Countdowns

2015 TOP TEN VIDEO GAMES

2015 was an amazing year for video games. Personally, it was the first year out of school, meaning I got to play more (than I probably should have). I also bought a PS4, and later built a PC, bringing myself at last to the current generation. And I was just in time. The amount of quality titles this year has been outstanding. Usually when writing a yearly top 10 I struggle to come up with 10 great titles. This year it was a struggle to determine of the best in a time with some many amazing games.

It was a struggle to play everything that was great this year as well, meaning this top 10 may change in the future. When it does I’ll type up a little update, but for now here are my top 10 video games of 2015, and keep in mind that they’re all (mostly) subject to change. Because if anything I haven’t played is good enough to bump even my top 3 this year, then they fucking deserve it!

10. The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt

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It made it on my list yet I know if any real gamer came here to read my garbage they would fucking throw a brick at their computer monitor in the hopes that it would travel through the Internet and through my face. Well let me tell you, shitlord: As you read this and become unfathomably upset I may be in another room entirely, or I may have left the building even! So you may just throw a brick in my house without injury. Then wouldn’t you feel fucking stupid?

The Witcher 3 is a great video game, alright. One of the best this year. And it’s a great RPG with some of the most interesting characters and plot points in the series. I’m not going to say the writing is perfect, and that the game doesn’t bog itself down with side-shit, or that the game itself doesn’t rust a little once the player unlocks the second major location of the game. Because it does all those three things. Maybe that’s the reason I dropped it after a few dozen hours. Maybe I dropped it because 2015 was hotshit crazy and games were constantly coming out consistently. But the primary reason is that this game is just hard to get back into. Sitting here, thinking about what video game I’m going to play after I stop writing this garbage, I’m not thinking about Witcher at all. In fact, the thought of going back to Witcher seems utterly unappealing.

So I might go back and fiddle with it before I ultimately decide if I want to complete it or not. But the time I had was great. I love a game that doesn’t baby the player, with its plot or its gameplay, and this isn’t a game for babies. It deals with complicated subject matter that deals with neutrality rather than good vs evil, meaning you meet characters who appear villainous in the beginning yet show their real colors ultimately coming off as a likable, flawed person. It’s a game that fully realizes the flaws in a character, displaying them without shame, which contrasts with the harsh archetypes of most fiction, video games especially, that paint good vs evil in black and white. It even handles sex in a tasteful manner, a thing most video games can’t fucking do because developers think video game players are playing their video games dicks in hand. Hoping. Praying to see a pixel breast.

The game even has an in world collectible card game that is fun to play.

I will say the controls are sluggish and eventually the player just outlevels everything to come in the game, rendering the already unfun combat a bore, but patches have come faster than most developers can publicly admit their game was broken the begin with. I also heard the DLC, both paid and free, was interesting and worth it too, so I gotta give the developers props. They’ve always been great at customer relations, and quality controls, and over-exceeding expectations when it comes to the sheer content their video games possess. They know how to support a video game, and other developers should take note.

9. Nuclear Throne

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This game is actually quite ancient, originally appearing in Steam Early Access in 2011. There was an earlier free version one could download from their site. People have been playing this for a sixteen years so they probably wouldn’t consider this a 2015 game. But it officially came out of early access in December. So I’m considering it.

I really like this game. It’s a faster roguelike than Isaac. You get fifteen minutes before your either dead, or you make the decision that your run is shit, or good enough to get you to the end. I’ve never made it to the end. I hope to, but it’s fucking hard.

I love the graphics and the weird art and design style. I love the music. I love how the game feels. I love the randomized drops and enemy placements. It’s a great game that I can see myself playing more and more. The characters players unlock are great in really changing how you play the game and how you prioritize your upgrade path. The Dailies and Weeklies provide more reasons to play consistently. It’s cool and I’m a professional writer so I can say rather or not something is cool and you have to believe me that, at the very least, I think it’s cool. Okay? Moving on.

8. Rocket League

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Rocket League came out of nowhere and destroyed summer. It was a complete joke. Games were coming out, and a high profile update of fucking Terraria came out (and I love that game), but the only thing I could think about was Rocket League.

It’s car soccer. What a stupid concept. It’s fast and free, easy to handle yet difficult to master. You have to become one with the ball, expertly assuming where the ball will go and how best to smack it around with your car. I’ve seen great videos of people flying all over the goddamn place hitting that shitty ball from one side of the court all the way to the goal. But we’ve all seen these videos, and I’m pretty sure it’s field and not court. But don’t send me to jail over it.

I suck at this game, and every game online proved to be embarrassing and angering. I should have probably played this game more, and I probably should have let this game be a fun thing instead of a competitive thing while I played it, but I still love this thing and I still wasted many hours watching other people play this game and playing this game. It’s a fucking game where you can shoot dollar signs out of your exhaust pipe when you turbo. That’s dank.

7. Steam World Heist

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This is a game I’ve played about five times. That doesn’t mean I’ve completed it five times, no, I haven’t completed it once. I turned on the game and played it five times. Keep that in mind when informing yourself on the merits of myself as a game’s critic.

I’m not a game’s critic.

The gameplay is simple to understand and grasp, yet the strategic element makes it a satisfying game to master. The player must plan their party and loadout, and position their characters across the level in a way that allows for efficient progress toward the objective, loot, and then exit. At the end of the level the player is rewarded with a ranking that determines how many star badges the player receives, which are used to unlock further locations in the world map. These unlocked locations provide stores with better equipment or optional levels with specialized loot, so the player is directly rewarded for their efforts and skill. It’s also just satisfying to kill enemy robots while making out with all of your robots intact.

I really got drawn in by the randomized loot, because who doesn’t love randomized loot? The upgrade path is also great. You get multiple characters in the game with different classes (some with similar classes yet different upgrade paths and weapon dispositions) and each time they level up they get one upgrade, rather it be something like a new skill or a stat increase. It’s a basic form of role playing character progression, but this ease of which the player can understand how the game works makes for a video game that provides satisfying, easy to get into gameplay that is in no way intimidating. Unless you’re intimidated by an entire night playing one video game.

It’s also priced cheaply, and the presentation is amazing, and goddamn is this a great video game. I could see it ranking higher as I keep playing. It was just released and I’m bad at completing video games so shut the fuck up Internet.

6. Pillars of Eternity

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I got into some weird things this year. Including Dynasty Warriors. That’s completely unrelated, but I also got into CRPGs (by which I refer to RPGs from the isometric point of view, typically taking inspiration and entire rule sets straight from Dungeons and Dragons). I thought hey, people like these games. I have a computer!

First I got Divinity Original Sin Enhanced Edition for the PS4. But I enjoyed the game for what it was. Figuring I should play something on the computer with better controls I checked out the Enhanced Edition of the first Baulder’s Gate. It was a cool game with great writing, however I didn’t get that far into it. I found some aspects of the game to be brutal difficulty wise and as a beginner to CRPGs I was deterred from continuing. Then I heard about Pillars of Eternity, a kickstarter game that came out early this year. There wasn’t a ton of discussion about it in the circles I listen to/read, so I had almost forgotten about it at all.

Oh man Pillars. This game is great, and trying out Baulder’s Gate before playing Pillars was the best way to experience it, being the close relation since the two development teams are largely similar. It’s rare that I care about the story or characters in a video game, even in RPGs, but I found myself engrossed in everything while playing this game. The lore is great. The dialogue is great, and the choices actually seem like they matter. The combat and class design are also really great and layered with complex mechanics.

The art is great. It looks barely better than the graphics from CRPGs of the late 90s, sprinkled with effects that serve to enhance environments in modern ways, such as the particle effects and the lighting. This is definitely a game where I found myself in certain locations that told stories through their environment. You walk through the woods and find a camp covered in blood and bodies. Wander a bit north and you’ll find a troll. This isn’t even a quest, it’s just something that happens.
I can’t say enough about the writing. I’m extremely harsh about video game stories and I can’t get over bad gameplay, or no gameplay, in favor of a focused narrative. But even if I didn’t enjoy the gameplay here I think I would still play it to see what happens. Unlike most video games the narrative alone is strong enough to engross me.

I haven’t yet completed this game. I’ve barely scratched the surface, even though I’ve finished several quest lines. If I had finished this game, I’m sure it would make a higher rank on the list. Although I’m not concerned with the ranking itself on this top 10, seeing how meaningless ranking video games is to begin with, I will more than likely find myself updating this list to raise Pillars of Eternity higher.

5. Axiom Verge

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Since originally playing Metriod Fusion, and later Castlevania Aria of Sorrow, the metriodvania style of games really appealed to me. It’s the level layout and exploration, giving way to satisfying upgrade paths and enemy encounters, that really hold my attention. While I haven’t stayed with most games in this genre until their completion, I can say that this way of exploration, when the player sees an unattainable item or path and later unlocks the way to give access, is most satisfying.

A lot of video games have adopted this style of game especially the ones that are labeled as indie. Axiom Verge ranks amongst the greatest of these games. At first, it seems to take more than inspiration from the Metriod series in terms of the game’s visuals, but as the player unlocks more abilities they see the ways the developer purposely takes the expectation, that this would play exactly like a Metriod, and they (he…the game was developed by one guy) expertly defy those expectations to a surprising effect. The double jump, for example, is always an ability the player eventually unlocks to proceed through areas with greater vertical requirements than one jump provides. When I play a metriodvania I’m constantly seeing those vertical requirements and saying to myself “that’s where I go after I get the double jump.” When you get the ability to proceed through those areas, you are surprised and delighted to find a mutation of the ability. Rather than jump twice you teleport through the air, giving you not only exploration options, but options in combat, being that you can use the teleport to dodge enemies and projectiles. It’s generally exciting to see how upgrades defy expectations after so many years of playing metriodvanias.

Most of the weapons in this game are completely unnecessary, which is perhaps more like the Castlevania games than the Metriod ones. I initially played through this game when the game came out and I dropped out for other things, returning months later in an effort to complete the game. I played to the spot where I originally quit and was surprised to find myself with different weapons and items unlocked. The game makes players want to find these weapons, since they attack in surprising and intriguing ways, and finding said weapons is a real challenge. Games with rewarding and meaningful secrets have a place in this world, I think, and there should be more. MORE SECRETS.

That said the game is also challenging to navigate, and doubly challenging to find your way. I’m not asking for the game to directly tell me where I should go ala Halo-styled mission markers, but being the employment of tools seems so unexplained and experimental, some general sense of direction would be nice. But perhaps I’m but a tiny bitch crying over spilled ice cream.

The graphics and music should be mentioned as well. Especially the music. Although it can get a bit annoying at times at repetition, I couldn’t help but get into the driving, trans-like beats behind certain areas of the game. At one HP, the game introduces that annoying fucking consistent beeping sound that all old games used to do (Zelda and Metriod), but the music is tempoed to include that beeping sound as an additional layer to the beat. That’s amazing. The graphics are also beautiful, colorful, and at times surprising in their effects. The art design is, like I said above, very Metriod. Meaning very Alien. And there were many rooms with backgrounds that told a story, which is also amazing. The presentation looks like something that would come out of a rom hacked NES or SNES game, in that it’s low pixel count with glitch-inspired graphical flourishes. It makes what would be a derivative art style quite unique and fun to explore.

I’d have to say Axiom Verge was my favorite indie game of 2015, and thus deserves this spot on my list.

4. Fallout 4

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This game is great. As a fan of the 3D first person Bethesda Fallout games, I think they have took some steps in the right direction. Letting the developers of Wolfenstein The New Order handle the FPS combat was one step in the right direction, making all combat outside VATs more viable than it has ever been. Picking elements from popular mods, and from Skyrim, was a great idea too. I enjoy the ability to sprint. I like the Perk system in this game, which streamlines the character progression enough that you don’t have to worry so much about building a totally busted character. Almost every way to play now is viable.

This has drawbacks. There isn’t much in the way of variety when it comes to character builds. While not important due to the single player nature of this game (meaning there isn’t an online multiplayer PvP build-heavy combat mode (there should be that’d be fun)), it does cut down my desire to replay this game when I eventually finish. As someone who has restarted New Vegas countless times, this may be a problem, however I don’t really care. I don’t need this game to fulfill my video game time until I fucking die. I just need it to be a fun video game, and it is.

The real problem I have with this game, outside of the usual Bethesda jank I’m doomed to experience while playing on a console, is the dialogue system the game employs. It’s a little wheel that contains four options to progress a conversation, most ending up in the same exact way, with no real impact from the skill points invested in speech. Why have a speech skill in the game at all if there’s no real reason to use it? In New Vegas, I could bypass combat, gain access to items, helpers, or information, all because I leveled my speech to 100. There is no leveling of individual skills in Fallout 4 like the older games, however with a speech perk I would like to see some way to actually employ it. Instead, you just get a higher percentage that a dialogue option will succeed, meaning you could have a speech skill of five and there would still be a chance that you would fail the game’s speech check and gain nothing for trying. Why waste skill points investing in speech at all?

I’ve loved most of my experience with this game. The crafting is really good. The settlement building is pretty rough, especially considering the total lack of tutorialization or explanation, but I still found myself having fun while building things and combing through the ruins just to find pieces of craftable material like screws or glue and I have so much fun with the combat that whoops there went another hour! This game will suck up your time as you explore and craft, and it’s still a damn good time.
A game with many flaws can still be fun. Yeah?

I loved the chaotic moments where multiple factions are battling it out, and you’re just picking your shots because you’re trying to develop your character and his/her faction affiliation. I love finding legendary enemies in the game, gunning them down, and seeing what unique items they drop, which are randomized every time. The game constantly surprises you with these unique items, and while often you’ll get crap (like a fucking baseball bat that does extra combat to Synths), you have about an equal chance finding great stuff. Like shotguns that shoot plasma.
I also really love running around a camp of scared bandits, who are wildly attempting to gun you down, and slicing them to death with a shishkebab.

Fucking great!

3. Splatoon

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Splatoon is the funnest, most unique multiplayer experience, since Call of Duty 4 and since Demon’s Souls PvP.

The player’s goal is to paint as much as they can. You typically want to kill members of the other team, but that objective is secondary, and only necessary because it takes that member out of the game for a few seconds. If you’re not painting, get the fuck out: you’re not playing the game right.
Players compete in games that last three minutes. This allows the players just enough time to cover the field while allowing for an actual contest, and I’ve actually witnessed many comebacks throughout my time with this thing. If one team is shitting all over the other team with absolutely no hope of a real contest, then the player doesn’t get too discouraged since the rounds are so short.

The visuals are sweet as well. The entire ascetic is like something out of the 90s, with bright colors and clothes ripped straight off the participants at an X Games. Each level is designed with player mobility in mind, itself fast and satisfying as you squid through your team’s ink quickly as a squid. Plenty of vertical movement is possible, with walls the player can shoot and then swim up for a good bird’s nest. Painting everything is also very satisfying in terms of how it effects the look of the level, and surprisingly enough the developers correctly chose the right colors of paint too.
The game looks just as fun as it plays. The aforementioned movement as a swimming squid just feels amazing, and it lets the player get to the action as quick as possible. Another feature that allows this quickness is the ability to tap on any alive teammate on the mini map displayed on the player’s gamepad to fly up into the air towards their location. This puts the player in danger, as the other team can see when an enemy is flying toward a spot, making it a very balanced feature. The guns are fun to use, and unlock, and the equipment is also fun to use and unlock, providing a strategy in character building similar to Call of Duty 4 and its successors.
It’s as though the developers went out of their way to make sure every aspect of the online experience was fun. There is rarely room to even get salty here because under harsh domination the round doesn’t last long enough for you to want to rage quit.

In fact, I don’t think I ever really rage quit.

There is also no mic chat available. Which is a ginormous fucking plus, because I hate hearing people speak.

The initial release was rocky. It was apparently impossible to play with friends, though I wouldn’t no since none of my friends bought the fucking thing, and when the game released it had very few amounts of maps and only one mode. They have promised, and delivered, to release free patches to the game that add more maps and mods as well as unlockables, and I would say that by now the game is a very complete package compared to its initial release. The single player was never appealing to me, and as such I have only really touched it for a few minutes, but there’s enough fun to be had in the multiplayer that this doesn’t really matter.

I could go on about the game but there’s still two more games to talk about. I didn’t expect this, but I should have. Splatoon is, simply put, a treasure.

2. Super Mario Maker

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Mario Maker was such an odd announcement, generating little to no buzz with what little information Nintendo was willing to part. It seemed as though a quarter of a game was presented to the viewers. What, you could make Mario levels? K. Only Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros? K.

What came out was nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. Players rushed to create the hardest levels, some trollish, others legitimate tests of skill, and even more players rushed to complete said levels in order to enlarge the E-Penis. It was the perfect game for YouTube, which is hilarious coming from a company that is just now figuring out what YouTube IS.

The game works so well because its interface is so masterful. Players create with ease, popping in and out to test sections without load screens. The tools are presented and put into place in a way that removes artificial challenge in favor of letting the player express their creativity with the tools faster. This game could have attempted to go for a more complicated approach in a way to make the player feel smarter when they created something impressive. They intelligently avoided such attempt, favoring usability instead. It was the right choice.

Unfortunately, although Nintendo finally understands YouTube as a free marketing tool, they cannot for the life of them figure out what the Internet is, or how it can be correctly used to connect players. JUST KIDDING, BECAUSE MARIO KART 8 IS FLAWLESS AND SMASH 4 WORKS NEAR PERFECT AND SPLATOON IS FUCKING BUTTER. What in the goddamn fuck, who in the hell decided finding levels online had to be a goddamn task? Who honestly assumed player controlled ranking was the correct, efficient, smart way to facilitate player created content without a goddamn SEARCH BAR or at least a way to play levels by players FROM YOUR OWN FRIENDS LIST? It’s incredible. Baffling. And Disappointing. Nintendo is doing something about it. They are putting out a companion app.

Wut.

Luckily playing levels from random assholes is easy. Players can choose to play through the 100 Mario mode, which gives players 100 lives to complete 16 randomly selected levels which are structured by difficulty (Easy (which is 8 levels), Medium, Hard). The way in which the game decides level difficulty is still a mystery, to my knowledge, and unfortunately this means a lot of Normal levels are either levels meant for Hard mode that were just created, or the same with Easy levels. Like the fucking auto levels. One Hundred Mario mode is a great, fun way to experience levels while also challenging oneself with a specific goal and limitation. Players who complete all 16 (8) levels unlock a new mystery costume, which itself is a little fun inclusion into the game that I certainly appreciated.

Even with my gripes about finding player levels it’s still a lot of fun to both play and create levels. I love seeing what people have to say after playing any of my particularly difficult or trolly levels, and I never laughed so hard than when I created one that abused a certain (offline only) custom sound option to great effect. Any game that features a prominent sound clip of myself screaming over and over again gets my seel of approval.

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And with baited breath I look forward to future content additions in the form of DLC or free patches. I want a tile set for Super Mario Brothers 2 goddamnit. The weird American one with Turnip throwing. And put in Phanto and put in the Angry Sun from Mario 3. Get on that cool thanks BYE.

1. BLOODBORNE

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Bloodborne, From Software’s 2015 release, takes my game of the year award. Surely they shall preserve the coveted golden trash can, displaying next to their Nickalodian Teen’s Choice Blimp and their moldy Subway sandwich. Look forward to seeing my quote on the box of their Game of the Year release that contains all the DLC in one package.

“This game will make you masturbate for no foreseeable reason and I can’t decide that this is a good thing. Why Fromsoft. Why?”

I’m not sending them a fucking award are you kidding meBloodborne is my favorite video game of 2015 for a handful of reasons. It was my most hyped-for release, and it delivered. I bought my PS4 to play this game. I even bought a fucking faceplate just to let everyone know that this is my Bloodborne console. I even have a theme.

Dark Souls is one of my favorite games of all time, so of course I would love this game. Basically you take Dark Souls, make it faster, blend in HP Lovecraft, and feed it to a giant pig. Shove your beastclaw into the pig’s rectum. Drag out the entrails, smother them in gravy, and feed them to your family. Kill your family. Eat their remains. And congratulations! You’re a monster.

Or a beast, as the game calls ’em. Those are the enemies. You’re a hunter. You hunt beasts throughout the game as they terrorize an eerily empty and blood-obsessed Victorian English city. It’s werewolf horror up to the mid-point of the story, where day becomes night and the fucking Cthulhu’s come out, tentacles and all, in one of the strongest twists to a video game I have ever experienced. Instead of lazy writing into something new, the game’s entire world shifts, displaying a change in tone to the player through the gameplay. Fromsoft is really, really good at telling stories through the actual gameplay rather than CANNED FUCKING CUT SCENES.

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Like the other Souls games, Bloodborne is more about its gameplay and level design then it is about its story. Though the player can gather story through clues left in item descriptions and environmental cues, the player must truly dedicate themselves to hunting down a narrative. This is how I’ve preferred stories in video games (well, most games). You want the story? Fucking work for it. Otherwise, create your own story!

That said I did wish for more NPC dialogue, and more NPCs in general. The few they have chosen aren’t nearly as memorable as the NPCs in Dark Souls, and about half of Bloodborne’s NPCs aren’t present as player models, rather as lit up windows through which the player can prompt dialogue. Although From does a great job with this interaction, utilizing sound to tell the little stories NPCs attempt to tell, it does leave the player a little wanting. The enemies, on the other hand, talk quite a bit while fighting and dying, and I found myself enjoying that a lot. There’s nothing better than slaughtering some insane villagers and hearing them talk shit during their dying breath. I will definitely talk shit with my dying breath, so I can relate to this audio feature presentation.

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Perhaps the strongest reasoning to win the coveted golden trash can is that I beat the game in a week. I didn’t get the good ending, but I fucking beat it, and saw credits. And I restarted the game immediately, and have since started several characters, none of which I’ve completed (damn 2015 and you’re amazing line-up), but I find myself constantly going back to this game. DLC has since released, which I haven’t had the chance to try out, but I heavily look forward to spending more time in the world of Bloodborne. Maybe this time I’ll get the good ending. The one where I get to actually fight THE FINAL FUCKING GODDAMN BOSS.

#

That’s it. I can flex now in peace knowing I finally completed a yearly top 10. And I littered it, here on the webnet, for people prompted to care to read and grimace and vomit into their laps. I put those chunks in your crotch. I hope you enjoy your time this evening.

And Now I’m Flexin

01/07/16

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3 thoughts on “2015 TOP TEN VIDEO GAMES

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