In Real Life

Mark Serrels' Top 10 Games Of 2015

Okay, this was harder than I thought. Video games were very good this year. Almost too good.

I thought I had it all sorted — my top five at least. Then I decided to have a quick look at all the video games that were released this year. I had forgotten about so many. Also: I played a lot more video games than I thought.

Ordering them was also super tough. Picking my actual favourite game of the year — the number one spot — was relatively easy. There was a clear winner, but beyond the top three or four it got a bit weird. There are a few games I’ve left out and I’m sort of a little uncomfortable about that.

Games like Fallout 4. I really enjoyed Fallout 4. I am still in the process of enjoying Fallout 4, but it was just a little too flat, too one-dimensional for my tastes.

The Witcher 3: a beautiful game that for most is the default game of the year. It was certainly the overwhelming favourite of the Kotaku Australia readership.

Halo 5 is another game I’m still regretting leaving off my list. But all I played of Halo 5 was its multiplayer. And even in that sub-section I just played the Arena mode over and over again. I haven’t even touched the single player campaign.

I’ve left a couple of Australian games off the list — games that might have made it if this was a top 15 or top 20 list. Games like Pac-Man 256 and Land Sliders. Games like Armello and Hand of Fate. It’s worth noting: 2015 was probably the best year for Australian video games ever.

With all that being said — time to get on with the list.

10. Expand

It’s very hard for me to separate my enjoyment of Expand with the story of its creation which, after spending a lot of time writing about and discussing, I’ve become a little invested in. So take that as a disclaimer.

That being said, Expand is wonderful. It’s delicate, beautiful, simple, complicated, dextrous, elegant. All of those things. It’s familiar but unique in a number of special ways. It’s a great video game and I think you should play it.

9. OlliOlli 2: Welcome To Olliwood

I have a real love of these types of games: twitch-based, score-orientated video games with quick retries and a side-order of masochism. There was no Trials game this year so in many ways OlliOlli 2 plugged that gap.

But OlliOlli isn’t like Trials really, outside the fact it’s played on a 2D plane on wheels. OlliOlli 2 is like a skateboard game as endless runner, with tricks and pressure and oh my god I need to restart I screwed up that bit.

My son loved this game. He called it ‘Man Fall Over’ which tells you a lot about how terrible I am at OlliOlli 2

8. Her Story

This is just a great, super unique, super interesting way to tell a story. Video game stories are traditionally terrible, traditionally derivative. How refreshing to engage in an interactive experience that redefines story and, more importantly, could only work in a video game space. Awesome.

7. Grow Home

I ignored Grow Home for most of the year, then finally played it when it was ported across to the PlayStation 4. What an incredible experience with one simple goal: climb as high as you can. It was the clumsy yet somehow elegant controls that made Grow Home work so tremendously well. Crazy that in a world where Assassin’s Creed exists, a strange game about a robot is Ubisoft’s best video game about climbing things.

6. Metamorphabet

My son was two years old for the majority of 2015 and we spent a lot of that year playing Metamorphabet. I think it’s the best children’s game ever made. It’s beautiful, educational, fluid, playful and feels like it was built with a child’s mind in… mind. If you have children and an iPad you need to get this game.

5. Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture

Plenty of people do not like this video game. They don’t like the pacing — literally, the protagonist walks too slowly for some — they don’t like the idea of playing a ‘walking simulator’.

But for me, Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture was one of the bravest games of the year. When was the last time you played a video game set in a sleepy village in rural England? When was the last time armageddon didn’t involved zombies, space aliens or nuclear war? When was the last time you played a video game soundtracked by a Welsh choir.

Some of the dialogue bordered on the hokey side of things. The writing didn’t quite reach the weird heights of The Chinese Room’s last game Dear Esther, but it was still enough to be this incredibly moving experience, punctuated by some of the most strangely spiritual moments I’ve ever seen in a video game.

4. Splatoon

Splatoon could have so easily just been “Mario Paintball”. And I still believe, in an alternate universe, that game exists.

I love so much about Splatoon. I love that it’s a new ‘thing’ from Nintendo. I love that Nintendo were able to make a third person shooter, but somehow still have it feel like a Nintendo game should: tactile, sticky, fun, friendly.

I love that it’s cool, that’s it’s fashionable. It may well be the only fashionable video game that Nintendo has ever made. Splatoon is ‘cool’.

Most of all I’m glad that Splatoon was successful. I love that Nintendo took a risk and that risk paid off. I want more games like Splatoon. I want more of those risks.

3. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

We’ve been to one alternate universe, let’s go to another one. A universe where Konami didn’t get over excited about Pachinko machines and didn’t send Hideo Kojima into exile. In that universe exists a version of Metal Gear Solid V that very well could be battling it out for game of the year. As it is, it’s only made it to number three.

Because in a lot of ways Metal Gear Solid V is a hot mess. The story is weird, the pacing is weird. It all falls apart towards the end. It’s a testament to just how good the core of Metal Gear Solid V is that it’s still very, very close to being my favourite game of the year.

The sneaking, the infiltration — the dazzling array of options you have at your disposal. It’s an otherworldly achievement. Kojima and his team has taken their detail orientated approach to design and applied it across an expansive open world.

Also: D-Dog.

2. Rocket League

I’ve written so many goddamn words about Rocket League it feels like I have nothing left to give!

Just… a few… more…

Rocket League was a welcome surprise. It came before the holiday rush — just in time to satiate the hunger pangs of gamers who were a little bit over The Witcher 3. How good was it? It’s one of those ideas that seems so obvious in hindsight: football with cars. Strange to think it became one of my favourite sports games ever. In a way it’s a worthy successor to games like NBA Jam. In other ways it’s the consummate competitive experience.

Regardless, Rocket League is a game is see myself playing for a long time to come. I might not play online with the big boys, but my family love this game and we play it together every other weekend. So good.

1. Bloodborne

Realistically, there was no other choice. Bloodborne is just that good.

A brand new universe, dripping in depth, claustrophobic in its architecture and its atmosphere. Unforgiving in nature, brave in its design choices. Bloodborne was everything.

Bloodborne could have been Dark Souls in a new setting but it wasn’t. It made dramatic changes to its combat. It removed a layer of RPG depth but replaced it with a more rapid style of fighting. It removed our crutch, the shield, and forced us to adapt accordingly.

I’ve been replaying Bloodborne over the break, trying to unlock the DLC in a brand new game. If anything it’s reinforced just how good this video game really is. Every strike is compelling, every texture feels like it was thought about, discussed. The lore, the detail, everything about it.

I’ve never been more sure about a game of the year pick. Ever. That’s how much I love Bloodborne.

What’s your top 10. Drop it in the comments below!

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