2015 was an absolute dream for gamers, and a nightmare for wallets everywhere. Between the return of iconic franchises, the debut of some exciting new properties and a resurgence in genre-bending indie gaming, this year's slate of titles had something to offer for everyone.
Nearly every month saw the release of multiple triple-A blockbusters, in addition to countless smaller titles that helped fill out the year's impressive lineup.
Now that the new console generation has settled into a groove and developers have taken more time to iron out the bugs after a disastrous 2014, the titles have reached a level of consistency across the board that just wasn't there last year.
In fact, it's easy to argue that this year was just a little too good for gamers. Chances are there just aren't enough hours in the day or Jacksons in your pocket to hit up every title you've had your eye on — no matter how many trips to the pawn shop you make or vital organs you decide to live without.
Lucky for you, we're contractually-obligated by the Internet gods to cobble together a Best Of list for 2015 designed to tell you which titles were absolutely worth your hard-earned money this year.
So, without further rambling, we're here to bring you The Best Video Games of 2015:
Fallout 4 — Cameron Koch, Writer
Release Date: Nov. 11
Few games have ever had as much hype as Fallout 4. After a five-year hiatus from the Wasteland, gamers were eager to dive back into the future-retro, post-apocalyptic world they fell in love with half a decade ago. Bethesda didn’t disappoint. Vastly improved visuals make every moment exploring the Wasteland addicting. Thanks to a much-needed overhaul of the franchise’s gunplay, it’s never been more fun to mow down Ghouls, Raiders and Super Mutants as you wander along.
At long last, Fallout can be played as a true first-person shooter first and an RPG second. However, that’s not to say there aren’t plenty of RPG elements as well. Crafting by using “Junk” materials found in the Wasteland lets players customize their weapons and armor in hundreds of ways, and that’s not even mentioning the game’s new settlement-building system, with perks new and old letting players craft a unique character that lets you cater to your playstyle. If there is one part of Fallout 4 that suffers, it’s the dialogue system.
The deep conversations and witty one-liners seen in previous games take a backseat here in favor of a more streamlined four-choice dialogue system, but players who love exploring, building and exploring some more will find that there are hundreds of hours of fun to be had. Fallout 4 might not have been quite everything fans had hoped and dreamed, but it’s hard to deny its rightful spot among this year’s list of must-play games.
Best of the Rest: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Halo 5: Guardians, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Rocket League, Batman: Arkham Knight
Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt — Rollin Bishop, Writer
Studio: CD Projekt Red
Release Date: May 19, 2015
It’s easy for open-world games to feel a bit same-y after trekking through them for upwards of 30 hours. Areas don’t have quite the same luster when visited again and again, and more generally, content gets recycled in ways that feel awkward when encountered several times. In short, there’s only so much out there to really do before the game starts presenting the same stuff again.
That is why it’s so continuously shocking that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt somehow makes everything feel new and vibrant.
The open-world role-playing game once again puts the player in the well-crafted boots of Geralt of Rivia, a witcher of some renown, as he searches for his adopted daughter, Ciri. However, that’s just the intended plot that weaves everything else together. The best part of the game is off in the weeds when a random quest pops up, followed by several nasty critters, and ultimately, a subversion of fantasy trope expectations. The last part isn’t always true, but that only makes it more thrilling when it happens.
There’s no guarantees in Geralt’s world — terrible things might happen with the best intentions, and horrible people might perform good deeds. Despite mostly functioning in the same way that other open-world games do, quests don’t feel recycled. The design of them always leaves the player wanting more, despite the fact that there’s really only so many ingredients. In a way, Witcher 3 might just be all meat and potatoes, but it proves there’s a million different ways to prepare the dish.
Best of the Rest: Rocket League, Lost Dimension, Yo-Kai Watch, Mad Max
SOMA — Robin Burks, Writer
Studio: Frictional Games
Release Date: Sept. 22, 2015
In a sea of expansive open-world games, such as The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4, SOMA is a small indie action-adventure game that might get lost in the crowd. However, when it comes to good games, you can count on Frictional to deliver a carefully-constructed and thought-provoking title. Such is the case with SOMA, which isn't as scary as Frictional's Amnesia games, but offers something creepy all the same. SOMA is sort of like BioShock meets Amnesia, but with a more quirky science fiction story that isn't short on wandering down eerie hallways and solving puzzles that allows you to move forward. SOMA even breaks the rules in giving away the key plot twist early on, but the reveal only serves to make the story that much more compelling.
In SOMA, players step into the shoes of Simon Jarrett, a man who inexplicably finds himself in an abandoned underwater laboratory called Pathos-II. There, Simon must figure out how he got there and then decide the answer to the ultimate question we all ask ourselves: "What does it mean to be human?"
For Amnesia fans, SOMA is short on the traditional scares, but it manages to deliver a world that is still nonetheless unsettling, particularly when the story makes its grand reveal. After that, all bets are off for the player, and the only way to continue is to keep moving forward, even with the realization that all is already lost.
SOMA is available for PC and PlayStation 4.
Best of the Rest: Life is Strange, Tales from the Borderlands
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain — Steven Schneider, Writer
Studio: Kojima Productions
Release Date: Sept. 1, 2015
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is not a perfect game. Over the course of the past several months, fans have learned that many of the game’s shortcomings are seemingly due to the feud between director Hideo Kojima and Konami ... but that doesn’t erase the lackluster story or stilted pacing.
Then again, those issues don’t really matter all that much in the long run, either.
The Phantom Pain is a near-flawless example of how stealth gaming can work in an open world. Not only is the world impeccably-designed and absolutely gorgeous, but players have total and absolute freedom to do what they want, how they want. If you want to knock a soldier off a cliff with an inflatable decoy — go ahead. How about sitting back and letting your supernatural sniper do all the work? That’s fine, too. Want to knock a guard out with a supply drop to the noggin? That’s your choice (and it’s hysterical).
While the world and the gameplay may take center stage in The Phantom Pain, they are far from the game’s only strengths: the characters, the base-building, the multiplayer — each and every single mechanic has been polished to an incredible sheen, one that’s not often seen in the modern gaming industry. It’s the work of a true auteur, and serves as proof that Hideo Kojima is unlike anyone else working in gaming today.
No, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain isn’t a perfect game — but, all things considered, it’s about as close to perfect as anyone could hope to be.
Best of the Rest: Halo 5: Guardians, Fallout 4, Bloodborne, Witcher 3, Just Cause 3, Axiom Verge, Until Dawn
Batman: Arkham Knight — Jason Serafino, Editor
Release Date: June 23, 2015
It’s really easy to be jaded about Rocksteady’s Batman swan song. The game immediately rubbed plenty of people the wrong way when the overpriced Season Pass DLC was announced without any real details. Then, the inclusion of the Batmobile wound up being a great idea in theory, but in execution, it wound up changing the game’s rhythm perhaps a bit too much.
However, getting past all that, there’s a truly immersive, incredible Batman experience under the hood. Packed with great visuals; an unpredictable plot; and tighter, more polished gameplay than ever, Arkham Knight is the new benchmark by which all future comic book games should be measured.
Rocksteady again has soaked its Gotham in Dark Knight lore, with Easter eggs, iconic images, extra skins and twisted villains filling up the city’s concrete caverns. It’s a love letter for fans of the Caped Crusader, but it isn’t afraid to put its own stamp on the mythology. The Arkham Knight himself might have been a bit of a letdown, but how he fits into Bruce Wayne’s twisted world and the effect he has on Batman’s psyche more than makes up for the lack of imaginative boss fights or set pieces.
While Arkham Knight doesn’t quite check all of the boxes it set out to, it does enough things exceptionally well to make it play like an actual dream of comic book fans.
Best of the Rest: Fallout 4, Witcher 3, MLB 15: The Show, Mad Max