Say what you will, but I thought 2015 was a damn good year for video game fans. With a variety of big budget titles, insanely popular indies, and even JRPGs finally finding a home on PC via Steam, there was a little something for everyone. But who has the time and money to buy and play everything?
I’m a mere mortal, so of course there were a few games I skipped out on this year, or didn’t get around to finishing up. Fallout 4, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, and Rise of the Tomb Raider have yet to find their way on to my shelf, and that segues in to the point of this post, I suppose.
I played a lot of games in 2015.
It’s hard narrowing it down to 10 of my favorites, not just because there were so many to pick from (side note: I didn’t enjoy a lot of what I played, since it was purely for review purposes at the old blog), but I didn’t feel confident adding things like remasters, or games I didn’t put enough time in to.
So I leave you with this; a short list of games (in no particular order) that I really enjoyed in 2015, but didn’t meet my own personal criteria to land on a definitive end-of-year list.
Essentially Playstation’s answer to Monster Hunter, once Capcom began developing their insanely popular series solely on Nintendo platforms–although nowhere near as popular. I adored Toukiden: Kiwami, and sank a good 30 hours in to it on PS4, but it’s technically a remaster of Toukiden: Age of Demons on Playstation Vita that released in 2013.
The campaign itself is pretty repetitive, with your created Slayer (see; person that slays Oni by ripping their limbs off, and communicates with dead people) completing quests for the locals in between hunting gigantic monsters. Like Monster Hunter, there’s a bunch of weapons to specialize in, loads of loot to collect and armor to craft, huge monsters to slay, and endless replay value of the 4-player online co-op variety. Unlike Monster Hunter, however, there’s actually a story.
The repetition didn’t bother me too much, since the game is just so damn fun to play, but the online community is still rather small. All of the storage upgrades and whatnot are also linked directly to the campaign, so even if you’re only interest is playing with friends, you’ll still need to trudge through the 40+ hour story mode to avoid running back to a vendor between each slaying. It’s probably best to familiarize yourself with each of the weapon styles and the monsters you’ll come up against, but 40 hours isn’t exactly a small amount of time to invest.
Here’s hoping next year’s Toukiden 2 will be more well received on PS4.
Ori and the Blind Forest
Ori and the Blind Forest is quite possibly the most visually stunning game on the Xbox One, but it’s also a rock solid metroidvania platformer with an emotional story that works in tandem with its beautiful art style. Trust me, the first 10 minutes will likely have you sobbing in to your shirt sleeve.
Ori is the first 2D platformer I’ve ever played where I preferred using the analog stick over the Xbox One’s nearly flawless D-pad, because the controls required so much damn precision. The platforming itself is expertly crafted, and a large majority of the game is spent using it to navigate vivid environments, unlocking power-ups, and battling a dull variety of monsters while increasing Ori’s power through its level-up system. The lack of any real boss fight was a little disheartening, but the quality of the game’s level design and overall visual polish carried the game extremely well.
Had I finished Ori, I’m positive it would have landed in the top 10, but unfortunately that’s just not the case.
I somehow managed to avoid the Playstation 4’s biggest exclusive of 2015, outside of a short one-day rental. I’m a fan of From Software’s Souls series, and I was eagerly awaiting Bloodborne earlier in the year, but it just got lost in the shuffle and never made its way to my shelf until Black Friday.
What I played of Bloodborne, I thought was incredible. I honestly prefer its more aggressive approach to combat, requiring you to keep the pressure on in order to regenerate health and exploit enemy patterns with a combination of trick weapons and gun counters. Its gothic horror setting was basically eye-sex as well, showing off the power of the PS4 very early in its life cycle.
Bloodborne is at the top of my list of games to play during my winter break from college, but with only a small chunk of it being explored, it didn’t feel right adding it to my end-of-year list.
After initially passing on the PC version, I picked up Titan Souls on a whim during Sony’s holiday sale on PS4. It’s clearly inspired by the challenging games of yore, and presents an excellent blend of The Legend of Zelda’s heart and soul, and Shadow of the Colossus’ boss rush style of gameplay. It’s also cross-buy for Vita, which is always a selling point.
In Titan Souls, you control a young archer who battles menacing titans with nothing more than a single arrow and a dodge roll at their disposal. There’s no fodder, no trash mobs, just a neat little world and the boss creatures that dwell within it. (P.S. they want to kill you.)
Each battle is a game of trial and error, as you learn the tell of their attacks, their movement patterns, and figure out ways to exploit their only weak spot. You only have one magical arrow, after all, so every shot counts. The arrow itself can be pulled back to your current position, which is a fun little mechanic that lets you pull off some creative trick shots–at the cost of leaving yourself wide open to attacks.
It’s a brilliant game that’s very well executed, but I just haven’t managed to pull off the last few boss kills yet. I’m working on it!
Batman: Arkham Knight
I don’t usually get in to super hero games, and hell, I’ve never even played Arkham Asylum or City outside of an hour or two. I picked up Arkham Knight on a whim during Amazon’s price flub during Black Friday, snagging a digital copy of the game on PS4, along with its season pass, for a mere $15. Why not, right? Especially when the console version seems to be the only one that works.
I recently noticed my PS4 was starting to run out of HD space, and with Batman taking up a lot of prime real estate, it vaulted up to the front of my must-play list in preparation for 2016 releases. I also have really shitty internet, and absolutely no desire to download 70+ gb worth of content ever again. Ever.
Now that I’m in the thick of it, however, I’m really enjoying it. It could do with a bit less Batmobile, sure, but the action is intense, Gotham is gorgeous, and I feel pretty MLG thanks to its fairly simple combat system. There’s something about dive kicking through a window, sneaking under a vent, and taking down a group of thugs before hopping in the Batmobile that just feels right.
Mortal Kombat X
There was a time in my life where I couldn’t wait to pick up and play the newest fighting game, but that ship sailed years ago. I still love them, don’t get me wrong, but I severely lack the dedication and competitive drive needed to feel anything above slightly mediocre online.
As someone who still enjoys a good training mode and single player content, no fighter offers more of this than Mortal Kombat X. There’s just a ridiculous amount of stuff to do, on- and offline, making it well worth its asking price. That season pass though? Probably not so much.
This year’s campaign was a little hokey, but I still had fun jumping around each of the different story arcs, learning the ropes with the newcomers, and soaking in the campy dialogue. It also looks pretty damn good, too. The gore is on point, with more blood on display than Kane Hodder’s basement, and my classic favorites have never looked better. I think some of the fatalities were too samey, but the in-match Brutalities gave the finale some much needed flavor and added an element of surprise missing from previous entries.
After reaching max level with Shinnok and unlocking a majority of the Achievements on Xbox One, I figured it was time to step online. 10 straight losses, however, sent me packing right back to the Living Towers, and I eventually ended up selling the game a couple of days later. I know I got my money’s worth out of Mortal Kombat X, and honestly, this was one of the two games up for my final Top 10 spot. It was narrowly edged out, but not by much.
Maybe if they added Baraka to the roster? Maybe.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
When I began playing The Phantom Pain, I thought to myself “now here’s a game that’s easily one of the best I’ve played in 2015,” but here I am, adding it to the honorable mentions list. Truth be told, the clusterfuck of a story lost me around the 10 hour mark, and I just stopped having fun in the open world (which I still feel is totally unnecessary and adds absolutely nothing worthwhile to the game).
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes introduced some incredibly satisfying gameplay mechanics to the series, and I had a blast putting them to good use in The Phantom Pain as Kiefer Snake (or Kay-Snay, as I dubbed him). The mission structure was fine, the gameplay was insanely good, and I was fulton’ing everything back to Mother Base that wasn’t stapled down to the Earth’s crust. And D-dog. D-dog, D-horse, and I, we had a real bond. But it just wasn’t strong enough to see the game through.
One day I hope to revisit The Phantom Pain, but it just wasn’t what I wanted out of Metal Gear at that moment in time. Knowing that parts of the story were cut killed what little motivation I had to unwillingly endure its convoluted story (which is nothing new to the series, but somehow exacerbated in TPP), and there were plenty of other games to play instead.
Techland’s open-world horror title surprised me, since I’ve never been a fan of Dead Island, nor first-person platforming. But the world was beautiful (in a zombie apocalypse kind of way), the gameplay was tight, and I was totally in to its hardcore parkour platforming. Well, until night fell and I had to find shelter before being turned in to man soup. Talk about intense.
I loved what Techland did with Dying Light, and honestly I have very little to complain about, but it’s a game my girlfriend and I wanted to play together. We have two consoles, and we’re not strangers to the realm of co-op (having put absurd amounts of time in to the likes of Diablo III, Borderlands, Neverwinter, and various other games), so when we have the option to play something together, it’s just what we prefer. We only have one copy right now though, so needless to say, it was put on hold.
For a game to release so early in the year and leave such an impact, says a lot about Techland as a developer. I applaud their fresh take on the horror genre, and here’s hoping I (we) can eventually dive in and experience the rest of the game.
This odd looking fella’ is one of the more addictive games I played this year, and holy damn is it tough. It doesn’t help that I suck pretty bad at Downwell, mostly due in part to my inability to function in-game while under pressure, but it harkens back to my NES roots while offering a different experience every time I play it.
Gameplay is pretty minimalist, with movement limited to left and right, along with the option to jump and use of a pair of gunboots to shoot downwards (slowing your fall and killing things–talk about functional!). If you manage to survive your randomly generated descent, you’re awarded random power-ups (much like Binding of Isaac) that remain until you inevitably meet your demise and start all over again.
Downwell started as a mobile game, and has since made its way to PC via Steam (thanks to the amazing folks at Devolver Digital), but I can see why it exploded in popularity on the small screen. Its play, die, play again nature is truly addicting and would make it an ideal bathroom game, or something to do if you only have a few minutes to spare. I’m desperately hoping Devolver Digital ports this to the Vita so I can do just that, instead of tethering myself to my monitor.
So there you have it. Not an overly surprising list, but I wanted to give these games their due credit without a huge disclaimer at the bottom of my next post.
Expect my definitive end-of-year list here shortly, as soon as I manage to work out the kinks, and feel free to leave your own list down in the comments. I’m always curious as to what other people are playing.
Thanks for reading!