#5. Rise of the Tomb Raider
While it will eventually not be an console exclusive game (as has been covered ad nauseum), Rise of the Tomb Raider stands for the moment as my Console Exclusive of 2015 (i.e. the best game you could only place on one system).
I played the Tomb Raider reboot last year when it was remastered for the new generation of systems and had a great time with it. I occasionally tried to play various Tomb Raider PC games growing up but it never clicked for me. The reboot’s Metroidvania style appealed much more to my sensibilities and I had a great time with it. Rise of the Tomb Raider is very much more of that Metroidvania upgrading and collectathon-ing. I loved the combat in this game and the puzzles, especially the optional tombs, were fun and rewarding.
And bonus: I won't have to try and find time to play it during 2016's inevitably packed Fall season.
#4. Tales from the Borderlands
When the first episodes of Telltale's Tales from the Borderlands and Game of Thrones launched late last year, I eagerly played through them both. For the first time since playing Back to the Future, I had a pre-existing enjoyment of these franchises (skipped Jurassic Park when it was panned critically, never been a Walking Dead fan so I've never gotten too far into those games, and when I finally played through The Wolf Among Us earlier this year, it was with no pre-existing knowledge of the Fables stories).
But as with almost every other experience I've had with Telltale, I didn't bother to really revisit the series as the new episodes came out. So when I was looking at games to play for my Extra Life marathon, I landed on Game of Thrones (and during the stream lamented that I hadn't chosen Tales from the Borderlands instead).
Games of Thrones ultimately landed squarely in the "meh" camp for me in 2015. It's not a bad game but it spends too much time trying to be like the TV show and just came across to me as a pale imitation. Tales from the Borderlands, on the other hand takes its source material and uses it to craft what I have found to be my favorite story of anything they've done. They nailed the over-the-top, the music sequences of each episode are on point, there are moments of great pathos, but above all: Tales from the Borderlands has pitch-perfect characters and performances.
I finished my playthrough wanting to start replaying the game to see all of the other outcomes I could get. And I am incredibly hopeful that this partnership with Gearbox works both ways and that we wind up spending more time with these characters in Borderlands 3.
#3. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt might very well be the biggest game I played this year and I lament that I haven’t even been able to get back to it in months and enjoy more of CDProjekt Red’s epic tale. In my probably 50-100 hours with the game I didn't even get through Act 1 of the game. But the beautiful open world, deep RPG mechanics (possibly even too deep for me), and insanely powerful storytelling in quests like the Bloody Baron side quest landed the game on this list. After talking with friends about where the story goes in the close of Act 1 and the rest of the game, it's very likely I'll try to revisit it early in 2016 at the top of my backlog.
#2. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
If you had told me at the beginning of the year that Metal Gear Solid would be anywhere on my top 10 list, let alone number 2, I would have been somewhat incredulous. The game wasn’t even on my radar until a month or so before release when early previews and gameplay was shown. But it piqued my interest and I wound up giving it a shot.
I think the game gets off to an excruciatingly slow start in that first mission in the hospital but as soon as Big Boss is let loose in Afghanistan, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain becomes a master class in gameplay. In my review, I wrote about how I couldn’t think of a game that better handled how the enemies “level up” as you do and after a couple months of racking my brain, that statement stands.
Yes, when you boil it down the core gameplay loop of go to outpost, capture/kill guards, capture/kill objective, exfiltrate area can seemed repetitive when describe so reductively. (Super Mario Bros. could also be reduced to go right and jump on or over things without dying.) But the game never felt repetitive and that’s a testament to its mechanics. This was probably the best game I played in 2015 mechanically but it was just missing that special something that kept it from my top spot.
#1. Fallout 4
I’ve already written at length about my time with Fallout 4. Replaying Fallout 3 in the lead up to its release led me to realize that Fallout may very well be my favorite franchise of the modern era. After buying the Pip-Boy Special Edition, Fallout Loot Crate, Collector’s Edition Strategy Guide Box Set, Limited Edition Art Book, Vault-Tec Messenger Bag, Vault Boy Bobblehead and Funko figures, and limited edition Nuka Cola Quantum Jones Soda, Catherine has been calling Fallout 4 my favorite game and I believe she’s pretty darn close.
The game wasn’t without its flaws, which I touched on yesterday. A few more crashes very likely would have booted it from my top spot. And it felt more like Fallout 3.75 than a full-blown next entry in the franchise (with Fallout New Vegas being the 3.5 in this analogy). This was somewhat disappointing as I was definitely hoping for something more akin to the leap from Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion to Elder Scrolls V Skyrim. But in the end, the Fallout universe is absolutely one of my favorite video game worlds and Fallout 4 has already given me a hundred hours of enjoyment and (like Skyrim before it) will continue give me hundreds more in the years to come.
Thanks for reading my Top 5 games of 2015. I'm gonna close out the year tomorrow with my most anticipated games of 2016.