My 10 Favorite Video Games Released in 2015
January 03, 2016

Way back when, you probably had a good chance of playing every great game released during a calendar year. Back then, there were maybe 10 hot titles for any one system, and there were maybe three systems worth following. So if you had a fair bit of money and some time (less time, even, since a lot of those old games were quite short), you could stay on top of things.

2015 is different. There are dozens of new games released every week, and a lot of them are really big, time-consuming affairs. You have to take a smart approach. You have to decide to skip some games, maybe even potentially great ones, because there's just not enough time. You promise yourself you'll get back to them, but you know you're lying.

Anyway, I played some games in 2015. I played dozens of them, even. And the following list is my attempt to let you know which games from the calendar year are my picks for the best of the bunch... out of what I played. That's all any Top 10 list can really be these days. And now, without further ado, the list...


10. Rare Replay

Rare was a big part of my childhood, a studio that produced all sorts of hits and duds while not much of anyone paid attention. This collection gathers 30 of those efforts in one spot, and includes a lot of the highlights (particularly from the Nintendo 64 era, when Rare was arguably at the top of its game). I love having all of that goodness on one disc, and I love the sense of nostalgia and even some behind-the-scenes videos. There's a lot to love here. More retro game compilations should be like this!

09. HuniePop

This game's developer contacted us to ask if we would be interested in covering it, and we didn't get back until way too late because I couldn't find anyone who wanted the assignment. Then I bought the game myself, and it was one of several I played just ahead of the year's end. I wound up liking it a lot more than I thought I would. It's one of the most addictive match-3 puzzlers I've ever encountered!

08. Call of Duty: Black Ops III

I am starting to tire of Call of Duty, but this latest installment has a LOT going for it. The campaign, though flawed, is lengthy and meaty. The multiplayer is solid. And most especially, the zombie mode is a blast when you're online with three other players, all working together to expand the play area and survive increasingly capable waves of zombies and other creatures. I don't even like zombie stuff, usually, but I loved this. I'm honestly not sure where Call of Duty goes from here, though, at least not if it wants to improve.

07. Super Mario Maker

I've always wanted to make my own Mario games. Super Mario Maker doesn't let me, but by allowing me to create individual levels, it does the next best thing. Sharing them online is difficult, and finding an audience for your creations is rough. Otherwise, this is just about perfect. I've built dozens of levels and it was a breeze every time. I'd love to see Nintendo do something similar for Zelda and Metroid.

06. Her Story

I don't usually go for the artsy games, but this one really worked for me. The story is intriguing, and I bet a lot of people work their way through it without really stopping to consider what they're seeing. For those who give the tale some serious thought, though, a real treat awaits. Sam Barlow put together an amazing story that can be interpreted two very different ways, and some of the most fun you can have with Her Story comes after you've finished "playing" it and start talking to others who did the same.

05. Undertale

There were a lot of people talking about Undertale in the year's final month, and finally I decided it was time to experience it for myself. What I found was a satisfying RPG with a lot of puzzles, mixed with some unique themes and careful game design that brought everything to a higher level. Mechanically, the game is merely capable. Look at what it does with those mechanics, however, and you start to see it in a whole new light.

04. Disgaea 5

I've loved Disgaea games since the very first one. Laharl and friends were interesting protagonists at the time, but since then, the series has tried to capture similar lightning in a bottle and has mostly failed. This time around, the writers came closer than ever before to that original glory, and managed to tell a very different tale in the process. But it's not really the plot that makes me love this fifth outing so much. It's the depth of gameplay. While offering the deepest experience in the series to date, Disgaea 5 is remarkably accessible. I doubt we'll ever see the franchise do anything better.

03. Guitar Hero Live

I've always enjoyed Guitar Hero games, because rhythm games are quite fun and pieces of plastic somehow make all of that better. When Activision revived the series after a hiatus, though, I didn't expect to be wowed by the result. So of course, I was surprised. Guitar Hero Live fostered an appreciation for some great music I'd mostly ignored up to that point, thanks in large part to its streaming service that constantly exposed me to new challenges and tunes. I wound up buying two CDs as a result of this game. If you're into music and rhythm games, I recommend giving it a shot even if Guitar Hero hasn't quite clicked with you in the past.

02. Axiom Verge

On the last day of 2015, I finally started playing this one. I'd heard good things, and I was anxious to sample it for myself. I wound up playing all afternoon and evening, and into the New Year. Then on the 1st, I spent all day playing and finally conquered it, which means it was my last game of 2015 and my first one of 2016. Not a bad way to end one year and begin another. If you like Metroid-style games, definitely play this one.

01. Yakuza 5

Originally released in Japan in 2012, Yakuza 5 came to the US as a digital download in very late 2015. Although it's a PS3 game, it looks as good to me as most PS4 titles, despite its age. I hadn't played much Yakuza up to this point, and now I'm kicking myself. Yakuza 5 is a spectacular game, action-packed but featuring plenty of RPG elements and mini-games and a compelling plot. I gushed about it at length in my review, so I'll conclude this note by saying this: play Yakuza 5!


So that's my list. I didn't play stuff like Fallout 5 and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, or the new Assassin's Creed, or some other big releases. Maybe I yet will. But the list above isn't meant to be definitive. It just lets you know what I enjoyed. You know, in case you care...

Most recent blog posts from Jason Venter...

Genj Genj - January 03, 2016 (02:36 PM)
The Yakuza games are all pretty excellent. I'd highly recommend checking out at least 2, 3 and 4 if you've never played them. Unfortunately we never got the HD remasters of 1 & 2. 1 hasn't aged well (it also has really bad English voice acting) and 2 has gotten really expensive (I paid $40 for a copy about 3 years ago and now it costs three times that). Dead Souls - the zombie one - plays pretty poorly. Only play it if you really like Yakuza a lot.
honestgamer honestgamer - January 03, 2016 (02:55 PM)
I haven't played any but the first and the fifth Yakuza games. I own 3 and 4, though, still in their shrink wrap. I might get around to playing them at some point. The series has really improved since the first one! I wish 1/2 had been localized on Wii U, but I understand why they weren't. 5 barely even came out here, after all. I'm glad that 0 is on the way, and probably 6 after that...
joseph_valencia joseph_valencia - January 04, 2016 (12:11 PM)
Mario Maker is a great game, but the community system is so stupid. There really needs to be a proper rating system and a better way to unlock more uploads. As it is, everyone who isn't a YouTube personality or a shit poster hits a wall when they max out the default amount of uploads. A proper rating system would also weed out all the crap in 100 Mario Challenge... hopefully.

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