10. StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void
StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void is the final chapter in the StarCraft II trilogy, and it goes out with quite a bang. The story is much more streamlined and easy to follow while at the same time providing some unique missions to complete, each with their own gimmicks. On the other side, the multiplayer suite is the strongest it has ever been. The addition of Co-op, Archon mode and tournaments has helped bolster Starcraft II into more than just a 1-vs-1, stress-filled game. Although if you enjoy that thrill, the new units and game play changes have given the 1-vs-1 competitive mode a much-needed breath of fresh air. Overall, StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void is the expansion pack that this franchise deserves as we leave that universe for another 12 years.
9. Heroes of the Storm
As a huge fan of League of Legends, I thought that a dumbed-down, casual version like Heroes of the Storm would be terrible. Thankfully, Blizzard applied their brilliance yet again to create something that both casual and hard-core players alike can enjoy. The removal of some staple mechanics in the genre felt like a bold move, but ended up paying off for an experience that is far less stressful than something like League of Legends while at the same time providing a fun experience. As a huge Blizzard fan, the wide array of classic characters who can beat each other up was only icing on the cake.
8. Until Dawn
I’m a sucker for horror movies and narrative-driven games, so Until Dawn’s premise of putting yourself in the horror movie sounded awesome. You often think that you would totally know what to do in a horrible situation, but it wasn’t until Until Dawn that I realized how screwed I’d be. It’s filled with terrifying and unsettling moments that have you constantly questioning what is really going on at that mysterious mountaintop. The characters and acting are top-notch here, and the character depth helped make the important choices throughout the story have a much more significant impact.
Undertale is a game that deserves to be played with absolutely no prior knowledge of its one-of-a-kind experience. Clearly taking inspiration from Earthbound, Undertale is full of moments that’ll make you laugh, feel uncomfortable and possibly cry. Around every turn is a bizarre monster or game mechanic that is somehow endearing, whether it’s a skeleton who sucks at making traps or a doggie that just wants to be petted. I particularly love the battle system that involves dodging projectiles as a little heart. In fact, what makes Undertale a true modern classic is how much heart it has — something sorely missing in many games these days.
6. Life is Strange
After the past couple of Telltale Games titles burning me, it was a delightful surprise to see Life is Strange come out strong. It tells the story of Max, who gains the ability to rewind time, and her friend Chloe as they uncover the twisted secrets of Blackwell Academy. It really showcases how good cinematography and music can impact a game’s overall feel. Life is Strange’s biggest accomplishment is making your choices actually feel like they have an impact on how the story plays out. The time rewind mechanic felt like a gimmick, but it is brilliantly woven into the smart puzzles as well as the story. While I wish the ending was handled a bit more smoothly, the journey to get there is one of the most captivating stories that I’ve experienced all year.
Bloodborne is essentially a Dark Souls game with a beautiful new coat of paint and quicker combat. Okay, you’ve got me hook, line and sinker. It brought back that wonderful feeling of dread and despair that I’ve learned to love despite its difficult nature that requires constant learning and adaptation. What really makes Bloodborne different from its predecessors is the incredible art direction put in the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired world and monsters. Coupled with the visceral and risk-filled combat, Bloodborne stands out as one of the best experiences this year.
4. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The year 2015 was filled with an absurd abundance of lackluster open-world games, but The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the only one that really hit the mark. Its ability to seamlessly weave immaculate storytelling with its vast and immersive world is unparalleled. Hell, some of it’s side quests have more thoughtful stories than entire games. From the great card game Gwent to the exciting magic-infused combat, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt really has it all. A few hiccups in its mission design and open-world bloat hold it back from being one of the greatest role-playing games ever made.
3. Ori and the Blind Forest
The first thing that anyone talks about when they see Ori and the Blind Forest is the gorgeous art style — for good reason. It’s goddamn beautiful! What I fell in love with were the actual game mechanics. Everything about Ori’s movement and flow in Ori and the Blind Forest is essential to the core of the game. Whisking through the trees, flying up caverns and swimming through the depths — no other game of this type has captured movement that feels so effortless. At the same time, a wondrous original score perfectly captivates these very feelings to create an experience unlike many others.
2. Super Mario Maker
Not a single game focused on creative content had ever piqued my interest until I played Super Mario Maker. Its accomplishment in making the creation of levels actually fun is something that cannot be understated. With the vast array of classic Super Mario Bros. level mechanics, it’s been an absolute joy to dive into the details of level design to see what great concepts that I can create for others to enjoy. Spending hours on a level, uploading it and then seeing comments from other players saying how much fun they had playing it all lead to a feeling like I’ve never experienced in video games before. For me, that feeling is what makes Super Mario Maker so captivating. Oh, yeah, and the hundreds of brilliant Mario levels created to play for years to come don’t hurt, either.
1. Rocket League
Rocket League is a very special game to me. I never would’ve thought that I would put over 190 hours into a game about playing soccer with rocket-powered cars, but here I am, still itching to get this list done so that I can go back to playing. Rocket League is a game in the purest sense of the word. There are no bells or whistles and no fluff — just incredibly fine-tuned and exciting game play. No other game this year has created so many emotional moments, from making incredibly close saves to getting a buzzer-beater goal to win the game.
Couple Rocket League with some friends, and the enjoyment only increases exponentially. This leads to the other real triumph of Rocket League — how well it incorporates all types of players. New players can hop in and have a blast bumbling around the field, and more hard-core players can dive deep into the complex mechanics of stuff like aerials and pass plays. It has that wonderful, rare quality in a multiplayer game where you want to keep playing over and over to get better and better.
I’ve thought for weeks about what to say about Rocket League in this little snippet, and it’s just so difficult to put into words how much I adore this game. I could go on and on about how Psyonix continues to put out awesome new content — much of it for free — or the awesome car customization to give yourself a little flair. Doing so would be wasting my precious time that could be spent playing Rocket League. Seriously, just go play this game right now.