2015 was sort of a weird year for me. I didn’t play nearly as many games this year as I’ve done in years past. It was also the year that I think the toys-to-life games really made the splash they promised years ago when Skylanders first showed up on the scene. You’ll understand why I think that at the end of this list. It was also the year of user-generated content, especially on Nintendo platforms.
I many not have played as many games this year, but the games I played were all excellent. There are still a bunch of games that came out this year that I haven’t had a chance to play, hopefully that will be remedied in the new year. 2016 promises to be exciting so I need to clear that 2015 backlog as soon as I can.
Without further ado, here’s my list of the best games I played in 2015.
10. Yoshi’s Woolly World – This game snuck in right under the wire. If this list had been made a week earlier it wouldn’t have made the list. Since I waited until the last minute this game snuck onto the list. I love the Yoshi’s Island games. I loved Kirby’s Epic Yarn. This game mashes those two “series” together in a fun way. The visual style is adorable and takes that Epic Yarn look to the next step. This game actually looks like yarn come to life. The way they play with camera angles to show huge scale also impresses. If you’re a fan of the Yoshi’s Island series you owe it to yourself to check this one out.
9. Typoman – This game was first shown off around E3 and was part of the Nindie’s @ Home campaign where if you played the demo during E3 you could get a discount when the full game came out. I fell in love with it immediately. It has the same silhoutted look of games like Limbo. It’s a puzzle game that uses the power of words to manipulate the environment. Words like ‘hate’ become aggresive enemies that chase you around the level. You can power ‘on’ elevators or ‘stop’ crushing platforms. It was a game that could have taken a very simple concept and made it repetitive, yet somehow managed to stay fresh never really using the same puzzle more than once or twice. It always put a twist or a spin on a familiar concept to keep it new throughout the whole game.
8. Super Mario Maker – This is the game I’ve been waiting years for. I was incredibly excited about the concept of this game. Getting my make my own Mario levels and play them was a dream come true. This game is great. The interface is easy to use. The creation of the levels is intuitive and fun. It’s about as perfect a creation tool that you can get.
I do have issues with the game. It’s still hard to find really interesting levels. Nintendo is working hard to make the search feature as easy and inclusive as they can make it. I really just want to be able to string together a whole game’s worth of levels to play. You can’t do that. Ultimately what Super Mario Maker ‘makes’ me want to do is play an actual Nintendo developed Mario game.
7. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate – This is the series that I have the most interesting history with it. We all know my past with Monster Hunter, but know that it’s become one of my favorite franchises of all time. I love the hunt. I love gathering materials to craft that great new piece of armor or weapon. I love the scale of things. This is the first time I’ve played a game in the series specifically dedicated to a handheld. It worked flawlessly. The online functionality was great. I never had any issues with lag or dropped connections. I really would have loved for this game to be like the previous entry and straddle both the console and the handheld, but I just enjoyed playing Monster Hunter.
I played more Monster Hunter this year than I probably ever have. Even doing that I still got left behind by my hunting crew because I couldn’t dedicate enough time to the hunt. I really want to go back and hunt some more.
6. FAST Racing Neo – Another game that caught my interest very early on and a game that grabbed me the moment I booted it up. As the title of this game explains it’s fast; very, very fast. It verges right on the edge of being out of control and that’s what makes this game so good. In this package, that is less than many downloadable games on the market you get as much content as you’d find in many full retail packages. It has 16 tracks, full online play, split-screen multiplayer and full HD 60 frames per second. It’s an incredible package that will almost make you forget that Nintendo hasn’t made an F-Zero game since the days of the GameCube.
5. Transformers Devastation – G1 Transformers plus Platinum Games over the top action = fantastic gaming experience. This game feels very much like playing through an episode of the original 1980’s cartoon (that I remember watching on TV). The characters are all brought to life by the actors that portrayed them in the show. Platinum Games throws in their fast paced, combo heavy action and completely over the top boss fights and it works beautifully.
I liked Bayonetta, but not nearly as much as I liked this game. From start to finish it was fulfilling a dream I had as a child. Playing through this game as Bumblebee was fantastic. The skill tree and progression system made each character feel different from the others.
4. Dragon Quest Heroes – Dragon Quest (my favorite RPG series of all-time) meets the Warriors series (a guilty pleasure of mine). It’s the meeting of two games that seemed made for each other. This game follows in the wake of another crossover, Hyrule Warriors. As excited as I was for that game it paled in comparison to how excited I was when I heard this announcement. I could not wait to get my hands on this game and it was SO GOOD.
The game takes the same action, button mashing of the Warriors (Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors) series and mixes it with the old school RPG elements of Dragon Quest. It’s not so heavy on the RPG parts that it turns fans who don’t like that genre off. It felt sort of like “my first RPG” but in the best of ways. It introduced many elements of the Dragon Quest series, like jobs and item crafting, and character leveling, but kept them light and friendly. They weren’t so involved that you had to spend hours just trying to figure them out. They gave you a taste of what that franchise is all about while letting you combo your way through hordes of iconic monsters in a game that really felt more like an epic RPG than a small, contained, level based hack and slash.
I couldn’t have imagined this game being any better than it was. There are still a few series that I would like to get the cross over treatment, but this has easily been my favorite so far.
3. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate – Assassin’s Creed didn’t make my list last year because of the awful release of Assassin’s Creed: Unity. While that game was fun it was flawed for far too long in a way that couldn’t be ignored. This year it could only be better and it was. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate told the story of twin assassins who have a very different outlook on the way things are going in London. They both want the same things, but they go about it in very different ways.
This game returns Assassin’s Creed to the way it felt playing Brotherhood. It was solid. The side stuff felt natural and like it was a part of the overall story of the game and not just extra stuff to fill time. The characters were interesting and mostly likeable. Traversing the world was fun, whether you were on foot, in a carriage or on a train. There were so many different ways to get around. It felt like you were completely in control of everything going on around you. The game wasn’t filled with unecessary RTS elements or ultimately useless things. Everything in the game had a point and a purpose and it felt like the best Assassin’s Creed game in many years.
2. Lego Dimensions – It was only a matter of time before Lego jumped into the toys-to-life genre. It only made sense. They already had the toys. They already had a solid video game formula. All they needed to do was bring those two things together and this year they did. It’s the most expensive of the games in this genre, but it’s the one that best makes use of the toys.
What this game has is incredibly clever writing. Interactions between characters of very different properties don’t feel forced. They’re funny. The game is as solid as any LEGO game that came before it. If you liked those games you’ll love this one. Not only that, but it’s the only game to make use of the portal in a game play sense. There are puzzles in the game that can only be solved by moving the characters around on the portal itself. It’s a clever use of something most people forget about seconds after starting up a game.
It would have topped my list this year if it wasn’t for…..
1. Disney Infinity 3.0 – Like I said earlier this was the year that the toys-to-life games finally came into their own. Two games in this genre top my list, because they’re really, really good. Disney Infinity isn’t just about Star Wars. That’s a great bonus to this game, but it’s not the reason that it topped my list. The reason it makes #1 is because of the things they did to the Toy Box mode this year. For the first time ever they have created a Toy Box story mode. A game where every single figure in your collection works in a fun story. Previously, unless you created something in Toy Box mode, you could only play with certain figures for certain stories, ie Monsters University figures in the Monsters U world or Pirates of the Caribbean figures in that world’s story. You couldn’t mix and match them. Now you can and it was great. They also created a full Mario Kart style game for Toy Box where all of your figures could participate in themed worlds from some of the more popular franchises.
After three games Disney finally figured it out and they topped the list for me this year. I played this game a lot and loved every single minute of it. The new additions made an already solid experience that much better.