As we head towards the late decade, our year’s end lists are becoming harder to write, simply because there were so many great games of the era. As video game technology matured and the awkward days of Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launch titles settled, 2015 bore some wonderful gaming fruit. Here are a just a few of our best picks from the bunch.
10. Pillars of Eternity
Pillars of Eternity harkens back to the glory days of action RPGs, acting as a spiritual successor to classics like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment while updating the genre for a more modern audience. It was awesomely successful when it first released, and certainly earned its place in the hallowed halls of ARPG fame.
In Pillars of Eternity, players find themselves in the land of Eora, which is plagued by soulless beings known as the Hollowborn. As players discover their newfound ability to interact with souls, they must also band together with their fellow warriors to solve this rising crisis and protect the nation of Dyrwood. Pillars of Eternity is high fantasy at its best, and very accessible for players new to the genre.
9. Fallout 4
The Fallout series was known for its massive exploration mechanics and wide open world long before the release of Fallout 4, but the game only cemented the franchise’s reputation when its fourth instalment released.
Fallout 4 was huge, and in every nook and cranny, there was something to find. Paired with deeper lore than ever and a story that took players from one end of the wasteland to the other, Fallout 4 was a massive leap for the Fallout franchise, and one that was very welcome. While many people criticised it for its technical issues and lacklustre visuals, Fallout 4 remains an overall triumph for the franchise, and one that’s consistently fun, interesting and entertaining.
8. Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rise of the Tomb Raider continued the story started in 2013’s simply-named Tomb Raider, and followed the rebooted adventures of explorer Lara Croft on her latest, nail-biting adventure. While it hardly innovated on 2013’s title, that wasn’t a bad thing at all — it simply built on what was already a fascinating and well-developed tale.
The game is simply stunning, and features some of the most detailed and realistic environments and character models in gaming. There’s a reason why it’s still used as a benchmark for testing video games graphics today. Paired with a fascinating story and excellent, fine-tuned gameplay, Rise of the Tomb Raider was an absolute win for the Tomb Raider franchise.
7. Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is an odd and deeply fascinating game. Yes, it’s a ‘walking simulator’ and that fact alone is sure to devalue it in the eyes of many, but it’s hard to deny how compelling and interesting the story that it told was. Rapture was an excellent display of how strong narrative can transform story and environment, as well as how minimalist dialogue can be an effective tool for storytelling.
Rapture, as the title would imply, tells to story of an entire village that goes missing in a Rapture-like event. You, the sole survivor, are tasked with figuring out the cause of the village’s disappearance, and as the story unfolds, you’re treated with some truly magical moments. Much like Gone Home before it, Rapture pushed the importance of storytelling in gaming forward, sparking much-needed conversation about the nature of art in games.
6. Life is Strange
Life is Strange was another game that pushed the importance of narrative and dialogue in storytelling, via an episodic adventure story about two girls, and the end of the world. Max and Chloe’s friendship is at the heart of Life is Strange, and with a unique time-travel mechanic, it makes every decision important and life-changing for the characters.
Life is Strange refused to shy away from deeper topics, too, with a strong focus on the difficulties of youth, including teen suicide, drug use and predatory adults. It’s a game with a lot of important things to say, and one that tells its rich and deeply emotional tale with style and passion.
It’s rare that Nintendo engages with a genre like third-person shooting, but in Splatoon, they stumbled onto a cute and winning formula. Starring a team of squid people, known as Inklings, Splatoon was a multi-player shooter with personality and flair. Not only were the Inklings themselves adorable and well-designed, they populated a world that was consistently fun and always hectic.
Controlling their Inkling, players would take part in a variety of online multi-player challenges that included Turf War, where players would try to ink as much ground as possible, as well as other games that saw players attempt to take control of a tower, and a capture-the-flag-stye mode. Its sequel, Splatoon 2 built on the success of the original and added a heap more paint-splattering fun.
4. Arkham Knight
Not even boring tank segments could prevent Arkham Knight from being one of the best games of 2015, with a solid story, one of the most well-developed worlds in gaming, and consistently brilliant combat. Rocksteady nailed the look and feel of their Batman games way back in 2009 with the release of Arkham Asylum, and here, they simply capitalised on perfection.
With the ‘mysterious’ figure of the Arkham Knight coming into Batman’s life (c’mon, we all knew who it was gonna be) and the Joker returning as a Venom-fuelled hallucination, the stage was set for another triumph in the Arkham series. The game was buoyed by incredible design work, an open world that felt alive, killer combat and a story that, while not really a ‘mystery’, was still fantastically well told. If this is going to be the last mainline Arkham game, it sure did end on a brilliant note.
3. Metal Gear Solid V
Metal Gear Solid V released to near perfect scores in 2015, with praise heaped on its creative story, intelligent design and brilliant gameplay. MGS V was Hideo Kojima at his best. Not yet allowed to spread his weirdness with games like pee-simulator Death Stranding, MGS V was restrained weirdness for a more mainstream audience, offering a multi-layered, and plot-filled narrative.
For players new to the franchise, Metal Gear Solid V was rather inaccessible, but for players who’d invested years into the complex (and often confusing) franchise, MGS V was the brilliant culmination of an epic and wildly surreal story.
Inspired by the works of Bram Stoker and H.P. Lovecraft, Bloodborne is a brutal adventure game that features some of the hardest combat in gameplay. FromSoftware has developed a reputation for creating difficult, high-skill games that require finesse and a whole lot of dodging, and Bloodborne was a gorgeous, disgusting and definitively worthy entry into the genre.
Bloodborne is a goth’s dream, with murky and moody worldbuilding filled with black lace and blood. With stylistic inspiration taken from the Victorian era, it’s deeply unsettling but mystifyingly pretty, even when your Hunter is set upon by horrible, blood-boiling monsters. Bloodborne was truly unique in 2015, and it’s rarely been matched in the years since.
1. The Witcher 3
The Witcher 3 might just be one of the greatest games of all time. Starring grizzled bounty hunter/monster killer Geralt of Rivia, the game is a glorious and always exciting adventure through a turmoil-filled fantasy land, and one that excels in every way. With sharp dialogue, a well-written story and gorgeous visuals, journeying through the lands of the Continent is a true joy.
The game was followed up by two chunky DLC chapters that were equally as good as the main game. While many people who picked up The Witcher 3 hadn’t played the original two games, the story remained accessible, enjoyable and entertaining throughout. All in all, The Witcher 3 was a masterclass in video games, hitting every high note it reached for, while giving every character the time they needed to shine. Going forward, The Witcher 3 will be a high bar to top.
This year was a hard one to choose just ten games, and there’s no doubt we missed out on a few of your all-time faves. Tell us about your favourite games that you feel we shunned!