2015 was an explosive year for video games. AAA games come out every year on various platforms, but it seems this year had at least twice as much to offer. That’s why I’m making a list and checking it twice (sorry, had to) of the 10 best games of 2015.
10. Call of Duty Black Ops 3
Call of Duty: You either love it or you love to hate it. There is no in-between. More than any other game series, CoD inspires some of the strongest audience reaction across the board. Black Ops III is the latest iteration, and it contains the war-like experience players have come to expect with all the additions and improvements all series go through with each new release. Many franchises frequently try new mechanics or styles to keep fans interested, but Call of Duty did more than enough to become one of the best games of 2015.
9. Star Wars: Battlefront
The first thing I thought to myself when playing Battlefront was that it would be nice if the Arwing in Star Fox Zero handled like these ships. Not entirely, of course, just the tight movements. But it’s a significant statement that even that one aspect of this game got me wanting more of it in other titles. In fact, Battlefront had me wanting more dogfights in general. This is a prime example of control mechanics done right. When it’s such a pleasure just to control your craft, you know you’ve encountered something truly good.
8. Super Smash Bros.
As with all Smash games, the first thing players look at are the characters. I was thrilled to bits when Greninja was announced and crushed when Wolf was not. For such a long time I tried fighter after fighter, finally narrowing down the ones I was best with, and all the modes. These include Classic, Trophy Rush, Target Blast, Home Run, Smash Tour, and Stage Builder. Now matter how much I played, I always felt as if I’d barely scratched the surface. That feeling of always having something more to accomplish was constant as I played. Whether it was an illusion of the game design or not, it was incredible to think a game with no actual story mode whatsoever could be so fantastically deep.
7. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
Who doesn’t like Metal Gear? As the newest addition to the series, Phantom Pain takes everything that makes the games what they are and injects them with a healthy dose of awesome. From gaining new allies and rediscovering old ones (I won’t spoil them) to the beautifully rendered world and a wide range of gameplay mechanics, Snake takes us on his biggest and most impressive adventure yet. Newcomers to Metal Gear won’t be left behind either; the great thing about this series is that you don’t need to know everything that came before to enjoy what happens next. In fact, going back through time to catch up is one of the most fascinating parts.
You know how you have that one friend who’s always just playing on his Xbox and never doing anything else at all? Well, get Splatoon, and next time he comes knocking, give him a taste of his own medicine and tell him you’re just chilling, playing Wii U. My other video games threatened to sue me for criminal neglect because of these darn squid people. No one saw Splatoon coming, but when it arrived, it stole the show and kept it! The new kid on the block turned out to be one of the coolest. Best of all, I won my very first Turf War!
5. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate
Who wants to zip around London with our new toy? How about take down a few gangs and build our own? Maybe play as two characters instead of one? Syndicate is a unique take on the AC series. As always, it expands on existing features while integrating new ones. But this time, the choice between stealth and strength is no longer implied – it’s presented to the player outright. The main characters, Jacob, and Evie have their own strengths and weaknesses, but both have ambition. Unlike many of the previous games, this one seems much more character-driven than story-driven. Syndicate isn’t one of the best games of 2015 just because it’s part of the Assassin’s Creed series. After the shaky experience of Rogue and Unity, this is a well-executed course-correction at full speed. And what a ride it is.
4. Halo 5: Guardians
Guardians is a jaw-dropper right from the start. The first person you gain control of isn’t Master Chief, but a man named Locke and his fireteam. In Halo 5, you have three AI-controlled teammates you can give commands to. They can also revive you if you fall in battle, like in Gears of War. The environments are more real and alive than ever, as almost everything from the water to the foliage responds to being shot at. When you do get your hands on the Chief, things start to get real deep. “Hunt the truth” has never been meant more literally, for multiple reasons, than it is here.
3. Fallout 4
If I were going to make a “war never changes” joke, it would have been back in the Call of Duty bit. Fallout 4 brings a few new things to the table that totally change up the game. Most exciting, using your hard-earned materials to construct the zaniest machines, structures, and toys you can think of. Second most exciting, building a personal collection of complete power armor suits. And the story! I was thrown for a serious loop more than a few times, in situations where you don’t dare make a single mistake. Heck, just exploring the world yields secrets you would never have expected, including a very creepy Skyrim reference that will leave you wondering if you’re actually playing a horror game. Fallout is unquestionably one of the best games of 2015.
2. Xenoblade Chronicles X
Before I say anything about this game, let me wipe the drool from my chin. There. that’s better. Customizable avatar, armor, branching classes, the soul voice system, flanking and toppling enemies, mining, affinity quests, skells, skells and more skells. Oh, and the completely open world comprising an entire planet with multiple continents larger than Fallout 4 and Skyrim! And the central plot. And the DLC packs which are free in the west. I am truly stunned how utterly deep and massive XCX is. In fact, I wouldn’t have thought it possible, even with today’s technology if I didn’t see it all for myself. There was literally no expense spared in making this game, right down to the big-time professional voice actors hired for the characters. Yet, after all, this I’m convinced that XCX is not the pinnacle, but a plateau. We can go even higher.
And finally, the grand champion of the best games of 2015. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you to…
1. Super Mario Maker
Make your own Mario levels. Do I seriously even need to say anything more than that? Here is the game I’ve been waiting for my entire life. Nay, I’ve wanted this since before I was even born! Declaring it one of the best games of 2015 was the least I could do.
Google it, and you’ll find levels from easy to near-impossible, levels themed after other games, and levels cleverly built around certain specific play mechanics. Puzzles, music levels, don’t-press-anything levels, and maybe a few actual true Mario courses. All user-made and sharable. And think about this: if there’s a Mario Maker, maybe there’ll be a Zelda Maker or Metroid Maker in the future. DK Maker. Star Fox Maker! I’ve always loved creating games, which makes this one, combining development and play, an instant all-time favorite.
There you have it! 10 of the very best games of 2015 to add to your gaming library for Christmas. Do you have another favorite? Add to the list in the comments!
Matt Eschbach is a PC, Mac and Android indie game developer and fiction writer. His works have won multiple monetary awards from various contests. Graduating college in 2012 with a major in Game Design, Matt spends his time making stuff up and then building it. His favorite hobby… is sleeping.