2015 has been a great year for gaming so far. Current-gen consoles are finally coming into their own and we’re seeing some truly creative, interesting new IP emerging as well. Here’s our ten favourite games of 2015 so far.
1. Cities: Skylines (PC)
If EA’s much-maligned Sim City reboot failed to impress you then Cities: Skylines may just scratch that city builder itch. Though much rougher around the edges than EA’s polished effort, devleoper Colossal Order have created city builder/management sim that has set a new standard for the genre. Manage every facet of your city from sewage to traffic flow during peak times, balance the budget and grow your city. Growth is key here – Cities: Skylines gives you a far larger area to build in than the miniscule maps Sim City offered and it means that game has a much longer shelf life as a result.
2. The Talos Principle (PC)
Croteam’s stylised, inventive take on the Portal-esque first person puzzle solving genre is a contemplation on the nature of AI and its place in our world. In between making you think really hard about the ethics of artificial intelligence, it makes you think really hard about solving its many fiendishly clever puzzles as you ascend the game’s central tower. This is a game that offers a stiff, unapologetic challenge, refuses to hold your hand and manages to tell an extremely interesting story in a very piecemeal fashion. There’s a huge expansion coming in the next month or so and we can’t wait to get our hands on it.
3. Tales from the Borderlands (PC, PS4, XBONE, PS3, X360, iOS, Android)
Telltale Games don’t seem to be able to put a foot wrong at the moment. With three episodes of their venture into the world of Gearbox’s popular shooting series, Tales from the Borderlands is a caper story set around four scheming, bumbling crooks and their race to uncover a vault. It’s smart, excruciatingly funny and action packed, marking a change of pace for Telltale whose ouvre tends towards more story-driven content. They’ve also gone all out with their cast of very talented voice actors including Troy Baker, Chris Hardwick (Nerdist, Talking Dead, @midnight), Patrick Warburton (Family Guy, The Emperor’s New Groove), and Laura Bailey (Shadow of Mordor, The Wolf Among Us, Sunset Overdrive). With two episodes to go, we’re pumped to see what the hell happens to Rhys, Fiona, Vaughn and Sasha next.
4. Heroes of the Storm (PC)
When it was announced that Blizzard were getting into the MOBA genre, it prompted a flurry of interest from some fans and groans of disgust from others. As they always do, Blizzard proved that there doesn’t appear to be any genre they can’t get a handle on – Heroes of the Storm is not only a blast to play but is easily the most accessible game of it’s type. Featuring a roster of characters from Blizzard’s WarCraft, StarCraft and Diablo universes, Heroes features fun, fast games that go either way, a wide variety of unlocks and goodies and some surprisingly deep strategy. In fact the only downside is that it’s making it really hard to get some work done here at the office.
5. Mortal Kombat X (PS4, XBONE, PC)
The great and venerable Mortal Kombat X returned the series to the forefront of the fighting scene this year with gruesome fatalities rendered in the highest possible definition, deep and satisfying combat and great variety of fighters and styles. The inclusion of a persistent, worldwide weekly clan war made for a surprisingly engaging experience, the online (at least on the console) was actually pretty stable and the controls are finely tuned which should please hardcore fans of the genre. DLC characters like Jason Voorhees and the Predator may have been overpriced but were ultimately a gory good time to actually play. Flawless victory.
6. Splatoon (WII U)
If you’d told me two years ago that one of the best new games of 2015 would be an online shooter made by Nintendo, I’d have laughed in your face. Splatoon is Nintendo’s first new IP since Pikmin and Animal Crossing on the Gamecube and it is so much fun we can barely believe it. All of the game’s characters are half-kid, half-squid people that can transform between humanoid and cephalopod states, battling it out for domination on a series of levels using not bullets, but ink. While the game only had one or two game modes at launch (Turf War and Ranked Battle), more have been arriving in the game over the last few months, including payload-type mode Tower Defense. This is Nintendo at their best – dynamic, creative and so much fun.
7. Bloodborne (PS4)
Dark Souls fans that happened to own a PS4 were very pleased when From Software announced their next game would be exclusive to Sony’s console. A brutally hard game set in a nightmarish Victorian-era vampire and werewolf infested world, the game attracted huge attention in the industry for its aesthetics, it’s tweaks to the established Souls-esque combat and its crushing difficulty. It works for the same reason that Dark Souls works – it makes you want to pull your hair out but, rather than throwing down the controller and never playing it again, you want to defeat it, master it. It’s game design par excellence and a must-play.
8. Ori & The Blind Forest (XBONE, PC)
One of the year’s most pleasant surprises to date, Ori & The Blind Forest takes mechanics from games like Metroid and Castlevania and updates them for the modern era. Weaving a story about a little creature named Ori and its quest to reach the centre of the forest, the game is both addictive and charming in equal measure. Able to deliver and emotional gut punch through its narrative while challenging the player the way that it does is an incredible juggling act and a feat of design. Ori is a landmark achievement in modern gaming. It’s absolute magic and you owe it to yourself to play it.
9. Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4, XBONE, PC)
Despite a deeply troubled PC launch, the console version of Batman: Arkham Knight was a stellar experience that managed to please notoriously hard-to-please Batfans and the gaming public at large (indeed, I gave my it my first ever 10/10 when I reviewed a few weeks ago). Introducing a mysterious new villain in the Arkham Knight and a variety of new mechanics with a fully drivable Batmobile, the game really allowed you to feel as though you were the Batman. We’d felt this in Rocksteady’s previous Arkham titles but never quite as keenly as this. Gotham has never, ever looked so good.
10. The Witcher 3 (PS4, XBONE, PC)
C’mon, you all knew this was gonna come in at the top of the list. Geralt of Rivia’s latest adventure is a monumental achievement in video game design. It offers a world that truly feels old and alive, enemies that challenge and decimate players foolish enough to target them, an amount of quests and side-missions so staggering that it could take you years to find and complete them all and a smart, tightly-paced, lengthy story that you are compelled to complete. It’s the best game of the year to date by a wide margin and if you don’t have it yet then you need to close your browser now and pick it up. Amazing.