While my own personal Top Ten of 2015 was posted a while ago and the full crew will be recording our official @Gamecritics Top 10 podcast during the first week of January, I really can't get enough of ranking things in numerical order.
Seriously, I love it.
With this in mind, I put out a call to some Twitter folks to get their own Top Tens, and they were kind enough to oblige…. Posted in the order they were received, I'm quite happy to share these selections from my friends Gary Blower, Austen Parkin and Mac Cunningham.
Gary Blower's Top Ten of 2015
For more from Gary, follow him on Twitter – @Xantiriad. You can also hear him on the GameBurst podcast!
10. Dishonored – Definitive Edition (Multi)
Had I not already completed this game on its original release, it would have been much higher up the list. One of my favourite games of the past 5 years. Even better second time around.
9. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Multi)
The Witcher 3 is stunningly beautiful and brutally violent. I've only played around 10 hours, but I've seen enough to appreciate the craft, quality and story telling. However, I do really struggle to engage with the main character (I'd rather I could roll my own character) and I find some of the RPG systems to be unnecessarily convoluted. More time needs to be spent in this game and world during 2016.
8. Batman: Arkham Knight (Multi)
A big surprise to me. I hadn't enjoyed City at all, and never completed Origins – even though I preferred its structure and plot. I thought I was done with Batman and open world games. Who knew the Batmobile and a thematically more coherent story would elevate this game up there with the original. I even enjoyed the Joker challenges and emphasis on complex puzzles. In fact, after finishing the entire game I went back and played City and Origins to completion as well.
7. Super Mega Baseball (PS4)
My favourite regular [see Blood Bowl 2] sports game of 2015. It made baseball accessible and fun [to me with little or no knowledge]. It controls great and has a fun-stylised presentation.
6. Fallout 4 (Multi)
Incrementally improves on many things and offers a more urban wasteland than either 3 or New Vegas. The main story is still the weak link and never matches New Vegas for the clever integration of faction allegiances. The side quests once again make up for this: the highlights being the 'Silver Shroud' and 'USS Constitution' side-stories. Fallout 4 feels more of an evolution rather than revolution.
5. Tropico 5 (Multi)
I love the Tropico games. It's the perfect blend of political satire, strategy and city building. The fifth game steamlines the trade system whilst introducing new buildings, eras, and a greater sense of building one nation. The campaign is fun, whilst the two DLC campaign packs offered some unique and funny twists on the formula. (*The PS4 release was in 2015.
4. Everybody's Gone to the Rapture (PS4)
Arthur C Clark meets an episode of the Archers. This is the most English game I think I've every played. It perfectly captures the feel of cold-war 1980s Britain – which I grew up in. There's Sci-fi DNA in the game from classic BBC science fiction of the 1960s and 70s such as the Quartermass series and Day of the Triffids. Fundamentally Rapture is a game about relationships, trust and belonging: it successfully makes the human drama shine through despite the powerful thematic fatalism. Our GameBurst game of 2015.
3. Blood Bowl 2 (Multi)
The previous game from Cyanide was faithful to the 30 year old tabletop game but wasn't well executed. This sequel is a revelation and makes it a genuine turn-based strategy game. It brilliantly hides all but the flavour of dice rolling behind its fantastic XCOM style strategic gameplay. Blood Bowl 2 features a colourful selection of races, online leagues, great graphics/animation, and a lengthly campaign-tutorial. Superb.
2. Mad Max (Multi)
Bleak, desolate, violent and beautiful. A genuine vehicle roll-play-game and probably the best action-RPG of the year. I sunk over 80 hours into the world and I don't think I saw the same location or feature twice: it's huge and varied. Despite what I have read the car combat is superb, with the convoy takedowns being intense and thrilling. Ignore the reviews and try it for yourself.
1. Affordable Space Adventures (WiiU)
Affordable Space Adventures has a brilliant and unique design that fully utilises the Wii U gamepad. By moving the puzzle solving to the GamePad itself, the player has to use both dexterity and ingenuity. The black-humour, theme and emphasis on stealth made this my standout game for 2015. I can't say any more without spoiling it. Own a Wii U? Play it!
Austen Parkin's Top Ten of 2015
For more from Austen, follow him on Twitter – @BroodWars64. You can also hear him on his podcast, Nintendo Free Radio.
10. The Talos Principle (PS4)
9. Resident Evil Revelations 2
8. Life is Strange
7. Persona 4: Dancing All Night
6. Ori & The Blind Forest
5. Until Dawn
4. Yoshi's Woolly World
3. Tales From the Borderlands
2. Witcher 3
This was a very unusual year for me, as I didn't think any of the games in my Top 5 would be there at the beginning of this year. I hadn't played a Witcher game before, and the "PREPARE TO DIE!" Souls hype machine turned me away from the Souls games. However, I found Bloodborne to be packed with exploration-rewarding unique environments and memorable enemies. I surprisingly really got into the "watch, dodge, counter" combat system, which reminds me of Punch-Out! The lack of a map didn't really bother me because every area of that game is unique and memorable in a way I haven't seen since Metroid Prime.
As for the other 4, Witcher 3 just has amazing sidequest design. Tales From the Borderlands is easily Telltale's best quality and best-performing game with a great mixture of humor and quality writing that puts the main Borderlands games to shame. Yoshi's Woolly World just constantly throws new ideas at you every level, even up to the end of the game, with an amazingly-realized art style. Finally, Until Dawn was my surprise hit of the year. I went in expecting a stupid teen slasher David Cage-style adventure game, and came out engrossed in a surprisingly gripping genuine horror story.
So, those were my favorites, but what about the disappointments? There were a lot of big letdowns this year, but only ONE game managed to not only disappoint at launch, but also literally EVERY MONTH SINCE with its horrible DLC Season Pass: Batman: Arkham Knight.
Batman as a franchise is built on having the best Rogues Gallery in the history of fiction, so naturally Arkham Knight goes out of its way to put its villains either in the background or in a tank. I wasn't the biggest fan of Arkham City compared to Asylum, but at least that game understood that the focus of a Batman game should be on Batman and his interactions with the villains. Arkham Knight, on the other hand, is about blowing drones up with a tank so you can open up another section of city for your tank so you can blow up more drones with your tank…wash, rinse, repeat. Despite having Scarecrow as the main villain, he's not even 1/10th as memorable or intimidating as he was in the brief hallucination sequences of Arkham Asylum.
It's a completely soulless, grindy experience, made all the worse by a monthly release of generic, half-assed, overpriced story DLC that you can easily beat in under 3 hours combined. The final "Season of Infamy" DLC is definitely a step-up, but it's a case of too little WAY too late.
And that's not even getting into the issues the game has if you bought the PC version (which I did not).
Michael A. Cunningham's Top Ten of 2015
#10 (tie): Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U) / Broken Age (Vita)
Both Xenoblade X and Broken Age started great, but I unfortunately ran out of steam during their latter halves. Xenoblade X has a lovely, gigantic world to explore, but it became rather one note for me as the world didn't offer much other than new, beautiful views and more monsters to fight. I also didn't develop my character well enough to survive one of the later missions without grinding and building other skills, so that killed my motivation.
Broken Age also started really well, with the first act planned out masterfully. The characters and setting were very intriguing and the game was well paced. The second act lacked the same spark, as it felt like a messy trial and error adventure game that hadn't been designed as thoughtfully. Had it held up, this one would have ranked much higher on my list due to its strong start.
#9: Persona 4: Dancing All Night (Vita)
Rhythm games live or die by their music, and Persona 4 Dancing All Night really nails it. Revisiting the Persona 4 cast is always a delight, even if the overall story of DAN was a tad predictable. I found myself returning to the free play mode to listen to the fantastic remixes over and over more than anything, so that's what worked for me. I enjoy rhythm games, but am rarely good at them. Persona 4 Dancing All Night made me want to keep going back to get better, because the music was just that good.
#8: Minecraft Story Mode (PS4)
Not being a Minecraft fan, I wasn't really excited about this one at all. Though after playing a few Telltale in front of my wife, I thought this might be a good experiment to see if she'd actually enjoy playing one. Turns out Minecraft Story Mode is a great My First Telltale Game. She hated moving around and having to examine things with the cursor, but loved the characters and we both were quickly invested in the story. Good job again, Telltale.
#7: Bloodborne (PS4)
I'm a sucker for From Software's Souls games, so Bloodborne was an easy pickup. I thought the level design was fantastic, even if some of the bosses were a tad on the cheap side. After struggling with the Cleric Beast for longer than I should have, I ran into very few obstacles after that other than some of the optional fights. I loved the structural layout of the world, so even if it wasn't my favorite From Soft experience, it still stood up as one of my favorites this year.
#6: Until Dawn (PS4)
Until Dawn helped kickstart my second half of the year, as I'd been somewhat disappointed by many of the other offerings. I was in the mood for a narrative adventure and this was just what I needed. The slasher film setting setup some great jump scares, wonderfully cheesy dialogue, and some horrific deaths. My favorite part of this game was how your choices ended up being meaningful. One dumb choice would mean the death of a character, but it was all your own doing. I killed almost everyone during my playthrough. The characters might not have been likeable, but that was kinda the point. Would love to see another game from this developer, but in a different setting.
#5: Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (Vita)
This is easily the simplest of the games I played this year, but much like my experience with the first one I couldn't stop playing. The quick restart option made this super challenging puzzle, action game tolerable where other tough games like this would have lost me early on. While not as tightly designed as the first game, Hotline Miami 2 was a perfect fit for Vita and on the go play. The story was insane, but that just made it more fun for me.
#4: Xenoblade Chronicles 3D (New 3DS)
Playing Xenoblade X (see #10) has made me appreciate the original even more, as the two games couldn't be more different despite sharing similar DNA. Replaying this on the New 3DS has been wonderful, as this version is much easier to navigate thanks to UI changes, despite being on smaller hardware. I've been savoring my experience this time around and appreciate it all the more now, especially the characters, story, and pacing. If you have a New 3DS and don't have this game, fix that immediately.
#3: Life is Strange (PS4)
This has truly been the year for great narrative adventures, and Life is Strange really nailed the butterfly effect story quite well. Initially the rewind function seemed like it was going to be cheating, it quickly becomes apparent that it's designed into the game in such a way to help add to the story. While your choices don't always have the same impact as something like Until Dawn, there are still plenty of gut punches that hit when you don't expect them. My only disappointment was the ending choices where one worked and the other fell flat, but the one that did work really nailed the theme of the game in just the right way.
#2: Tales from the Borderlands (PS4)
Having only played Borderlands 2 and not being a huge fan of the narrative, I didn't expect much from Tales from the Borderlands and almost ignored it. That would have been a big mistake, because this quickly became one of my favorite narrative adventures to date. Taking the formula that worked so well for Telltale's The Walking Dead and spinning it into a comedy made for an amazing experience that had me smiling and laughing out loud more than any other game in recent memory. The cast was amazing and the dual protagonist style worked perfectly. In terms of storytelling, places where Telltale would normally go for an emotional scene, the writers would go for a laugh instead. Everything about this game was just fantastic in ways I didn't expect, especially Loader Bot. It even made me appreciate the cast from the prior games in a way I didn't expect. Also, Loader Bot is awesome, because I can't say that enough. Oh, and don't mess with accountants. *bang bang*
#1: The Legends of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC (PSP)
I really loved how the first Trails in the Sky turned out, but I wouldn't make any excuses for how slow it starts off. It is a very slow burn that eventually catches fire and doesn't stop. Trails in the Sky SC starts off right where the first left off and just hits all the right notes from there on. This one features a perfect pace of story, dungeon exploration, optional content, and introductions of new and returning party members. Anyone who has been longing for a Japanese RPG to match the greats of old and maintain that classic feel, Trails in the Sky SC is that game. It's also been one of the few RPGs of late where I just wanted to keep doing all the content, regardless of how much time I'd already spent with it. That's truly high praise from me.
I also wanted to add some Honorable Mentions — I just haven't been able to get around to these yet, but they might have made it on here.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel (Vita)
Divinity Original Sin Enhanced Edition (PS4)
Telltale's Game of Thrones (PS4)
Infinite thanks to Gary, Austen and Mac for their contributions!
Please check them out at their site and on Twitter, and be sure to come back to @Gamecritics to hear our all-inclusive, decisive, no-holds-barred podcast deciding our own batch of 2015's best. COMING SOON!