It was a pleasure creating this year’s list of our favorite video games. And difficult. That’s why we decided to do 12 instead of the normal 5 or 10.
2015 was fantastic for gaming, giving us some of the most awaited titles (and best) of the past decade. We got new Fallout, Metal Gear Solid, Tomb Raider, and Halo games. Nintendo gave us many more adventures with some of its most classic characters, including Yoshi and Kirby, plus new IPs, like Super Mario Maker and Splatoon, that showed that the Big N can still deliver major hits. Not to mention that we got our first new Star Wars console games in several years.
You’ll find many of these big gaming events on our list of best titles of 2015, and let’s not forget some indie games that put the cherry on top to a very special year. There are things you won’t find on this list, of course, including remakes and remasters, because we tried to splotlight new experiences. But we were fans of Resident Evil HD Remaster and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D to name a few.
And plenty of other titles that you won’t find on this list deserve honorable mentions, including Rise of the Tomb Raider, Dying Light, Helldivers, SOMA, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Not a Hero, Star Wars Battlefront, Disney Infinity 3.0, and Just Cause 3. Don’t let the list fool you, we loved these games very much.
But we’re here to celebrate the latest and greatest of 2015, so let’s get on with our countdown of the top 12 best video games of the year. If you like any of the games on this list, we’ve made it easy for you to get them ASAP: click on the ORANGE links to go directly to the Amazon store and purchase the game!
Here are our favorite games of 2015:
Sept. 29 | Thunder Lotus Games | PC
We had a chance to sit down with this hand drawn action-adventure game at PAX East 2015 and were immediately impressed by its simple hack-and-slach gameplay and somber mood. And the finished product absolutely delivers. Jotun takes the simple approach to action-adventure, down to its minimalist animations and art style, but delivers a beautiful tale of heroism. Don’t let the hand drawn style fool you—the visuals are astonishing, as Thora, the Viking protagonist of this particular adventure, looks down from the highest peaks of her Nordic world at the beautiful sights, which include ancient tombs and shrines.
Jotun mixes puzzle-solving with intense boss fights that are reminiscent of contemporary action RPGs and dungeon crawlers such as Dark Souls. But again, we return to the game’s epic tale, told through intelligent visual cues and the poetic asides from Thora. It’s storytelling done right. Many AAA games would do well taking a look at Jotun, which shows that the simple approach to storytelling is often key.
11. Mortal Kombat X
April 14 | NetherRealm Studios | PC, XBO, PS4 | Review
No sequel has taken “bigger, better, and more badass” quite as seriously as NetherRealm’s Mortal Kombat X, which brings the classic fighting franchise to a new generation of consoles. Drenching us in blood and guts with its new brutalities and combos, this sequel takes its long legacy to the next level, celebrating the franchise’s gory tradition. And all with a tongue in cheek approach, never taking itself too seriously, and instead embracing the ridiculous, as xenomorphs, Leatherface, and Jason Voorhees show up to join the fun.
Boasting one of the most diverse rosters in the franchise, this latest installment also features plenty of new characters to choose from, including many of the offspring of classic fighters, such as Jax and Johnny Cage. Mortal Kombat X also takes its online component a step further, taking 1v1 multiplayer and adding a meta-game that allows factions to go head to head for a worldwide competition. And don’t forget the Living Towers challenge mode. Basically, there’s so much to punch do and it’s all just so good.
May 29 | Nintendo | Wii U
Splatoon is the definition of sleeper hit. While some fans might have shrugged Nintendo’s latest foray into the shooter genre, its massive success is undeniable. And for good reason: it’s an addictive third-person shooter multiplayer game that’s all about having fun. Not ruthlessly blowing people up. And that’s rare and unique in the genre.
Nintendo’s current-gen console has suffered for the past few years for its lack of third party titles, such as Call of Duty and Battlefield, but Splatoon shows that the Big N can do shooters just as well and with the company’s unique “family first” aesthetic. Nintendo brilliantly replaces the bullets and high-tech rifles with vibrant ink and weapons resembling water guns. Its backyard water gun action could almost be called a masterpiece of nostalgia. This one’s absolutely for you and the kiddies.
9. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
Sept. 9 | Asteroid Base | XBO, PC
On top of having the best title ever, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is the most fun you’ll have with a friend this year. This hectic space arcade shooter gives us a grand sci-fi adventure in a cartoon universe that’s being attacked by evil forces trying to wipe love from the universe. And as trippy as that sounds, you’ll quickly embrace the ridiculous story because you’ll be busy manning the cannons, shields, and wheel of your very own starship.
Asteroid Base takes its space shooter a step further by adding very close quarters platforming that will have you laughing and shouting with your friends while enemy fighters attack from all sides. To top it all off, all of the characters are little animal friends that bear more than a passing resemblance to the Star Fox crew. Yes to this.
June 23 | Rocksteady Studios | PC, XBO, PS4 | Review
Batman: Arkham Knight is the conclusion to the Arkham trilogy from Rocksteady. The series has come a long way since the spectacular Arkham Asylum, which, in retrospect, gave us a much smaller scale adventure with the Caped Crusader. Arkham Knight, in comparison, is massive. Here we get the biggest, most epic, and complete Batman game ever made.
If you ever dreamed of playing as most members of the Batfamily, while zooming through a very big Gotham City in several classic iterations of the Batmobile, look no further. Most impressive (although a bit pricey) are Arkham Knight‘s DLC offerings, which include skins and vehicles from most of Batman’s eras, including the Tim Burton films and the Adam West 60s. Really, this is the ultimate Batman experience, and you probably already own it. Right?
Oct. 27 | 343 Industries | XBO | Review
Halo 5: Guardians continues the adventures of Master Chief, who’s gone AWOL to search for an old friend. Joining him is his Spartan squad, the Blue Team, who you might recognize from the many Halo novels. Another group of Spartans, Fireteam Osiris, is sent on a mission to find the Master Chief and bring him home. Behind it all is an ancient Forerunner artifact that could mean the end of the galaxy. So, another day in the Halo universe, basically. Halo 5: Guardians also introduces squad-based commands and a new multiplayer experience. And yeah, you can aim down the sights now!
Basically, Halo 5 gives us more of what we loved from its predecessors—the fast-paced shooting, immersive story, characters, and unique weapons that are a signature of Microsoft’s flagship. It also helps that the game looks and plays great. This is a must-have for any Xbox One fans.
Sept. 15 | Bungie | XBO, PS4, X360, PS3, PC | Review
Bungie’s new IP has had quite the year. From the barrage of complaints early on to its much-improved player experience since the House of Wolves expansion, Destiny seems to be here to stay and going very strong in its second year. The Taken King expansion is the perfect time to drop into the fight, Guardians. With the new expansion, you get new story missions, strikes, raids, multiplayer modes and maps, weapons, gear, and updates to the leveling system.
And you know what? The expansion improves on almost every aspect of last year’s vanilla experience, including many much needed fixes to character progression. Most importantly, we get a much more immersive story in the game’s second year. While some will say it’s too little too late, The Taken King has helped Destiny reach its true potential, elevating it to a real contender for the best shooter on the market today.
5. Fallout 4
Nov. 10 | Bethesda Game Studios | XBO, PS4, PC | Review
No one knew this would be the year. Seven years after Bethesda created the blockbuster Fallout 3, the series returned for another adventure in the nuclear wasteland. This time, you exit the Vault and find yourself in Commonwealth-controlled postapocalyptic Boston. You have your Pip-Boy, your trusty dog, and the VATS system to get you through the countless days of the end of the world. A new feature even allows you to build strongholds for yourself where you hoard supplies and take up defensive positions against raiders.
Fallout 4 isn’t an immediate overhaul of its predecessor. There’s less of a jump in innovation than what players experienced from Fallout 2 to Fallout 3. And that’s okay. Fallout 4 is a classic example of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This sequel is a bigger dose of what we love and want. Plain and simple.
May 19 | CD Projekt Red | PC, XBO, PS4 | Review
The Witcher 3 is a true marvel of the western RPG genre. Series protagonist Geralt of Rivia returns for an epic adventure to the Northern Kingdoms to hunt monsters and find his long-lost love Yennefer. On top of that is the Wild Hunt, a supernatural group of elves that stands between Geralt and his mission.
CD Projekt Red has created the ultimate fantasy RPG experience here, full of perilous adventures, epic quests, and lots of beasties to slay. Mixed within is a love story, one of the best in gaming history. And it looks absolutely gorgeous, of course. If sword and sorcery is more your thing, this is the one for you.
Sept. 11 | Nintendo | Wii U | Review
We probably don’t really need to sell this game all that much. Super Mario Maker lets you make your own Mario levels and challenges, play through them, and then dare others to get through your death traps unscathed. If that isn’t the Mario experience in a robust sentence, we don’t know what is. Taking a note from platformers like Little Big Planet, Super Mario Maker is basically an endless Mario platformer in which you’ll never play the same level twice. It’s glorious and a must-have for Nintendo fans.
Nintendo continues to show why Mario is the true face of the gaming world. Mario Kart 8 took our Game of the Year in 2014, and for good reason, because the Big N constantly finds new ways to tweak certain things just enough to make them feel fresh. But Super Mario Maker isn’t as much a tweak as an innovation for Nintendo, taking level designers and adding its world famous IPs. We love this game so much!
March 24 | From Software | PS4 | Review
Bloodborne is about what you’d expect from From Software, but with a faster pace and a different art style. The guys behind the Dark Souls series still give you plenty of challenging monsters to slay. And yes, you will absolutely die. A LOT. ALWAYS. FOREVER. But that shouldn’t stop you from experiencing this year’s best PlayStation exclusive.
Joe Jasko, our game critic, said it best in his review, so I’ll leave this one to him:
Bloodborne is a unique and masterful experience, and a clear PS4 system seller. The game is brilliant in the ways it invites seasoned Souls veterans into its gloomy world, and then turns everything on its head with exhilarating and blisteringly fast new combat techniques, unexpected tweaks to the core gameplay mechanics, and a steady progression that is only accentuated by its rich and meticulously connected world. While you’ll be dying to the monstrous boss fights for dozens of hours in the main storyline, the addicting Chalice Dungeons make the game’s replay value soar to astronomical heights amidst a backdrop of shadows and despair.
Go play it. If you dare.
Sept. 1 | Kojima Productions | XBO, PS4, PC | Review
There’s a reason we gave Metal Gear Solid V a perfect score: it’s an absolute masterpiece and a perfect exit for video game auteur Hideo Kojima from the series. I dare call Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain the best action-adventure game I’ve ever experienced. You get a sense after being dropped into your very first mission in Afghanistan, where a lot of the game takes place, that the folks at Kojima Productions thought of everything when creating this sprawling epic.
Fusing a higher emphasis on gameplay with the convoluted plot you’ve come to expect from this series, The Phantom Pain offers tons of things to do on and off the battlefield. Acquire vital personnel and equipment to build up your Mother Base, get revenge against the villains who almost killed you nine years ago, or face off against your buddies in Metal Gear Online, the game’s online multiplayer component. All of this, while collecting cassette tapes of the best and weirdest 80s hits.
It’s a marvel of storytelling and gameplay, even if the balance has shifted in this installment a bit towards the gameplay aspect. There’s still plenty of wonderful moments in this chapter, ones that will break your heart, others that will make you laugh, and many that will confuse you until the very end. This entry in the Metal Gear saga stands with the best that the franchise has offered to date, and a must-have for anyone looking for instant game of the year material.