It’s December 28 as I write these particular words, which means I’m beyond late in terms of getting this thing out the door. And if I’m being honest, I should admit that I’ve barely started it. Usually at this point I at least have my GoogleDoc template filled out with rough ideas of what I want to say, nominees for categories, etc., but it’s practically empty. Indeed, it’s only because I’ve had to make some Top 10 lists for other people that I have even the slightest idea of what I might write here at all.
It’s hard for me to come to grips with this, but here it is: my apathy towards games is starting to become less of an abstract threat and more like a very real thing. I feel like I have more or less checked out in terms of keeping tabs on the “scene” as far as things like Twitter. Nothing in my to-play pile is holding my interest. I look at what I played this year and can only identify one true masterpiece, two better-than-expected games, two out-of-nowhere surprises, and the rest of my Top 10 is really just me scraping the barrel. I look ahead to 2016 and while there’s certainly more than a few games I’m looking forward to, I can’t necessarily pick any that would cause me to call in sick.*
* For the record, the announced-for-2016 games that I’m looking forward to are as follows:
- The Witness
- XCOM 2 (especially if it eventually comes to consoles, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t)
- Far Cry Primal (maybe?)
- Uncharted 4 (though I worry that this game’s emphasis will be far more focused on action than exploration)
- Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
- No Man’s Sky
- Mass Effect: Andromeda (50/50 this comes out in 2016)
- Crackdown 3 (see ME:A)
- Dishonored 2
- FF15 (50/50 for a 2016 release is very optimistic, I think)
- Gears of War 4 (if only to give my Xbox One something to do)
What would I like to see in 2016? I don’t even know. I’d love to hear something about Red Dead Redemption 2, if only that it exists. I’d obviously love to hear something about Portal 3, though that seems even less likely than Half Life 3. I’m curious to know if the new Mass Effect will incorporate any save data from the original trilogy – if only in terms of the end-of-game state. (This would also impact what platform I play it on, as I played the original trilogy twice on Xbox 360.)
In previous editions of this post, this would be the point where I’d spend a few thousand words recapping all the games I didn’t finish, all the games I barely started, all the games I consciously ignored; my favorite gameplay mechanic, my most irksome glitch. But it’s too depressing to revisit some of that stuff, and in any event if I went through all the disappointments this post would be 10,000 words long, and not even I can bother with that sort of nonsense. So I’m cutting to the chase.
I give 2015 a big fat “meh”, but – as with many things these days – I don’t know if that “meh” is directed at the games I played, or at myself for not getting into them. In any event, I humbly present my Top 10 Games of 2015.
10. You Must Build A Boat (iOS)
An expansion on, and an excellent refinement of, the sliding-tile-based 10000000 from a few years back. The recent addition of a new daily dungeon has brought this one back into my daily rotation.
9. Alto’s Adventure (iOS)
I can’t speak for anyone else’s apathy as far as endless runners/scrollers go, but I’m still a fan of ’em; there’s a bunch more that came out this year that I still play regularly that didn’t make this list, actually. Alto’s Adventure is a side-scrolling skiing game with an absolutely gorgeous graphical style and atmosphere, and I only wish I hadn’t gotten so terribly stuck on two of the three level goals at level 38; there’s still more to see and do, and I simply never got there.
8. The Room Three (iOS)
I love the Room games; they’re magnificent showpieces for what mobile games are capable of. More to the point, though, the puzzles are almost always fair; they might be tricky and obscure, but they ultimately make logical sense in order to proceed. This edition is bigger and more complex than the previous two combined; I’ve only been able to solve one of the four endings, and the only reason why I’ve not been able to continue is that my iPhone’s low on available hard drive space.
7. Lara Croft GO (iOS)
Yes, you read that correctly; this is the 4th iPhone game to appear in my top 10. This is a puzzle game in the vein of Hitman GO, except that it’s a bit less frustrating to solve, and the art style is actually quite complementary to the Tomb Raider aesthetic. I’m currently picking my way through the recently released DLC episode; it’s much trickier, but no less fun to work through.
6. Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4)
If this is the end of Rocksteady’s Batman run, they certainly did a bang-up job. I’m not sure that anything will ever top their first one (Asylum), but I still had a great deal of fun with this one; I certainly enjoyed it a lot more than I recall the common critical consensus indicated I would. The introduction of the Batmobile was surprisingly great, even if I still preferred to grapple/wingsuit my way around the city. And it looked absolutely stunning; the decision to stay current-gen only was clearly a good one. (Well, maybe not as far as the PC was concerned, but that’s a different story.) It was exhausting, eventually – I can’t claim to have come anywhere close to solving all of Riddler’s challenges, nor did I feel any desire to try – but everything else was quite satisfying.
5. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (PS4)
Here’s maybe the feel-good story of the year, as far as AAA development goes; fresh off the utter disaster of last year’s Unity, Syndicate turned out to be one of the best games in the whole franchise – and starred my favorite protagonist yet. Evie Frye is a bad-ass, and more than redeemed her douchebag of a brother. I should probably go back and check out that newly released Jack the Ripper DLC, actually…
4. The Beginner’s Guide (PC)
I absolutely adored Davey Wedren’s Stanley Parable, and found this a uniquely compelling and emotionally involving follow-up. To say more would spoil it; the game itself only takes about an hour or so to experience, and so I’d simply suggest you run out and pick it up. (I’d also very strongly recommend picking up “Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger And The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist“, which is free and 20-minutes long and works as a very interesting companion piece to Beginner’s Guide, as it was created by one of the Stanley Parable’s other developers. It too has quite a lot to say about game development, but from a much different angle. Literally.)
3. Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One)
Like a lot of people I was initially irked that this was an Xbox-only release, especially since at the time of that announcement I hadn’t yet bought one. All that said, I’ve grown to appreciate that the decision to concentrate development on one console was the correct decision; this game looks fantastic and runs incredibly smooth, and is an excellent showcase for what the Xbox One is capable of… even if I have no doubts that the eventual PS4 release will look even better. Deeper analyses of the game’s narrative might reveal some unfortunate developments in terms of Lara’s character arc, but as far as the moment-to-moment experience of playing it I found it quite wonderful. It’s got everything I like in these sorts of 3rd person action/adventure/exploration games, especially with regards to the exploration/combat ratio; I spent far more time exploring than killing, which is exactly how I like it. (And which, as noted earlier, is why I’m more than a little nervous about Uncharted 4.)
2. Rocket League (PS4)
The feel-good story of the year, bar none; this little indie game came out of nowhere and became one of the most addictive multiplayer experiences I’ve had since the days of Burnout 3. There was a stretch earlier this summer when I could do nothing but play Rocket League; it didn’t matter whether I was good or not, even just touching the ball was fun in and of itself. It’s been so long since I picked it up that I’m probably too rusty to be an effective teammate… but a lack of skill didn’t stop me from having a blast earlier this summer, either, so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t go back as soon as possible.
1. The Witcher 3 (PS4)
This was hands down the best game I played in 2015, and maybe one of the best games I’ve played in years. Hell, I should probably revisit my all-time top 10 and see if I can’t fit this one in somewhere. I’d dallied about in the first two Witchers but wasn’t at all familiar with the world or the lore, and it hardly mattered; each and every character was incredibly well-written and presented, and nearly every mission and side-quest was interesting, no matter how small or trivial; the attention to detail is second to none. This game scratched all the itches I had from Red Dead Redemption, and so if we’re not getting Red Dead Redemption 2 any time soon, this is as worthy a substitute as we’re likely to get; and if anything I might’ve enjoyed this one even more. An absolute masterpiece, and without a doubt my favorite game of 2015.