2015 has been a fantastic year for gamers. As last gen consoles finally fade into the sunset, a wealth of new and exciting experiences are beginning to grace our spiffy new consoles. For the first time in years, narrowing down just five favorite games for this list has proven to be a challenge, as I have immensely enjoyed a large selection of games this year. You already know what games not to expect here, and faithful podcast listeners know what didn't quite make the cut, so without further ado, I present to you my five favorite games of 2015!
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
I can almost always get behind a supernatural mystery game. After hearing about this game at PlayStation's 2014 Gamescom conference, I dug around the internet a bit to learn more about the developers at The Astronauts. After discovering it was a studio founded by a former Starbreeze founder, I knew I had to keep my eyes out for this game. I was hooked the moment I made my way into the woods and discovered my first set of clues and crime scene. From its breathtaking visuals to its immersive atmosphere, Ethan Carter was a pleasant and very rewarding experience.
Grim Fandango Remastered
For years now, I've heard how amazing Tim Schafer's games are to play and experience. Playing his older and highly acclaimed works has proven to be a difficult task in recent years, however, as Grim and most of Double Fine's adventure games seemed forever lost to time. However, thanks to the awesome team at PlayStation (namely Adam Boyes and his relationship with John Vignochi at Disney), Double Fine was able to not only bring back Grim Fandango, but give it a fresh coat of paint for a new generation of gamers. I loved my adventure with Manny through the Land of the Dead. From the game’s superb writing, to the swanky soundtrack and mind-bending puzzles, Grim Fandango has ignited a new found appreciation for these classic adventure games and, I'm now really excited for next year's Day of the Tenticle Remastered, as well as the eventual release of Full Throttle Remastered. Sadly, I'm still a few chapters from completing Broken Age, but Grim Fandango Remastered was the game that started this year with a bang for me.
Mad Max combined several of my favorite things. Not only did it feature some stellar car combat, but it utilized a refined combat system similar to that of an Arkham game. Boasting a huge open wasteland to scavenge and liberate, I enjoyed nearly everything the game had to throw at me. Sure, the game didn't do much to really set itself apart from its contemporaries, but much like another personal favorite of mine (Darksiders), it utilizes the mechanics it borrows extremely well. I still have a lot to finish in order to obtain my platinum trophy, but I have every intention of returning to the Wasteland to finish up my remaining loose ends.
Life Is Strange
Having learned my lesson with episodic adventure games thanks to my experience with the exceptional Tales from the Borderlands, I waited until developer Dontnod announced a release date for the final episode of Life is Strange before diving into its incredibly interesting world. I had heard nothing but great things about the game, so it was hard to keep from starting the series up earlier in the year. Thankfully, my patience more than paid off as my girlfriend and I were instantly hooked on Max and Chloe's quest to prevent a catastrophic event from destroying Arcadia Bay. Max gains the ability to manipulate time and spends the season trying to understand not only why she was given this power, but how to use it. Life is Strange is a unique journey that everyone should experience in my humble opinion.
Assassin's Creed Syndicate
I've always held an interest in the Assassin's series, but I can honestly say I haven't loved a game in the franchise since the second entry. I enjoyed both Unity and Black Flag, but neither of those hit quite the same note as Ezio's first outing for me. Enter twins Jacob and Evie Frye, a Victorian London, Industrial Revolution setting, and an item that made one of the most tedious things about the series an afterthought! The addition of the grapple gun allows players to scale buildings almost instantly and zip across rooftops. This has made Syndicate the freshest feeling entry in the series in years. Jacob and Evie's banter in shared cutscenes is entertaining, side activities are enjoyable, and working to liberate the slums of London and grow your gang is a blast. Assassin's Creed Syndicate has been an awesome experience, and I'm actually stoked to dive into the Jack the Ripper story arc, via the recently released DLC pack, when work finally dies back down.
Honorable Mention: Rise of the Tomb Raider
Why isn't this game in my top five this year you may be pondering? While I love what I've played, unfortunately work picked up a lot earlier for me this year, so I haven't found the time to return to this gem since my Short Takes went up about a month ago. I know it's an awesome game, and one that would be on this list had I spent enough time with it (much like Bayonetta 2 last year), but I'm still too early-in to reasonably include it over the other games on this list.
Tthere you have it folks! There were so many other awesome games this year, from Ori and the Blind Forest to The Swindle, that all deserve recognition in some form or another. I've still got several games to wrap up from this year (and last year for that matter,) but I can't wait to tackle what 2016 has in store for us. Viva la Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2!!!!!!!!