Man, what a year we had. We've had lots of awesome releases, surprises, highs and lows. It actually feels weird to me that I'm writing this very article right now. 2015 is almost over, and yet it feels as if it was just starting. And for what 2016 is already teasing us with, I predict that next year is going to be even better.
Actually, let's try something out... I'm going to leave a few predictions of what 2016 is going to bring (for better of worse) and by the time I write the GOTY piece for 2016, I will compare results and decide if I should perhaps leave game design and pursue a career in divination.
Here are my predictions for next year:
- VR will kick in, and it will kick hard. Formerly known as Project Morpheus, as it looks like right now it seems that Playstation VR will win the "VR space race" that is currently happening. I predict that Sony will have the upper hand on this with the release of "actual games" instead of "VR tech demos", and furthermore, I predict that we will see at least one VR title in the top 10 of 2016.
- Nintendo will surprise us once again. This may not necessarily mean that the NX will be released. It may be that we get something that nobody sees coming. One of the things that I would like to see next year, for example, is the original Mario Paint from the Super Nintendo to be ported out to the Wii U as an enhanced title. Nintendo like to experiment with their classics and adapt them to modern technologies, so having this - or a new Pokémon Snap on the Wii U - seems like something that would make me throw my money at the screen.
- Either the PS4 or the Xbox One will receive a firmware update that will make it stand out from its competitor. Let your imagination do the work with this one.
- 2016 will be a key year for Twitch. Either it will be a year when Twitch changes their game for the better in a huge way, or the year where it ceases to be relevant.
- We will see at least 5 announcements for classic remakes. And at least 3 of them will be crowdfunded.
- The indie game development scene will experience another boom. Which is a fantastic thing. More talented people will make fantastic games, and new tools will be released for everyone to make the game of their dreams. I can't wait to see this happen.
That's it for the Nostradamus moment. Coming back to the year's picks, it has been notably more difficult to actually decide on which ones are the best of the best. Without further ado, let's get started with the list:
10 - Bloodborne
A little disclaimer: I like the "Souls" games. Very much. Bloodborne keeps the essence and the mood of the Souls games on par with what is expected to be seen in this games. In fact, it's so similar to the Souls games that I did the same thing that I did when playing Dark Souls 1 and 2. At some point, I'd get stuck, and so frustrated, that I'd need to take a long break from them. This has happened. I'm currently recovering from my addiction to Bloodborne. Once I get the urge of playing it again, I will enjoy it as much as the first day, which is something that not a lot of games manage to achieve nowadays.
9 - Yoshi's Wooly World
From the darkness of Bloodborne it seems like a huge contrast to change to the colorful, cheerful and cute premise of a Yoshi made of yarn and his shenanigans. I played this game with Maggie on several co-op sessions. For several weeks this game was our "go-to" title when we didn't know what to play, and we had a blast with every bit. The levels are challenging, cleverly designed, and while I'm sure that the co-op mode intended to make things easier, we ended up mutually trolling each other and laughing all along, because everything is fun and games until you step on your life partner so she dies and you reach that hard-to-reach ledge.
8 - Anno 2205
Another disclaimer: Yes, I work at the company that made this game. But I didn't work on, or even play this game until the day it was released. Anno 2205 is a fantastic city builder, with certain tones of (optional) real-time strategy missions that allows me to focus on what I really like about this franchise: Growing my city, setting up trade routes, and keeping my residents happy. With this new title, the Anno franchise takes off into outer space, allowing for lunar colonies that completely change the style of your city building. It's the perfect game for me to have on the side while I focus on something else, and serves its purpose greatly when I focus my attention completely on it.
7 - Splatoon
Man, what a surprise this title was. I normally don't like multiplayer shooters very much, and when it was first announced I was actually very reluctant to buy it. It wasn't until I tried the Splatoon open beta when I decided that the game was actually a lot of fun, and that I needed it in my life. This game is fantastic to play with friends, but unfortunately Nintendo's "games with friends" handling is far from optimal. I hope this is amended somehow for future titles (see my predictions above)!
6 - Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance
Ever since I discovered the Disgaea franchise with Disgaea 3, I got addicted to the lateral progression, numberfest and cheeky tactics-that-make-you-feel-smart-because-you-think-you're-cheating-but-the-game-was-designed-like-this-all-along that the series is. By itself, Disgaea is already a really enjoyable tactical RPG series. Occasionally silly, regular Japanese anime-style story, is by itself a 70+ hours journey to beat just the main story, only to realize that the moment you finish this is when the game "actually starts". Opportunities appear everywhere, tactics and challenges out the wazoo, and an ever-growing gameplay customization experience make this game something where you will want to just pour hours and hours into it. If you're intimidated by what I just said, Disgaea 5 is actually the best entry in the series for newcomers. Everything is perfectly explained, and it's not short on mechanics to learn on the go. I've already spent over 300 hours playing it. Send help.
5 - Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
I love the Monster Hunter series. It's easily in my all-time top 3 game franchises, and I was convinced that this would have been my #1 of the year. Well, look at that. There were FOUR games that were even better for me over this year.
Don't get me wrong, MH4U is definitely a fantastic entry. I also always say that this is not precisely a game for everyone. Heavy grinding is required, and it's a challenging game at all times. No matter how much experience you have, if you get careless you will die. It's definitely better to bring some friends with you, and MH4U allows you to do that by (finally!) introducing an online multiplayer mode on the 3DS. Very recommended for anyone who likes epic challenges.
4 - Rocket League
I don't like football. I suck at racing games. So why. Can't I. Stop. Playing. This.
Rocket League is the definition of "fun". Playing with friends, scoring unlikely goals and doing crazy saves are the kind of moments that made me leap off my couch as I was playing it in excitement. The idea of cars playing football may sound silly, but once you're playing it and you see it, the stadium, the crowd, the plays... It all makes so much sense. It is a blast to play, and if you don't own it I would recommend you stop reading right now and go buy it. You can come back later. Go on, I'll wait.
3 - Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (A Hideo Kojima Game)
Credit given where it's due. You may see freaking everywhere the "A Hideo Kojima Game" thing, but let's not forget that a lot of people actually worked on this, okay? Okay.
The Phantom Pain was not, by far, the ultimate "Metal Gear Solid" game that everyone was waiting for. But therein lies the problem. The fact that it was so hyped for, set some unachievable standards. The opinion seems to be nearly unanimous that the game is a true gem, and a fantastic experience overall, but that it's missing a "je ne sais quoi". Not for me, though. I knew this was the last time, I knew that the ending couldn't possibly satisfy all of my demands, so I lowered my expectations accordingly. The result was still mindblowing for me. The base management and the open-world setting alone are already a reason for me to keep coming back to it, even long after having finished it. Also, Metal Gear Online is pretty fun to play, for an (in my opinion) unnecessary game mode!
2 - Super Mario Maker
A little personal fact: 2015 is also the year where I switched careers to game design, so Super Mario Maker has a very special place in my heart. The fact that it was coming out this year only helped me test myself by designing all kinds of levels. And of course, since it's a Nintendo game at the same time, everything is explained in detail for you to get started, but the creativity and the levels made are ultimately on you. If you don't have this game, but like Mario games, you really have no excuse. Even if you don't like creating stuff you can always play any of the millions (!) of levels that are lying around the net (COUGH like mine COUGH).
Also, if you play other people's levels, please give them stars. People are very stingy with the stars, and I fail to understand why.
1 - Undertale
One of the things I like most about videogames is to get surprised by them. Go thinking that I'm going to encounter one thing, and then encounter something totally different. Does that make sense? Sorry, when I talk about Undertale I usually stop making sense.
Undertale has made me laugh, cry, got me scared, surprised me, moved me, inspired me and filled me with DETERMINATION. I could spend hours and hours talking about Undertale. How the fact that you can clear the game without killing anyone at all is extremely clever. How the music is fantastic and fitting for every possible situation. How Papyrus is a really cool character. How much I admire Toby Fox for making 85% of this game just by himself. How the game plays with your head, and how it calls you out the moment you try to trick it. But I won't. Because you have to play it.
So there you have it, my top 10 games of 2015. There's a bunch of games that unfortunately didn't make the cut, but got really close to doing so. A few of my honorable mentions are:
- Destiny: The Taken King
- Assassin's Creed Syndicate
- Prison Architect
- Chroma Squad
- Tales From the Borderlands
- Star Wars Battlefront
...and a lot more games that I haven't played, like Life Is Strange. Maybe I should get around to playing that...