Game of the Year 2015: 10-4
Our look back at the best of 2015 continues with numbers ten through four.
10th. Xenoblade Chronicles X
Ever since a stunning first look in a Nintendo Direct many years ago, Xenoblade Chronicles X has been one of those almost mythical Wii U games that promised to prove to the world that the little system that could is capable of standing up to the big boys. Now the game is out and, though flawed, ponderous and unabashedly open-world, Xenoblade is also beautiful, mysterious, fascinating and my personal Game of the Year. Monolith Soft have created a follow up to their fantastic Xenoblade Chronicles that covers new ground and shifts what we expect from Japanese developers in the JRPG space. The coalescence of a truly fantastical and unpredictable alien world (with death potentially around every corner), charming characters and deep systems in nearly every aspect of the game make Chronicles X seem like a beguiling combination of Phantasy Star Online, Dark Souls and the original Xenoblade. Oh, and you can pilot bad ass giant robots!
9th. Her Story
Her Story is a product of narrative invention. Through a tangled web of video footage, we piece out an intriguing plot that’s driven through unreliable narration. By removing the player from direct interaction and providing only the prescribed series of videos found through keywords, we find a new way to engage with a narrative. Her Story is provocative not only in the way it unfolds a curious narrative with any number of conclusions, but also through its process of suggested discovery.
8th. Shadowrun: Hong Kong
After tearing through both Returns and Dragonfall, I happily backed Shadowrun Hong Kong and it didn’t disappoint. Although the setting has changed, the latest title contains the RPG series’ tropes of noirish intrigue, sprawling conspiracies and turn-based shootouts – all set in an engaging world where fantasy and sci-fi elements are seamlessly combined. To further delight series’ fans, there’ll be a new installment of Hong Kong missions released imminently.
7th. Rise of the Tomb Raider
In their 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics proved that they could out-Uncharted Uncharted, though fans of Lara’s PSOne escapades probably missed some of the puzzle solving and… well, tomb raiding. With Rise of the Tomb Raider, the theme has shifted from survival horror to an Indiana Jones-style, globe-trotting adventure, with more variation in locales, enemies and tombs. A greater emphasis on stealth and exploration give the game an intriguing new veneer, without straying from the rock-solid combat and traversal mechanics that worked so well in the original. If you were worried about a sophomore slump, rest easy – Rise of the Tomb Raider is a fantastic action adventure experience and one of the best games of the year.
6th. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Best stealth game ever? Quite possibly. And yet you’re rarely forced to take on the mantle of “world’s greatest spy”. That’s the beauty of Metal Gear Solid V: that the myriad options available to you at any one time are so varied, exciting, and fun to use – and the game revels in letting you improvise – that you can tackle the majority of missions in any way you see fit. Whether that’s going in all guns blazing with an ever-expanding arsenal of firearms, rocket-powered fists, and even a water pistol; sneaking in to an enemy installation with the intention of Fultoning every single guard you see; using a cardboard box to slide down a sand dune and wipe out a pissed off brown bear; or erect a balloon effigy of yourself in the middle of the road to halt a battalion of tanks so you can creep up behind them with a case of C4. Metal Gear Solid V is a phenomenal sandbox that offers what feels like limitless freedom, and has some of the most fluid, perfectly tuned, and enjoyable mechanics of any game I’ve ever played. There are plenty of problems with its clunky narrative and Konami’s egregious use of microtransactions post-release (they’re selling insurance for crying out loud), but these are relatively minor blips in what is one of the best games of 2015, and a fitting send-off for Hideo Kojima’s fabled Konami career.
5th. Life is Strange
Here is the year’s prestige game. That nice creative work that you can feel good about and add to the list, because it is all thoroughly good and new and special within the medium. This is a distinguished work of episodic storytelling with its own personality, a videogame with unique vision and a capacity to connect with very human themes. Max Caulfield’s story is our story, there is something for everyone to take away from it.
4th. The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt
Open world games are dime-a-dozen these days, but The Witcher III differs than most, in that it features the same amazing scope offered in titles like Dragon Age: Inquisition and Far Cry 4, but with much more meaningful content throughout. You won’t find drab laundry lists to be checked off or X number of towers to be climbed here, all content is hand-crafted with extraordinary care and attention to detail – even the obscure side quests found at the remote corners of the map. This is one of the few open world RPGs where seeing and doing everything is well worth the 150 plus hours required to do so. Series veterans and newcomers alike would do well do jump into this glorious fantasy RPG experience, as this type of genre-topping effort doesn’t come often.
Check back tomorrow for our top three games of the year!