What a difference a year makes. This time last year, I was lamenting how 2014 was a disappointing year for games. This year? The turnaround is nuts. Choosing one game, let alone five, to represent the year as a whole, was actually pretty damned challenging.
Seriously, this took way longer than it honestly should have.
5. Guitar Hero Live
[Watch New Game Plus’ review of Guitar Hero Live]
2015 saw the return of both Rock Band and Guitar Hero, and they couldn’t be any more different. While Rock Band 4 played it super safe, Activision and Freestyle Games decided to start fresh with a new guitar and Full Motion Video interface. It was a recipe for disaster that played out much better than I expected.
The new guitar is great to play with and mastering the new fret layout is a satisfying challenge. Where the game shone was the music video streaming service GHTV. It was easily the coolest mode added to the genre in years, and I hope we see more of this going forward. Sure, there are arguments you could make about ownership of your own music, but it’s not something that’s especially bothersome to me (that gripe lies with the on disc tracks).
Seriously, give it a shot. It was by far the most interesting rhythm game of 2015, and an exciting push forward for the genre.
4. Her Story
[Watch New Game Plus’ review of Her Story]
Her Story is a full motion video video game where you watch a woman being interviewed about her missing husband. To go into the story any deeper than that would be a detriment to the experience, because there’s nothing quite like it, and it deserves to be played.
The core of the gameplay is searching for clips, watching them, and using specific words and phrases to dig deeper into the mystery. It’s left up to the player to piece it together. What works is the writing and the fantastic subtleties in Viva Seifert’s performance that makes the mystery incredibly compelling.
In its two hours, I was given something truly unique and different. It gave me yet another reminder that games can do some really cool things with non-linearity and interactivity.
3. Super Mario Maker
[Watch New Game Plus’ review of Super Mario Maker]
I’ve always been fascinated by games which feature user generated content, but always ended up kind of turned off by the complexity and time required to make something truly great. Super Mario Maker gets around the complexity issue with ease, while also still offering enough to make something special.
Creating a level takes almost no time at all, the editor is stupidly charming, and there’s a real satisfaction in playing and testing your level to see what works and what doesn’t. The requirement to pass your level to even upload it is fantastic.
It also features my favourite new mode of 2015: The 100 Mario Challenge. Something about clearing sets of randomly uploaded levels remains weirdly satisfying to me, and it’s a great way to see what the community has come up with.
While better level and creator searching tools would’ve been appreciated, it’s a slight damper on a fantastic experience. Between this and Splatoon, it’s the perfect swansong for the Wii U.
2. Life Is Strange
[Watch New Game Plus’ review of Life is Strange Episode 1: Chrysalis]
2015’s been a good year for choice based adventure gaming. If I had my way, this pick would be Life is Strange, Until Dawn and Tales From The Borderlands. All three are fantastic in their own ways and are worthy of your time and attention. Why just Life is Strange? Because it doesn’t feel like anything else released in 2015.
Aside from the cringe-inducing dialogue, the story just grabbed me. None of the mystery was over-explained (save for an awful cop out towards the end), the tone and pace was fantastic, and the fact that developer Dontnod didn’t completely ape Telltale’s style was refreshing. The game also made fantastic use of sunsets and sunrises in combination with its visual style to create some truly beautiful moments.
But most importantly, it clicked with me in a way that Until Dawn and Borderlands didn’t, especially with the fantastic ending.
1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
[Watch New Game Plus’ review of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt]
There were a lot of open world games released in 2015. Some good, some disappointing, but none of them hooked me like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Right from the get go, I was ready to see how Geralt’s tale ended, and unlike most game trilogies, it closed the loop in a satisfying way. It looks great, the combat works, I love CD Projekt’s commitment to patch every issue the game has. But these are just the tip of the iceberg for why I think it’s the best game of 2015; underneath all this was an amazing universe to explore.
Each of the three major story areas told their own individual story, all of which were better than most games released this year. Velen’s fractured family dynamic is fantastic and surprisingly frank. Novigrad is the game I wanted the entirety of Dragon Age II to be. Skellige and it’s tale of warring clans was the weakest of the three, but was still engaging enough. All three areas were designed so well that I wanted to seek out every nook and cranny and take my time with it. No other open world game this year did that.
In a year filled with timesink gaming, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is top of the class. Everything about this game worked and commanded my attention. If you haven’t played it by now, and you need a new world to lose yourself in, The Witcher is that game.
Come back tomorrow for more of the New Game Plus crew’s favourite games of 2015. And watch our 2015 Game of the Year Special.