Josh’s Top 5 Games of 2015
Going back to school for my teaching credential left me with little time to play video games this year (or money to buy them), so while this is technically a “top 5” list, it’s really a “these are the five games that Josh was able to play this year” list. It just so happens that all of them are awesome, and even if I’d played 30 games this year, they would still be firmly at the top of the heap.
I could talk for ten paragraphs about why Bloodborne is my Game of the Year, but I already spent two during our GotY Awards article, so I’ll try to keep it under 4,000 words. Bloodborne is basically everything that I love all at once – it’s punishing old-school game design, it’s a Victorian gothic nightmare, it’s transforming sci-fi gadgets, it’s cosmic horror, it’s packed to the brim with secrets and tricks and easter eggs. It’s a work of art from top to bottom, and in spite of its sadistic gameplay, I was so compelled by Bloodborne that I didn’t stop playing it until I’d gotten the platinum trophy, and that’s not something I can say for most games. In a time when big, bland sandbox games and narrative setpiece-driven shooters are the AAA gold standard, it’s a triumph that such a laser-focused experience could still exist, much less dominate the market.
2. Fallout 4
A lot of people have docked points from Fallout 4 for being more of the same, but if “more of the same” means “better in every way,” then yes, it’s exactly that. I’m a huge sucker for detail, and Fallout 4 has one of the most intricately detailed worlds in the industry. Just look at the protectrons of Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 side by side and you’ll see what I mean. With a main quest line that’s several notches above Bethesda’s typical fare and a number of unforgettable sidequests, the narrative in Fallout 4 has been taken to the next level as well. The series’ iconic power armor has never felt more…well, empowering, and my inner pack rat is hopelessly addicted to the scavenging and crafting mechanics added to the game. In fact, the game is so huge and so addicting that I haven’t touched anything else in about a month. I’ve spent roughly 3 days worth of time in Fallout 4 so far. Only 328 hours to go.
3. Galak-Z: The Dimensional
This was the year’s surprise hit for me. I may love difficult games, but I find the mechanics of roguelikes to be frustrating and demoralizing, so I tend to steer clear of them. I downloaded Galak-Z based solely on my affection for 80’s space opera anime, but what I got was so much more than that. Galak-Z’s action is so fast and its combat so deep that it managed to transcend the elements of luck and randomness that have always hampered the roguelike experience for me. This is the first of its kind that has been so fun to play that I almost don’t mind dying four levels into a season and losing all of my progress (almost). I came for the Macross and Zeta Gundam references, but I stayed for some of the best twin stick shooter gameplay ever made.
4. Transformers: Devastation
This was one of those game that I knew, from the second it was announced, that I would love it. That’s a dangerous mentality, I know, but my emotional investment in the Transformers franchise is so great and my faith in Platinum Games is so complete that I couldn’t contain my hype. Fortunately, Platinum delivered the goods with an action game that plays like Bayonetta gene spliced with Vanquish. While its microscopic budget shows in the padded campaign and grind-based loot system, it’s still so much fun to play and it capitalizes on the Transformers universe so well that I can hardly fault it for that. These flaws prevent it from climbing higher on this list, but I’m still playing it months after release, so it’s safe to say that this game transcends its limitations, and we can only hope for a bigger sequel somewhere down the road.
5. Axiom Verge
I feel like I’ve been spoiled this year, because so many of the games that were released in 2015 seem to have been catered to my interests that it’s a bit spooky. Axiom Verge caters to my interest in classic 2D Metroid, Contra-style shoot-em-ups, and biomechanical surrealism, and this game delivers on all fronts. The story is a little too overexplained and underexplained simultaneously, but this alien world contains strange and compelling discoveries at every turn, and even though it borrows gameplay elements liberally from the first three Metroid games, Axiom Verge puts its own spin on pretty much everything that it repurposes. For instance, instead of shrinking or crawling around in tight spaces, you shoot out a little drone that you can remotely control, which is just as useful for clearing high obstacles and softening up enemies as it is for navigating tunnels. There are plenty of new features as well, like teleportation and the ability to exploit graphical glitches in the world. If this game flew under your radar in 2015, and being the work of a single man, I wouldn’t blame you if it did, you owe it to yourself to check out Axiom Verge. It may be last on my top 5 list, but in a year as competitive as this one, that’s not exactly faint praise.