One of my great pleasures in doing a lot of my game's writing is playing as many games as possible and handing out awards at the end of the year. Game of the Year is something I look forward to immensely, allowing me to look back on the last 12 months of games and really highlight the excellence that hit.
And 2015 had a lot of excellence. Usually I'd only do around 20 games on a list, but this year has been filled with so much quality, I've had to extend the list of 35. To make it any shorter would be to leave a ton of games I was not willing to, so hey, we gotta longer list this year. That's fine by me. I've played well over 50 to 60 games this years, so there are even games I'd call good that didn't make the cut.
We're going to break this up into two articles to keep this manageable for you, dear reader. We'll count through #35-#18 in this post and then get 16#-#1 in the next. We'll also have a separate award post for more specific recognitions that I want to give.
But without further ado, lets get to it:
Evolve fell off quickly in terms of player involvement and buzz, which many would call a cardinal sin for a multiplayer game. I don't think that means it's a bad game though. In fact, I believe it to be very good indeed. The asymmetrical nature of the game provided something a little different and certainly made for some tense match ups. Pitting a huge alien monster against four hunters can make for some tense match ups.
While at times the act of 'tracking' in the game could be a little tedious, when a team works together in meaningful ways, it makes for a very satisfying hunt. There is a lot of gratification and fun in here if you are willing to find it, even if it may not keep you coming back over and over. That's fine in my book.
#34: Project Cars
The driving genre, especially those focused on simulation, has been a little stagnant for a while. Two franchises, Forza and Gran Turismo, have held a monopoly for a long time, but Project Cars has stepped forward and proved to be a worthy challenger.
The indie game was crowd funded, giving it freedom and the ability to specialise in a lot of nerdy car stuff that more polished experiences might gloss over. It's an excelent driving game split across all kinds of divisions of cars and if you are looking to try a driving sim that feels fresh and new, I'd suggest hoping into this one.
#33: Cities: Skylines
The city building genre has been…well, near non-existent for the last few years. That is partially due to the EA produced SimCity being a disaster at launch, laying waste to the entire genre in the mean time. There have been a few attempts to get it on track, but none have gotten anywhere near to the level of Cities: Skylines.
If you have fond memories of older SimCitys, you absolutely should pick this one up. The mod support is great and the features it houses are extensive. It revives the genre in new and interesting way and looks like it will be supported for some time to come. It may even be the very best city management game ever made, and that is high praise indeed.
#32: Mad Max
Mad Max, thanks to Fury Road, has been catapulted back into the public consciousness in the last year. With that in mind, if you want Mad Max in game form…well, Mad Max will fit the bill. It has everything you'd want from a Mad Max game: vehicular warfare, crazy art design, sandy locations, blood, metal and rust.
There is something that feels a little old school about Mad Max, in terms of mechanics of its open world, which is befitting the franchise. While it could use a little invention in my opinion, the car combat, driving, and environments are wonderful. The hand to hand even has some nice flair to it, which is surprising being based around the tired Arkham combat system. When all is said and done, despite it's drawbacks, Mad Max really is a perfectly good game and something you should look into if you are a fan of the series.
#31: Mortal Kombat X
The revival of Mortal Kombat in the last few years has been somewhat unprecedented. The franchise was near dead just a few years back, but has come back to rip-roaring success.
Mortal Kombat X is fitting of that revival. The game is more or less everything it was in the 90s, and it's almost refreshing to see a series stay so firmly tied to its roots. While I'm not big into the fighting game genre (and the game might well have been higher on this list if I was), and even I had plenty of fun with the title. It's bloody, gory, inventive and friendl to new comers. If you are looking for a nice light fighting game with maximum fun to play and spectate, Mortal Kombat X should be right up your alley.
#30: Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
Assassin's Creed is in a bit of a yoyo state at the moment. It seems, over the last couple of releases, it's alternating between good and bad releases, with the frustrating Assassin's Creed 3, the wonderful Assassin's Creed: Black Flag and last years buggy Assassin's Creed: Unity. Syndicate certainly continues this trend though, falling on the good side of the scale for the franchise.
It's jaunty,fun and features some of the series' best characters. Evie and Jacob Frye are delightful leads and it also features one of the franchise's best villains. the recreation of Victorian London is well judged too and I had plenty of adventurous romps through the city I call home.
Lets just hope next year's outing can buck the alternating streak and ends up being quite good.
#29: Pro Evolution Soccer 2016
While I enjoy sports games quite a bit, I wouldn't usually put them on a game of the year list. More so than other yearly franchises, they are just meditations on previous iterations meaning it's harder to justify. So for me to include, it has to be a great entry in a series that really stands out as improving the genre.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 is that. The franchise had fallen from grace since its dominance around a decade ago, but with this year's release, for my money, Pro Evo has overtaken FIFA as the premiere footballing experience. It's tactically minded, with a huge focus on the actual moment to moment gameplay. Pro Evolution really is a revelation for the genre and something you really must play if you enjoy the sport.
#28: Disney Infinity 3.0
Disney Infinity has been building its brand for years now, becoming recognised for its focus on level creation and the drop dead gorgeous toys the game makes use of. With 3.0 though, it finally feels like the game has become a fully fledged experience.
While previously, the franchise's focus was solely on it being a toy box, a tool to explore your creativity with a few underwhelming 'playsets', this year features the inclusion of more satisfying campaigns and a toy box hub that ties the parts of the game into a unified experience. It really is a great improvement and there is a huge amount of content to interact with now the game has been out a while.
…plus the inclusion of Star Wars characters doesn't hurt either.
#27: Game of Thrones
Telltale's Game of the Thrones series is a complicated one. As a massive fan of the show and of Telltale's output, the game has been a somewhat mixed affair. It had a killer opening which launched last December, but later episodes meandered a little bit. It certainly had some highs, but they got lost in the shuffle of the middle episodes.
The last episode brought the series back from the brink though, creating an incredibly interesting closer on the first season, seemingly reaffirming its place going forward. If you are a fan of the series, this really is an excellent aside that carves an interesting conflict for itself in the in world of Westeros. While it gets lost a little along the way, the first season is supported by two great bookend episodes and a long, winding set up.
#26: Dying Light
All the way back in January, the gaming scene surprisingly became arrested by Techland's Dying Light. The game wasn't expected to be a huge success, especially critically, with the Dead Island developer's previous output bring a bit dicey and there being a sense of cultural fatigue around Zombies.
However, a very freeing sense of movement and day and night cycle that affected gameplay added a real spark and charm to the title that caught critics and audiences in equal measure. It was a brutally beautiful game and one well worth trying out if you can get around to it.
#25: Star Wars: Battlefront
There was a lot of expectation riding on Star Wars: Battlefront. It's reviving a much beloved franchises and hit just weeks before The Force Awakens and the world went Star Wars crazy. And DICE delivered their version of the game…
…and it didn't please a certain subsection of the fanbase. However, if you can put aside your ideas of what Battlefront was and also appreciate a more easy going online FPS, this could be just the ticket. It looks gorgeous and cinematic in ways that multiplayer games rarely are. While not for everyone, I and, I know many others, have adored their time with Battlefront. It really is a unique online experience.
Splatoon is something quite different. The game is a shooter, but with a very Nintendo Twist. Instead of the main focus being killing opponents, it's instead on just trying to cover a map in as much ink as possible. It's totally unlike anything else around, with a very unqiue concepts and ideas.
Playing as kids with the power to turn into squids is equally odd yet effective, which might as well be the motto for the title. It's got a distinct charm to it that you won't find anywhere else and you certainly owe it to yourself to at least give the game a whirl. It truly is delightful.
#23: Batman: Arkham Knight
Arkham Knight has rubbed many the wrong way since its release. There has been diminishing sense of satisfaction with lacklustre DLC and an absolutely bizarre fiasco surrounding the PC version of the game.
However, putting all that to the side, the core game is really something quite excellent. This is well worn territory, and it very much is just 'another Arkham game' but its mechanics has become more varied and it tries a lot of new and worthwhile concepts. It also has one of the most substantial stories in the franchise's history, which acts as a decent topper on the Rocksteady trilogy.
While it has garnered an unfavourable aftertaste, it would be a disservice to not make note on the excellent game that lays underneath all of that.
Where to even begin with Undertale? To talk about much of anything about it is to say too much, but I will say it really is one of the most bizarre and charming titles of the year.
It has a distinct retro style and is full to the brim with ideas in both narrative and gameplay departments. Showing a playful demeanour at the player's expense and also a fair bit of nuance to its world and characters, you really owe it to yourself to give it a try. You might even find yourself playing through it more than once to explore the game's plentiful easter eggs and asides. If you are looking for something different, full of ideas and genuinely funny, you'd struggle to find a better title than Undertale this year.
#21: Rainbow Six: Siege
Rainbow Six: Siege caught me totally unawares. While I'd played it and liked it quite a bit at events before it came out, the game came in a little cold in terms of public buzz. However, it hasn't taken long to captivate me.
I've not stopped playing it since release and it's easily some of the best multiplayer I've played this year. It is tight and tactical in a way few multiplayer shooters are, and crucially, taps into that 'just one more' mentally. It captures the Rainbow Six tenants very well in a multiplayer setting too, and while it lacks a serious single player, I've not begun to get bored of what it offers. I expect this will be a mainstay for me well into the new year.
#20: Her Story
Her Story might be one of the most fascinating games to be released this year. While some will dispute its 'game' status, it really brings something different to the table.
Leaving you with nothing but a database of short movie clips in a police database to look over, you are tasked with trying to figure out what happened in a murder case. It tells a twisting story and actually makes you feel like you are doing a degree of detective work. You might even find yourself scribbling on paper to solve the game's mystery. Try it if you want to experience a new way of play entirely.
#19: The Beginner's Guide
Of all the game's on this list, none are harder to talk about then The Beginner's Guide. The less you know about it going in, the better.
The key consideration: 1) It's really quite excellent. 2) It's a very high concept game that asks you to blur the lines of reality to consider the meaning of an artist and what you can understand about a person through art. It's a short journey, yet something well worth experiencing from start to finish.
#18: Everybody's Gone To The Rapture
While some despise FPXs (otherwise known less affectionately as walking simulators) and they certainly aren't for everyone, it's a genre I've really come to appreciate. They allow creators to really pair environment and storytelling in ways few other genre's do.
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture is one of the best examples of that in action. Taking place in a beautiful west country English village, created with staggering authenticity, the game takes on the questions we have about our own mortality and also those above us, be those angels or aliens. Add on top of that a totally enrapturing soundtrack by Jessica Curry and you have a beautiful title that I fully endorse.
Numbers #17 all the way up to that coveted top spot will be with us very soon, so do stay tuned. I think you've got a few surprises incoming.