When thinking of the best games of 2015, the staff at TheNerdStash.com had several suggestions. In the spirit of reflection over the past year, we had our staff members choose their favorite and summarize the reasons for that choice. We also asked them to give an honorable mention (a second place vote). As you will see, many of them picked similar, or the same, games, for various reasons, while others had unique choices. So, let’s see which games made the list!
Best Games of 2015: Staff Picks
Collin MacGregor – Bloodborne
Bloodborne is the rare kind of video game that can truly elicit a wealth of emotions from me. Whether it’s the cheers of victory of a particularly troublesome boss or the depressing failure of getting killed and losing all of your Blood Echoes; there is a kind of emotional madness to Bloodborne. From Software has once more crafted a brutally difficult game with both tight controls, horrific enemies and gruesomely detailed levels to explore. While I was never a fan of the Dark Souls’ defensive style gameplay, Bloodborne‘s fast paced action drew in and kept my heart racing. Every boss fight gives a true feeling of accomplishment, which is swiftly knocked away by the next, more difficult boss. Everyone has a story and everyone relies upon each other for success. The notes and spirits left by other players remind you to keep pushing forward, that you’re never alone. For in Yharnam, a Hunter is only as good as their allies. Many may praise the sun, but I am a worshipper of the moon. Bloodborne is an experience that very few mediums can provide. It’s a journey into madness you won’t soon regret.
Honorable Mention: Destiny: The Taken King. Finally giving us the experience, story and fun we always wanted from Destiny; yet it still a somewhat short lived experience.
Alex D’Alessandro – Super Mario Maker
2015 had no shortage of fun, frenetic, thoughtful, and intriguing games to play, but the bejeweled crown of gaming excellence can only go to one game: Super Mario Maker. Leave it up to Nintendo to make an astounding level editor as the epitome of good game design. Every process in Super Mario Maker is thoughtful, deliberate, and just goofy enough to work. When you first start designing your levels they might resemble an overwrought Pollock painting – or maybe you go the traditional route and laboriously work at a recreation of World 1-1. The tools are all there, the freedom of choice is there; the only thing that can hold you back is your creative spirit! Harsh, I know, but true.
As you plop down a perfectly placed P-Switch and then effortlessly create a cascade of coins followed by a Chain Chomp riding rough in a Koopa Clown Car, you can finally feel like a Mario Maker maestro. And then you go online… It’s no surprise that the community of creators and designers in Super Mario Maker are hard at work making the most creative, frustrating, ingenious, and bizarre levels the series has ever seen. But the apex of its game design appears when you and a few friends sit down on the couch and make levels live. We’ve sat for hours huddled around our living room television screaming and laughing as if possessed by some Japanese spirit. Super Mario Maker is just about everything you would want from a digital toolset: easy to operate, transparent, inviting, useful, and exceedingly fun.
Honorable Mention: Rocket League. This game has made me scream and laugh in perfect harmony and I thank Rocket League every day for its therapeutic abilities.
Meghan Dellinger – Undertale
While there were many amazing games released this year, I think Undertale deserves my Game of the Year vote. The entire game was so unique and creative in every aspect. Even though the graphics aren’t the most advanced, they fit with the style and attitude of Undertale perfectly. And being someone who still loves playing Pokemon Yellow on occasion, graphics are not necessarily more important than a good story.
Undertale has a fantastic story, one that really connects you with the characters. One of the most interesting things about the game is the way that battles are done, and the choices that you can make in those battles. Choosing to spare a creature has an effect, as well as choosing to fight. Fighting off the adorable inhabitants of the underground is not as easy as it sounds, especially as you get further in the game. The reason I enjoyed the battles in Undertale is because it allows you to make a choice – you don’t have to go around killing everyone to complete the game, you can just befriend them all instead. The characters are individually great, even more minor ones. And of course, Sans and Papyrus had me laughing at every stage of the game with their antics.
For a game that was developed independently, Undertale offers a lot. Not only is it clever at every turn, but you have so many choices throughout as to who you want the main character to be. I would recommend this game to anyone and everyone.
Honorable Mention: Tales of the Borderland. Another brilliant and fun game, with not quite enough actual game play for me to rank it first.
Matt Eschbach – Super Mario Maker
For my Game of the Year nomination, I’m going with Super Mario Maker. Players have a very wide range of objects to choose from to create their own Mario levels and plenty of options for the type of stage they want to create. For those who want access to the full range of items right from the get-go, there is a way to unlock it all quickly. Not to mention, Nintendo regularly releases updates and free additional content.
The possibilities are nearly endless. Players have already recreated Contra, Metroid, Zelda, and even some courses from newer games. A star rating system allows people to leave comments, and the more stars a user gets, the more courses they are allowed to upload. Mario Maker also features Amiibo support, with each figure unlocking a new mystery mushroom costume to show off.
Aside from sharing created courses, players can also attempt a series of challenges such as the 10 Mario Challenge, 100 Mario Challenge, event courses, and championship courses. Completing them yields even more rewards, usually in the form of mystery mushroom costumes. Nintendo even included the fly-swatting minigame from Mario Paint.
My friends and I have held several course creation competitions in which we each try to create the best courses for the others to play. Typically it becomes an attempt to make the most ridiculously impossible level out of everyone’s. But hands down, my favorite part of making the levels is having other people try them out. As a developer of some of my own games, getting player feedback and opinions is a critical and satisfying step in the process.
Honorable Mention: Xenoblade Chronicles X for its unbelievably massive depth and gameplay.
Jordan Baranowski – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
In 2015, one game stands out from all the other excellent releases as the game of the year. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt ticks all the technical boxes, with a gorgeous and huge world to explore, great sound design and voice acting, and a bleak and powerful story to pull the player along. Geralt of Rivia’s adventure is a masterclass in development and is a blast to play; you feel a real sense of power as you battle monsters with acrobatic sword slashes and magic. However, the reason it deserves game of the year is because of the truly immersive quality that Wild Hunt brings to the table.
The world of The Witcher 3 feels more real than any other game world I’ve ventured through. It elicits a huge range of emotions from the player and allows you to truly roleplay as a grizzled, desperate, and powerful warrior. The dialogue options allow you to develop the character and story exactly how you feel it should move. The characters around you also feel organic: you understand the Bloody Baron, even if you are disgusted by him. You feel for Geralt as he struggles with his love life and seeks out the most important person in his life. If the goal of any video game is to suck the player in and make them truly care about the world they are moving through, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the best choice for 2015’s game of the year.
Honorable Mention: Tales from the Borderlands. Not as innovative or technically impressive as The Witcher 3, but Telltale’s best episodic adventure to date also emotionally invests the player in the character and world in a way that all games strive for but few achieve.
David Pietrangelo – Heroes of the Storm (HotS)
There was only one game I came back almost every day, that I couldn’t stop thinking about, and that got my competitive juices flowing every time. Heroes of the Storm (HotS). The juggernaut that is Blizzard hit this one out of the park, in my opinion. After dabbling in League of Legends just a few months prior to the HotS Beta, I thought I’d give this one a shot.
I was hooked immediately, and not just because of the gameplay. There’s humor, great design choices, and tweaks to the “typical MOBA” formula I really, really love.
This game has everything I loved about games this year all wrapped into one package, and a free package at that! I love the variety of heroes, the skill choices, and especially the team-based leveling system. Spending only $20 but playing over 300 matches, this game will undoubtedly be one of my most played and loved games of all time. It was something I didn’t expect but am more than happy to own.
Honorable Mention: Rocket League. A simple concept turned up to 11! A ton of fun in almost every match you play.
Trent Katzenberger – Dying Light
Dying Light sort of came out of nowhere for me. I hadn’t intended on buying it but my brother purchased a copy and, when he was finished with it, gave it to me.
Of course I was aware of the game, it was developing a fair deal of hype at that time and the games developers, Techland, were already pretty well known for their Dead Island games so I had heard of them before as well.
Truth be told, I thought that I was all zombied out and Dying Light simply looked like another open world zombie game but with parkour. And that is actually more or less what Dying Light is. But instead of turning into a boring slaughter, I found Dying Light to be extremely refreshing.
During the earlier portions of the game when you barely know what’s going on, you have few items and skills, and every weapon you get breaks in a few brief hits the running element of the game really comes in handy. What might have been an annoyingly difficult run through a ramshackle city block turns into something more with the parkour mechanic, as you now have a way to escape the brutal combat and intense survival experience. Later in the game as you gain additional skills, abilities, and weapons you feel more like a predator and the zombies feel more like a quite dangerous prey. It is a very rewarding shift. In addition to this, the crafting system made for some fun shenanigans and the way that dying penalized you by taking away experience was a very refreshing way to incentivize me to stay alive without becoming overly punishing.
Honorable Mention: Rocket League which made me realize that competitive online games can be a ripping good time!
Benjamin James – Total War: Attila
Out of all the blockbusters that came out this year, there are a copious amount of games that are deserved of the Game of the Year. Many of these sequels were fantastic adventures, but I want to pay homage to a lesser than obvious choice. My Game of the Year is Total War: Attila. I’ve loved the Total War saga since the original Shogun. Creative Assembly took a big misstep with Rome II, the latest release before Attila, but now they redeemed the series in my book. All the new content and game mechanics have been infused properly this time. The big gambles Creative Assembly took with Rome II now pay off, after having been fleshed out and perfected. The campaign flows correctly, both micromanaging and macromanaging blend well. The battles have new elements to them, and each unit type plays a role. The strategy that has always been prominent in Total War since the beginning has been extended. While other games try to slim and streamline similar mechanics, Attila doesn’t throw any of it away. They also optimized PC performance and FPS; however, there’s always more room to go.
Although pricing of the content always leaves a little to be desired, the DLC support pours in. The campaigns that continue to be released sustain the game’s lifespan, opening up new areas and time periods to focus on. I’m nearly 200 hours in and have plenty left to do.
Honorable Mentions: I picked Attila because of how torn I am between Witcher III and Batman: Arkham Knight; not to mention taking a jaded attempt to represent PC gaming. Nonetheless, they both are amazing games that I enjoyed heartily; Witcher III has a lot more content and a bigger world to explore, but Arkham Knight is more engaging overall. They both deserve the success and praise they have been rewarded.
Chris Dumal – Heroes of the Storm
Heroes of the Storm. Blizzard is known for being able to break a genre down and find the elements of it that make it fun and accessible; Heroes of the Storm is one of those much needed and very important games. In MOBAs there are usually three camps of people: those who play them, those who don’t and those who cannot break through the learning curve to play them. I was in that third camp for a very long time after having some very bad experiences with League of Legends and what it asked of me as a player plus a community that was more than happy to watch me die and then threaten to sexually assault me because I died. Item building, runes, laning phase, last hitting, what each and every champion can do, which skill to build into, where in the line do you go in a chaotic team fight and that’s just basic things to play much less do well.
Heroes of the Storm shakes up the genre by spreading the complexity of the game evenly rather than a wall of knowledge needed to even begin. Character changing talents, objectives that become the core engagements and a shared team level makes this a much faster game and one where you can immediately see where you can get better as you play. Throw in Blizzard favorites like Tassadar, Jim Raynor, Diablo and E.T.C as the playable heroes and Heroes of the Storm has all the makings of my main MOBA and, more importantly, my Game of the Year.
Honorable Mention: Fallout 4: It’s not bad that it’s just more Fallout 3 and New Vegas, but at the same time, it’s just more Fallout 3 and New Vegas
Brian Loyless – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
I played a lot of games in 2015, but none caught my attention more than The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt did. Prior to playing the game, I was unsure about it since I had never played a previous game in the series. I had a lot to learn as I started up the game. The open world was massive and there was almost always something to do. The combat was something that I had to get used to, and it flowed well after I finally learned the mechanics. After my first death, I learned that the world that Geralt of Rivia lives in is not something to be taken lightly.
From the size of the world to the compelling story, the Witcher 3 is one of those that must be experienced. The graphics are amazing, the world feels alive, and the enemies can get brutal. CD Projekt Red has definitely made a believer out of me with this game. They proved they have what it takes to make an AAA title that can compete with most RPGs on the market. The Witcher 3 is a big game that must be experienced. I will be waiting for their next big game with much interest.
Honorable Mention: Star Wars: Knights of the Fallen Empire even though it’s technically an expansion. It shook up the status quo of The Old Republic and showed that Bioware is still capable of producing grand stories for their games.
Adam Dyche – Metal Gear Solid V
2015 was an incredible year for gaming with the new generation of consoles delivering the quality content we’ve been dreaming of. My personal game of the year is Metal Gear Solid V.
The game enticed me with its addictive core mechanics and unrivaled freedom to complete missions. I adore being able to fully explore gaming worlds and deviate from the central narrative in games. Huge open worlds are becoming a prominent feature in the majority of games but you are never rewarded for exploring them as much as you are in MGS:V.
You play as Big Boss and you are entrusted with the task of recruiting soldiers to your own private army which you accomplish by extracting enemies whilst on skirmishes. This dynamic makes every foe feel significant and every encounter becomes a unique opportunity to strengthen your militia. You will need more than troopers in your army though and you can capture weapons, vehicles, and even animals. All of these assets are transported to your mother base and your armed force begins to grow. Exploring Afghanistan and Africa will reward you with locating essential supplies and every side mission grants benefits to you.
As your private army improves and you acquire scientists and doctors, new equipment becomes available. Stealth suits and rocket propelled fists are some of the gadgets you will have access to and these unlocks come fast and often. Never has a game rewarded me for my style of play as much as MGS:V. When you combine these mechanics with stunning visuals, solid combat, thrill espionage and a poignant story, I quickly lost over 100 hours to this game and had no regrets about doing so.
Honorable Mention: Witcher 3 which should be played by everyone!…Once you have played Metal Gear Solid V
There you have it! As you can see, there were some games mentioned more than once and others that only had an impact on one of the writers. This proves the theory that not all gamers think alike and they have their own tastes and preferences when choosing the games they enjoy.
Do you see your favorite on this list? We would love to hear from you. What would you have picked as your game of the year for 2015? Sound off in the comments below or on our Facebook or Twitter page.
2015 has been great and we cannot wait to see what is in store for 2016. Happy New Year!
Thanks to the contributing writers: Collin MacGregor, Alex D’Alessandro, Matt Eschbach, Jordan Baranowski, David Pietrangelo, Trent Katzenberger, Benjamin James, Chris Dumal, Brian Loyless, Adam Dyche, and Meghan Dellinger
I am the wife of a real nerd who has developed some nerd-like tendencies along the way. I am a mom of two, with dreams of becoming a graphic designer and writer while working at the local community college full-time. Earned a B.S. in Communication from University of Louisville and plan to eventually get my Masters Degree…They say it’s never too late to start!