I’ve done posts like this in the past in a variety of different ways, but this year I opted to go a little bit smaller-form with it. For, as Polonius (ironically) says, “brevity is the soul of wit.”
Honorable Mention: Majora’s Mask 3D
I really wanted to put this one on the list for the year. Reason one being that it’s my all-time favorite Legend of Zelda game by quite a lot, but also because I actually don’t have a full list of 10 games this year as I usually do. That said, as much as I love MM3D, and despite just how much this smart remake does right, I can’t justify considering it an actual release for the year 2015, given that it is, essentially, a re-release of a 15-year old game, albeit an incredibly good one. So I have to leave Majora’s Mask as an honorable mention. While it doesn’t get to chart on this list, it’s still a game well worth playing. This is one of the most clever, interesting, nuanced, and surprisingly dark games in the Zelda series, and anyone with a 3DS would be remiss not to pick it up.
8: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
Anyone who knows me knows that the one thing any game developer can do to ensure that I buy their game is to put grappling hooks in it. I’m a fan of the Assassin’s Creed series, but I must admit that their formula gets more and more boring every year, and while the grappling hook action is certainly entertaining, and the environment of Victorian London is beautiful and intricately designed, the entire game is still, basically, more of the same. It’s fun enough for a while, but if you’re not into the jump-stab-repeat formula of the series, Syndicate doesn’t do anything differently enough to convince you to get on board. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is an entertaining romp that never really does anything that I would call great, and while a decent enough entry in the series, it’s demonstrative of the fact that Ubisoft needs to do something drastically different to maintain relevance with this series.
7: Fallout 4
There are those who are going to call me a heretic for not placing this higher on my list of games of the year, but, truth be told, Fallout 4 still fails to really grab me and pull me in the way I’ve seen it does for countless others. I’ve never really gotten that deep into any of the Fallout series (I’ve always been more of an Elder Scrolls guy), but Fallout 4 is certainly a great game. As I’ve mentioned before, Fallout 4 is a vast, expansive, and beautiful RPG that smartly simplifies some of the more complex elements of earlier entries in the series to be more accessible and entertaining. But for whatever reason, I still haven’t been able to really be willing to sit down and devote hours on end to it like I have been with other games this year. For that reason, I can’t put it any higher than number 7. Sorry, Fallout 4.
6: Just Cause 3
Grappling hooks! Just Cause 2 was one of the most fun games I’ve ever played, and the sequel revs every single element of its predecessor up and takes it to its logical extreme. Just Cause 3 is what I would describe as a stupid game, and it demands a healthy amount of suspension of disbelief to really have fun with it. But if you’re willing to surrender to its stupidity and have fun with the enormous (albeit rather empty) playground at your disposal, you’re going to have a hell of a good time. Of course, a week ago it decided to delete my save data, so I probably won’t be coming back to this one in a while, but Just Cause 3 is about as fun as gaming gets. It’s probably not higher because it lacks some of the trademark laughably bad voice acting of its predecessor, honestly.
Splatoon is about as close as Nintendo is going to get to making Team Fortress 2, which is just fine with me. Splatoon is a cute, fun, and surprisingly deep multiplayer shooter that uses paint instead of bullets, and focuses more on territory control than just killing your opponents — and smartly so. Splatoon is a worthy buy for anyone with a Wii U; it’s this year’s Smash Bros., if you will. The better you and your opponents get, the more fun the game is, and as Nintendo adds more and more content, it becomes even more fun. When it first was released, I wouldn’t say it was worth its $60 price tag, but these day’s it’s more than a bargain.
4. Rocket League
3. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
It was really, really hard to come up with an order for these last three games. Honestly, if I didn’t force myself to put these things in order every year, I would have said these last three were all in a tie for my game of the year. As it stands, I say they’re all worth purchasing and devoting time to. Metal Gear Solid V is the best stealth game I’ve ever played. It’s a beautiful, deep, well-written and vast game waiting to be explored and played with, and the fact that I got so much enjoyment and so much time out of just one quarter of the game’s missions makes its $60 barrier to entry an absolute steal. It’s a game that demands your attention, and you’ll be happy to oblige it.
2. Tales from the Borderlands
I’ve had a hit-or-miss relationship with Telltale Games. I loved The Wolf Among Us, got bored after a few episodes with The Walking Dead, and am so uninterested in Minecraft Story Mode that it almost hurts. As you probably know, the Borderlands series is very near-and-dear to my heart, and I’ve spent so many hours in the world of Pandora that I’m actually a little embarrassed by how much I know about the game world and its characters. Needless to say, I was healthily skeptical about Telltale’s ability to pull it off. Luckily, that skepticism was unnecessary. Tales from the Borderlands is fascinating, hilarious, endearing, and tells a better story than some books and most movies. A healthy win for the “are games art?” argument, Tales from the Borderlands was very nearly my game of the year. So what beat it out?
2015 Game of the Year: The Witcher 3- Wild Hunt
It all comes down to this. I got The Witcher 3 on a whim solely because it came free with my graphics card, but as its release date neared I became very, very excited for this installment in the veteran RPG series brought to us by CD Projekt Red. The developers really outdid themselves, exceeding all expectations and crafting what I consider to be one of the absolute best RPGs of all time. Better than its predecessors on all fronts, The Witcher 3 presents a beautiful and rich story, with a vast and well-populated game world, being reminiscent at times of A Song of Ice and Fire, and at other of The Elder Scrolls, while simultaneously telling its own stories with some great characters to populate its world. To the informed, I’d say that The Witcher 3 is what you’re looking for in an RPG. It’s deep, but not overly-complicated. It’s fun, but nuanced. It’s entertaining, but not shallow. To the uninitiated, I’d suffice it to say this: It’s like Skyrim, but better. Ten outta ten. Game of the year.