Better late than never. Following Sir Gaulian’s rundown in the middle of December, here’s my list of the creme de la creme of 2015 – a year in which I found myself playing my 3DS and Wii U more than anything else, despite all of the exciting goings on elsewhere. Indeed, 2015 felt like the year that the ‘next-gen’ consoles really got going, with games like Fallout 4 and Arkham Knight finally providing bona fide reasons to invest in a PS4 or Xbox One.
But having said that, I’m still working my way through tons of brilliant games from yesteryear, and if any game defined my 2015, it was Xenoblade Chronicles, a Wii game from 2011. I reviewed it back in September after spending well over 100 hours playing through its enormous campaign, and it’s easily the game I played the most last year. Other notable games I finally got around to playing included Alien: Isolation and Heavy Rain, along with the brilliant Remember Me (which I’m currently playing through and loving every minute). But in terms of games that actually came out this year, this little lot have been keeping me busy…
The Best Games of 2015 That I Actually Played
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
After being introduced to the series with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the fourth game, and I even got a snazzy limited edition New Nintendo 3DS XL to play it on. The latest entry is a big improvement on its predecessor in terms of the single-player campaign, and I love the new verticality to the levels. Basically, when I wasn’t playing Xenoblade in 2015, I was playing this.
Affordable Space Adventures
Few games have really taken full advantage of the Wii U’s idiosyncratic control system, but this game used every facet of the console’s quirky controls to brilliant effect. As a single-player game it’s fine, but with two or three people it becomes an absolute riot. Who’d have thought that being an engineer could be so much fun? Don’t answer that if you’re an engineer.
Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.
I’m a sucker for turn-based strategy games, and the 3DS is perfect for them – Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is still one of my favourite games on the system, and I loved Fire Emblem: Awakening. So I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this: a strategy game based on H.P. Lovecraft’s monsters along with various heroes from American literature. The lack of a map was initially jarring, but it quickly proved to be an inspired decision that really encouraged careful exploration, and Eurogamer rightfully highlighted Code Name STEAM as one of the great ‘Unsung Games of 2015‘. Yes it’s a little unbalanced, and those chunky visuals are an acquired taste, but it’s still a true gem.
Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water
I was tempted to put Splatoon in this slot, but to be honest I played Project Zero far more, even though on the surface it’s a ‘weaker’ game. It’s repetitive, yes, and it’s hardly revolutionary – but it rekindled my love for a genre that’s almost been forgotten, and now I can’t wait to seek out a few more survival horror games that I missed along the way. Dino Crisis 2? Parasite Eve II? I reckon they might still be worth a punt after all these years… and imagine if they remade them.
BUBBLING UNDER: Splatoon, Yoshi’s Woolly World, Box Boy!.
The Best Games of 2015 That I Would Have Played If I’d Had The Time
I tramped around Fallout 3 for what seemed like years. I laid waste to Megaton, discovered creepy skeletons in an abandoned bunker, put a tree man out of his misery and got up to all sorts of larks on a battleship. Fallout 4 looks just as bizarre and wonderful, even if it’s as buggy and clunky as ever. But then again, the bugginess and clunkiness is almost part of the charm. Almost.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
I came this close to buying Xenoblade Chronicles X on day one, having spent a good chunk of my year playing through the prequel. In the end though there are still far too many games on my backlog that I want to get through, and I know this game will be another 100-hour-plus adventure. It does look brilliant though – I’m scheduling it in for sometime in 2016, for definite.
Batman: Arkham Knight
The emerging consensus seemed to be that this game wasn’t quite as good as the first two – but it still looks bloody amazing. I can’t wait to step into the shoes of the caped crusader once again, but I also feel like I should play through Origins first, if only for completeness. That there old Batmobile looks fun though, don’t it?
Guitar Hero: Live
At one point you couldn’t move in my front room for plastic musical instruments: I played my way through about five Guitar Hero and Rock Band games before the genre seemed to fizzle out. It’s been a good long while since that happened, however, and guitar games feel like they’re ripe for a return. Rock Band 4 looked fun, but Guitar Hero: Live had the killer idea of using live concert footage to make you feel like you’re noodling away on an actual stage. I’m looking forward to making a proper tit of myself as I thrash away on this in my living room.
Life is Strange
Dontnod Entertainment is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the hottest game studios in the business. After Remember Me was released to generally great reviews but reportedly poor sales (I can’t find any official figures, but one thread claims it sold just 140,000 copies), it was great to see Dontnod getting a well-deserved hit with Life is Strange – and it also vindicates the developer’s decision to press on with using female lead characters after their previous game was rejected by publishers who whined that “You can’t have a female character in games” (seriously). Life is Strange sounds genuinely different and innovative, and the only thing that stopped me buying it is the nagging guilt that I’m still only halfway through the equally wonderful The Wolf Among Us – a game I’m determined to see through before I start any more episodic adventures.
BUBBLING UNDER: Steins;Gate, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam Bros., Resident Evil Revelations 2, Her Story, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Soma, The Talos Principle, Just Cause 3, Sunless Sea, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.
[As written by Lucius Merriweather in the miasma of the New Year back-to-work week.]