2015 was a hell of a year for gaming. In terms of big triple A releases, this year wasn't short on content. We had Halo 5, Fallout 4, Metal Gear Solid 5, Batman: Arkham Knight, Witcher 3, Mortal Kombat X, yet another Assassin's Creed, the list goes on and on. Though, for me, this was the year of games that I barely knew anything about. They were games that I never paid attention to before release, or heck, didn't even know about them until their release. Looking back, this might have been my favorite year ever in terms of gaming, because the experiences I had were constantly unique to me. Even harder, was ranking the best experiences I had. Through much thought, I believe I've finally figured out where I stand on my favorite games of last year.
5. Dragon Ball XenoVerse
After playing almost every Dragonball Z game thats been released over the years, I was desperately craving something new from the franchise. Releasing early 2015, Dragon Ball XenoVerse was a good step in the right direction. For the first time, you could create a unique character from five different races with varying stats. The story mode tried to break from the norm, presenting fans with more "what if" situations as opposed to just telling us the same story yet again. Since the game took a more multiplayer focus to the entire experience, it felt like a great way for a bunch of fans to just get together and have their created characters duke it out. It gave me a sense of community to just log on and see dozens of custom Dragonball Z characters just running around. It's silly, I know, but the game really went for it, giving the fan in me an experience I didn't know I wanted. There were some bumps a long the way, but XenoVerse delivered exactly what I was wanting from the franchise, and I loved every second of it.
4. Super Mario Maker
Never before have I a played a game that has asked me to create just as much as it asks me to play. Super Mario Maker probably would have made it on my list even if it didn't give you an option to play anyone else's custom level. The level creation is so simple, yet so deep, giving the player an almost untold amount of options to create whatever their mind can come up with. It's intimidating at first, but once you get used to it, it's hard not to spend hours creating an insanely fun, or devilishly hard level. However, since you can also play every level other people make, the game has an almost unlimited amount of replay-ability. It was a bold choice to release a level building game centered around the Mario universe, but it payed off incredibly well for Nintendo, and the gamers who get to play it.
3. Until Dawn
Until Dawn is a love letter to anyone who loves horror. From supernatural, to serial killer, to monster, the game covers almost every genre of horror imaginable and the best part is the game doesn't feel bogged down by including all those different tropes. The choices always felt like they were important and a majority of the time they were, causing events to happen that you never wanted/expected. While a majority of the teenage cast starts off as clichés, you can mold them into completely different characters and most of the time, decide their fate. Even though my playthrough was absolutely abysmal, with only two characters surviving, I loved my time with it. It was tense, heartbreaking, and legitimately scary at points. What more could a horror fan ask from a game?
Undertale is one of the most special games I've played in a very long time. It's very rare that a game in this day and age makes me fall so hard for it the very moment I start playing. The visuals are incredibly simple, but become more charming as you continue to play. It has one of the most well made soundtracks in a video game that I've ever heard, and I still find myself listening to it now. The characters... god damn I love the characters. They are unique and quircky, and while some can find them annoying or lazily written, their charm was undeniable to me. The most fascinating aspect is how differently the game plays depending on what route you are taking. Neutral gets you the basic story and introduction to the characters. Pacifist plays more like a puzzle game, with backstory on the main antagonist and Alphys. Genocide is where you will find the most intense battles and songs, and some of the characters really shine down that avenue. In the end, it's really hard for me to put into words why I love Undertale so much. It's a game I didn't know existed until the day it came out, and even though I had no idea what to expect when I started, it gave me everything I wanted. Great characters, fantastic soundtrack, and some plot points that stuck with me long after my adventure in the underground had finished.
Bloodborne was more than just a video game to me, it was an experience. An experience that tested every single fiber of my being in ways a video game had never tested me before. I had some familiarity with the Souls series, but none of the games interested me in the way Bloodborne did. The gothic, horror setting/vibe was effective the moment you booted up the game, and only got more horrific as time went on. The game just plops you down in an area and really gives you no direction on where to go and what to do, and I loved it. Sure, people have to travel the same routes to beat the game, but the whole experience is entirely build on exploring. There were times where I spent hours trying to progress past some enemies, only to find out there was a different route hidden somewhere close by. The combat, is so tight and responsive, that almost all of my deaths never felt cheap. Most of the time, if I died, it's because I risked my life attacking instead of healing, or dodging when I should have been attacking. The combat system has this whole risk/reward system that makes every fight compelling, no matter if your fighting werewolves, or bosses three stories higher than you. The thing that made this game for me, though, was the difficulty. I'm not a guy who likes to be frustrated when I play video games, but Bloodborne was different. It was very challenging, but fair. It's a game where I saw myself dying over and over again, and only wanted to keep trying, to prove I was better than the game. Intensity is what this game is all about, and never before had I had a game have me sweating and shaking at the end of a boss encounter. No other game has given me the amount of joy and satisfaction that Bloodborne has, whether it be finally conquering an area I was stuck on, or getting that final hit on a boss I had spent hours trying to overcome. Like I said at the start of this, Bloodborne is more than a video game to me. It was an experience, and certainly one I won't be forgetting any time soon.
If you would like to see my thoughts on what I would like to see in a sequel to Dragon Ball XenoVerse, you can click here. To read my full, better articulated thoughts on Bloodborne, you can read my review here.