Published on January 18th, 2016 | by Matt
GOTY 2015 Matt’s Top 5
Alright I’m late as it is, so let’s get this intro out of the way.
2015 was one of the best years for video games in recent memory. So many great games came out. Both AAA titles and surprise independent nobodies can be seen not only on this list but the hundreds of others that are out there on the Internet. Some of my favorite games of all time came out this year. Usually, I struggle to pick even 5 games that I played and consider good at the end of the year. This year it was a real battle in my head over which game should get which spot, as well as over 5 other games that I had to cut just to make this list possible. As someone who doens’t do this for a living and can’t afford every game and console out there, this was a historic year.
And while 2016 is looking to be a big year (perhaps we’ll see if VR can actually be good or if the NX will be a game changer for Nintendo) I’m not sure it can beat last year for games. I’m certainly hoping it will! Considering stuff I’m looking forward to returning to (Darkest Dungeon) and games I can’t wait to try out (No Man’s Sky) as well as older ones I really want to put more time into (Heroes of the Storm, Vermintide, and Kerbal Space Program) this year already has a lot going for it. The reason that 2015 was so great is it got me excited, I mean like really excited, to play these games. I would be at work thinking about possible directions the plot would go, or new strategies to try out. I would spend time watching YouTube videos of optimal mission paths or techniques, which is something I almost never do. I came home and played some of these games almost every night before bed. In fact, every game on this list almost completely occupied my time with it in one way or another, rather than simply being an enjoyment which began and ended. The best part is I can still see myself playing some of these games in the coming year, especially as several of them have just hours and hours of replay value.
Before we get to the list, here’s a few games that didn’t make the cut but are still pretty dang good:
Favorite Local Multiplayer: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Favorite Game that Got Me to Think MOBAs are Actually OK: Heroes of the Storm
Favorite Game I Watched but didn’t Actually Play: Contradiction: Spot the Liar
With all that said, on to the list!
6.(Screw these top 5 Rules) Life is Strange
It was such a close race between this and the game below for the number 5 spot that I couldn’t just leave it out. There are very few games that even try to attempt to cover some of the heavy topics that Life is Strange does, and almost none that pull it off so well. I won’t spoil the details of the plot, but needless to say that my initial impressions of a light-hearted high school adventure (with some sci-fi time travel thrown in) ended up being a little off. The game ramps up the mystery and direness of its character’s situations with each increasing episode, and ends up in some dark places.
This isn’t one of those games that’s good simply because it’s dark though. It earns all of its emotionally charged moments through consistent character development. With one or two exceptions, every character has more to them than first glance will reveal, and even characters I started hating reveal reasons why they act that way. In this regard the game also does a great job of not going too far in the other direction, as plenty of these characters have to live with the bad choices they have made.
The game also evolves the New Adventure Game format popularized by Telltale and brings that genre forward in a way Telltale hasn’t (in most games at least.) The time travel element makes for some creative puzzles and dialogue options without trivializing the content. People have criticized the dialogue for being over-the-top “young people” speak, but while there were one or two times it pulled me out, I thought the amount of teen attitude was spot on.
Ultimately (and the reason it sits lower on my list,) the game doesn’t quite stick the landing, though it still managed to leave me with strong feelings few games have been able to do. I also blame Ethan for pointing out how little the characters’ faces emote, which I somehow hadn’t noticed until we began our Spoilercast for the game, and now I can’t unsee it. But don’t let that video game quibble keep you from enjoying the story.
5. Tales from the Borderlands
Wait a minute, didn’t I just say that Life is Strange is better than any recent Telltale game? Yeah ok, but that was before I played Tales from the Borderlands. This game blew me away, and if it wasn’t for a game further down my list, it would be one of the funniest games I’ve ever played.
Like, Ethan, I have tried repeatedly to get into the Borderlands series and never been able to stick with it. I don’t find loot games engaging, and not only do I not find it funny, but it actively annoys me with its referential and “Internet” related jokes. The more “funny” a character is supposed to be, the more I disliked them (coughcoughHandsomeJackClaptrapcough.)
So imagine my surprise when not only did this game help me regain faith in Telltale’s ability to make engaging games, it made me laugh out loud and care about the story and characters it was presenting to me. It actively plays with Telltale’s own formula, and while it doesn’t necessarily fix some of the problems with this style of game it does reference the foibles that the style has had. It says a lot that even my wife, who has never played a Borderlands game and has no desire to, was excited to see what happens at the end of this story.
Between the excellent writing, the emotive characters, and some cool directions the plot goes to, this game is definitely my favorite Telltale adventure game. Yes, that includes the first season of The Walking Dead. If you’re as burned out as I was on this kind of game, this one might just change your mind. If it doesn’t, it should at least make you laugh.
4. Rocket League
I’m not a fan of sports games. I don’t really like driving games that much either. In fact I don’t even really watch regular sports. With that being said, Rocket League captured me in a way that won’t be any surprise to someone who has played that game. Rocket League takes a formula so simple, which makes you wonder why no one else has thought of it, and combines it with a deep level of skill that gives new and old players reasons to come back to it.
When you think about the concept (rocket cars and soccer) it’s hard to imagine why so few games have done it. Or done it well at least. Even Psyonix, the game’s fairly small developer, has tried this same idea with much less success. This time, they nailed the execution and made sure that every part of the game is addicting and intense. Not to mention the regular free updates the devs have been releasing only adds to the experience.
I could speak about how simple the controls are to learn but how deep they are to master. I could talk about how the size of the playing field and ball works perfectly with the physics, I could explain the joy of perfectly hitting the ball right into the net, only to watch it explode and launch players across the field. I could talk about the equal joy that blocking a near certain goal, or rocket jumping into the air to clear a bouncing ball, or being the first to race across the map to the starting kick off, or the literally dozens of other individual moments that this game provides in spades.
If you have a PC or PS4, you should play it.
3. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
The stories of the Metal Gear games are bonkers crazy, but somehow strangely engrossing to watch. Yet I’ve had no joy playing them. Well Kojima’s (and Konami’s) swan song for the franchise flips the script and just swaps those two. This time it’s the story that’s rather boring (though still ridiculously over written in Kojima style) but the gameplay produces some of the more perfect moments in open world design.
And even then it’s still an achievement, because I usually don’t like open world games. With a few exceptions, I usually get overwhelmed and burned out with all the options and side quests and collectibles and races and the rest of the stuff that overflows out of almost every modern open world game. Metal Gear presents its missions to you in an order that is straight forward, and while there are collectibles, each mission gives you optional side objectives that make them possible to get without feeling overwhelmed.
And when you get into the missions themselves you get to some of the best open world, best stealth, best sandbox gameplay I’ve ever seen. There are just so many ways to tackle each mission, so many different weapons you can equip for each given scenario, and so many options to tackle difficult objectives. That feeling of sneaking into an enemy fortress, quietly tranqing guards or even making your way completely unseen to your objective, and getting out before people even know you’re there is one of the best in the world. Then you pull the trigger on your C4 and all the radar towers in the base explode, leaving smoking rubble and shocked guards as you fly away in your helicopter. Or if you want to run in with a shotgun and a rocket launcher, calling in an airstrike as you order you sniper to open fire on all exposed heads, you can certainly do that too.
Also you can Fulton a bear, I don’t think I have to explain too much more.
2. Super Mario Maker
Super Mario Maker is THE Mario game. It successfully makes game creation an easy and fun process, and also provides infinite Mario levels for our enjoyment. I was having a blast just trying the 100 Mario challenge for a while, but it’s almost impossible to play without creativity just seeping into your braining and whispering “You could make something cool like this!”
At first most of the user generated content was fairly poor, but it has gotten better and better since release, and by following a few key creators I have been able to find some really good levels. The joy of playing Mario 1, 3, World hasn’t changed (even with their slightly updated physics) and even New Super Mario Bros has its place with its unique mechanics.
But nothing quite comes close to watching your level get played. I have been trying to create “good” Mario levels, but I have also seen the joy of just being a jerk, especially when it’s Ethan and he dies to the same Spiny every time. And even the times when I was frustrated with his level (but seriously who makes an autoscroller round 1? He’s gonna regret that) I was having fun. Also the Spiny that killed me is a cheater.
What a surprise! The indie darling that took the Internet (and GameFAQs) by storm is is also my favorite game of the year.
Honestly, at this point everyone’s probably sick of hearing about Undertale. The game itself is far better the less you know about it. And while it doesn’t exactly put its best foot forward, it plays with your expectations in such an amazing way, which is part of what makes it so great.
It has hilarious humor, great characters, meaningful drama that doesn’t feel forced, and plays with mechanics and tropes in games that honestly pushes the entire medium forward.
But I think Griffin McElroy of Polygon put it best:”Undertale is an easy game to assume you already know… I had already decided out of hand that I knew everything about it. An hour in, I was pretty sure I knew some things about it. Two hours in, I was mystified and head-over-heels.”
If you can get to that point and allow yourself to be mystified, then you will be in the for the best gaming experience of 2015 (and all-time according to www.gamefaqs.com).