2015 was a huge breath of fresh air for the gaming industry after a disappointing 2014. Sure, we still had the occasional broken game, and some huge releases still let us down, but overall the gaming industry delivered the big guns this year.
For many it was a year of innovation, with old series reinventing themselves, while new IP came out and rocked the gaming world. Each platform had something new and fresh to present to gamers.
However, it was also a year for looking back, as we saw the trend of remasters and remakes continue to take hold. Luckily, many of these remakes were of some of the best games of all time, and the fresh coat of paint only solidified their place in history.
So, with that said, we present our Games of the Year for 2015. Our entire staff was involved in these choices, coming up with nominees and then narrowing them down to the winners and honorable mentions. A few of us also put together our own personal lists, which you can check out at the end.
Platform of the Year – Xbox One
Kyle – What an amazing year it has been for Microsoft’s Xbox One. While the PS4 continues to dominate in sales, the Xbox One has quietly fixed almost every minor issue that fans might have had with it, while simultaneously adding in features that many thought impossible.
Backwards Compatibility shocked everyone when it was announced at E3 2015, and the New Xbox One Experience streamlined the interface through which gamers interact with their console. Meanwhile, Microsoft secured tons of exclusive titles for their system, with Forza 6, Halo 5: Guardians, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Gears of War Ultimate Edition headlining what Microsoft quite correctly referred to as the best games lineup in Xbox history.
Microsoft didn’t stop there though, they also increased the options in terms of hardware, pushing out bundles, larger hard drives, and more Kinect-less systems. This helped lower the price, while giving new owners something to play right from the beginning.
This was certainly a great year for anyone with an Xbox One, and the big question is, can Microsoft continue this momentum into 2016.
Best PlayStation – Bloodborne
Mike – 2015 wasn’t exactly the best year for PlayStation 4 when it came to console exclusives, continuing the same trend of a lack of big exclusives the console has had from the beginning. While PlayStation 4 remained the best console to play on when it came to multi-platform titles, there were really only a few exclusives that were worth talking about this year. However, despite the lack of quantity there is no denying that the quality of PlayStation 4’s Bloodborne was rivaled by very few others this year.
While the Souls series has been going strong since Demon’s Souls launched in 2009 for PlayStation 3, Bloodborne took what was built by the previous Souls games and brought them into a more sinister and Gothic city called Yharnam that was overflowing with beautifully-ominous Victorian architecture. The same punishing gameplay that fans of the series came to expect was still front and center, but minor shifts in the mechanics that allowed you to both wield a gun and transform your melee weapon’s speed, power and reach on the fly ensured that the experience became something unique.
It’s almost a cliche now to say that a Souls game by From Software is an amazing experience, but Bloodborne is easily the best exclusive that the PlayStation 4 currently has to offer and may just be the best game in the Souls series yet.
Honorable Mention – Until Dawn
Best Xbox – Ori & the Blind Forest
Damian – It was a pretty good year for the Xbox One console as many exclusives came out. However, only Ori & the Blind Forest felt truly fresh and exciting. There weren’t many other Xbox One exclusives that looked as beautiful as this game. Graphics aren’t everything in gaming, but this could be an exception. This game has visuals that you might expect from a Studio Ghibli animated movie.
The other thing that makes this game unique is that it’s from a genre we don’t see too often these days. The 2D side-scroller was dominant in the ’80s and early ’90s but that all changed when 3D games came around. The game is difficult sure, but the level design makes you want to try and try again in order to succeed.
Aside from the graphics and gameplay, the soundtrack is also great to listen to. Everything about this game has a magical feeling to it that you cannot help but just smile at it. There’s a reason this game was four years in development. Moon Studio needed all the time they could get to craft something that is nearly perfect.
Honorable Mention – Halo 5
Best Nintendo – Super Mario Maker
Dean – Mario is the most synonymous and iconic name in all of gaming, spanning decades of games across different genres. However, there is none more important than the side-scrolling platformer version of Mario, which is celebrated to near perfection in Super Mario Maker.
Ever since the original Super Mario Bros., Nintendo has been providing gamers with creative and unique stage designs, but Super Mario Maker finally lets you take control.
Offering a full stage creator for Mario seems like a tall task, but Super Mario Maker is as simple and easy to use as possible, while also still being very involving and open to allow for near infinite possibilities.
Between building your own stages or playing the incredible number of those made by other gamers, Super Mario Maker will provide you with pure joy and is easily one of the best games to every grace the Wii U.
Honorable Mention – Xenoblade Chronicles X
Best PC – Starcraft II
Kyle – The PC platform continued its growth toward total world domination in 2015, becoming the home to some of the best games of the year. Most of these games were multi-platform titles though, with exclusives outside of the indie realm remaining fairly tough to find.
However, if you want deep, rewarding gaming experiences, look no further than PC exclusives like Starcraft II. The RTS series came back in a huge way with this sequel, released in multiple parts starting all the way back in 2010.
Finally, after over five years we see the conclusion to this saga with Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void. Players get to experience the same classic RTS action, but this time from the Protoss side of the conflict.
Honorable Mention – GTA V
Best Multi-Platform – Fallout 4
Kyle – Fallout 4 was quite possibly one of the most highly anticipated games of all time. Bethesda did a masterful job of keeping the game under wraps, with only a few scant leaks hinting at its existence. Then they opened the floodgates at E3 and every gamer in the world took notice.
With such high expectations it would have been very easy for the game to falter, yet it shined. Sure, there were technical issues, especially on the console versions, but overall it was the same massive, open-world gameplay that we have come to expect from this series.
But that wasn’t all, as Bethesda took this opportunity to reshape the Fallout formula in many ways. While many players were running around, firing off headshots at Super Mutants, others were back at Sanctuary, building a community. The Workshop features were truly revolutionary for this series, changing the way you play the game in a number of ways.
This mixture of classic gameplay with new innovations made Fallout 4 the best game to hit multiple platforms this year.
Honorable Mention – MGS V
Best Handheld – The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D
Dean – While The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time may be regarded as one of the best games ever made, its N64 counterpart often was forgotten by a large part of the gaming community. For those that may have missed out previously, the Nintendo 3DS added yet another stellar title with The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D in 2015.
Majora’s Mask offers a departure from the lighter tone of much of the Legend of Zelda series, instead offering a much more dark and downright depressing turn. Years later, the emotions are still as effective and gripping as they ever were, especially for anybody that is playing it for the first time.
On top of improving the visuals for the game, a number of enhancements were made, including better swimming and a much more expansive Bomber’s Notebook. Majora’s Mask was already a fantastic game in and of itself, and with the number of additions, it was easily the best handheld game of 2015.
Honorable Mention – Lara Croft GO
Hit the next page for best genre awards
Best Shooter – Splatoon
Kyle – Who ever would have guessed that a Nintendo title would win Best Shooter 2015? And when you realize that this was a year filled with great shooters, from Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 to Halo 5: Guardians, it becomes all the more impressive. Yet, that is exactly what happened thanks to the fantastic fun that is Splatoon.
Taking the shooter genre and turning it on its head, Splatoon offers a totally unique take on the formula. Sure, you can shoot other players, but in the most popular game mode that isn’t the point at all. Instead, it is all about map control, something that is true of other shooters, but not to this degree. Nintendo took many of the conventions that competitive shooter players understood and put them front and center into the game, reshaping the genre in the process.
None of this would work if the core gameplay didn’t work though. Thankfully Nintendo nailed this, offering another unique twist on shooter controls and mechanics, thanks to the Wii U Gamepad. Sure, you could use standard twin-stick controls, but moving around the Gamepad just felt accurate and natural after a short time.
On top of this is a whole new world of fun characters, with the Inklings quickly becoming favorites among Nintendo fans worldwide. These characters inhabit an even more fun and colorful world, with Splatoon quickly and easily taking its place as one of the finest shooters in a long time.
Honorable Mention – Halo 5
Best Sports – Rocket League
Kyle – I hate sports games. I try not to rule out entire genres from my gaming experience, but Madden, FIFA, and their ilk just don’t interest me at all. And yet, a sports game is exactly what I spent the most time playing this year.
Rocket League seems simple enough, “it’s soccer with cars” people say, yet its depth runs far deeper than anyone could guess. The game is sort of the distillation of the best elements of the sports genre, presenting a simple premise that can keep you interested for hundreds of hours.
Once you begin to master the tougher techniques, such as aerials and wall hits, you start to realize just how great of a sports game Rocket League is. It’s the perfect example of easy to learn, hard to master, that so many sports have been in the past.
Honorable Mention – Madden NFL 15
Best Racing – Forza Motorsport 6
Damian – When Forza Motorsport 5 came out during the launch of the Xbox One, many people were disappointed. The game was rushed onto shelves as it only had a fraction of the number of cars and tracks that were in Forza Motorsport 4. The game also threw DLC in your face all of the time too.
Thankfully, Forza Motorsport 6 is the exact opposite of Forza Motorsport 5. The newer game offers tons more cars and tracks and DLC is not as “in-your-face” as it was before.
This game also adds night racing and different weather effects. This is the first time that the main entry Forza series added them in. The gameplay is as realistic as ever and the graphics are gorgeous too.
Forza Motorsport 6 is one of the best Xbox One exclusives and racing fans should consider buying this instead of Forza 5. You’ll have more hours of fun with the newer game.
Honorable Mention – Project Cars
Best Action-Adventure – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Damian – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is far different from the other games in the series. What was mostly a linear action experience that can be completed in a couple hours turned into a huge open-world game that offered hours of gameplay. It is pretty much the only stealth-based franchise that completely changed its entire gameplay mechanics for the better.
Much like in Fallout 4, you can also recruit buddies to help you in missions. This includes the popular sniper Quiet, the wolf D-Dog and of course the horse. All of these buddies makes life easier for Snake as he infiltrates enemy bases around the world.
In a lot of ways, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain felt more like an action RPG due to the number of ways you can customize everything. You are free to choose your own loadout as you gain access to better weapons and vehicles the more you play the game.
The game also has a non-linear style as you can decide whether to sneak in quietly, or literally drive through the front door using a tank!
Honorable Mention – Batman: Arkham Knight
Best RPG – Fallout 4
Damian – The thing that makes Fallout 4 the best RPG this year is that it gives the player lots of choices. You are not stuck playing as a character you don’t want to be, and you can also decide how you want to play the game. What I am trying to say is that Fallout 4 is not linear and this is what makes it such a fun RPG to play.
I won’t spoil the game’s story for you, but I will mention that there are four different endings in the game. The amount of choices that are available to you in Fallout 4 are endless. There are also a ton of side missions offered in the game that prolong what is already a very long experience.
Fallout 4 also exceeds Fallout 3 in lots of ways. The open world environment is much prettier to look at as more color has been added. It’s far better to look at than the drab green and brown colors that dominated Fallout 3.
Another fun feature is that your character can buddy up with companions. The companions are awesome as not only are they helpful, but they all have their own backstories too.
Anyway, Fallout 4 is our pick for best RPG, thanks in large part to the many choices it offers, and the different ways that you can play through the game.
Honorable Mention – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Best Fighting – Mortal Kombat X
Damian – It was a quiet year for the fighting game genre in 2015, with Tekken 7 and Street Fighter 5 not coming out until 2016. However, we did get one awesome fighting game and that was Mortal Kombat X.
Mortal Kombat (2011) was a reboot that truly reinvigorated the franchise, and Mortal Kombat X is a great follow-up to that game. Boasting the best looking visuals in the entire franchise, the detailed graphics made the famous Fatalities more gruesome than ever before. Even the newly added Brutalities were bone-crushingly difficult to watch sometimes.
Not to mention the actual gameplay is as fun as ever. Unlike some other games released in 2015, Mortal Kombat X has tons of modes that will occupy you for hours on end.
Honorable Mention – Dragonball Xenoverse
Hit the next page for best Multiplayer, best Story and other awards
Best Multiplayer – Rocket League
Kyle – Another surprise victory for Rocket League, the little indie game that could. In a year that was full of huge, AAA multiplayer experiences, Rocket League stood above all the rest. It helps that it simply honed in on what makes a multiplayer game work so well: short, simple bits of fun gameplay.
The main draw of Rocket League is its completely flat ruleset. The cars all drive and handle almost the exact same, the maps are all the same (aside from the recently released Wasteland arena), the rules never change, and there are no powerups. If you lose in a game of Rocket League it is almost always because the other team was simply better than you.
And yet, it still featured unlockable items and DLC, things that usually destroy the multiplayer experience. However, developer Psyonix handled them in the best way possible, making them all cosmetic and optional. You won’t be able to buy your way to victory in Rocket League.
Honorable Mention – Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
Bets Indie – Rocket League
Kyle – What else can I say about this fantastic game? It’s the best Sports and Multiplayer game of 2015, but it is also the best game to come from an independent studio all around. Psyonix has made some games before, including the inaptly named predecessor to Rocket League. Yet they’ve truly shined with this release, both in the game’s initial design and in their follow up to it.
The game itself is game design simplicity in its best and more pure form. It is easy to pick up, and hard to master, making for a deeply rewarding experience from its first hour to its hundredth. Yet every match is technically exactly the same. This could make for a game that surges in popularity and then shrinks back into obscurity.
However, developer Psyonix has kept things fresh and interesting throughout. There’s the random DLC packs, giving devoted players new cosmetic items to play with, but they also gave fans their most requested car with the Back to the Future Delorean popping up as DLC shortly after release.
Then Psyonix continued to improve the game with the first non-regulation map hitting recently, along with modifiers to the core physics and settings. Finally the Hockey mode hit earlier this month, creating a truly new and fresh take on the game.
For all of this and more, Rocket League takes our best indie game award for 2015.
Honorable Mention – Hotline Miami 2
Best Story – Rise of the Tomb Raider
Dean – Story is something that has been lost in many games due to the removal of single player campaigns, which makes strictly single player experiences all the more rare. Thankfully, there are still games out there like Rise of the Tomb Raider that focus on an interesting story that spans the entire experience.
Serving as an excellent follow-up to Lara’s first adventure in the reboot, Rise of the Tomb Raider provides gamers with a much more confident Lara in a story that feels like a very natural progression of the character’s story arc.
The game features very interesting characters that help to propel the plot forward in many different directions, with familial ties playing a very large role.
The plot does a great job at showing a Lara that continues to grow into the adventurer you know and love, while also still bringing in some crazy story elements that are very befitting of the series.
Honorable Mention – Tales from the Borderlands
Most Innovative – Splatoon
Kyle – Innovation has been a been pretty tough to find in the gamin industry these past few years. Sure, you have the occasional game that bucks trends and goes its own way, but overall developers pump out safe bet sequels year after year. That’s just not Nintendo’s way though, as they have shown with games like Splatoon.
From the moment it was first announced it was obvious that Splatoon was something a little different. Playing like a normal third-person shooter, the mechanics were turned on their head with a few shifts to the experience.
You weren’t just a normal person running around a battlefield here. Instead you were an Inkling, a kid who can turn into a squid. And you weren’t really shooting each other, so much as you were covering the level in your team’s ink. This was the main goal of the game, to own most of the map, but it also helped you, as you could swim faster through your own ink color.
All of these innovations created our favorite shooter for 2015, but they also showed that this game was the most innovative of the year.
Honorable Mention – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Hit the next page for our Worst of the Year
Best of the Worst
Most Disappointing – Star Wars Battlefront
Kyle – Oh man, was I excited for Star Wars Battlefront. I had played hundreds of hours of the old games and was really excited to see a new one arrive. I even played the game at conventions and during the beta, coming away impressed each time.
However, something lingered in the background, some feeling that this might be all that the game has to offer. When it finally hit that feeling was both confirmed, and shown to not truly encompass the problems with this game.
A paltry selection of maps and gamemodes combined with a complete lack of a single player campaign to create a $60 game that felt like a budget title. Seeing all of the advertisements for the Season Pass, with its promised infusion of content that probably should have been in the base game, really didn’t help things.
Eventually, after just a few hours with the game, many abandoned it entirely, only planning to check it out after EA and DICE have retooled a bit. What was once one of the most highly anticipated games of the year had become its most disappointing very quickly.
Honorable Mention – The Order: 1886
Worst Launch – Batman: Arkham Knight on PC
Kyle – PC players expect just a few things out of console ports, that the game works, and that it runs at least on-par with its console versions. Batman: Arkham Knight did neither. The game had visual problems galore, with certain effects turned off or toned down, even to levels below those found on PS4. On top of this came stuttering and other sorts of glitches that truly damaged the overall experience.
Eventually things got so bad that WB and Rocksteady ended up having to pull it from all PC markets, a bold and almost unprecedented move that left many with a totally broken game. Fixes were eventually issued, but it was too little, and far too late as the hype had been replaced by bitter thoughts and feelings.
The game was fantastic, there is no doubt about that, but when it’s practically unplayable on what should be the defining platform for the game, the entire narrative switches. I’ve yet to even go back to what should have been one of my favorite games of the year, the feelings are just that ingrained.
Hit the next page for our Overall Game of the Year
Game of the Year
Game of the Year – Fallout 4
Mike – A lot of fantastic and varied types of games came out in 2015, but it’s hard to think of one that had the same kind of hype and build-up as Fallout 4. Bethesda gave us the masterpiece that was Fallout 3 in 2008 before handing the reigns over to Obsidian Entertainment for Fallout: New Vegas in 2010, but it had been 5 very long years since fans got to dive back into the series’ amazing post-apocalyptic world.
Thankfully, Fallout 4 lived up to the hype and then some when it finally launched this year. While the graphics initially had people scratching their heads from a technical standpoint, just spending a couple of hours in the game’s incredibly atmospheric world makes you quickly realize that you’re playing something truly special. Bethesda did a fantastic job of creating a post-nuclear Boston, MA, with many of the area’s most popular landmarks being faithfully recreated in a very bleak new way that was consistently jaw-dropping to behold.
The game also brought a number of big improvements to the series, such as better gunplay, deeper item customization and an addicting new base building system that you can easily spend dozens upon dozens of hours with alone. The handful of warring factions that you can join all have their own pros and cons in the grand scheme of things, and the fact that the game really makes a strong case for sticking with any one of them right to the bitter end is also a testament to the game’s excellent writing. Plain and simple, Fallout 4 is a phenomenal experience and the best that gaming had to offer in 2015.
Honorable Mentions – Rocket League, The Witcher 3
Hit the next page for Staff Member Top 10s
Staff GOTY Lists
2015 definitely was one of the more diverse gaming years in awhile, which not only brought us some major followups to long running franchises, but also some newcomers that managed to stand out from the pack.
This extended to the announcements we got this year, donned by some as the Year of Dreams, with pipedream announcements like Final Fantasy VII Remake and Shenmue 3 being announced. However, this does not overshadow the actual 2015 releases, as they more than held their own with superb releases all through the year on basically every platform.
The sheer number of quality release after quality release even made it hard to play all the big games. As a result, I haven’t got the chance yet to play some big titles like Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, as well as only completing part of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain to where I don’t know how to rank it yet. Regardless, the games I did get to play were mostly fantastic. PC will also be excluded from this list though due to not having a gaming PC, but each of the other platforms will be taken in account.
Taking all of that into account, here is my top 10 games that released in 2015.
Honorable Mentions: Madden 16, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D
9. Halo 5: Guardians
7. Star Wars Battlefront
6. Mortal Kombat X
5. Xenoblade Chronicles X
4. Super Mario Maker
3. Batman: Arkham Knight
2. Life is Strange
1. Rise of the Tomb Raider
There is no way that I would have thought a small, indie game about cars playing soccer would ever be my personal game of the year. Even seeing the trailers before release, I wrote the game off as something that would never pique my interest. However, the blissful simplicity of its game design, coupled with the amazing support of the developer has cemented Rocket League as my favorite game of the year.
Many more hours of work went into crafting the massive world of Fallout 4, and while that game is certainly excellent and will go on to be remembered as such for some time, there’s just something amazingly fun about Rocket League that still has me jumping on for a few matches nearly every day. The real joy comes when you begin to develop your skills, adding new tricks to your arsenal that would have made your former self stare in amazement. And with a budding eSports scene forming around the game, it looks like Rocket League will be here to stay.
However, while Rocket League is definitely my top pick, 2015 has been a an all around quality year for video games. Fallout 4 largely lived up to the extremely high expectations, delivering another amazing slice of post-apocalyptic gameplay. Tales from the Borderlands cemented Telltale’s place as one of gaming’s finest storytellers. GTA V hit the PC, delivering on a lot of the promise the original release struggled with. MGS V revolutionized the series, while missing the mark on the story front (which is why the game places so low on my list), and in Nintendo’s corner we had the amazingly fresh Splatoon, and the stunningly retro Super Mario Maker. Halo 5 brought back the glory of arena-style shooting, though the campaign left a lot to be desired.
After a hugely disappointing 2014, full of broken games and under performing releases, 2015 came back with a vengeance. Let’s hope that 2016 continues this trend.
10. Rare Replay
9. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D
8. Halo 5: Guardians
7. Super Mario Maker
5. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
4. GTA V PC
3. Tales from the Borderlands
2. Fallout 4
1. Rocket League
2015 was a far more enjoyable year of gaming compared to 2014. There were not as many re-releases flooding the market and a number of actual new games were released. Not to mention the games out this year were mostly working upon arrival. Halo 5: Guardians and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate weren’t as broken as Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Assassin’s Creed Unity.
I also admired the diversity of the games that were available in 2015. It wasn’t just a year full of AAA first-person shooters as a number of games from different genres were out all year around. I would have liked to have seen more first-party exclusives from Sony on the PS4, but it looks like they’re saving all of their big guns for 2016.
Bear in mind, I’m a gamer that plays on PS4 and Xbox One mostly. Sadly, you won’t see any games from other platforms. I also missed out on some big games too.Without further ado, here is my top 10.
Honorable mentions: Rare Replay, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD
8. Halo 5: Guardians
7. Mortal Kombat X
6. Batman: Arkham Knight
5. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
4. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
3. Until Dawn
2. Rise of the Tomb Raider
1. Fallout 4