Looking back at 2015, I can’t help but wonder what this list would’ve looked like if I had more time during the day to play games. There were some critical sensations that I spent little-to-no time with and, sadly, that’s what I will remember most about 2015. That being said, I still had a great time with many of the games that launched in 2015, and these are the five I enjoyed the most.
This is the game I’ve been waiting eight years for, the game that I knew would consume most of my fall, and the game that I knew would meet any expectations I set well before its launch. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time playing Fallout 4 since it launched last month, yet I’m still nowhere close to completing the story. It’s not that I don’t find the story compelling (I do actually), it’s just that I have a hard time staying on-mission when there are so many areas to explore and unique side-quests around every corner. Fallout 4 is very much like Fallout 3, with a few caveats that help keep things fresh, and that’s all I wanted. It’s easy for someone to say, “Geez, I wish they would’ve done something different,” but on the flipside, I think of all the times in the past developers have tried to stray away from a successful franchise formula for the sake of innovation, only to have it backfire. Fallout 4 is more of the same, but when the “same” has been a recipe for Game of the Year awards in the past, it’s hard to criticize Bethesda for giving Fallout fans more of what they want.
This may be the most shocking game this year, in my opinion, simply because it’s a concept that’s so absurd. I didn’t think this would be anything more than a niche title for a very small crowd. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and considering it’s $50 million haul since its launch, I’d say Psyonix crushed it. Rocket League is about as exciting as a sports games can get, and thanks to a surprising amount of depth in terms of strategy, it can be just as competitive as the likes of Madden and NBA 2K. The matches are short, but there is never a dull moment, and the gameplay is rock solid. I laughed at the idea of a game concept involving rocket-propelled RC cars trying to kick an exploding soccer ball into a goal, but after playing Rocket League religiously at launch, I can honestly say this is my favorite “sports” game so far this gen.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
I seriously contemplated trading in my Wii U earlier this year; I own both a PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and those two systems were demanding most of my free time for gaming. Games like Splatoon and Yoshi’s Wooly World, although fun, did very little to convince me to turn on my Wii U regularly. However, Bender’s enthusiasm and excitement for Xenoblade Chronicles X was pretty intoxicating. The little I had seen of the game reminded me of a single-player version of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (my only other experience with this type of RPG), so I decided to hang on to my Wii U, and I’m glad I did. Xenoblade Chronicles X is by far my favorite Wii U game thanks to its massive, unique world and thrilling real-time combat. I know the Wii U catches a lot of crap for its lack of processing power, but the world of Mira is one of the most stunning worlds I’ve ever explored in terms of its sheer size and distinctive inhabitants. It’s a bit overwhelming early on, but as the game opens up more, you can’t help but get excited about how much goodness is packed away here. I look forward to making my way through Xenoblade Chronicles X throughout 2016.
Destiny: The Taken King
What a difference an expansion makes! Up until the launch of The Taken King, I was slowly losing interest in Destiny, which was a bummer cause I LOVE Destiny. It was a combination of a lack of content and the fact that there were a lot of great games coming out that deserved my full attention. Destiny made it much harder for me to focus on other new releases when The Taken King and Update 2.0 arrived this past September, bringing with them brand new exotics, an awesome quest system, three new strikes, a new environment to explore, and a totally rad raid (that I have yet to complete!). Destiny did a lot of things right with The Taken King, and even though I’ve taken an extended break (which wasn’t easy to do by the way) so I could focus on this past Fall’s huge line-up of games, I’m chomping at the bit to get back into the swing of things with our fellow Short Pause Guardians very soon. I really think Bungie is doing a great job at keeping Destiny fans busy until the inevitable announcement and release of Destiny 2.
2015 saw the continuation of a trend we’ve seen in gaming in recent years. Smaller titles are challenging AAA games in terms of their quality and overall enjoyment, and HellDivers is one of the games leading that trend. There had been quite a bit of hype surrounding this game prior to its launch, thanks to positive buzz generated from previews by the press, but even then, HellDivers was able to surpass my expectations with its hardcore gameplay and over-the-top presentation. HellDivers may not take its self too seriously when it comes to its story and dialogue (it’s hilarious), but it does take its gameplay seriously as friendly-fire is a thing and you can be killed by not only your teammates, but any supply pods that your team calls down from above. The gameplay is rock solid and it’s an absolute blast playing with friends, communicating to attack enemies, and trying not to kill one another in the process. Let’s not forget the fact that the game is available across the entire family of current PlayStation systems (PS4, PS3, PS Vita) and features cross-play. It’s a great game to play on the big screen, but the fact you can play this game on the go via the PlayStation Vita is awesome because it runs and plays extremely well on Sony’s handheld. HellDivers has received a constant flow of DLC in the form of weapons, new enemies, and gear over the weeks and months since its launch, so there isn’t a better time than now to jump into one of 2015’s best games.
There you have it, my favorite games of 2015! There were some obvious games – Bloodborne, The Witcher 3, and Metal Gear Solid V, for example - that didn’t make this list, simply because I haven’t played through nearly enough of them. It’s been a great year for games overall though, and with games like Dying Light, Kick & Fennick, Halo 5, and The Fall also standing out amongst this year’s stellar crop of titles, it’s never easy to pick just five games to call your favorites. What are your thoughts on my list? If you think it’s horsesh*t, that’s totally fine, just make sure you let me know in the comments below what your favorite games were this year! Here’s to 2016!