What the hell happened to 2015? Perhaps it’s an age thing, but it feels like each and every year is flying by faster than the one before (perhaps that is the reason why this list is getting done at the end of January rather than at the end of December). But hey, they do say that time flies when you’re having fun, and despite 2015 being unlikely to trouble the likes of 1997, 2007 and 2012 in the list of all-time great video game years, it was a major step up from the stinker that was 2014 and a very solid year for the industry in its own right.
Sure, there were plenty of disappointments, but for every disappointment, there were usually a number of positives ready to put the smile back on gamers’ faces. Nintendo might have gone off the rails with an array of lacklustre releases as they gear up towards the launch of the mysterious NX, but heck, Splatoon was one of the finest and most refreshing shooters released in years while Mario Maker delivered the best creation tools of, well, ever. Equally, the PlayStation 4 might have been horribly short of first party content, but its 3rd party support remains exemplary, and when one of your few first party offerings just happens to be the truly exemplary, Bloodborne, it’s becomes rather easy to forgive latter indiscretions. Then there is the Xbox One. Yes, it’s still lagging behind the PS4 in terms of units sold, but as far as games are concerned, even the most ardent of Sony fan boys would be hard pressed not to admit the superior quality of Microsoft’s output over the past 12 months.
Now, before we get down to the nitty gritty of the list itself, let me make one thing clear – this is a personal list of the top games of 2015 and does not represent the views of all of those who contribute to the Brash Games website. I know what you’re thinking – why call it the “Brash Games’ Top 5 Games of 2015” if it’s not representative of the site? Well, beyond the simple fact that collating the opinions of everyone who writes for the site would be a massive pain in the ass, a “Liam Pritchard’s Top 5 Games of 2015” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. I’d love to think that my name carries some sort of weight, but I fear that really isn’t the case.
Oh, and one last thing – this is a list of my favourite games of the year and not necessarily the ‘best’ games of the year. ‘Favourite’ and ‘best’ can be mutually exclusive, and as I made my way through the list, there were a number of games that, while far from being the best from a purely critical standpoint, nonetheless, delivered many of my favourite gaming memories of the year. Never was this more true than in the case of the first game to make the list………
5) Mad Max (Avalanche Studios)
It might be little more than a collect-a-thon and the on foot sections of the game certainly have their problems, but despite its apparent lack of ambition, Avalache Studio’s, Mad Max remains one of my favourite open world video game of the past few years. Not only does it capture the essence of Mad Max almost perfectly via its often breath-taking interpretation of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but the car combat is arguably the finest you will find in any game while the ability to upgrade both Max and the Magnum Opus provided a great reason to keep ploughing through that array of enjoyable, if admittedly repetitive, collection of side missions. Like the original Assassin’s Creed, it could be argued that Mad Max is little more than a template for what might be achieved in future sequels, but my word, what a template it is.
4) Rocket League (Psyonix)
The little game that could. Psyonix’s combination of racing and football turned into one of 2015’s most pleasant surprises. It came out of nowhere – dropped onto PlayStation Plus, it’s addictive gameplay and simple yet surprisingly deep mechanics struck a chord with the gaming public almost immediately. Beyond the simple, and somewhat obvious joy of playing football via a selection of increasingly OTT rocket propelled vehicles, it could be argued that Rocket League delivers one of the most authentic football experiences in video game history. That might sound like something of a heady claim considering the ongoing quality of FIFA and Pro Evo, but in controlling one vehicle on the pitch, the importance of anticipation is pushed to the very forefront of the experience, an aspect of football that is often overlooked in the more traditional 11 vs. 11 outings. With the Xbox One release due in the not too distant future, it looks like 2016 will be another big year for, Psyonix’s finest, but 2015 will always be the year that Rocket League essentially did a Leicester.
3) Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Konami)
It’s been an odd year for Konami. On the one hand, they have burnt just about every bridge between themselves and the core gaming community, have had their name dragged through the mud and appear to be a million miles away from the company that was such an innovative stalwart of the industry back in the 80s and 90’s. On the other hand, they have published two of the very best games of both the year and the generation. Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 was a tremendous return to form for the series and the first time since the PS2 that Pro Evo has had the beating of its great Canadian foe while Metal Gear Solid V, despite lacking the traditionally bat sh*t crazy narrative, nonetheless delivered the finest gameplay in the series’ history and one of the best gaming loops of 2015. Between improving your arsenal, upgrading Mother Base and adding to your Walkman collection, Metal Gear Solid V provided one of the most addictive gaming experiences of the year.
2) Bloodborne (FromSoftware)
FromSoftware’s modern masterpiece certainly isn’t for everyone, but despite its incredibly unforgiving difficulty, it’s certainly a more user-friendly experience than the notoriously obtuse Souls series. The fast paced action is easy to grasp, and while many of the systems you would expect to be outlined are still largely hidden from the player, the core mechanics are relatively straightforward thanks to its streamlined controls and simplified upgrade and weaponry system. Still, while the mechanics might be a tad more traditional, that doesn’t make the matter of surviving for longer than five minutes any easier. Bloodborne is a game of incremental improvements, one in which you’ll slowly improve your skill-set and build up your confidence before it is inevitably shattered once more by a seemingly invincible foe. That’s the joy of the game though – as invincible as any foe may initially appear, persistence and skill will eventually win the day and overcoming one of those especially tricky boss encounters remains one of the most rewarding experiences in modern gaming. Of course, while it is famous for its difficulty, let’s not forget the majesty of its world building and the consistently high quality of its art design. Bloodborne’s difficulty ensures that you’ll see many areas time and again, so it’s a good thing that their all so gruesomely beautiful to look at.
1) Batman: Arkham Knight (Rocksteady)
The Bat-Tank might have been a complete misfire, but everything else about Rocksteady’s third and final(?) Batman game was exceptional. Never before has one element of a video game been so subsequently influential over the opinions of the complete game. Yes, the Bat-Tank mechanics are far too prevalent and far from fantastic, but they’re not broken and certainly don’t ruin what is an otherwise stellar addition to the Arkham franchise. Again, it wasn’t for everyone, but I thought the story, and in particular, the use of the Joker, was ingenious. The fact that he could essentially show up anywhere and at any time gave the game a unique narrative edge while allowing for the kind of brilliant interaction between the Batman and Joker that isn’t usually possible. Beyond that, the game looks absolutely phenomenal, the combat is better than ever and, what seems to have been forgotten by most, the Batmobile, when not in tank mode, is almost outrageously fun to use. Do gamers not remember the joy of bursting out of the Batmobile at full speed before seamlessly engaging in hand to hand combat with a gang of goons? It appears not. All anyone remember are those ill-judged and overused Bat-Tank sections. A real shame as, despite this admittedly rather major misstep, Batman: Arkham Knight is amongst the finest and technically impressive games of the generation thus far.
Honourable Mentions –
Splatoon – a fast, frantic and utterly charming online shooter. Proof, if ever it were needed, that Nintendo can do just about anything they put their mind to.
Halo 5: Guardians – The multiplayer is arguably Halo’s finest to date, and while note everyone was a huge fan of the single player campaign, I absolutely loved it. It might be slightly mediocre Halo, but slightly mediocre Halo is still better that 90% of the first person shooters on the market.
Life is Strange – some of the dialogue might have been a tad ropey, but the narrative throughout was exceptional and the characters rarely anything less than believable.
Destiny: The Taken King – arguably the game we should have been playing from the off, Destiny finally came into its own on the back of this exemplary expansion.
Mario Maker – the best level creator tool kit of all time and, for all intents and purposes, unlimited Mario.
Rise of the Tomb Raider – a fantastic sequel to an already exceptional original (the remake/re-imagining that is)
Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 – It has always been my football game of choice, but 2015 was the year that Konami’s long running football franchise took its crown back from FIFA. Fans of EA’s series will inevitably disagree, but this is the first year since the PS2 era that Pro Evo was the fundamentally and undeniably superior game.
Transformers: Devastation – probably the year’s most pleasant surprises. One of the world’s greatest developers arguably delivers the greatest Transformers game of all time. It sounded too good to be true. It wasn’t.
P.S. if you’re wondering where The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 are; I haven’t played enough of The Witcher 3 to form an opinion yet and Fallout 4 really isn’t my cup of tea.
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