PSNStores 2015 Game of the Year Awards: Curt’s Top 5 of 2015
“The Year of Dreams”. 2015 felt like the year that just kept on giving. On the announcement side we got Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Shenmue 3, the resurrection of The Last Guardian, Ni no Kuni 2, Dragon Quest XI(!!!) and so many others. 2015 also delivered on some truly incredible games. Bloodborne, Resident Evil, Life is Strange, The Witcher 3, Until Dawn, and way too many others to name. There was such a large number of excellent games covering numerous genres that it truly felt like a year for everyone. The year wasn’t without disappointments (especially for fans of Konami games), but I’ve found it difficult not to be absolutely stoked about where the industry is and where we’re headed in the new year. Coming up with a Top 5 Games of the Year list is never easy, but 2015 did everything it could to make it a nearly impossible task.
Games I played in 2015 that you should absolutely play:
Resident Evil Revelations 2, Danganronpa: Another Episode, Persona 4 Dancing All Night, Hatoful Boyfriend, Until Dawn, Resident Evil HD, Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, Final Fantasy XIV, Dragon Quest Heroes, Yoshi’s Woolly World, Undertale, Final Fantasy Type-0, Batman: Arkham Knight, Disgaea 5, Volume, SOMA, King’s Quest, Disney Infinity 3.0.
5. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
I love mystery, horror, thrillers, and feeling like I’m part of a world. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter blew me away. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so enthralled in a game’s world. The entire game takes place in a relatively small area, but there is so much detail and so many little things to experience that make Red Creek Valley one of the most believable worlds in a game that I’ve ever experienced. It’s also absolutely haunting. 2015 felt like the year where I’ve really picked up on ‘vibes’ in games. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is filled with mystery, suspense, and dread. It’s better at creating tension than some horror games out there. I try to stay away from hyperbole in my writing, but I truly feel that this is a game that I will never forget. There are just so many incredible moments that are absolutely worth experiencing for yourself if you have yet to check this one out.
4. The Talos Principle
The Talos Principle is one of few games that I go into with high expectations and it still somehow surpasses them. Do you remember how clever and original the puzzles in Portal felt? The same thing applies to The Talos Principle. It is an extraordinary puzzle game that continued to surprise me as I progressed. On top of that comes a really interesting story, characters, world building, and a soundtrack that is simply breathtaking. I can’t tell you how many times I stopped solving puzzles, not because I was stuck, but because I wanted to sit back and just listen to the music.
3. Axiom Verge
Any other year Axiom Verge would be my Game of the Year by a country mile. It stands above all other Metroid-like games in recent years and then continues to go above and beyond. The glitch-gun and it’s use in this game might be one of my favorite things to come out of this year, but before I continue I just want to give a spoiler warning.
We good? Getting 100% completion in this game was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had this year. There was a moment where I stood in a room, knowing that there was a secret somewhere, just banging my head against the wall. I tried everything I could think of to no avail, when I decided to try one last thing. Now you should understand that in the game you pick up notes written in another language and you’ll eventually find a clue that’ll help decipher that language. So I took out a notepad and pencil and started jotting down some symbols that I noticed were written on the walls of this room. I then translated those symbols only to discover that it actually spelled out a word. Cool attention to detail right? There’s more! I entered this word into the password screen and proceeded to watch as a whole NEW section of the map, one that I didn’t know existed, was revealed. This is just one of about a dozen really cool optional things that some people may never see in this game.
2. Life is Strange
Life is Strange sure took me through a whirlwind of emotions this year. I’ll never forget the gut-punch that was Episode 3 or the way I felt when the final choice was presented to me. Max Caulfield is a wonderful character and her friendship with Chloe felt so genuine in a way that most video games can’t quite capture. I love the scenes between them about as much as I love the game’s use of music. The ability to just sit down, relax, and just take the world in with some tunes in the background was such an incredible design decision. Arcadia Bay, much like Red Creek Valley, feels like a living breathing world. I want to go to the Two Whales Diner, I want to see the lighthouse, I want to hang out with Samuel and talk squirrels.
I also love Life is Strange’s willingness to tackle some really serious subject matter. Subject matter that is likely to affect just about anyone in some way. It’s great to see a game open up a conversation about suicide, loss, depression, and any number of other issues. Hopefully it’s something that leads to more people getting any help they might need.
Bloodborne and Life is Strange bounced back-and-forth for me throughout the year, but ultimately it was Bloodborne that just barely etched out the ‘win’. Bloodborne is From Software doing what they do best. The level design, boss encounters, art direction, world building, music, and combat are just outstanding. I love the buildup to lovecraftian setting from gothic-horror, I love how it feels to transform a weapon mid-combo, I love how overcoming a difficult boss feels so exhilarating.
My love for Souls games and Bloodborne alike isn’t just reliant on difficulty. Every step, every swing of the weapon, has meaning. You can’t just cancel out of combo mid-swing. You have to commit to each attack and when those commitments pay off it feels good. Knowing that you’re vulnerable, and this is where the difficulty comes in, leads to the necessity of always paying attention. It’s not so much cheap, as it is a game that refuses to hold your hand. When you kill any enemy, when you take down a boss, and ultimately when you beat the game it’s because you are just that good. It’s rewarding like no other game that I can think of. Also the final boss of the DLC is the best boss encounter I’ve had in years.