2015 is the year the PS4 and Xbox One really matured. There have been excellent games on both systems this year, far eclipsing everything from 2014.
We got the long-awaited finales to blockbuster series' like Batman and The Witcher, we got impressive debuts with Bloodborne and Life Is Strange, and we got highly anticipated returns in the form of Fallout and Metal gear Solid.
All in all 2015 was a seminal year for gaming.
At this time year of year we're all looking to 2016 and impatiently awaiting the likes of Uncharted 4 and Gears 4, but it's also the time of year to look back on what made 2015 great. And this list compiles the very best of the year in question.
The following 10 games are the highest rated games in 2015, as per Metacritic. The list will not contain remasters, ports, or re-releases, so don't expect to see GTA V on PC, or Shovel Knight on PS4/Xbox One. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's jump in and reveal the crème de la crème.
10. Kerbal Space Program
Metacritic Score: 88% (User Score 8.0)
Who would have thought a silly little game about rocket physics would have been so dang fun? Kerbal Space Program was presumed to be another I Am Bread, Octodad, or Goat Simulator, but where those games wore out their welcome pretty quickly, KSP just became more addictive.
Building a rocket ship out of random parts proves to be a tricky hurdle at the start of the game, but the first time you get it off the ground it makes it worthwhile. Of course, it comes crashing down in a blaze of horror just seconds later, but that fleeting sensation of hope and accomplishment make you start all over again.
A perfect blend of science and slapstick, and a robust and compelling sandbox of possibility. Simply outstanding.
- PC Gamer
9. Ori and the Blind Forest
Metacritic Score: 88% (User Score: 8.6)
Ori and the Blind Forest was a highly anticipated Xbox One game coming into 2015, but I don't think anyone knew just what they were getting into. Ori looked like a fun, charming platformer that you'd breeze through in an hour, maybe two. However, it turned out to be a heart-breaking game with soul-crushing difficulty.
The first few minutes of Ori and the Blind Forest are truly very sad, and done so in a way that isn't ham-fisted or overtly tugging on those heartstrings. Then the game begins and it's a straightforward 2D platformer. A couple of hours later though you're still playing and the gameplay has gotten significantly deeper to reflect the increasingly complex level design. Simply put, Ori is a very hard game that lures you in with its cuteness.
A terrific blend of story, gameplay, and graphics, Ori and the Blind Forest is an unforgettable debut for indie developer Moon Studios.
8. Super Mario Maker
Metacritic Score: 88% (User Score: 8.7)
2015 was not a great year for Nintendo; mediocre games, uncharacteristic delays, and the sad passing of a legend. But 2015 was also the 30th anniversary of the company mascot, Mario. It was with this anniversary in mind that Nintendo gave us its most creative and unexpected game to date, Super Mario Maker.
In Super Mario Maker, you are the creator. Nintendo have given you the reigns to create your very own Mario levels, with a tool-bag that expands over the course of 9 days. You'll start by creating fairly straightforward levels based on what you've known of Mario but after a short while you'll be throwing Goomba's into blocks, putting wings onto Boo's, and generally making life hell for whoever is foolish enough to step into your twisted vision of Super Mario. This is an addictive experience that showcases the zany creations of players worldwide, it's just a pity it comes out on a system that is likely to bite the dust next year.
Brimming with positivity and encouragement, Super Mario Maker's brilliant toy box gives you everything you need to easily create and share some truly fantastic levels.
7. Fallout 4
Metacritic Score: 88% (User Score: 6.0)
To say Fallout 4 was a highly anticipated game is, like saying people enjoy Star Wars, a gross understatement. This time last year we didn't even know if Fallout 4 was a thing but here we are, almost two months after the game released and, despite some warranted and unwarranted backlash, it was a resounding success.
Fallout 4 brought back that familiar style of gameplay, zany characters, massive world that begs to be explored, and yes, the glitches. Everything that made the previous games great were abundant in Fallout 4, but Bethesda also added settlement building - making use of all the junk you incur in the wasteland - far better shooting mechanics, vastly upgraded power armour, weapon and armour mods, a lot more verticality to the map, and much better visuals. All in all, Fallout 4 was more Fallout but with fantastic additions to the formula. More please!
Fallout 4 has all the ambiance and history that made its predecessors such wonderful places to get lost for hours at a time, with a much more coherent set of stories within it. That Bethesda has integrated a major building and crafting tool while finally building a great-playing game almost feels like a bonus.
6. Pillars of Eternity
Metacritic Score: 89% (User Score: 8.4)
A game that is very much a callback, and yet evolution of, classic RPGs like Baldur's Gate, Planescape Torment, and Neverwinter Nights, Pillars of Eternity is a fantastic isometric RPG that shows the genre still has a place in today's world.
A huge, sprawling world, rich mythology, detailed graphics, and involving story, Pillars of Eternity is everything an old-school RPG lover could ask for, while being a great starting place for those looking to finally take the plunge. Developed by Obsidian Entertainment (Fallout: New Vegas, South Park: The Stick of Truth) made Pillars of Eternity with the love and influence of all the classics, while putting its stamp on the genre forever. Sadly, it seems the game will never find its way over to consoles, according to Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart.
Pillars of Eternity is a masterclass in role-playing game development, recapturing the essence of the genre's past triumphs and repackaging them for a universal audience.
- Digital Spy
5. Tales From The Borderlands
Metacritic Score: 89% (User Score: 8.2)
When Telltale Games revealed its partnership with Gearbox and Borderlands it was largely overshadowed by the announcement of a Game of Thrones game on the same day. Fast forward to the end of 2015, both series' are finished and there's only one that people are talking about, and it isn't Game of Thrones.
I won't waste time or space by stating why Game of Thrones was not good, and it really was not, I'd much rather spend that time gushing over how good Tales From The Borderlands was.
Playing as both Ryhs and Fiona, gamers got a very different look into the world of Borderlands, and it was amazing from start to finish. Rhys, a scorn Hyperion stooge who sets out to screw over his new boss, and Fiona, a fast-talking con artist who aims to screw over Hyperion, come together in unlikely circumstances and set off on a hilarious, action-packed journey to find the treasures of a Vault. The voice-acting from Troy Baker, Ashley Johnson, Chris Hardwick, Laura Bailey, Erin Yvette, Patrick Warburton, and Nolan North, were all sublime, making the journey that much more fun and immersive.
Every episode begins with an awesome musical intro that always sets the tone for what is to come, and throughout five episodes the pace never lets up. Without spoiling anything, Episode 5: The Vault of the Traveler, is one of the best episodes Telltale has ever done, and home to one of the very best fight scenes I've seen in years.
I don't even care about Borderlands, but I cannot recommend this enough, to fans and non-fans alike. This is Telltale Games at its best.
Tales from the Borderlands concludes with some series-defining moments and choices, solidifying it as one of Telltale’s best, if not the strongest offering the studio has put forth in several years.
- Gaming Trend
Metacritic Score: 92% (User Score: 8.6)
Ahhhh Bloodborne, we had a very love/hate relationship didn't we? I never did finish Bloodborne, I played for around 30 hours and decided to call it quits for the sake of my psyche and my liking of the game. That's to say, Bloodborne is a crushingly-hard game that will punch you in the face until you think you can't get up. But then you do, and you kick its ass and there's few better feelings in all of gaming.
I say that as someone who gave up, but I most certainly had those moments; be it beating Vicar Amelia, or the god-damn Blood-Starved Beast. My 30 hours with Bloodborne were very memorable and I will certainly return to the haunting streets of Yharnam someday, cause apparently I like abuse.
In all seriousness though, Bloodborne is the absolute peak of the "Souls" formula, marrying it with more enjoyable mechanics and some of the best graphics/atmosphere you can find anywhere. If Dark Souls decided to procreate with CastleVania: Symphony of the Night, this would be the result, and holy crap is that one beautiful, albeit evil, baby.
Bloodborne is one of those experiences that totally consumes you when you're involved in it and working to see all that it has to offer. In that sense it's the digital edition of a round-the-world trip to foreign continents, each turning of a corner providing equal helpings of excitement and trepidation.
Metacritic Score: 93% (User Score: 8.3)
An unabashed love-letter to Nintendo classic, Earthbound, Undertale is an amazing 8-bit RPG with real emotion, humour, and a memorable story. What starts off as a fairly standard game, which you think you've played before, turns out to be so much more and teaches you to love all over again.
In a year when we got role-playing games like The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, and Pillars of Eternity, it would be very easy to overlook the somewhat childish looking Undertale, but that would be big mistake. The game plays with your expectations at almost every turn, and so keeps you on your toes throughout, while delivering a really heartfelt, memorable story.
The gist is that you play as a young man who falls underground and must find his way out, to get away from the monsters that lurk there. Sounds fairly straightforward and familiar, but don't be fooled. There's not a whole lot I can say without spoiling elements of the game that are better left unsaid, so go play it for yourself and experience a very different type of RPG.
You wouldn't know it with a passing glance, but it's one of the most progressive and innovative RPGs to come in a long time, breaking down tradition for the sake of invention, with great success.
2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Metacritic Score: 93% (User Score: 9.1)
The Witcher series started life as a PC game. With the second instalment it found its way onto the Xbox 360 as well. The games had a ton of clout amongst those that played them, but that number was too few to make a big splash. For whatever reason then, when The Witcher 3 was revealed, and announced for PlayStation as well as Xbox and PC, all gamers suddenly turned their heads and stared wild-eyed at the insane-looking RPG.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was all the talk when it was first shown off at E3 2013, winning Game of the Show from numerous outlets. Bear in mind, E3 2013 was just a few months after we were told PS4's and Xbox One's were even real, so when The Witcher demo was shown off, the visuals on display blew everyone away.
Thankfully, the game actually lived up to, and exceeded, all of the lofty expectations we had. It is a gigantic, beautiful RPG, with colourful, believable characters, great story, and consistently enjoyable mechanics. The level of detail, the depth of content, and the overall quality of the package puts every other RPG to shame. The Witcher 3 is quite possibly the best role-playing game ever made.
One of the best role-playing games ever crafted, a titan among giants and the standard-setter for all such games going forward. Where the Witcher 2 sputtered to a halt, The Witcher 3 is always in a crescendo, crafting battle scenarios that constantly one-up the last, until you reach the explosive finale and recover in the glow of the game's quiet denouement.
1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Metacritic Score: 95% (User Score: 7.1)
It's hard to disassociate Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain with the absolute disaster that is the Konami/Kojima break-up. Thankfully the drama that it was is all but over, although I dare say Konami's troubles are not, and we can get back to just focusing on the games. That being said, MGS V presents a challenge to us gamers, do we praise the game and celebrate its creator, therefore lining the pockets of the horrid Konami? Or do we shun the game, therefore snubbing Konami but also ignoring the lifetime accomplishment of one of the best creators ever? It's a conundrum, but given the love for the game and the impressive sales figures, I think it's the former.
Regardless of all that crap, Metal Gear Solid V really is an incredible game. It might not have the insane story beats of the previous instalments, or the classic boss battles, but it marries gameplay, side stuff, and level design, like few others can. This isn't even really a Metal Gear game, it's a completely different kind of game that shows Hideo Kojima's growth as a game developer and an auteur.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was a fantastic return for the series but also a fitting send-off to the man who started it all. Regardless of everything that went down with Konami, Kojima can rest easy knowing he put out the very best game of the year and one everyone will be talking about for years to come.
There have certainly been sandbox action games that have given me a bigger world to roam, or more little icons to chase on my minimap, but none have pushed me to plan, adapt, and improvise the way this one does. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain doesn’t just respect my intelligence as a player, it expects it of me, putting it in a league that few others occupy.
There you have it, the very best 2015 had to offer! With each passing year the industry becomes more and more diverse, in both representations and game types. That list of 10 games includes 2D platformers, a physics engine, an interactive drama, a gothic action/adventure game whose soul (get it) purpose is to kill your spirit, and 5 RPGs of vastly varying styles, scopes, and mechanics. It's a very diverse list that shows how wonderfully varied the industry has become. There really is something for everyone.
But as is customary, we must now look ahead to 2016 and become giddy with excitement, or, as is the case with too many people, bemoan and criticise everything.... whatever floats your boat. Regardless of how full your glass is, 2016 looks amazing. Truly. It looks like it has the potential to blow this year out of the water, and that is saying something. So be sure to check back soon for a list of the most anticipated games of 2016!
What was your favourite game of 2015? Do you think Metal Gear Solid was a worthy winner? What is your most anticipated 2016 game? Let us know in the comments below, and stay tuned to GameSkinny! Happy new year!