Published on January 13th, 2016 | by Ricardo
GOTY 2015 Ricardo’s Top 5
Twenty Fifteen. Man, that was quick.
Cliche as it may sound, with my advancing age, the years seem to come and go with greater rapidity. As such, it often feels like there’s very little time to do all the things I want to do and even littler time to play video games.
Yet here we are.
My favorite games this year turned out to be the ones I could either sink my fangs into, diving deep into the success of some mission of some perceived importance, or conversely ones that could be returned to periodically, like visiting a familiar place and remembering why it was so special while also discovering brand new things that make it worth returning to. Without further waxing philosophic, though, let’s get to it.
First, I’d like to do some spring cleaning and get in a trio of honorable mentions. Perhaps most surprisingly, Destiny returned to my gaming schedule this year with its big “The Taken King” expansion. What essentially amounted to a reinvention of the game, Destiny very well could have ended up on my games of the year list last year (and out of our “Most Disappointing” category) would this had been the way the game was launched. But c’est la vie, I guess. At least the game’s undoubtedly solid, even if it does have 100% less Peter Dinklage, now.
Speaking of quality voice acting, the new King’s Quest is full of it. Chapter 1: A Knight to Remember has everything that’s made the new Adventure Game revival a fun an exciting one, but also manages to tweak and improve on many elements that are are quickly stagnating in the Telltale-saturated genre. Not that those games are bad, but they’re quickly losing the heart that King’s Quest shows in spades. I can only hope later episodes are as good.
Lastly, before we hit my list, I NEED to mention Until Dawn; a game I personally didn’t play. However, I felt like I was part of the experience with Until Dawn, sitting, screeching in a friend’s living room as polygonal approximations of that guy from Mr. Robot and that dude from Agents of SHIELD are jump-scared into oblivion. To put it bluntly, from just watching Until Dawn played from beginning to end, I was monk’d. Monk’d hard. And I liked it.
But that’s enough of those games. On towards my genuine top picks of 2015!
I might be cheating with this one, but Hearthstone WAS officially released on mobile devices this year. It quickly became an on again, off again obsession of mine. Blizzard has really captured the highs and lows of the collectable card game, but done so with a style and charm only they can provide. I’m always eagerly awaiting their newest expansion or excitedly looking for new ways to play the game, and Blizzard isn’t failing on those fronts. It’s true, I’m not terribly good at the game myself, but when that perfect combo falls into my hand and I get to hear the sweet cacophonous choir of Grim Patrons bellowing, “HEY EVERYONE! GET IN HERE!”, it makes every loss worth it.
4. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
Dump your mind into the swirling technicolor violence of Hotline Miami, and you begin feeling not exactly yourself. Much like the first, I think Hotline Miami 2 is at its best when it completely envelopes and immerses the player in its blood-spattered streets of neon and animal masks. It does this with its music, its visuals, and its breakneck gameplay. Wrong Number takes it even one step further, with a multi-layered plot that propels the story into an even stranger, darker place than before. And for me, that’s not a bad thing in the least.
“We are all born of the blood. Undone by the blood. Our eyes have yet to open…” So says Master Willem of Byrgenworth, and in this might be the reason why From Software’s Bloodborne is such an affecting game for me. Not only is this Lovecraft-inspired world of men and monsters a beautiful, disturbing and all-around perfectly realized one, but Blooborne is a game that can mold your whole perception on games and gameplay. Is it hard? Jesus Christ is it ever. Is it fair? Absolutely. Is there still a whole hellacious haul of things I need to explore in it? Oh yes. But Bloodborne is too good for me to ignore. In 2016, my hunt will continue, and I am both excited and terrified for what this amazing game has for me. “Our eyes have yet to open…”
2. Guitar Hero LIVE
Music and rhythm games are an odd genre, because they’ve always existed in one capacity or another and have lacked a ton of significant innovation from game to game. I mean, let’s be honest; the difference between many music games is the peripheral they use and not much else. Enter Guiter Hero LIVE, touting its biggest features to be a redesigned controller and an entirely FMV single player campaign featuring crowds that “react” to your playing. One would be more than right to be skeptical, and though the redesigned guitar controller IS superior to the previous design and the FMV festival crowds of the titular LIVE mode ARE amusing (and perhaps unintentionally hilarious), the real meat of Guitar Hero LIVE is its perpetually updating, never offline, event-filled GHTV mode.
The joy of just sitting in your room on a Friday night in the late ’90s as MTV shocked your senses with the latest and greatest music videos in what seemed to be a never-ending stream is replicated to perfection in GHTV. And whattya know, you actually get to play an amazingly tight rhythm game while you do it, now. Put briefly, Guitar Hero LIVE is a fabulous experience, and one that anybody who longs for the days when video killed the radio star.
1. Monster Hunter IV Ultimate
Monster Hunter IV is perhaps the most fully-fleshed out game I’ve played. Like, legitimately, so few games have felt this swole full of features and content to explore and master without feeling like any of it is fat. Just thinking about how good this game is, but then remembering how few people have played or care about it is infuriating. In fact, I feel a comparison coming on…
For all intents and purposes, Monster Hunter IV is the John Cena of 2015 video game releases. And it’s not just for the aforementioned reference to high muscle with low fat content, but much more. Stick with me.
John Cena, for those uninitiated, is a professional wrestler who has been derided over the years for being not that great at his craft, yet constantly pushed to the forefront of the WWE. He’s fun and colorful and most can see his appeal from a marketing standpoint, but not too many people have been keen on accepting him as a legitimately good wrestler. More of an entertainer.
Yet, in the year 2015, John Cena produced more quality matches, promos and storylines than any other WWE superstar. He single-handedly made many sub-par wrestling shows watchable, and yet has received little to no recognition from the blind masses at large for having these skills. And that’s a shoot, brother.
Monster Hunter as a series has similarly been brushed off by the masses. Most can see its appeal, fighting colorful monsters in your equally colorful garb procured by hunting these mythical beasts. But the sloppy, grindy and oft-indecipherable learning curve of early Monster Hunter games have given people the perception that nothing’s changed.
That’s why I implore anyone curious, anyone with a 3DS, hell anybody who has even been burned by Monster Hunter before to try IV Ultimate. What you’ll find is an infinitely silly, infinitely deep, and infinitely fun action game that you can realistically play forever without being bored. I’m ashamed that the back half of my year has been so sparse with Monster Hunter, and I vow to set that right in 2016.
Monster Hunter IV Ultimate is THE game of 2015. It represents everything a game should be feature-wise, gameplay-wise and from a stylistic standpoint. Drop the preconceived notion and get ready to hunt, fish, cook and tailor for hours on end. And prepare to love every minute of it.
The champ is HERE. And he’s SO TASTY.