It’s late December with just days to go until the clock strikes the new year, which makes it the perfect time for Kotaku’s various editors to list their favorite games of 2015. I’ll go first, for I have no fear.
Well, I have a little fear. If you’ve kept track of my lists from 2012, 2013 and 2014, you know my tastes are a bit eclectic. There’s generally something LEGO, some sort of MMO, a mobile game or two and at least one game starring a virtual Japanese singing sensation.
(Looks over his list)
Check, check, check and check. My oddness is actually quite predictable. Oh well. Here we go.
There are two things I enjoy doing more than nearly anything else—building LEGO things and playing video games. LEGO Dimensions is both of those things. It also encompasses my love of spending too much money on toys. It’s the total package. Well, once you buy all of it.
I’ve been a toys-meet-games enthusiast since the original Skylanders launched, but both that series and Disney Infinity were always lacking one important element to a good toy—playability. I love tiny colorful statues as much as the next eccentric beardo, but give me a toy I can pose and play with that also acts as a video game character, and I am in heaven.
Read my full LEGO Dimensions review here.
Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward
Just when I thought I would never lose myself in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game again, along comes Final Fantasy XIV’s Heavensward expansion. Catching up on the story missions leading up to the expansion content finally gave me a chance to dive deep into the rejuvenated MMO, and I’ve been smitten ever since. The music, the story, the art—it really is one of the best Final Fantasy games—even our resident expert agrees.
And that’s before Heavensward was even released. It brought more stories, exciting new character professions (proud Machinist here), and some of the most gorgeous music the series has ever produced.
What I love the best about the game is how it continues to make the player the hero of the story. My character feels like one of the most important characters in the game, instead of just some random soldier. Maybe one day Back Front will make it into a Dissidia game.
Hatsune Miku Project Mirai DX
The 3DS needs more rhythm games. I know it has quite a few—Theatrhythm, Harmo Knight, that other one—but with its handy touch screen and double screens I should be swimming in virtual idols with giant heads. Thanks to the fine folks at Sega (sorry about calling you a shit farm back in 2007), for several months in 2015 I was.
Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX is an adorable game. Better yet, it’s an adorable game that will kick your ass at higher difficulty levels. I’ve watched videos of the game on super hard, because if I try to play it at that level myself I’ll have a heart attack.
Take away all of that stress and you’ve got a game I keep going back to again and again.
Check out my full review of Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX here.
Thank goodness for the region-free PlayStation Vita. In a year gleefully packed with rhythm games—the one above this one, Superbeat Xonic from the DJMax folks, a re-release of PaRappa the Rapper 2 and two band games—one perfect game didn’t make it stateside. Producer Kenichiro Takaki of Senran Kagura (boob ninja) infamy gave rhythm game fans a heads up that this gem, featuring popular Japanese vocaloid (computer singing dealio) IA, would not be making it to the U.S., urging everyone to import it. So I did, and I have no regrets.
IA/VT is challenging, feature-packed and the music is exquisite. Richard Eisenbeis called it one of the best Japan-only games of 2015. I call it one of the best games in my home of 2015.
Guitar Hero Live (TV)
Hahaha, the way the game reacts to you playing, with the band on stage getting increasingly more desperate. Priceless! Hilarious! Not the Guitar Hero Live that’s on my games of the year list though. The offline mode is fun while it lasts, but it doesn’t last long.
The bit I love is the Guitar Hero TV portion. That’s the bit where they’ve basically got music video stations running 24/7, only these are music videos you can play competitively online against other people. At any moment I can strap on my plastic guitar, hop into one of the regularly-updated channels and start playing along. If I’m in the mood for a particular song I can use some of the credits I’ve earned through online play to pick and choose, but it’s much more fun just to see what’s popping up next.
Guitar Hero TV has quickly become my favorite way to put the kids to sleep. Well done, FreeStyle Games. Now bring back DJ Hero.
Check out my full review of Guitar Hero Live here.
After years of games that got “close enough”, I finally got the classic Transformers game I always wanted. Platinum Games’ first stab at the series is pretty short and the gear management stuff is utter nonsense, but none of that matters when I am Optimus Prime or Bumblebee battling my way through the generic City to foil Megatron’s latest diabolical scheme. If Activision doesn’t let them do a follow-up then the Decepticons have already won.
Check out my full Transformers: Devastation review here.
Gems Of War
I know Gems of War actually came out in late 2014, but I only started playing it last month, so it totally counts, especially since I started playing it last month and haven’t stopped.
Every time I write about a new Puzzle Quest game I bemoan the loss of the original. I missed its ongoing storylines, the deep strategy, tons of special powers to activate to manipulate the board and destroy your enemies. The series isn’t what it used to be. Gems of War, developed by Puzzle Quest originator Infinite Interactive, is totally what Puzzle Quest used to be.
It is a free-to-play game for IOS, Android and Steam, but it’s not free-to-be-obnoxious about it. Players use gold earned in-game to unlock new kingdoms and storylines. Rather than a single character who unlocks new skills as he or she levels, the player gathers a horde of creatures, each with their own particular set of skills, organized into teams.
It’s not quite the same thing, but close enough to feel like what Puzzle Quest would have gradually evolved into had it not gone completely insane.
Just be warned—Gems of War is very hard to put down. While writing this I stopped to grab a screenshot and wound up playing for 30 minutes.
Ori And The Blind Forest
I didn’t play very much Ori and the Blind Forest, but this isn’t just a list of the favorite games I’ve played—it’s a list of my favorite games period. And while I didn’t control much of Moon Studios’ gorgeous action platformer, I watched it for hours and hours.
Ori makes the list because of my wife. For several months this year, Ori and the Blind Forest was her white whale. She was obsessed with completing the game, often to the detriment of herself and others. The children would shout “No Ori and the Blind Forest!” as she continued her endless attempts to navigate a massive flooding tree—the same one she had been throwing herself against the night before.
I’d never seen her so dedicated to a piece of interactive entertainment. She quit World of Warcraft after a half hour because she couldn’t catch a speedy dinosaur in one of the troll starter quests, yet here she was restarting again and again, never losing hope.
Eventually she finished the game, but only after finding every single power-up scattered throughout Ori’s world. Not a week has gone by since that she hasn’t asked me about the upcoming Definitive Edition. I definitely got my $20 worth out of this one.
Read our full review of Ori and the Blind Forest here.
Whenever I get too stressed out, Alto’s Adventure is there. Nothing calms and soothes me like developer Moon’s premium endless runner. A lone figure races down a mountainside, through cities and wooded forests and lonely hills. Beautiful music plays, lightning crackles across the sky as rain begins to fall. I don’t even have to play it—I close my eyes and it’s right there.
I can’t pick up my phone without my finger gravitating towards its icon. When the new Apple TV launched earlier this year I got to experience Alto on the big screen for the first time, and suddenly the major purchase didn’t feel quite so frivolous.
Check my write up of Alto’s Adventure here.
See? I’m not a total weirdo.
I was not expecting to love Fallout 4 as much as I did. I was burnt out on open-world games. I had convinced myself I had no time for any of that nonsense, and what time I did have would be better spent on shorter, easier to put down and pick up titles. Fallout 4 proved me wrong.
For a couple of weeks in November, my every waking hour not spent working or watching my children (maybe some of the latter hours as well) was spent traversing the Boston wastelands, searching for secrets, battling mutants and trying to make Piper fall in love with my character.
Fallout 4 is the kind of game I hope holds up well enough to play it with my kids ten years from now, when they’re old enough to fully appreciate the post-apocalypse.
Read our full Fallout 4 review here.
So, how does my list compare to yours? If I’ve done these calculations correctly, it should be exactly the same. Mind you I am not good at calculations, so a few minor deviations are expected. Fingers crossed!