2015 has been a strange year in gaming for me. So many fantastic titles released this year that I wanted to play, but I just couldn’t find the time. New responsibilities at my full-time job and a busy family life prevented me from gaming as much as I would have liked to in 2015. And it’s a shame because, by all accounts, this could go down as one of the best years in the history of gaming. Truly epic titles in the form of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Bloodborne, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Fallout 4 — to name but a very few — hit store shelves to both critical and commercial acclaim. Open-world game after open-world game released to the masses, and I was left on the sidelines watching from afar. It seems for me, much of 2016 will be spent catching up on what 2015 had to offer. It’s not all doom and gaming gloom for me this past year, however. While I missed out on some of the biggest titles released this year, I still played a ton of great games and had fun doing it. My favorite games of 2015 are an eclectic mix of superheroes, “old” platformers, and games imitating “old” platformers. I can say with a great deal of certainty that my list will not look like anyone else’s this year. Here they are, in no particular order:
Batman: Arkham Knight
As a huge fan of both Batman and what Rocksteady has done with the character, it’s only right I start here. Rocksteady’s Dark Knight swansong is the culmination of everything they’ve been building toward since Batman: Arkham Asylum. A tense and unnerving psychological journey through the mind of Bruce Wayne, Batman: Arkham Knight is an extremely dark tale full of amazing performances and fantastic interpretations of classic villains. Kevin Conroy, Nolan North, Troy Baker, and a truly menacing John Noble (as the game’s big baddie, the Scarecrow) deliver fantastic vocals throughout, but it’s (*spoilers*) Mark Hamill’s Joker that steals the show, as Luke Skywalker himself delivers one of the finest bits of voice acting this medium has ever seen. The story and mystery of who’s behind the mask of the Arkham Knight keep you engaged throughout, and the game’s signature free-flow combat system has never looked or felt better. The game runs incredibly well on the PS4, and it remains one of the system’s crowning visual achievements. Add in the ability to control the Batmobile for the first time in franchise history, and you understand why Rocksteady’s tagline “Be the Batman” was used in all of the game’s marketing materials. This was the only big open-world game I managed to sit down and play through this year, which tells you everything you need to know about how much I enjoyed my time with Batman: Arkham Knight. I can’t wait to return to this fully realized next-gen Gotham City throughout 2016 to complete all of the many side missions I’ve still yet to tackle.
Find out what we all thought of Batman: Arkham Knight here!
Grim Fandango Remastered
Often hailed as the best adventure game ever created, Tim Schafer’s Grim Fandango had unfortunately been lost to the gaming ether prior to 2015. However, thanks to Schafer’s own development company, Double Fine, Sony, Disney, LucasArts, and some good ol’ fashioned fan demand, Grim Fandango has gained a second lease on life thanks to Grim Fandango Remastered. And we as gamers are all the better because of it. A seemingly bizarre mix of jazz, noir, and Mexican folklore that works amazingly well, the story of travel-agent-for-the-dead Manny Calavera’s four-year journey through the underworld lives up to its reputation as one of the best narratives ever told in gaming. While the game’s brain-busting puzzles can be incredibly difficult thanks to some crazy adventure game-logic, the neurological strife is more than worth it to experience the game’s whip-smart story. An occasionally dark tale full of humor, emotion, and memorable characters, if you’re even the slightest bit interested in narrative focused video games, you owe it to yourself to experience Grim Fandango Remastered. Also, Glottis. Glottis the demon-bear mechanic is awesome.
Read our review of Grim Fandango Remastered here!
Mega Man Legacy Collection
When Capcom announced their initiative to continue remastering legacy titles from their considerable catalog, my first thought was, “Man, I’d sure love to see them bring back the old Mega Man games!” Lo and behold, my gaming prayers were answered and the Mega Man Legacy Collection was born! Housing pixel-perfect recreations of the six NES Mega Man games, the Legacy Collection is everything a blue bomber fan could want in a compilation of his early adventures. In addition to spot-on recreations of the first six games in the series, the Mega Man Legacy Collection includes a totally rad “Museum,” full of concept art, old advertisements, enemy stats, and entire soundtracks for each game, as well as an addicting “Challenge Mode,” which remixes elements of various levels from throughout the six included games into custom time trial stages. Mega Man’s supreme gameplay is as fun as ever, and I highly recommend the Mega Man Legacy Collection to anyone who enjoys challenging 2D-sidescrollers.
See what we thought of the Mega Man Legacy Collection here!
The first time I saw an Axiom Verge trailer, I knew this game was going to be for me. An unabashed homage to Metroid, my inner-metroidvania fan was giddy at the prospects of what Axiom Verge promised to deliver. And deliver it did. The trippy, sometimes nonsensical sci-fi story may not be for everyone (I was a fan, by the way), but there’s no denying the tight gameplay and solid controls on display throughout protagonist Trace’s trek through this strange alien environment. The weapon variety provides a nice amount of choice and strategy to combat, and the game’s signature weapon — the ultra-cool Address Disruptor — cleverly enables players to control “glitches” in the environment, a nice nod to the screen blips and pixelated graphics of the 8-bit era. I also want to bring special attention to the game’s epic soundtrack. When I reviewed the game this year, I said this about the soundtrack: “Dark and ominous sci-fi techno, classic chiptune effects, and electronic synth combine to create a sound that is both subtly familiar, yet entirely unique.” It’s one of year’s best scores, and fans of video game soundtracks should definitely add this to their catalog. Also, all of this — the entirety of the game from design to art to soundtrack and everything else — was all designed by one man: industry veteran Tom Happ. Impressive, most impressive, Mr. Happ. I remain eager to get my hands on the upcoming Vita version!
Read our review of Axiom Verge here!
Super Meat Boy
Another “old” game to grace my “Best of…” list this year, Super Meat Boy completely surprised me. Originally released way back in October of 2010 for the Xbox 360, Super Meat Boy took the then-world by storm with its brand of punishing difficulty and precise platforming. I had always been incredibly interested in the title from afar — the critical and commercial acclaim was considerable — and when Super Meat Boy finally hit the PlayStation 4 and Vita this year, I knew I had to finally give the game a whirl. What I didn’t expect was to become completely and utterly addicted to the title! Super Meat Boy’s fast-paced levels expertly inspire the “just one more try” mind-state when playing, and before you know it, hours of “just one more try” have passed you by. This is especially true on the Vita. I LOVE Super Meat Boy on the Vita, even more so than the PS4 version! It is an impeccably executed portable port, and the Vita’s d-pad is perfect for the game’s ultra-precise platforming. I have found myself unhealthily obsessed with perfect runs and unlocking characters, and it’s something I see carrying on far into the New Year. Don’t be surprised to see this game on our “Ten Favorite Vita Games” list this upcoming February.
Honorable Mention - Destiny: The Taken King
At the end of the day, I still consider The Taken King an expansion to my favorite game of 2014, Destiny, which explains its status here as an honorable mention. Destiny has always been a “love it or hate it” game amongst the gaming populace, and with this past September’s Update 2.0 and subsequent release of The Taken King expansion, a lot more found themselves in the “love it” camp. It makes sense why so many consider Destiny: The Taken King to be an entirely new game; the new quest system, loot, environment, story, raid, and enemies are far beyond what you would consider typical for a game expansion. It all adds up to an experience that is far superior to what was originally available in the game. We’ve waxed poetic about The Taken King time and time again on both the site and our podcast and, after an extended break during this Fall’s rush of games, I’m chomping at the bit to return to Destiny’s engrossing sci-fi world of loot drops and daily activities. I’ve got plenty of unfinished business to handle with The Taken King — not the least of which is the expansion’s epic new raid, King’s Fall — and donning the Warlock armor once again remains one of my most anticipated gaming activities of 2016.
See what we thought about Destiny: The Taken King here!
That’s it, folks! My very eccentric list of my favorite gaming experiences this year! Let me know what you think of my list, and let us know what your favorite games of 2015 are in the comments below!
Ben is a hardcore PlayStation fan and a lifelong gamer. He hopes to finish 2015's slate of games before 2018. Follow him not tweeting @piccolo930.