Hello, all! Last year I didn’t get my game of the year post out until May, so when looked at from that point of view, getting this year’s out on April first is a huge step up. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The reality is, juggling three jobs, a wife, and not being paid to play video games makes it hard to keep up with everything that I want to, and I didn’t want to put out a list without at least sampling a good chunk of the great games from 2015. There were still some that I didn’t get to (Undertale, Soma, and Witcher 3 spring to mind), but pushing back my list a few months allowed me to speak more intelligently about games like Telltale’s Game of Thrones, Fallout 4, and Grow Home.
Below I’ve included every game I played last year. Keep that in mind if you don’t see a particular game on my top 10, because there’s a chance I didn’t play it. Enjoy the list, and let me know in the comments what your 2015 game of the year was!
Games I Played
Destiny: House of Wolves*
Destiny: The Taken King*
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
Game of Thrones
Hotline Miami 2
Life is Strange
Race the Sun
Star Wars Battlefront
Tales from the Borderlands
Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection
Unfinished Swan PS4
* ineligible, DLC/Expansion
A note on HD remasters: Every game that released in 2015 is eligible for the top 10 — even HD remasters. The way I see it, this is a completely subjective list, so if re-playing a favorite game in a new way was one of my favorite gaming experiences of the year, that deserves to be called out. In the same vein, playing through a remastered game I’ve never played before also deserves consideration. However, the quality of the remaster and/or how long it’s been since I’ve played the original game impacts its ranking. The goal is to give new games the advantage in a direct comparison. Like I said, it’s subjective.
10. Grow Home
Grow Home might overstay its welcome a bit, but it has an extremely cute aesthetic and some solid — if imprecise — platforming. BUD is a perfect character for this type of mascot platformer, and the sense of humor also fits the genre well.
+ great blocky art style that fits the vibe of the game
+ tons of freedom in how you can accomplish your goals
– floaty controls made me fall to my death more than once
– gameplay becomes a bit repetitive toward the end
9. Game of Thrones
I had some issues with Telltale’s Game of Thrones, but overall it told an engrossing story about a lesser known house in Westeros, and the lengths to which they’d go to protect their family. Basically, it would suck to be anyone living in that universe.
+ connects TV show characters in smart ways
+ has the same brutality that made the books and show famous
– the art is downright ugly at times
– ends on an unsatisfying cliffhanger
8. The Unfinished Swan HD
The Unfinished Swan was one of my favorite, most under-appreciated games on PS3. It even made my game of the year list when it was originally released in 2012. I really hope this HD remaster brought it more attention from more players.
+ puzzle are more varied than the early hours would make you believe
+ unique, simplistic art design at its best
– finding secrets can be tough due to the color scheme
– the story is a bit ambiguous at times
7. Journey HD
If The Unfinished Swan was going to make it on here, you knew Journey was going to, as well. These two games are really a tie in my head, but I had to give the nod here to Journey since it won my game of the year in 2012. What a strong year for video games.
+ one of the most beautiful audio-visual experiences of my life
+ the ending had me crying tears of joy
– surprise multiplayer is less special the second time around
– doesn’t add much to the original experience
6. Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection
The Nathan Drake Collection contains three amazing games, so I had to put it above The Unfinished Swan and Journey. I’m a sucker for Uncharted, so any excuse to go back and play this is fine with me. I do with more additions had been made, though.
+ I got to earn the trophies all over again
+ Uncharted 3 still looks amazing
– a pretty straight-forward remaster and collection
– The first game hasn’t aged all that well
5. Her Story
What a fascinating game. Honestly, Her Story is less a video game and more an interactive choose your own adventure type experience. It asks a lot of the player in terms of creativity and attention span, but if you’re willing to give something odd a shot, Her Story offers something no other video game has.
+ the way this story unfolds is absolutely insane
+ I almost wish there was more finality at the end
– could use an in-game tool to track clues and videos
– acting isn’t always the best
4. Tales from the Borderlands
What do you know, another Telltale game makes the list. But in my mind, the gap between Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands is huge. Tales had a brilliant sense of humor, made great use of the subject material, and surprised you with heart and depth that you wouldn’t have expected.
+ lovable characters
+ great action sequences
– waiting too long between episodes
– choices don’t feel as impactful as in other Telltale games
3. Until Dawn
Until Dawn was definitely the dark horse of 2015. Sony barely marketed the game at all, and it was a horror game that came out in the summer. It didn’t really make sense. Either Sony didn’t think the game would do well, or they knew it was great and could survive on word of mouth. Either way, I was pleasantly surprised, and had a blast playing through it with my wife.
+ uses horror tropes very well
+ excellent motion capture and animation
– some characters are too annoying, even for the genre
– I figured out the surprise villain reveal within the first 15 minutes
2. Life is Strange
With my past experience waiting for Telltale games, I decided to wait until all episodes of Life is Strange were out before jumping in, and I’m glad I did. I played all five episodes over the course of a week, and it was definitely the ideal way for me. I made a choice at the end that I normally wouldn’t make in a video game, but it felt like the right thing to do for Max. That’s a rare thing in video game storytelling.
+ realistic, flawed characters
+ each episode builds upon the last
– takes a while to get going
– at times felt like it was 40-year-old white dudes writing for teenage girls
1. Fallout 4
I know for a lot of people, Fallout 4 was somewhat of a disappointment. The term “Fallout 3.5” was thrown around a lot, mostly because I think people’s expectations were impossibly high. There are definite design flaws to the game, and some mechanics feel half-baked, but I’m over 100 hours into my first playthrough and I’m still having a blast. I find something new and interesting every time I play, and I’m only halfway through the main story. That’s a special kind of game.
+ being able to mod weapons and armor is awesome
+ great companions and side quests
– settlement building mechanic feels unfinished
– the main story takes a back seat to exploration
And there we have it, my 10 favorite games from 2015! Obviously, I missed out on some big hitters like Witcher 3 and Bloodborne, but I’m confident in my list. It’s definitely interesting to see three episodic games, but I think that’s telling to what I’m looking for in a video game nowadays. Tell me a great story, and if you don’t, at least give me a huge world to explore.
What were your favorite games of 2015? What did you think of Fallout 4? Do you think Telltale can keep their positive momentum going much longer? Let me know in the comments below!