The 3rd Annual Game of My Year Awards: 2015
January 02, 2016

It is time for the 3rd Annual Game of My Year Awards!!!! You might be asking where are the first two installments? They took place back when I was on a personal blog before I moved over to Honest Gamers, and you can find them here. What exactly are the Game of My Year Awards (GOMY's)? Well I don't exactly play many current year games, so I'm not really in touch with the Game of the Year race each year, but I do like to pick out the best and worst games that I personally played in the preceding year, be they brand new or old as dirt. To that end, I go through the games I reviewed throughout the year and put them in order. For this article, I totally disregard the score I gave each game at the time and put them in a relative order based on how I feel about them right here and now at the end of the year. In this way, this article acts as a little clue about how certain games grew or shrank in my esteem as time went on. In general, I stand by my scores, but you'll notice that some games will be listed in a higher position than a game with a higher score because of how my feelings about the game have grown or tarnished. Interesting...

Every year I like to first take a look at the top winners from last year. I'm showing you the top 16 as that is about the cut off of where the really great games were last year. 2014's big winners were:

1. The Last of Us: Grounded Mode
2. The Walking Dead Season 2
3. Sanctum 2
4. The Last of Us
5. Papo & Yo
6. Strength of the Sword 3
7. Patchwork Heroes
8. The Last of Us: Left Behind
9. Dark Void
10. Braid
11. The Walking Dead 400 Days
12. Retro/Grade
13. Dyad
14. Plants vs. Zombies
15. Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams
16. Urban Trial Freestyle

It's interesting to look back and see what I was into last year. And now, without further ado, here are this year's winners. Typically I start at number 1 and work my way down, not bothering with any theatrics, but this year I decided I was going to start at the bottom and work up to number 1. Let the suspense begin!

25 (aka the worst game of my year). Lost Planet
I've heard that Lost Planet had technical problems on PS3, but I wasn't told that it also wasn't a great game to begin with and that the story would make me want to stop consuming media forever. This was a huge disappointment as I really thought I was going to enjoy this one. There was great potential there.

24. Thomas Was Alone To me, Thomas was billed as an amazing story-telling game on par with other puzzly platformers like Ico or Braid or something. But the story is not at all profound or interesting, and the gameplay, with a few exceptions, is really simplistic. The one part I really enjoyed was the developer commentary. I'm a huge sucker for commentary in games and I even played this again completely to hear the commentary and enjoyed it immensely. It also has cool procedurally generated music. But the game is garbage overall.

23. Planets Under Attack
I was sold on this game when I saw that it was a Galcon style game with 3d graphics that you could zoom in on. That part of it is awesome, but it's not as fast paced and engaging as the other Galcon game I've played (Galcon Labs), and I wasn't even super into that one. This just didn't do much for me.

22. Costume Quest 2
This game was more of the same when what the franchise needs is a complete overhaul to keep it fresh. Some of that old magic of jokes and sentimentality was in there, but it was drowning in boring gameplay which had already grown old by the end of the first game.

21. Bioshock 2: Protector Trials
This wouldn't be bad if you had never played a Bioshock game before. But everything you can do here is done better in the main game. This is literally one little part of the full game pulled out and made into a stand alone experience. It's a terrible idea for DLC, since you get to do this in a more interesting way and many times in the main game. Very disappointing given how much I like other Bioshock DLC.

20. Klonoa
This game is actually pretty cool. It uses the 2.5D perspective in some ways I've never seen before, and has a pretty unique rhythm to the platforming. Something about the character and sound design didn't really work for me though, which is why it is so low on this list.

19. Orcs and Elves
This is basically a traditional rogue-like but without the perma-death or random levels, but in a first-person perspective. Basically everything else is in there, and it is a lot of fun. It just didn't blow my socks off, which is why it isn't higher on the list.

18. Dead Nation
Dead Nation is a gory mess of a top-down shooter. It has pretty solid gameplay that is enhanced quite a bit by a few hooks: huge amounts of zombies on screen at once rushing right at you just like a movie and disquieting real time shadows cast by your flashlight as you go through the dark levels. Pretty cool.

17. Future Tactics
Future Tactics is an old favorite of mine from the PS2 era that I re-played this year and reviewed. It is criminally underrated and overlooked. It is so innovative and fun, but quite rough around the edges. If some indie developer released a super polished game using the core concepts presented here (turn-based gameplay with manual movement and aiming, incredible environment destruction and interaction, and great character and mechanical design) we could see the next big indie hit. Until then, scrape the barrel of the bargain bin for this gem.

16. Five Nights at Freddy's
Do you think you are immune to jump scares? You aren't. It doesn't matter if you know it's coming. Freddy will scare you. Bad. This game's simplistic concepts work to build a painful tension that is only broken when you die horrifically at the hands of Chuck E. Cheese style animatronics. Great game to play at Halloween, but a little too hard and and cryptic (gameplay-wise) for its own good.

15. Bioshock Infinite
I was expecting a new Bioshock experience and I got a decent Bioshock knock-off. It was pretty cool, but felt worse in every possible way than previous games in the series. This was one of the biggest disappointments of the year for me as I was expecting a masterpiece. Still pretty decent in every possible way though, and a lot of fun.

14. N+
N+ is a 2d platformer with a sense of momentum unlike any other. It is challenging and addictive. I can't help but wonder if it wouldn't be better as a large open-world game or something like that instead of tiny, bite-sized levels. The excellent, hypnotic soundtrack will suck you in though, so watch out.

13. The Last Guy
I haven't really played a game like The Last Guy before, which is awesome. It has a great unique look, cool music, and fun gameplay. I was surprised how much I got into achievement hunting in this game. The post game is lots of fun as you get better and better at finding all those people and once you understand the game's really interesting scoring system. Leading people around real life cities to keep them away from giant monsters has never been such fun!

12. Stealth Inc.
Stealth Inc.'s puzzle design is just one shade too simplistic to make it truly great. But its truly great soundtrack and sense of humor make it a blast to play. In fact, just thinking about it now makes me want to try the sequel. I had kind of written the sequel off due to the gameplay problems of the first game, but I'm feeling a strong desire to play more to hear that music and laugh out loud some more as I sneak around in the shadows for awhile before dying a comically gory death as I am insulted by a snarky comment.

11. The Impossible Game
Not truly impossible, but extremely hard. This is a runner game with a crazy good soundtrack and a mean addictive quality. It almost feels like an experiment on your mind to see how far you can push yourself to memorize and practice technique. Beating a level is a rush. Playing for an hour and barely getting anywhere on a small series of jumps is also a weird rush.

10. Zuma
Oh boy, top 10!! Zuma is a really cool puzzle game, apparently part of a new sub-genre of games exactly like it. It is intense and challenging, with harder levels requiring a zen-like clearing of the mind to allow for reflexive and clever moves to be pulled off with lightning reflexes. Luckily, the amazing sound effect of the balls clacking together will lull you right into this zen-like state. Sound effect of the year.

9. Wipeout Pulse
Ah man, single digits! Sort of an overlooked part of the storied Wipeout franchise, but nonetheless an important (and extremely great) one. It's sandwiched right between Wipeout Pure (which may very well be the best PSP game ever made) and Wipeout HD (which very well may be the best PS3 game ever made), so it's easy to see why it is overlooked. But if you are a racing fan, you should definitely play it. While it isn't quite as good as either of its neighbors in the franchise, it definitely plays on their level, and it lays the foundation for a lot of what goes on in HD that makes it so good.

8. Magrunner
Magrunner has no right to be as good it is. At first glance, it looks like a cheap portal knock-off. But it's actually a really great portal knock-off. Its magnetism mechanic and it's level design are both genius-tier. And, heart-attack inducing shocker, it's story and voice-acting are actually pretty good. The whole thing is a little rough around the edges, but extremely fun and clever.

7. Bioshock Challenge Rooms
Early in this list I said how the Bioshock 2 Protector Trials was an example of how not to do DLC. It took a part of the game that you already do in the main game and made it into a stand alone experience. The Bioshock Challenge Rooms DLC kind of does the opposite of that. It crafts these incredible new levels that feel like they would fit right into the main game. Therefore you feel the same great feelings of discovery and fun (and horror) that you felt in the main game, but you are doing something completely new. In particular, the final section is a really big and fun area that feels like a deleted scene from the main game that actually should have made the final cut. Now that's how you do DLC!

6. Carnage Heart Exa
Carnage Heart is a really unique experience. Totally alien to any other game you've played. You program robots to fight autonomously using a pretty advanced and complicated (and therefore robust and powerful) flow chart system. You also kit out and fine tune almost every aspect of the hardware side of the robots too. Plus the story is really good. A huge, huge chunk of the game is a tutorial, but you don't even notice as the tutorial is basically a story mode with tons of missions and clear, concise teaching and examples. It's a blast, and it is super different, which is super great.

5. Rengoku II
Top 5!!!!! Rengoku II is the most improved sequel, like, ever. There are so many games out there with great potential that just get it wrong the first time around, and I always think to my self if they would only try again with a greatly improved sequel they would really be onto something (there are games right on this list that should take that advice). Well Rengoku II Really does just that. It took its cool cyborg design system and stunning art direction and re-worked everything else from its interesting but flawed debut to make a truly stunning game. I was floored by how much fun this game is. Constantly redesigning your cyborg to make use of a nearly never-ending flow of weapons and equipment as you strive to overcome new and exciting enemy builds (which you can then incorporate into your own designs) as you progress through the great main game and then the awesome post game mode is an absolute blast. And who would have thought (I feel another heart-attack coming on) the gobbledygook story of the first game is crafted into a totally compelling and interesting yarn here. Amazing! The biggest surprise of 2015 was how great this game turned out to be. Thanks Five Below!

4. Ring of Red
Ring of Red appears to be a standard Strategy RPG at first glance, but almost everything about its gameplay besides the movement system is unique to this game and also truly great. From the intense, semi-real time combat that has you loading ammo into your mech, ordering soldiers around, and positioning yourself in just the right spot for a shot, a charge, or a feint to draw your enemy into a trap, to the way you recruit soldiers and equip them to units to maximize the amount of skills and special ammo you take into battle, Ring of Red is really special. I respect a game with 3 hour levels, especially if it has a quick save option. It's a shame the story wasn't better, but that is balanced out by a totally unique strategy experience. If you are burnt out on turn-based strategy games, ignore your first impression of Ring of Red and give it a try. It is something completely different to the point where it is practically inventing a new genre, a genre that it is an almost perfectly balanced and super deep example of.

3. They Bleed Pixels
They Bleed Pixels is a hardcore platformer with an amazing sense of style and design, stellar music, and blood and gore for miles. It's one of the best looking and sounding sprite-based games in existence. It also features tight, unique, super fun gameplay. No other platformer or beat-em-up feels like it at all. The combat is more technical and the platforming is better thought out than almost anything else. It's an amazingly fluid and fun experience to see the sights, hear the sounds, and feel the fun in every inch of this game, whether you are dying hundreds of times trying to get through an mind-bendingly hard segment or blazing through a level like a ninja after you've got good, They Bleed Pixels is a blast to experience, and one that will keep you hunting for blood badges long after you've beaten the main game and long after you've unlocked everything its possible to unlock. It's one of those games that has such great core gameplay, you can just play it forever and always have fun.

2. Brothers
Brothers feels, in every way, like a Team Ico game. I could just mic drop there and walk away and I would have said all I need to say. It features a unique control scheme, which is basically single-player co-op, and an incredible story and design. It's haunting, beautiful, smart, surprising, cohesive, and filled to the brim with a living, real, functioning world. It's hard to believe a game like this exists that wasn't made by Team Ico. In a world that is full of knock offs and people who think they've pulled something off when actually they have failed spectacularly, Brothers quietly succeeds at stepping up to take its place in gaming's hall of fame along with the legends of the gaming industry's great succinct, sublime story-telling and gameplay experiences.

1. Risk of Rain
And here is number 1! Risk of Rain is a rogue-like platformer. Everything about it is executed perfectly. Audio-visually, the music is absolutely show stopping, like an epic film score, and the sprites have an incredibly unique and consistent look to them. They are both tiny and abstract and incredibly detailed. The character and level design is as good if not better than what you see from movies and games with the budgets of a small country. The gameplay varies greatly depending on which character class you play and which of the hundreds of items you randomly find, which means things go differently, and often dramatically differently, with each new play session. The game is challenging but has within it the means for you to become an unstoppable killing machine. It isn't broken however, as it takes skill and knowledge to get to that point, and even when you become nearly invincible, it is still possible to get killed if you stop paying attention at a critical moment. Despite all of the variety, the core gameplay, which is basically shooting enemies using different cooldown abilities (as you search for the exit, which triggers one last giant wave of enemies and summons a boss) is such a solid and fun exercise in itself that ROR would be a great game even without the variety given by the items you can equip. But I can't stress enough how everything meshes together so perfectly. Whether you are just starting out or are on a long run and have a hundred items equipped, you are always having fun and have plenty of options. I really can't go on further without just re-iterating my review, so check that out with the link above if you want to know more (same with any game on the list!).

So that's it, Risk of Rain is the champion! I really fell in love with it and was pretty confident it would take the top spot. 2015 is now another year in the books. Here's looking forward to the new games I will play in 2016! I am currently playing Fuel and Picross, so look for reviews soon, and Happy New Year!

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Germ Germ - January 04, 2016 (02:58 AM)
Glad you got such enjoyment from Rengoku II. All I got from Five Below was Rudolph.

Risk of Rain is addictive. Whenever someone mentions it I start playing again. I'm listening to the soundtrack right now...
Robotic_Attack Robotic_Attack - January 16, 2016 (08:06 AM)
Yes, my Five Below game was much better than yours. Sometime soon I hope to try some more Risk of Rain stuff, like beating it on monsoon without using the artifact of command and beating it with all artifacts on. Hopefully those are doable for me!

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