Matt’s Top Ten Video Games of 2015
Just like it was for glorious metal, 2015 was an outstanding year for gamers. Tons of new and exciting games big and small which pushed the boundries of the medium were released this year. And while I didn’t get to play everything that 2015 had to offer, what I did play were some top quality experiences that I will be playing for many years to come. My main gaming machines are the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS as well as a PC that needs to be upgraded before I can play most games from the current gen (ie. PS4), so while things like Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3 seem like obvious choices for my list, I won’t be able to play them till I upgrade to a PS4 or better PC.
Also worth noting that while I’d drop the remaster of Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask for the 3DS at a high spot, I’m not including remakes/remasters here. Though, it is easily one of the best remasters ever and it’s a remaster of my all time favorite game. If you got a 3DS, it is an essential purchase, even worth buying the console for! I’m also omitting games that were released in Europe in 2015 but not US until 2016 (and vice-versa), so you’ll see them on my 2016 list (namely Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam).
So, without further ado, here’s my ten favorite games released in 2015.
10: Codename: S.T.E.A.M. (3DS)
A turn-based strategy slash 3rd person shooter hybrid where Abraham Lincoln (voiced by Wil Wheaton) leads a group of famous literary and folklore characters like The Cowardly Lion, Tom Sawyer, John Henry, and Henry Fleming through battles with Eldritch abominations all with a Jack Kirby comic book style. The moment I discovered you can play as Randolph Carter, H.P. Lovecraft’s alter-ego, and be able to summon Cthulhu as a special move the geek overload made me fall head over heels for this game. Shame the sales weren’t that great as between great strategy and the batshit crazy story, this is a hidden gem that will probably never see a sequel. Props to Nintendo for taking a big chance on this though.
9: Triforce Heroes (3DS)
Usually The Legend of Zelda is quite the solitary, epic experience filled with exploration. Here Nintendo puts a spin on the legendary franchise and calls back to the oft forgotten Four Swords Adventure. Three ‘Links’ team up to cooperatively brave dungeons and solve puzzles together which leads to a much faster paced, silly adventure. Only being able to communicate with your teammates with a handful of emoticons is a nice puzzle game touch where you need to think of creative ways to get puzzle solutions across to other players, though depending on your patience level, this can also be a source of frustration.
The silliness level is brought to extremes where to gain different buffs you dress your Link up in different costumes such as a cheerleader outfit complete with pom-poms, princess dresses, Goron suits, and my favorite, the Tingle Tights with balloons. All this to save the princess who has been cursed with bad fashion. Triforce Heroes doesn’t take itself seriously in the slightest and delivers a lighthearted breath of fresh air into the franchise. The music is also some of the best to grace a Zelda game ever, and that is no easy feat.
8: Yoshi’s Woolly World (Wii U)
The cuteness factor of this graphical marvel is an absolute overload. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that had a world that felt so tangible. It was like I could reach out to my TV screen and touch the arts and crafts worlds. Yoshis knitted of wool, clouds made of cotton puffs, shy-guys tied of string, waves spun of yarn. Often I found myself stopping to appreciate the little attentions to detail and creativity that Woolly World is overflowing with. Great level design, gameplay, and music also help this sidescrolling platformer succeed as well. As a bonus, the plush Yoshi Amiibos are the most adorable Nintendo collectibles I own.
7: Undertale (PC)
The less said about this game the better. It’s best gone into dry (watch the trailer, buy the game, stay away from spoilers). But I will say it’s an RPG with pixel art graphics, it’s heavily inspired by Earthbound, you can date a skeleton, the music is the best game soundtrack of the year, it advocates pacifism (or genocide), and it will fuck with your pretensions hardcore. What lies beneath its veneer of simplicity is truly something special. For ten bucks, some determination, and about 5 hours of your time, you won’t find any other gaming experience like this out there.
6: Splatoon (Wii U)
Leave it to Nintendo to completely turn the staling shooter and post-apocalyptic genres on their heads. A team based shooter where you play as a kid who can turn into a squid who can turn into a kid who can turn into a squid and you run and swim around levels trying to cover the most ground possible with your ink. It’s frantic fun-filled with more color than an explosion at a fireworks factory. Tons of other game modes, gear, weapons, and maps, monthly themed battles, and a robust online community make this a no-brainer for any WiiU owner and merits a purchase of the grossly underrated console. A great, albeit short, single player campaign is icing on the cake for a game that can get me to play a competitive shooter (my most least enjoyed genre). Also, as per usual with Nintendo games, the music is outstanding.
5: Tales from the Borderlands (Every platform except Nintendo)
Take one of my favorite game worlds of last gen and give it to one of my favorite developers and you got a recipe for magic. The cutthroat, crazy world and characters of Borderland’s Pandora lets TellTale Games deliver their absolute best work to date. Yes, imo, even better than The Walking Dead season one and The Wolf Among Us. The story, dialogue, humor, and even touching emotions are some of the best ever presented in an adventure game. TellTale haven’t reinvented the wheel here, so you’ll still get lots of decisions and QTEs as par for the course, but it is honed to perfection. There are so many laugh out loud moments (episode four, omg, I’m still laughing) and endearing characters in this game that it would be a crime against humanity if TellTale didn’t give us a season two. And in case you’re wondering, previous knowledge of Borderlands isn’t necessary, but it does make some of the jokes funnier.
4: Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U)
The Wii’s Xenoblade Chronicles is the best RPG to come out last generation. With a mix of MMO style gameplay and exploration, JRPG heart, and one of the best RPG narratives ever, it blew me away. It’s a tall order to fill on the sequel. While the narrative and characters leave a bit to be desired in comparison to its spiritual predecessor, holy fuck does it deliver on everything else. The tuned battle system, great music (except the New L.A. theme, fuck that annoying song), and insanely massive open world bereft of loading times to explore at leisure just sucks me in. Oh, and you can pilot gigantic battle mechs and battle gigantic monsters. Seriously, that should be enough to sell anyone on this game. Big fucking robots fighting big fucking monsters ‘mic drop’
3: Super Mario Maker (Wii U)
Super Mario I’mma Tired, Do It Your Fucking Self. Basically a drag and drop Mario level creator where you can share your own creations with the world. So basically, if you’re the creative type, you can make your own Super Mario game, if not, it’s an infinite font of Mario levels. Win/win. A bit hesitant at first, I found that when I put my mind to it I can create some pretty damn fun Mario levels and actually making them was way more fun than I could have ever anticipated. The tool is powerful enough and simple to use; drag and drop items with the Wii U gamepad, boom, that’s it. However, when you start making your own levels, the appreciation for what goes into level design increases tenfold.
Playing friend’s and other people’s levels is a blast as well. There are a lot of creative people out there making some really intuitive levels. There are also a lot of terrible ones, but with the ranking system and new bookmarking website the curation is getting much better. I particularly like the 100 Mario Challenge mode where you are given 100 lives and need to get through 16 random levels. Sounds easy, but put that fucker on hard mode and weep.
Seriously, buy a Wii U and this game.
2: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (3DS)
How Capcom squeezed this massive game into the portable 3DS is a sight to behold (even more if you have the upgraded to ‘New’3DS). More hours than I’m willing to admit into Monster Hunter and I’m still uncovering more stuff to do. As a newbie to the series its simplicity sucked me in and its depth kept me playing. As the title suggests, you hunt monsters, that’s it. Choose a weapon, get to fighting. Basically just an action game distilled down to the best part, the boss battles. From small to massive, mammalian to reptilian, you kill monsters, harvest their body parts, and fashion better gear with them. Simple enough.
Now, once you get the basics down and get used to the tense and methodical way of fighting you can start experimenting with the crazy amount of weapons each with their unique quirks and teaming up with others to take down even more monsters (my personal favorite weapon is the Charge Blade, a sword and shield combo which charges up as you attack and then can transform into a massive, slow-moving battle-axe for huge damage). The more you play the better you get and the bigger monsters you can kill. Each victory is satisfying because you feel it’s earned, unlike a game where you can grind your character to a higher level and breeze through the tougher battles. Your skill is the only thing that can hold you back.
In time you will be dodging and countering with massive hammers and scaling cliffs to leap down with a back stab to ride a dragon into submission. The more of your time you give MH4U the more it gives back. You can also bring battle kitty cats with you to help out.
1: SOMA (PC, PS4)
From Frictional Games, the creators of the horror masterpiece Amnesia: The Dark Descent, comes a game that has truly brought narrative experience in games to the next level. You know you’ve played something big when its themes and story stick with long after its completion; when it has you questioning your own ethos, reality, and what it means to be human. Many games have tried to get under my skin and their attempts were quite valiant (namely Bioshock and I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream), but none have quite gotten to me like SOMA.
As with Undertale, this is a game that is left going into with as little information as possible. It’s a first person exploration game with some touches of Amnesia’s hide and seek gameplay, though ‘gameplay’ is far from what the core of what SOMA is. There are moments of terror brought on by the fear of being stalked through an abandoned underwater science facility (the Theta station, holy fuck!) but it’s real terror comes from deeper, more horrifying sources; your own mind. At some points you will make a decision, which you may or may not realize you’ve done, which ultimately has no impact on the overarching narrative. And then, after thinking back at what you did you say to yourself, “fuck, I’m a fucking monster.” and start thinking if you’d do that in real life. And then you start asking yourself what you think you’d do in the characters position and delving into deep philosophical conundrums that could very well be something you’ll have to face in modern society. It all just spirals down from there.
SOMA is sci-fi at its absolute best regardless of its medium. It will make you think and it will let you know yourself even deeper. An absolute must play that I hope becomes a work of art that is discussed well into the future.