With the year closing like most other people I decided to look back and take stock of what it offered us. At first I really wasn’t going to do a ranking in the traditional sense as really what is the difference between the fourth and third on a list like this anyways? However the exercise does offer you a way of consolidating your thoughts and therefore has merit.
One thing though that must be said is I don’t believe these to be the “Best” games of 2015. No these are merely my favorite games of 2015, indeed if you know my personal biases this list wont surprise you in anyway. There really isn’t some big wow that’s a weird pick, however these are the games that for a time captured my attention and mind (a hard task now a days) in 2015.
5) Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
I’ll start right off and say I’m not a huge Metal Gear guy, hell I was 50/50 on getting the game day one and came so close to trading it in early, actually my favorite Kojima game has always been Zone of the Enders by far. Metal Gear Solid V did not change that view for me, as a series I still think there is a certain amount of pretension built in under all the silliness that turns me off. However Metal Gear Solid V rose above all my initial prejudices about the title by simply being a damn good game.
From the beautifully rendered open world, the great stealth combat along with the option (if you want) to just blow things up. The Phantom Pain didn’t feel like another Metal Gear game to me, instead it gave the player freedom the series has never really offered and it worked. Also as a personal aside the 80’s rock and the relative (to Metal Gear) attention to historical detail was a good trick. Too bad about the ending though... anyways thanks Big Boss I owe you one.
4) Final Fantasy Type-0 HD
As Metal Gear Solid V is on this list despite its series Type-0 is likely here because of it. I love Final Fantasy however in recent years I found the whole thing kind of stale even as I continued to defend the series. I wanted something different and while Lightning Returns was a step in the right direction it wasn’t a radical enough departure. Enter Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. As a spin off to the series it was granted the right to do things the numbered sequels couldn’t, it was allowed to innovate or at least throw things against the wall and see what sticks.
This made Type-0 HD both a surprising and familiar experience. I was also lucky I seemed to actually enjoy what other people didn’t, the plot never felt all that non-nonsensical mostly due to the fact I’m already well versed in the mythos of Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy (Final Fantasy is kinda pretentious too...) and actually made sense in the universal order Square has established over the years in the sub-series. Also the game can pack an emotional punch with the ending standing out particularly strongly.
Furthermore the battle system just struck me, being an amazing blend of high speed action and RPG mechanics. It’s best part was flexibility and openness to multiple play styles; this flexibility also allowed tests of skill I haven’t found in many other JRPG with my one on one duel (I was using the Monk type character Eight) with Gilgamesh standing out as probably the best fight in a game I’ve had all year. In the end Type-0 isn’t a perfect game by any stretch but it is a game I’ve been waiting a long time for and it delivered.
3) Batman: Arkham Knight
Yup a western game on this list, surprise I know. However you know you really like a game when you’ve put over 50 hours into something and have done something like 98% of what there is to do (I refuse to look for Riddler Trophies...). However I’ve always liked these games and I really liked this one. With improved combat (I always felt it was too sluggish before) and a Batman that really felt tuned into the self-destructive nature of his mission there was a lot to like. Furthermore Gotham the city was gorgeous with the neo-noir of Batman: The Animated Series and Tim Burton films being so well crafted.
Sadly though flaws were present such as initially odd Batmobile mechanics, over reliance of jump scares, and the glut of pointless missions that gave the sense Rocksteady bought into the idea of more equals better. Thankfully those flaws do not out weight the great aspects of the game, such as the games most important success; the fact it makes you feel like Batman with all the power and responsibility that it entails. If Batman: Arkham Knight was the last Batman game I ever played I’d be fine with that as Rocksteady nailed it.
PS: Mark Hamill rocked it as the Joker the creative decisions surrounding his character were inspired. Even Kevin Conroy couldn’t keep up with the best Crown Prince of Crime.
Just as Bloodborne spilled a lot of blood the industry spilled a lot of ink in covering this brutal masterwork from FromSoftware. In any other year this would EASILY have been my game of the year sadly this is 2015 and it has to settle for second best. However what a second best it was. Bloodborne was a surprise as I loved Demon Souls, devoured Dark Souls, and then put down Dark Souls 2. Why? The games got boring, the boss design felt perfunctory at best and a clear retread at worst in short the series felt stagnant.
Bloodborne changed all this. Shield’s gone, guns hell ya take a gun hell make it a blunderbuss, oh you want to be careful and deliberate well screw you its quick slash time if you want that health back. Bloodborne was finally different it was clear it was a FromSoftware game but separate from what came before and all the better for it. On a personal note I much preferred the Victorian setting of the game to the dark medieval settings of previous games and more games really should include some Lovecraftian horrors every now and then. In the end Bloodborne brought me back to the franchise and I’m thankful for that, I’m even looking a little forward to Dark Souls III.
Game of the Year - The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
As I said above any other year and Bloodborne easily takes the top stop but 2015 had The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt a game which I am feeling more and more secure in calling my favorite game ever. To one friend I described the Wild Hunt as close to the Platonic ideal of an Open World RPG as the industry has ever produced. With the exception of a few technical issues here and there there is no glaring flaw, in an age when Open World RPG’s are almost expected to come out broken this is a revolution.
Furthermore the game admirably captures the magic and urgency of Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels allowing the games to tap into the brilliant back story an advantage most games don’t have. An example of how this effects the game play is despite the fact I had a personal preference for Triss as a book reader I knew it was Yennefer who was Gerelt’s true love. However the lack of knowledge of the books in no way limits the enjoyment of the game. It’s merely value added fanservice that during Yennefers and Gerelts second courtship the two run into a Djinn the very type of being that bound them together.
The Wild Hunt is Geralts last ride his ultimate mission and the game is better for it. I’ve long made the argument death is what makes life meaningful, things ending is an important part to any story it’s bitter sweet yes, but it remains an necessary and intricate part. In an age where franchises never end we’re trapped in a malaise where our heroes never die they merely linger and eventually fade. This sad state of affairs was never supposed to be and was not the case with The Wither 3 as its finality was what made it so important and satisfying.
I love the The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt I was itching to play it as it was approaching and even now it still has a hold on my mind the way other games don’t. I get personal opinion but I don’t get people who don’t like The Witcher 3 it’s just such an alien concept to me. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt isn’t just my game of the year it’s my game of the generation and even decade. It’s a tour de’force of game making prowess and I doubt we’ll see anything like it soon. Ride onto the sunset Geralt I’ll miss you but you earned it.
PS: I need to say this but I couldn’t fit it into the main write up. The moment the game expanded to Skelliga I literally thought to myself with a giant smile on my face “It’s BIGGER...” realizing a game I thought was ending was barely half over. Hell that happened to me at least twice. The game is MASSIVE.
Honorable Mentions: Trails in the Sky SC/Trails of Cold Steel I haven’t finished these games but they’re awesome I think it’s likely Cold Steel could have displaced Metal Gear Solid V if it came out a month earlier. Atelier Shallie my last PS3 game its weird but being the conclusion to the Dusk trilogy also oddly fitting.