visuals are all over the place but I kinda don’t care. What I want from this game is here and free, it’s just only something I want for small bursts at a time.
This is basically Tetris Battle Gaiden without the license, but with competitive online. The result leads to some decisions in design, including 5-block pieces, that make it a lesser game but feel necessary to avoid copyright infringement. Also the free open beta only has random matchmaking so no playing against friends yet. Looking forward to the full release.
This game is going to be great. I am very excited for it, almost considered putting it on the list, but the nature of the closed beta keeps it off. I really want this thing to be out and available to everyone.
Honorable Mentions: DLC
Dragon Age: Inquisition – Trespasser (Jaws of Hakkon, and The Descent)
DA: Inquisition was my number three game of the year last year and this year it got three solid single player DLC packs that I just gobbled up. The ending of DA:I left me wanting a sequel, but the DLC they put out this year actually quenched that desire, which was its goal. Trespasser in particular is the cap on the story of your Inquisitor and it’s a good end to that story, that still sets up the next Dragon Age game, whenever Bioware decides to make that. It’s not as amazing as Mass Effect: Citadel, but it left me satisfied. This almost made the list just because I liked what Inquisition set up so much and was really happy to get a fitting epilogue to that journey.
Honorable Mentions: Video Games I Never Actually Touched Myself
This is one I totally would have played if I owned a PS4, but I do not, so I ended up watching two entire separate playthroughs of it. Turns out the choices you make don’t quite matter as much as the game leads you on to think they do (What a shock). And yet, taking the formula of narrative choice based gameplay and applying it to a tropey horror movie story just works.
Contradiction – the all-video murder mystery adventure
If you like FMV, oh man, this game is for you. Dances all around the quality scale. This is a great ride on the performance side of things, even though the story is no great shakes. That they recorded new dialogue for showing almost every thing you find to every person you can talk to is what makes this.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Not quite the same kinda thing as the last two, but I never did actually touch the video game part of this thing. The fun here comes from translating the purposefully confusing manual and getting the right information to and from the person with the bomb. I actually think the more you play and come to understand the mechanics of things here, the less interesting it is. There’s still the communication aspect, which is big, developing common terms and whatnot. But the wrestling with the bad directions under pressure is what I found fun, and after a handful of games you’re basically already rewriting them in your head.
Honorable Mentions: Video Game?
Her Story involves using a terrible search engine on a fake old computer to comb through video to piece together a story until you are satisfied. For me, Her Story is an example of the power of full motion video for serious character work. It’s the performance of Viva Seifert that holds this together. The moment where I knew I liked it was when I found the song. That Her Story works at all is impressive.
Honorable Mentions: Best Horror Game
This game entirely devoured a weekend of mine, I couldn’t stop as I watched in horror as my streets and bus stops became horrible atrocities. Cities Skylines doesn’t have disasters, but it doesn’t need them, the true horror is poor infrastructure. Not sure this is actually a video game and not some kind of Sisyphean nightmare I had.
Honorable Mentions: Video Games!
Hey, these are video games!
Splatoon makes console shooters fresh again with an emphasis on shooting the environment instead of other players. This makes the lack of precision not an issue and opened up the genre to new players. It’s neat and fun.
Yoshi’s Wooly World
Wooly World takes the charming visual design principles from Kirby’s Epic Yarn but ties them to a game that’s just more fun to play, with some actual difficulty chops. A Co-Op challenge that’s fun and allows for plenty of messing with your friend, but doesn’t punish you for it. The absence of a lives system actually makes a world of difference to the low stress feel of this game.
If you’re good at rhythm games have I got a game for you. Xonic overwhelms me for the most part, and I could only really play it with the difficulty turned all down. So this is a solid, challenging rhythm game that I can only scratch the surface of. I find some of the structure around the progression arcane and dumb, but whatever, free play mode works well.
Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX
I find it hilarious that the Rhythm game portion of this game (AKA the actual video game) is in a tiny menu option in the corner. So there’s a lot on the presentation side here that I don’t love, but the rhythm game part I really like. I have plenty of little nitpicks that kept it off the list, but I’m not going to go into them here. Best 3DS game I played this year.