Another year has passed in the new generation, and it was easily the biggest yet. Over the course of 2015, we saw sequels to many of our favorite franchises, original properties that surprised and delighted us all and several shocking disappointments that no one could have predicted. So, basically, it was another year in video gaming.
LAST TIME: The 10 best video games of 2014
Now that the year is coming to a close, I have the very difficult task of deciding which 10 games stood out the most among all of the others. After carefully examining the list of every game I played this year, I think I’ve compiled a list I’m happy with… although I’m sure I’ll look back on this in three months and wonder what in the world I was thinking.
10. The Room Three
Yes, an iOS puzzle game made my top ten list. That’s how good The Room Three is. I’ve been following this series ever since the first game launched in 2012, and every time a sequel hits the App Store, I have to race to the nearest Wi-Fi connection to make sure I can download it as quickly as possible.
For the third entry in the series, Fireproof Games expanded the off-kilter world (which just so happens to be filled with increasingly clever puzzles), to allow for exploration, something the previous games weren’t able to do. By giving players a chance to inhabit the world, the “story” (as it were) feels even more real.
I played through a vast majority of this game on an airplane. It was an especially turbulent flight, but nothing could have fit the theme of this unnerving puzzler better. An unmissable experience if you own an iPhone or an iPad (and Android users are in luck — it’s coming to the Google Play store in January).
Although I enjoyed bits and pieces of the original Demon’s Souls, I honestly couldn’t handle the stress well enough to get much further than the opening hours. By the time Dark Souls came around, I was convinced that I’d never find a way into this franchise, no matter how much I respected it from afar.
Bloodborne is the first game in the loosely-tied-together series that I actually conquered, and although there were plenty of missteps along the way, there’s no doubt that I’m more pleased with the progress I made in Bloodborne than any other game I played in 2015… even if I wasn’t always having fun.
Learning the patterns, taking advantage of the glitches, dying repeatedly until I found a strategy that worked for me — it was all part of the rollercoaster ride, and while it might not be enough to convince me to play Dark Souls III, it’s certainly given me a boost of confidence in my ability to make progress in an oppressively difficult game.
8. Tales from the Borderlands
This was a late entry on my list, but I’m a sucker for a great Telltale Games production. Tales from the Borderlands really wasn’t even on my radar, despite my love for the series it’s based on. I had heard all of the positive press, but after playing all of Telltale’s games religiously for the past several years, I figured I’d be burnt out.
I was wrong. Tales from the Borderlands is as funny a game as the development studio has ever released, yet still manages to carry the weight of heavier games, like The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us. Without knowledge of the world of Borderlands, I might not have fallen so deeply down this rabbit hole, but it’s a world I can’t get enough of.
That said, the characters are consistently entertaining, the story is captivating and the locales look amazing, so even gamers unfamiliar with Borderlands should find themselves wrapped up in this adventure.
7. Heroes of the Storm
Other than Smite, I’ve never taken to MOBAs the way that millions of gamers have all over the world. They just don’t grab me like they should… or they didn’t, anyway, until Heroes of the Storm came along.
By emphasizing teamwork over individual skill, Blizzard’s take on the MOBA managed to win me over. Rather than hoping that I could compete with whichever terrifyingly talented player I’d be matched up against on the other team, I was more concerned with making sure my team stayed on the ball and completed a map’s objectives before the opposing team could do the same.
I typically let other, more skilled players take over in competitive games (because I’m rarely the most skilled player on the battlefield), but I often find myself taking charge in Heroes of the Storm, giving teammates direction and trying to boost morale when we fall behind. Heroes brought out a new kind of player in me, and for that alone, it has to make my list.
6. The Beginner’s Guide
Although 2015 was fully of entertaining video game stories, none were told quite as well as Davey Wreden’s The Beginner’s Guide, which was more of an interactive novel than a game in the traditional sense.
This one’s hard to talk about without giving away the story (which is the substance of the game), but basically you take a journey with a narrator as he explores a series of experimental games made by one of his close friends. At some point, he and that friend stopped talking.
The mystery of that friendship drives the plot forward, but the snippets of games that make up the full experience are exceptionally interesting in their own right. Of all the games I played this year, none had as profound an impact on me and on my understanding of game development and the creative process in general as The Beginner’s Guide.
5. Just Cause 3
Had I been given a platform at the time on which to decree my favorite games of 2010, Just Cause 2 would likely have been at the top of the list. Size doesn’t mean everything when it comes to open world games, but the immense scale of Just Cause 2 was enough to suck me in for dozens of hours, just to see the sights.
Just Cause 3 is little more than a bigger and (mostly) better sequel, but that’s really all I needed from it. Equipped with a grappling hook, a parachute, a wingsuit and a dizzying array of high-powered weapons, I can cause more chaos in a few moments with Just Cause 3 than I can with every other game released this year combined.
Sometimes quantity is better than quality. Many of the game’s story missions are puzzlingly bad, the technical glitches are a genuine hassle and the loading times make me want to rip my hair out, but when I have a free hour, you better believe I’m jumping into Just Cause 3 to liberate another settlement.
4. Rise of the Tomb Raider
I couldn’t have had higher expectations for the sequel to my favorite game of 2013. That’s never fair, but no matter how hard I tried to judge it on its own merits, I kept comparing Rise of the Tomb Raider to its predecessor. And although it surpassed Tomb Raider in many ways, there were others in which it came up a little short.
The combat didn’t improve, the story was uneven and the final segment of the game was frustrating enough that I nearly turned it off for good, but I can’t deny how much fun I had climbing, scavenging and scurrying around the world as Lara Croft for hours at a time. 3D platforming is a difficult to nail, but Crystal Dynamics has gotten it right twice in a row now.
I genuinely believe that Tomb Raider is one of the strongest third-party franchises on the market, but I hope to see more significant changes to the combat in future installments (providing there are any).
3. Ori and the Blind Forest
When I was putting this list together, I’d nearly forgotten about Ori and the Blind Forest. Not only was it one of the first great games of the year, I also rushed through it so quickly that I didn’t have much of a chance to reflect on it. That’s not to say it was a short game — I was just so invested in it that I couldn’t put it down until I’d completed it.
2D platformers aren’t an especially common sight in the 2010s. There are some solid independent entries in the genre a few times a year, but rarely do they receive as much attention from a publisher as Ori did from Microsoft. The Xbox One maker truly believed in the game, and if you took the time to play through it, you’d know why.
Its art style is second to none, its difficulty curve is challenging yet fair and its twitch-based gameplay gives the best Mario games a run for their money. Thinking about it, Ori and the Blind Forest might be my favorite Xbox One exclusive of 2015.
2. Rocket League
I would not consider myself to be a competitive gamer. I enjoy a good multiplayer game, sure, but I prefer story-driven campaigns to online brawls nine times out of ten. Rocket League is that rare one out of ten that is so abrasively fun, addictive and skillful, that I still spend hours playing it, weeks after its launch.
Rocket League is a brilliant concept executed to near perfection, but more than that, it’s a game where I have been able to watch myself improve over the weeks and months since I first downloaded it (for free!) on PlayStation 4.
I went from a shoddy defender to a full-time goalie. I could hardly get my tires off the ground, and now I’m making rocket shots with relative ease. I still don’t use ball cam nearly as often as I should, but I’m getting better about it, I promise.
I loved every game on this list, but I’m not sure how many of them I’ll still be playing at the end of 2016. I can assure you that Rocket League will still be a regular part of my life next year, and I can’t wait to see where Psyonix takes it in the coming months.
1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Hours into my adventure, The Witcher 3 still wasn’t clicking with me. I was head-over-heels in love with the world that CD Projekt Red had designed, the characters were expressive and well-acted and the quests felt meaningful, which is rarer than you’d think in modern day RPGs. But I just wasn’t enjoying the time I spent playing the game.
Then I reached Novigrad. Suddenly, there were dozens of quests to partake in, countless new characters to meet and a living, breathing city I could immerse myself in. From that moment on, Wild Hunt was all I ever wanted to play. It consumed weeks of my life as I trekked from one end of the city to the other, only leaving the gates of Novigrad when I had to.
By the time I’d done everything I wanted to do in the city, I had turned a corner. I was enjoying every moment of The Witcher 3, and that carried me through the rest of the story. The most dense game of the year deserves every accolade thrown at it, and I’m happy to add to the pile by making it BGR’s game of the year.
As always, I’m sure there are going to be several games that you can’t believe didn’t make my list. I get it. I figured that Metal Gear Solid V would be a strong contender for first place, but it never hooked me like I expected it to. Halo 5 and Super Mario Maker were two console exclusives that I considered as well, but they haven’t stuck with me like the games above.
All in all, it wasn’t the best year in gaming history for me personally. There were dozens of good games, but very few great games (which is how I feel about Fallout 4, another surprising miss). I have a feeling that’s going to change in 2016, but for now, feel free to share your own game of the year list below.