Josh Torres is a staff writer on RPG Site, Save/Continue’s sister site. Since this list contains non-RPG titles, it made its way to Save/Continue!
Hey everyone, Josh Torres here from RPG Site and @HDKirin from Twitter. We are at another year’s end so instead of playing video games, we read up and vehemently disagree on which video games other people liked this year. The year of 2015 was yet another wild ride of surprises, but it seems like it excelled more in getting us excited for the future. Nonetheless, 2015 in video games offered solid experiences all around and had its fair share of hits.
Before I begin, I just want to establish a few guidelines of how I’m deciding stuff this year.
I’m only taking into account games I’ve played to the point of completion (or what I consider to be played enough to make a judgment in the case of genres like roguelikes, racing, etc.). I also won’t be counting ports of old games as well since chances are I played them when they were originally released. In the case of HD remasters, it would have been a particularly highly improved release to make the list so if any HD remasters made it, congratulations to you.
First off, I want to give a dishonorable mention to Fate/Grand Order. That little mobile game sucked a lot of time out of my year that I wish I had back; it presented some nice ideas with its battle system and features gorgeous artwork from a wealth of talented artists, but still fell into severe problems shared by mobile games that feature a gachapon system to get new stuff. It’s further highlighted in Fate/Grand Order because both Servants (characters you level up & use) and Craft Essences (items you equip onto those characters) share the same gachapon pool so there’ll be many times where players end up with too much of one or the other and the rates to obtain rare stuff in that game are borderline abysmal. Couple that with myriads of downtime due to incompetence from an inexperienced developer and an inconsistent schedule of new content, it was just a time-sink that I dipped into a bit too much.
Then there are several titles I want to give honorable mentions to; I’m sure a handful of these would’ve made my top 10 list this year, but I haven’t had substantial time to really put into them. I plan to, but haven’t had the chance to. These titles are Super Mario Maker, Rebel Galaxy, Galak-Z: The Dimensional, Helldivers, Ori and the Blind Forest, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. There were just so many titles this year to keep up with along with a busy schedule in my own life that it was just tough to make time for all these great games.
With all that out of the way, here are my Top 10 Video Games of 2015.
10) Axiom Verge (PS4/PC)
Leading off this list is an outstanding Metroidvania game that deserves every bit of praise I can muster. Axiom Verge carries the spirit of Super Metroid in its veins, but presents an alternative twist to the formula. While its aesthetics and gameplay are similar at first, there’s a peculiar point in the game that allows players to change enemy behavior patterns which I found to be an amazing incentive to revisit many areas to see how this mechanic changed up things ranging from spewing health pickups, digging out tunnels that lead to new paths to nifty collectibles, and such. The overall map design keeps things intriguing with a variety of environments and a pocketful of secret areas that bear a bizarre aesthetic to them at times. With eerily compelling tunes, a fantastic arsenal of weaponry, and interesting twists to keep the plot engaging, it is one hell of an experience that fans of the genre shouldn’t pass up on.
9) Undertale (PC)
Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I’d like Undertale at first. The first few hours of that game were personally a drag for me; nothing immediately grabbed my attention. Ultimately, it ended up being a captivating little game that carries a lot of heart. There is merit behind how its handful of internal and external systems play off of each other. From being able to initiate conversations with enemies (reminiscent of the MegaTen series) and sparing them once they’re “satisfied” with the player’s actions, it’s great to see more games with JRPG mechanisms that allow you to finish them in a non-lethal fashion. Without giving away too much, the thing that really shocked me is how the final boss fight was structured and how that intertwined with how the game was built. Couple that on top of whimsical characters and humorous enemy designs & behaviors covered with an absolutely entrancing sound design, I believe that Undertale is a solid game though mileage will vary on its presentation.
8) Steins;Gate (PS3/Vita/PC)
Finally seeing an official release outside of Japan this year, Steins;Gate is a visual novel that tells a tale of science going a bit too far when tinkering with time. The bulk of my enjoyment with this stems from the plethora of character interactions and how amusing each of their personalities clash with one another. Steins;Gate’s strength is not necessarily the particular details of its plot, but rather the method of its presentation. There’s a logical progression behind the victims of coincidences and circumstances in this story, which is all determined by the “phone trigger” system which gives players the option to make calls at certain points along with responding to certain text messages received. As with most visual novels, there’re many alternate endings and one “true” ending and with a beefy story to read through, those who enjoy compelling narratives are in for a sweet sci-fi treat.
7) Yakuza 5 (PS3)
Kazuma Kiryu is back in the west once more in one of the strongest iterations in the Yakuza series. Yakuza 5 is the same lovable Yakuza, but is expanded upon in almost every way. With new cities to explore and five main characters this time around, Yakuza 5 has a lot going on in it. Fights remain as vicious as ever utilizing objects in the environment to smash your foes into, or vice versa, and the story unfolds once more in which the fates of your characters intertwine with one another. New to this installment is now being able to control Haruka as she pursues her dream of being an idol so Yakuza players will be asked to become idol producers for a bit as well. Overall, Yakuza is best known for its adventure aspects and with more cities to explore than ever, the number of side activities and events has only risen. It’s very easy to get sidetracked from your main objective, but that’s a great thing to me; there’re more options than ever to be lost in the Japanese underworld of Yakuza.
6) Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS4/XB1/PS3/X360/PC)
Hideo Kojima’s final Metal Gear arrived this year and boy, what a ride it was. It’s riddled with flaws from the microtransactions in the FOB system, waiting for upgrades to be implemented for hours upon hours, a lackluster last “arc” of the game, and yet still, I can’t get over how much enjoyment I got out of it. The core gameplay, the amount of tools that’s given to you, the open-world stealth mechanics, and all the little details to polish that game -just- a bit more are downright incredible. Though the story takes a backseat relative to other Metal Gear games and Kiefer Sutherland’s performance as Snake was overall insignificant, there’s just something to be said about being able to infiltrate a tightly-guarded base in the dead of night and diving into intense situations pushing players to improvise their tactics on-the-fly all without making a sound. I could go on and on about my various adventures in that game but that’s what makes the game shine above almost everything else; you can dive in and you’ll have crazy stories to tell and more often that not, it’ll be different from anyone else’s time with the game because Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is flexible enough to accommodate any playstyle. There is no “wrong” way to play it. Hop in and have a blast.
5) Splatoon (Wii U)
The year of 2015 was unexpectedly the year we’d all find out whether we were squids or just kids. Splatoon is nothing short of a miracle because there were so many ways Nintendo could’ve blew it at any point. Let’s face it – Nintendo isn’t the greatest when it comes to online infrastructures, but Splatoon tackled the challenge head-on and exceeded my highest expectations. It’s a brand-new, fresh take on the “shooter” genre that emphasizes painting the map with your color over kill-death ratios. Winning matches takes a fair amount of coordination and teamwork to fully secure key routes efficiently. Colorfully vibrant with a duo of hosts that add flavor to the experience, Splatoon was a fantastic surprise this year. It’s also weird to say this, but Nintendo’s decision to launch it despite being light on the content-side, yet adding a lot more maps, weapons, and gear overtime at no additional cost was… actually a brilliant strategy; it helped increase the interest and attachment rate of that game overtime instead of releasing everything at once. There’s also a nice quirky single-player story in that game that’s worth checking out if not for the boss battles alone. Also the soundtrack is just freaking amazing. I admire that Nintendo took a chance on this new IP and it paid off in spades squids.
4) Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U)
This is probably the biggest game I’ve played this year and easily ranks high among most time I’ve spent on a single game this year. Xenoblade Chronicles X is personally a step-down compared to Xenoblade Chronicles, but that doesn’t mean it’s a fantastic in its own way. Everything about this game is layered behind numerous systems that are frankly overwhelming at first glance, but studying how everything affected one another factored into why I enjoyed it so much. It’s one of the few games these days that has a useful manual that should be read because the tutorials early in the game don’t really explain every little detail. Ambitious in scope, Xenoblade Chronicles X achieves absurd heights on the Wii U in terms of how huge the planet of Mira is and how the designs in each of the game’s five regions are beautifully distinct from one another. It carries that sense of wandering into the unknown and it’s easy to roam into territories with creatures dozens of levels above you; there’s a sense of thrill from potentially dangerous encounters that can pop up at any moment. I do feel heavily conflicted on the design decisions Monolith Soft made in terms of the fundamental structure of the game to present the story’s plot and its characters along with numerous technical hiccups ranging from severe pop-in, inconsistent collision detection, and shoddy audio mixing, but the core gameplay of Xenoblade Chronicles X is a sight to behold. Hopping into a giant robot and flying above the planet of Mira is one of the most liberating moments in a video game in 2015.
3) Downwell (PC/iOS/Android)
Consider me floored when I bought Downwell on a whim one night and was hooked from minute one. Simplistic in nature, yet difficult to master – Downwell is easily the best pick-up and play game of this year to me. Consisting of just three inputs (left, right, and one action button), it’s astounding how such a simple game can be so addictive. The action button has two “modes” – jumping when on the ground & shooting with guns from your boots when in the air. There’s an ammo counter on the side that only reloads when a player’s boots makes contact with an object so this could be either landing or bouncing off an enemy/object. At first, I treated it like a normal platformer playing it safe and landing after one or two enemies were killed, but taking these “safe” approaches leaves you scarce on resources. The more enemies you take down before making a proper landing, the higher the rewards will be. For example, a 7-kill streak will reward you with 100 Gems and a 15-kill streak with an additional bullet. Couple that in with multiple styles that affect the speed of your fall, your starting health, and a wide variety of weapons to mix and match with obtainable upgrades, Downwell tests a player’s ability to adapt on-the-spot with procedurally generated levels with their own set of enemies.
2) The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter (PC/Vita/PSP)
The long-awaited chapter that wraps up Estelle and Joshua’s heroic adventure has come at last. Bearing its own share of tragedies and triumphs in the lengthy localization process, it’s nothing short of a miracle that this finally saw release when it was on the brink so many times of collapsing at any moment throughout these past few years of waiting. Trails in the Sky Second Chapter improves upon its predecessor in every way and the results of its localization are remarkable. No stone has gone unturned from ongoing NPC stories, in-game novels, references from past deeds in the First Chapter, character interactions depending on who is in your party at the time, and it goes on and on. The amount of care to immerse players into the region of Liberl is immensely impressive and each member of the cast shines in their own way throughout the story. It’s a game that delivers on a tightly written narrative that exceeds in raising the stakes through every chapter; the amount of development each and every character goes through is touching and resonated with me as time went on. Even though its visuals and gameplay systems definitely show that it’s a 9-year-old video game, its tale is timeless and its journey overseas will forever be remembered in my mind.
1) Bloodborne (PS4)
My first visit in the realm of Yharnam was a vicious ride. I woke up in a mysterious room, roamed around a bit, and was eaten alive by a savage werewolf creature. Then I woke up once more into The Hunter’s Dream and I was just filled with wonder about what this world had in store for me. Bloodborne is a masterful piece of work that oozes and champions its dreadful atmosphere. Filled with Gothic architecture housing numerous untold horrors and beyond, Bloodborne’s shift to a more aggressive style of combat makes each battle viscerally satisfying. Adding in mechanisms such as transforming weapons and firearms for parrying, Bloodborne encouraged me to establish a certain rhythm to combat instead of mindlessly flailing about. Boss battles with nightmarish creatures were an absolute treat especially on the audio side; the sound design is impeccably astonishing for those big encounters that’s further heightened due to the fact that there are no fog corridors upon initial encounters for bosses now. There are no warning signs for when a boss battle may occur and that was just a great design change in my mind, so players pretty much have to be prepared for anything at all times. The Old Hunters DLC was also an excellent addition that breathed new life into that game with more insane bosses, a handful of awesome new weapons, and more mysterious environments to wander into… and probably die a lot in. Every aspect about Bloodborne stood out to me in a way that no other game has this year. Though it comes with its fair share of flaws, Bloodborne is still easily my top game of 2015.