In contrast to Mark, the difficulty I had with this was keeping games that weren’t released in 2015 off the list. I did a lot of exploring in 2015, and participating in a fortnightly game challenge also meant I was working through my back catalogue more than I ordinarily would have been.
But that’s not to say that there weren’t plenty of new releases worth paying attention to. If anything, 2015 has probably been the best year for releases since the launch of the new consoles. So without further delay, here’s my unordered selection of what I thoroughly enjoyed from the last 12 months.
What more is there to say about Rocket League? The only people who didn’t really get on board seemed to be those who were huge fans of sports, particularly soccer. It’s accessible to a wide swath of gamers in the way that only the Jackbox Party Pack offerings have been. The gameplay is instantly understandable, tight, engaging, and most importantly it fits within most people’s lives.
More and more developers have been concentrating on crafting multiplayer experiences that fit within a particular timeframe. Blizzard have been designing around the principle of 10 or 20 minute games for ages now, but Rocket League’s 5 minute rounds are another thing altogether. It works for people with families and gamers with busy lives, and in the years to come we’ll see more and more games honing on this principle.
Homeworld Remastered Collection
I figured we wouldn’t see another Homeworld-style game ever again, because its pacing and blend of space with real-time strategy was a touch beyond where the gaming market was in 2015. The fact that next month’s Homeworld prequel takes place on the ground plays into that, although I suppose you should never say never.
What’s increasingly interesting about remasters like these — not remasters of games that came out two or three years ago (hi Deadpool) — is how the developers work with the limitations they’re given. Gearbox had to make some hard cuts when it came to the original Homeworld games, and they drew the line by taking the sequel as the basis for the remaster. That broke a tonne of things, but it was a more realistic proposition than remaking both games on their own engines (effectively doing two separate remakes, as well as making the original games playable on modern systems).
Beyond that, I found Homeworld to be an incredibly faithful — as was possible — recreation of Relic’s classic. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea though, even amongst strategy fans.
Starcraft 2: Legacy of the Void
I really didn’t expect to like Legacy of the Void as much as I did, and I certainly didn’t expect it to get me excited to play Starcraft again. It still hasn’t fixed a key problem with the multiplayer, and I have my own issues that will prevent me from forever taking up the game at the same level I once used to play.
But I still thoroughly enjoyed myself, even with the campaign. The story’s probably the worst offender out of the SC2 trilogy when it comes to pacing and writing, but the mechanics and missions are perhaps the best. The added difficulty helps too, with LotV’s Brutal mode actually living up to the name for the change.
I was also taken aback by the added online modes too: Allied Commanders was far more fun than I expected, while the automated tournaments was an excellent feature and one that we should expect to see in other games over the next couple of years. The UI overhaul has been long, long overdue (especially for those who remember Wings of Liberty launching without chat channels) too.
I thought I was done with StarCraft; I was convinced I was done. Legacy of the Void pulled me back in, someone who abandoned Aiur to the wilderness. That says it all.
Mortal Kombat X
The story mode wasn’t as long, bombastic or fun as MK9’s and the PC version proved to be the start of Warner Bros’ terrible year with ports and their contractor studios. But, provided you were playing on console, Mortal Kombat X still provided an excellent experience and it was a solid iteration to the franchise.
I wanted MKX to be good enough that it would be broadly accepted, because I knew if I was going to get any competitive experience in the local fighting game community MKX would be the title to do it. It’s accessible in a way that most other fighters, Dead or Alive excluded, aren’t. Combos are easier to input, it’s more open to newer players and, after a week, the online matchmaking in Australia was reliable enough that you could get games without too much trouble.
MKX is still kicking along in the competitive scene — although undoubtedly not with the same fervour that it was upon launch — although how it holds up once Street Fighter 5 drops remains to be seen. Nevertheless, I had a great time with MKX and if NetherRealm pushes out any campaign DLC in the next 12 months, I’ll instantly be back.
Quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack. Buy it while it’s still on sale.
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt
You can level a lot of complaints against The Witcher 3’s gameplay, although the addition of the new movement patch helped ease people who weren’t Witcher fans into a series in a way the previous games hadn’t.
That aside, there are plenty of fantastic moments in Geralt and Ciri’s adventure that just make you stop. Here’s some of my favourites.
One Piece Pirate Warriors 3
The fact that the PC port of the game doesn’t look anywhere near this good — you’ll need to play on the next-gen consoles for that kind of quality — didn’t stop me from having a blast with this spin-off of the Dynasty Warriors series.
The fact that it was briefly available for US69 cents the day it launched undoubtedly helped. That day also happened to be literally days before I got on a flight to Japan, which undeniably helped a lot more. Under normal circumstances, I would have ignored OPPW3, never played it, and it wouldn’t appear on this list.
But sometimes things happen for a reason. Sometimes they don’t and they happen by pure chance. My entry into the world of One Piece/Dynasty Warriors mashups was pure, blissful chance, and I don’t have any shame in saying it’s some of the dumbest fun I’ve had all year.
Fibbage 2 and Quiplash
I singled out Quiplash earlier this month as being one of my favourite games of all-time, let alone the year, and it’s still the only one of the modern Jackbox games that can be purchased separately. There was a time when Fibbage was available on its own, but if you want access to it or its sequel, you’ll have to purchase the Party Packs. (They’re at a pretty reasonable price right now.)
But Fibbage 2 deserves as much credit as Quiplash, and I’ll give it its proper due here. The game accommodates a wider range of personalities in a way that Quiplash doesn’t, and it also doesn’t isolate players in head-to-head matches like Quiplash does.
Oh, and for the record, they are separate games and they were released separately so I’m counting them as such. That’s even though it’s rare to just play one of these games (often you’ll go from Fibbage to Quiplash, or YDKJ to Quiplash to Fibbage or something else).
Life is Strange
I picked up Life is Strange earlier in the year and after seeing about half an hour of gameplay online I immediately made the decision to sit on it until Christmas. I’ve already got a policy of holding off on episodic releases until it’s fully finished, but that speaks more to how I enjoy these types of games than anything on the game or developer’s part.
It’s also because I have a tradition of playing adventure games with my mother, and this seemed like the perfect experience to share with her after we wandered through The Vanishing of Ethan Carter last Christmas. And I couldn’t have proved to be more correct, with Dontnod producing a wonderfully enchanting teen drama that caught me entirely by surprise.
The music and the way so much of the game was framed was remarkable, with the latter reminding me of what Bioware tries to do with their RPGs. Life is Strange doesn’t resolve many of the problems episodic adventures have — particularly the way choices often end up being meaningless, at least more so than they’re often made out to be — but it had a charm and a quality that has started to seep out of the genre.
There’s a reason the game has revived a lot of people’s passions for the genre, after being burnt out on Telltale’s rapid-fire releases. I never thought Dontnod would have released something this good considering how dreary Remember Me was, but that’s the fun of video games. Sometimes the best surprises come from nowhere.
What’s your top 10 games — and if you had to, what order would you put yours in?