Tired of reading ‘Game of the Year 2015’ lists rife with the same AAA titles that, although well-made, might not be your favorites? Fear not, readers, for I do not rank my games by the same metric as those “revenue-driven” sites (AKA: AAA Graphic Enhancement + Recycled Gameplay Mechanics + That Same Character Whose Butt You Have Viewed for 100’s of Hours = Profit). Since Big Shiny Robot is independent, we are free to choose the games that entertained, challenged, and inspired us. As a game dev, my judgements admittedly may account for things like team size, budget, and execution of a cohesive vision, but above all else I rank games by the experience they crafted! You get the point, though; enough blabbering and on with the list! (No spoilers below.)
Miss Mecha’s Games of 2015
#10 – “Batman: Arkham Knight”
What’s that? The writer of this list is a fucking hypocrite? Okay, hear me out. The Arkham series gives us an incredible finale with some of the best interwoven story and use of the DC IP that I’ve experienced in a video game. Damn, this writing and design team actually knew what they were doing with the Batman Universe! Batman’s final arc in the series will challenge you at times, but it also forces you to come to terms with what it really means to be Bruce Wayne/Batman. The combat feels fun and satisfying even when it’s over-the-top, and the brain-tickling Riddler trophies are ever amazing.
Editor’s Note: This game almost didn’t make the list, because Warner Bros made the horrible decision to ship the game when it wasn’t ready on all their platforms and then further punished that group of players by taking their sweet-ass time to fix the issues. This is NOT how to ship a game BUT the dev team probably didn’t make the decision to ship so I think they deserve praise for making a great game. Publishers with their priorities in order will allow their development studios / teams (just enough ;)) time to equally test ALL of their versions before shipping them to the public, and then ensure that their player base receives an equal experience across the board. But hey, some publishers push their dev teams until they cry and fear-poop out an unfinished title, y’know?
#9 – “Rocket League”
So, so very fun. It’s like indoor soccer with a domed court and the players replaced by rocket-powered cars akin to the ‘Micro-Machines’ my brother and I used to huck down sidewalks in the 80’s. There’s not much to be said other than I think you should play this game with your friends. Couch gaming lives on in titles like this! I am probably one of the few that remembers ‘Rocket League,’ by another name. Does ‘Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars’ ring a bell to you? No? That’s probably because ‘Rocket League’s predecessor didn’t sell very well and the old name probably had something to do with it (But, shit, it had the most METAL theme song ever!)
#8 – “Life is Strange”
One of two games on this list that feature a great use of Butterfly-Effect story systems, “Life is Strange” takes the idea one step further and bases its design around a character that can rewind time in an attempt to change future outcomes. Since the game was developed and released as episodes rather than all at once, it actually got better with subsequent episodes (and took player feedback into account). Your protagonist is a fairly realistic teenage girl and the setting evokes the (realness) frustrations of adolescence (though a bit heavy handed at times).
#7 – “Until Dawn”
This game is a B Movie Horror wrapped in entertaining-for-once quicktime events and the opportunity to wildly aim whilst having a mild panic attack, but the predictable stereotypes, cheese and underlying themes are exactly what make this game so fun to play. Furthermore, it features one of the best Butterfly Effect story systems out there. It is supremely satisfying to see how your seemingly unrelated choices might unfold much further into the game, and the results are rarely obvious. If you have a group of friends nearby to root for you or help you make terrible decisions while you play, even better. This is a fantastic game to enjoy fireside with your friends… with the lights off… and surround sound. 😉
#6 – “Bloodborne”
It’s not ‘Dark Souls I,’ but damn I love this designer and have yet again followed him into the rising flames of his bonfires. ‘Bloodborne’ is more of what you wanted (but didn’t really get) from Dark Souls II, but this time it’s shrouded bleak, post-apocalyptic, alternate-Victorian Yharnam. It provides a challenging experience with deeply satisfying rewards to those who know the path to mastery (hint: study your enemies’ movements before striking). Although the exploration element isn’t as deep or well-stitched as ‘DS I,’ I still found the experience to be much more cohesive and satisfying than the one I had in ‘DS II.’
#5 – “Ori and the Blind Forest”
Platforming and story that broke my heart, then put it back together again, and then… well… NO I CAN’T. SPOILERS. This game is incredible and the painterly art will have you gazing into the screen while you float and fly through awe-inspiring Platforming sequences. A wonderfully designed Platformer with a new IP that resonates with my soul? Sign me up for more in 2016!
#4 – “Crypt of the NecroDancer“
Rhythm Combat and Monsters in a Dungeon Rogue-like. Wait, maybe you didn’t understand me… CONTROLLER DDR WHILST FIGHTING MONSTERS! In a world where Rhythm Games have been almost entirely relegated to our sadly dusty arcades, it’s a tremendous joy to find someone designing something new that incorporates rhythm mechanics, rogue-like dungeon exploration, and a seriously jammin’ soundtrack. I love this game, and I have the limited edition dance pads to prove it (note that the dance pads aren’t required, and that they’re only usable on a specific mode).
#3 – “SOMA”
Frictional Games seems to love giving its players nightmares, and I honestly can’t stop coming back for more. This time, they delve into a more Sci-Fi-driven Survival Horror title, but they yet again deliver expertly crafted environments and an immersive story that will give you feelings of suspense, suspicion, and dread. Where does humanity begin and end? This game challenges you to find the answer within, and for that I give it my #3 spot.
#2 – “The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt”
Alright, so I have a bias for well-written RPGs. I admit it. ‘The Witcher 3’ features the most well-crafted story, side quests, and surrounding world to date, but it doesn’t suffer from less-than-desirable combat mechanics I had to slog through in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Yes, it’s another AAA RPG that pushes the envelope a bit further, but it’s also a game that’s been lovingly crafted by CD Projekt Red in Europe by an incredibly passionate team that brought a series of books into the new medium with incredible success. I don’t put AAA games on my list lightly – ‘The Wild Hunt’ has earned its place in RPG Asgard.
#1 – “Undertale”
Don’t look up anything about this game. To read about it is to spoil both the story and one of the few precious things a video game can still do for you – let you experience a story where your will think carefully about your decisions and where you must trust your instincts. Find yourself in this charming world full of unique characters. This game comes pre-packaged with All The Feels. All of them.
And no, it’s not overrated. Although I’ve heard much argument over this little game in both extremes of for and against, no-one can deny that the vision assembled by Toby Fox is nothing short of spectacular. Sit down at your PC and open a Notepad+ window. Now imagine filling that window to the brim with custom code, switching over to photoshop to make your own assets and then, oh, that’s right, writing all your own music and sound effects. This labor of love speaks volumes about what is possible when you put your heart and soul into painstakingly creating a cohesive experience for your players. Whether Fox made the game for himself, for us, or both, I simply cannot imagine another title taking the number one spot on my list.
Honorable Mentions (AKA Amazing Games I Haven’t Finished):
Yeah, I love this game. What of it? It doesn’t make me OCD if I love to painstakingly scrub every bit of blood and gut from the durasteel walls! How many severed heads can YOU balance in your Biohazard bin?! Hmmm! Well, as a janitor cleaning up after what must have been the most gruesome shoot-em-up levels ever, you’ll get your chance to find out! Seriously, grab a friend and play this game. It’s hilarious and remarkably fun. They even have a Santa version!
‘Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’ – Thank the gaming gods Hideo Kojima has found a new home at Sony Studios, because a world without more games with him at the helm is a sad world indeed.
What’s that you say? You love Phoenix Wright games AND Bird Puns!?! This is the game you have been searching for your whole life, my friend.
‘Earth Defence Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair’
Defend Japan from giant, radioactive bugs. Yes, this third person shooter continues the tradition of not taking itself too seriously and thankfully shipping here in North America.
‘Neko Atsume’ (‘Cat Collector’ from Japan) – Who am I kidding? I will never be finished with this game. I wish I had designed it myself, because it’s brilliant, and it probably took a week to make. After spending $35 on golden sardines in this game, you think I’d be done with it…AHHH WHY CAN’T I QUIT YOU?!?