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Game of the Year

Zack Furniss' favorite moments of 2015

Jan 18 // Zack Furniss
Bloodborne's Bagmen Hot diggety, there are so many moments I could choose in Bloodborne. I wrote this awkwardly-titled piece about how From Software so effectively used misdirection throughout the game's marketing (give it a read, that's one of my favorites!), but one particular enemy encounter immediately comes to mind. The first time you meet the Bagmen/Kidnappers, they're most likely going to kill you in just two hits. That's terrifying enough already, but instead of the regular loading screen taking you back to the last checkpoint, you're greet with a cutscene. At this moment, you watch through your Hunter's eyes as he or she is dragged into an entirely new area, the Hypogean Gaol, where you're even more lost and confused than previous environments. It doesn't help that there are enemies in this area that can slit your throat, probably killing you instantly.  When dying over and over has become routine, changing the rules and subverting your deathly expectations is a smart way to discomfit the player. Well done, From Software. SOMA's second survey For some reason or another, I kept putting off SOMA. While I had enjoyed Frictional Games' previous work, the first few hours of its new underwater horror game put me off. I'm glad I came back and finished it a couple weeks ago, though, because the themes of transhumanism and body horror are probably permanently hard-wired into my brain now. Playing as a man who wakes up in an aquatic base long after the world should have ended, you soon realize there's no point in trying to save humanity in its current state. Instead of attempting to rescue the few remaining vestiges of mankind, you turn to the ARK. This device allows people's consciousnesses to to live on in a simulated utopia by way of brain scans, feeling for all intents and purposes like real humans.  After learning about the ARK, you take a survey that asks you questions, such as "Do you think this new existence will be worth living?" and  "How would describe your current mental condition?" Since you've recently found out that you're an imprint in a robotic suit, these questions are uncomfortable, but thought-provoking. You find new hope in the idea that you will, in a way, be able to regain your body and live in this new paradise. When launching the satellite, you try to transmit your consciousness to the scan on the ARK. However, you lose the coin flip, and remain in the body in an empty base, with no one to talk to and no reason to live. Even though you just "saved" humanity, there's a lump in your throat because you didn't get to save yourself. Puts things into perspective, doesn't it, you monster? The credits roll. But it gets worse. After the credits, you awaken in the serenely beautiful simulation of the ARK as the brain scan of your duplicated consciousness. On your way through an idyllic forest, a computer monitor nonsensically juts out of the soil. You can take the same exact survey as before, but knowing that you left part of yourself down to rot underwater on Earth, it's amazing just how much your answers will most likely change. Usually, games are more interested in altering the questions of the game, so watching Frictional Games morph your answers was a delightful surprise. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's Snowball Fight From an outsider's perspective, Geralt of Rivia sounds like a try-hard Dungeons & Dragons character made by an obnoxious friend: he has rippling muscles, wields two swords, is a mutant, has long, flowing white hair, and a magical penis that can't make babies or contract sexually-transmitted infections. Playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt with expectations of him being that simple is a mistake, though. Sometimes he has an annoyed half-grin plastered on his face; he's not above getting drunk, or trying on women's clothes, and he has a paternal, caring streak that makes him want to protect Ciri. Ciri's constantly imperiled, but can handle herself. As her father figure, you can keep defending her and trying to shelter the girl from the evils of the world, or you can accept that she's going to face danger head-on just like you've taught her. In a poignant moment, when she's struggling to learn how to use her abilities, Geralt can choose to either give her yet another lesson, or take her mind off things with a surprise snowball fight. Better yet, this is a playable moment, rather than a cutscene, and you can either beat Ciri or let her win. Sure, Geralt seems like an amalgam of clichés at times, but throughout The Witcher 3 you get to see him from all sorts of perspectives. This tender moment was a welcome respite from the monster hunting and Gwent playing (Gwent is awesome, shut your mouth). Undertale's Photoshop Flowey So, like SOMA, I only played Undertale once this New Year started. I was apprehensive because some things were spoiled for me and people who love the game fucking love it. It's hard not to go in with inflated expectations in a situation like this, but somehow Toby Fox's little creation completely won me over. Just like Bloodborne, Undertale is filled with moments that could go on this list. But the final boss of the Neutral Route edges out everything else out for me. I've always enjoyed games that hide horror elements under a false veneer, like Eversion. So when you think you're about to get a somewhat upbeat ending and a small Flower ends up being a terrifying Photoshopped monster that can destroy in seconds, I was sold. Photoshop Flowey looks especially disturbing considering the rest of the game is simple pixel art. Sure, the music is wonderful throughout, and Undertale plays around with RPG mechanics in fun ways, but this boss (and the way he toys with you and your save file) will stay with me the longest. So that's my little list! Here's to a memorable 2016!
Best of 2015 photo
Well, a few of them!
I know, I know. The first month of 2016 is halfway done and I'm still writing about 2015. Well it was a damn good year for games, okay? Back off, Mom. Instead of talking about my top picks from last year, I'm going to tell yo...

Kyle MacGregor's sexy picks for Game of the Year 2015

Jan 16 // Kyle MacGregor
Lara Croft Go If you were to glance through my collection of Wii games, you would see a number of rail shooters. This isn't because I especially love light gun games, though. They're just something the platform did particularly well. They played to the platform's unique strengths and sidestepped its weaknesses.  Acknowledging your constraints isn't a surefire recipe for success, but it does go a long way toward limiting the potential for failure. Had Square Enix Montréal attempted to craft a console-quality Tomb Raider game for mobile platforms, it might have come close. But doing so would have been an uphill battle, one where the best result would be a qualified response. "It's impressive, for a mobile game," you might say, rather than lauding it as a quality representation of the medium or series at large. Lara Croft Go doesn't attempt to do that. It goes with the grain, working with the limitations of a portable machine without buttons or joysticks. It distills the essence of Tomb Raider into a puzzle game with a limited scope and doesn't pretend to do any more. It knows exactly what it is and succeeds on its own terms, working with what is has instead of trying to be something it's not. Splatoon I've been playing a lot of Star Wars: Battlefront lately. I'm not entirely sure why, other than the fact it trades on nostalgia and I'm still caught in the penumbra of The Force Awakens hype. I've come to accept Battlefront as a competent multiplayer shooter, but initially I was quite disappointed in the game. It had me questioning whether the genre was something I could even enjoy anymore. Splatoon is a beacon of hope in the dark, gritty, stale, banal world of multiplayer shooters. It's difficult to believe that Nintendo, a company that owes much of its success to recycling decades-old formulas, to leave its comfort zone and brilliantly turn an established genre on its head. I pray this is a sign of things to come for Nintendo and its new generation of young designers. Downwell These days, there are so many games out there competing for our time. It's impossible to play them all. I only gave Downwell the time of day because my coworkers refused to shut the fuck up about it. And I'm glad they didn't. She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid.  Under Night In-Birth: Exe Late As a member of the enthusiast press, it's sometimes easy to forget how small a slice of the gaming public are "core gamers." Even though it seems like everyone and their brother has a PlayStation 4, I think it's important to remember there are still a lot of PlayStation 3s in active service around the world. Hell, I know a good number of people who never moved on beyond the Nintendo 64. That said, fewer and fewer games are coming out for the last-generation platforms all the time. And many of the games that are still trickling onto the older hardware are of the Japanese variety. Because Japan didn't take to the new machines as quickly as did the West, it's created a sort of lag between the generations, which in turn has been exacerbated by long localization times. The result is relatively niche games coming out on platforms where a large part of the hardcore audience potentially interested in them has moved on. That's how we end up with new PSP games in 2015. I think there's a reason publishers still put these games out on old hardware, though. It's because a lot of them are top quality and will still find a market, or at least that's the hope. Anyways, before I ramble on any longer, dust off that PlayStation 3 and find yourself a copy of Under Night In-Birth. It may have a silly name, but it's hands down the best fighting game released last year. Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain I feel like all I want to do is complain about Metal Gear Solid V. It comes so close to perfection, but it ultimately misses its mark, and does so in unbelievably frustrating fashion. The Phantom Pain is both unfinished and far too long. It's clear at some point there were plans for a third chapter, which Konami bizarrely decided to use as bonus material, showing off what might have been with work-in-progress cutscene footage and storyboards. And while it's disappointing Hideo Kojima never had the opportunity to properly cap things off, I honestly can't imagine that campaign being any longer. Even without its final act, Metal Gear Solid V goes to extreme lengths to pads its runtime, recycling a limited amount of content to artificially ensure the experience far longer than necessary. While I enjoyed my time with The Phantom Pain, I'm not sure if I'll ever manage to decouple my memories of it with all of the trifling bullshit it makes you go through to get to the "real" ending. Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim While Ys VI originally launched over a decade ago, XSEED Games re-localized the Nihon Falcom JRPG for a Steam release in 2015, allowing me to experience and fall in love with it for the first time. It may not be particularly new or innovative, but that's part of the charm. It's refreshingly old school. OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood  Its predecessor made my GOTY list in 2014, and this one takes things to a whole new level. IA/VT Colorful I wound up playing a lot of rhythm games this past year, but IA/VT Colorful was my far my favorite of the bunch (sorry Persona 4: Dancing All  Night). It's a pity Marvelous has no plans to ever publish the game to the West, but at least it's import friendly and doesn't require you to know Japanese. Xenoblade Chronicles X Ever since I lost a friend to World of Warcraft, I've had this belief that MMOs are intrinsically bad. They're time sinks designed to ensnare weak-minded individuals with senseless, repetitive tasks, keeping players hooked while the makers slowly bleed us dry with monthly subscription fees. So, naturally, I'm uncomfortable with how much I enjoy Xenoblade Chronicles X, which seems to veer dangerously close to MMO territory for someone who has vowed to hate all MMOs forever. The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter AHHHHHH! IT'S HERE! IT'S FINALLY HERE! AHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHH! Yakuza 5 One of these days I'm going to finally make it out to Japan and it's going to be glorious. But until then, I'll have to make do with living out fantasies of romping around Tokyo with the Yakuza games. I'm not sure Yakuza 5 is the high-water mark for the series. Yakuza 4 currently holds that distinction, at least in my book. But I'm always more than happy to hit the streets of Kamurocho once again.  Even though it arrived on western shores three years after its Japanese debut, Yakuza 5 was well worth the wait. Sega's Yakuza Team does incredible work. I sincerely hope they never stop. Bloodborne I already wrote some nice words about Bloodborne when it won Dtoid's award for best PlayStation 4 title released in 2015. So, instead of delving into why I think it's wonderful, I'll just say it's a rare game I've volunteered to help teach and shepherd people through. I think that speaks to how much I love Bloodborne, that I am willing to go out of my way to spread its gloomy, Lovecraftian gospel. 
Kyle's Goaty photo
Staaaay fresh!
It may be 2016, but I'm still writing 2015 on all my cheques. So, here are a list of games that came out last year that I liked a bit and am still thinking about because I'm clearly living in the past.

Pixie's portable picks for Game of the Year 2015

Jan 12 // Pixie The Fairy
(PC, PS Vita, PS3, PS4) Two indie games I caught up on this year were Spelunky and Hotline Miami. They were the perfect preparation for Nuclear Throne, which is a post-apocalyptic, twin-stick shootin' roguelike. Humanity is dead, mutants have taken their place, and they're fighting each other to reach the titular radioactive seat... to sit on it, I guess. I don't know yet, because it's hard to reach the throne, but I do know I love the fact it thrives on scraping by with what you find and each level is a procedurally-generated surprise. Will I find a Pop Gun, Crossbow, the ammo-devouring Triple Machinegun, or a lame screwdriver? You play with the hand you're dealt and pray that cute little mouse in the lab level doesn't disembowel you. So if you like shooting literally everyone and perpetual failure, this is the game for you. I give it four-and-a-half tentacled eyeball clusters out of five. (PS Vita, PSTV) I might be fudging the GOTY terms with a late 2014 release, but anything from the "hunter" subgenre of action-based dungeon hacks is something you play for the long haul. I played Freedom Wars well into late summer 2015 and still pick it up from time to time because the almost endless character customization options are very addictive to people who live to accessorize. Freedom Wars takes place in a post-apocalyptic (yes, again), totalitarian, socialist (okay, that's different) prison-planet where rival panopticons are constantly warring over resources and kidnapping each other's scientists so they can hope to rule the roost. You are a prisoner commonly referred to as a "Sinner" and your sorry resource-draining ass fell on your head and lost your memory. That's a crime that adds one million years to your sentence. Thankfully they seemed to forget the years you were already serving simply for existing. Fear not, though, your home panopticon cares and will set you up with your very own sexy android partner -- known as an Accessory -- to monitor your every transgression and punish you by adding more years to your sentence. You are expected to obey your Accessory, work hard for the glory of your panopticon, fight giant robots, rescue/kidnap citizens and build bigger, better weapons so you can earn privileges like laying down to sleep before you go out to smash giant robots and kidnap people again. Work real hard and your Accessory might not sentence you to 20 more years for walking 20 yards away from it. Sadly, you can never fight for your right to party in the Beastie Boys sense, just group with other sinners online. As gameplay goes, Freedom Wars eschews the eccentric control schemes of other hunter games for more traditional third-person combat and shooting. While Monster Hunter is still figuring out guns after several releases, Freedom Wars guns the way guns should gun. Additionally, you get this neat grappling tool called a Thorn that let's you latch on to walls, ceilings, and various parts of giant robots so you can ride them and saw off their limbs. This sense of vertical play and straightforward combat is a big part of what sets it apart from the pack, though it all sometimes felt like a minigame when compared to all the fashionable ensembles I create and frolic about in. I give Freedom Wars five propaganda bears out of five. (New 3DS, 3DS) I'm going to stick these two together since they're technically not new, but were re-released in 2015 with New Nintendo 3DS functionality. One of my favorite things about handheld games is not just that I can play on the go, but that they're sometimes masterpieces from days gone by that remain breathtaking. That all of Xenoblade Chronicles' amazing locales and MMO-styled combat appear on New 3DS intact is one of those things that convince me wizards and sorceresses work at Nintendo rather than just developers. Granted, Xenoblade Chronicles was never Wii's prettiest game as graphics go, but it was the art direction and level design that made it visually stunning anyway. Whether it's stepping into Guar Plains, the mines beneath Colony 6, or inside Mechonis for the first time, New 3DS manages the vastness of these multi-tiered zones like a champ. And Majora's Mask 3D is a master class in how you approach remasters or remakes. Eiji Aonuma, his team, and the folks at Grezzo didn't reinvent the wheel or chop a well-known game up into episodic bits to rush it out the door -- they simply kept what went right with Majora's Mask and addressed what went wrong. The eyesore of a clock was changed to a timer that gave players a better idea of where they stood in their current objectives. A quest journal was added so you could track the various needs of the citizens of Termina. And, most importantly, the game pointed out and taught the player the backwards Song of Time sooner so they knew the three day time limit was never as oppressive as a misinformed internet said it was sixteen years ago. That, updated graphics, and second analog stick support, too. Some people (SQUARE ENIX) could stand to learn from from this game. Or just look back at how they did things before their slipshod mobile ports. I give these two games five weird but fantastically functional New 3DS analog nipples out of five. (PS Vita, PS3, PS4) Have you ever wanted to live out your Wile E. Coyote Rube Goldberg Machine fantasies, but with a demonic BDSM twist? No? Just me? Well, Deception IV: The Nightmare Princess is the updated version of the strategic puzzler Deception IV: Blood Ties, and it scratches that itch perfectly.  Velguirie is the star of this version. Unlike Laegrinna's Blood Ties campaign, Velguire has the ability to kick and stomp her enemies, letting her set them up for more punishing trap combos. Her campaign is also comprised of what are more bite-sized quests than the full chapters you experience as Laegrinna. I prefer this structure to Blood Ties' chaptered levels since you can hop in, hop out, and feel like you got something done.  TNP also sports a better tutorial, loads of unlockable traps, enemy costumes, and Deception Studio, which lets players craft and customize their own quest scenarios to share with others on PSN, allowing for even higher replay value. You can't construct your own levels, but the beauty of the game is it encourages you to think about level design and physics more critically than something like Super Mario Maker. I went from using very basic line combos at the start to spacing traps out to include stage traps and have traps like boulders and wall nudging to play off the stairs in a level to get the most out of the boulder I dropped on some fool. Because it's one thing to crush someone once with the boulder, but far more satisfying when it rolls back up and back down the stairs, crushing them two more times before you hit them with two swinging axes so they fall onto the bidet that launches and locks them into a pillory so they can get hit by a train. Tom and Jerry ain't got nothin' on me, I give Deception IV: The Nightmare Princess five flaming boulders running over five Knights stripped down to their skivvies and then I drop a column on them. (3DS/New 3DS) How do I gun? Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate still isn't quite sure even with access to a second analog stick, four shoulder buttons and three targeting systems on New 3DS, but the game is pretty great otherwise and far more palatable than its predecessors. It's really that this entry has better pacing, a more vibrant world, and entertaining characters. Past games just threw you at MonHun's world with minimal instruction and expected you to figure out its obtuse ways mostly on your own. That isn't fun without friends, especially when you play solo a lot and also when ranged weapons operate as gracefully as a crane at a construction site. MH4U not only informs the player better, but manages to entertain with its characters as they help you acclimate to gathering resources, crafting, tracking monsters, and using the various weapons at your disposal. Plus, to make things more fun for those flying solo, you are given the ability to take up to two Feyline buddies with you. They can help hunt, gather, buff, and heal you, too! They are useful cats. But really, I just do all this hunting in hopes the lovely Guildmarm will notice me. She's so dorky and cute. It's like she's Bayonetta's clumsy bookworm of a sister. The world is still as fierce as it was in the previous games and bursting with content, but it's nice they didn't just throw you to the wolves this time. I award Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate four and a half Unique Mushrooms and the hides of several Kecha Wechas. And some Malachite ore. Also some jumbo monster bones. And that's that.
GOTY list photo
What I play when I'm inside your COMP
Okay, it's high time I do one of these GOTY listicle things so I can move on with 2016 and go back to playing old stuff. Given I'm primarily a handheld player, I spend much of my time playing a decent mix of old and new games...

GOTY 2015 photo
GOTY 2015

Games CJ would have played in 2015 if he weren't so goddamn lazy


I'll totally get to these in 2016
Jan 09
// CJ Andriessen
2015 was a very weird year for me. Back in January I was just another blogger trying to be funny by making light of the industry we so love. When Jonathan Holmes first asked me to join the main page, I told him no saying that...

Strider's appropriately exciting picks for Game of the Year 2015

Jan 08 // StriderHoang
All in all, I own a Wii U, a New 3DS, an Xbox 360, and this year marks a better experience with Steam as well. There's also plenty of DLC to talk about, which invigorate certain older games which wouldn't normally appear on a GOTY 2015 list. Still, DLC is a big part of aspects of enjoyment for this year, with a lot of Nintendo games going through waves of increased relevance thanks to DLC. So without further ado, here's Strider's GOTY list for 2015, starting with my de facto game of the year... which leads us to a discussion of a tie... If you told me a year and a half ago that I'd be in love with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, I would've scoffed so hard in your face, I'd propel myself back to Huntington Beach to enjoy a funnel cake. But Monster Hunter 4U has turned out to have everything I could ever want from a long-term gaming experience. It has a wealth of options for how you approach the game, from ranged light bowguns, heavy bowguns, menacing great swords, swift dual blades and every manner of armor in between to supplement your play styles. MH4U is populated with challenging monster hunts, each with their own patterns and logic. Even the most random matchmaking puts you together with teammates who will work together with you to hunt some of the baddest monsters. And the design and mechanics of the combat system is somehow nostalgic in how stiff yet open ended it is. As someone with a background in fighting games, it's enjoyable to learn a combat system that is slow and deliberate but presents many opportunities to learn how to cancel these attack animations for maximum damage. Hundreds of hours in beast-styled Punch-Out!! with giant swords is tons of fun basically. Undertale just came out of nowhere. It's a weird indie title that calls back to SNES roots with quirky EarthBound genes deep in its DNA. But that by itself does not a GOTY make. But I can still recall the exact moment I knew I had to see this game through to the end. The game bills itself as the RPG where you don't have to kill anyone. I went down the lazy path and killed a major character, but felt bad when I spoiled myself on how to solve the encounter, especially after a certain character mocked me for killing them without even trying to spare them. I restarted my save and managed to save their life. I felt good about showing mercy to such a pivotal character. But that same character from before surprised me. They said they knew what I had done. They knew I had killed before and that I simply felt guilty and restarted the encounter to appeal to my own sense of justice. To me, Undertale isn't simply a game. Hell, I won't even stop at calling it a compelling narrative experience. To me, Undertale is self-contained digital life form. Like a pseudo-life sim game in the same vein as The Sims or Animal Crossing, but in a linear fashion. It's like a story to me, only instead of experiencing it from one fixed perspective, I can move all around the scene to explore the details and characters. Not only can I experience this compelling story filled with meta-story about how we play games and the choices we make in games, I can also be rewarded by the level of detailed filled into every object in the world, from the yellow flowers to the hot dogs a certain skeleton sells. Splatoon does something I respect a lot. It attempts to create an enjoyable experience for players in spite of the chances of not just losing, but losing badly. There's that one extenuating situation in games like Call of Duty where you get spawn camped and the other team's victory snowballs as they farm kills and points off you. Splatoon is only concerned with two things overall, which help alleviate the feeling of hopelessness: stylish fashion and inking turf. The core Splatoon is not killing people but marking your turf, usually in clothing that screams trendy teenagers. You don't even score kills but splats. The very identity of Splatoon is a refreshing change of pace. It's teenage rebelliousness to the established status quo while leaving its own unique mark on the world. Downwell proves that simplicity is often the best approach. Why have some complicated idea like guns and accuracy. You're falling down a well with gunboats. Only instead of being super tough boots, these gunboats are literally gun boots. I'm still amazed at how the game teaches you Mega Man style: the first red enemy is spikey, so you don't want to head stomp it. Everything else however, is free game. Then as you progress down the well, new concepts are thrown at you like spiked floors and underwater physics but the core score chasing mechanic remains: head stomps are big points, don't touch red things, and pace your shots for both crowd control and speed control. Like Darren Nakamura said, this game masterfully teaches you like Spelunky. It looks impossible at first but over time, you simply get better and better over repetition with a solid and fun game. Creation tools are a tricky thing. I easily get absorbed by satisfying tool sets but it comes at the cost of actually playing the game. Super Mario Maker however, makes it easy to not only easy to play a variety of other user created levels, but you quickly learn that there are a lot of great ideas out there for you to flexibly incorporate into your own created content. I learned in the wild world of Mario Maker that constructing buildings out of SMM's block sets can create uniquely satisfying levels. Or you may find surprisingly crafted levels with a little finagling of SMM's physics and how everything interacts with each other, from trail paths to conveyer belts dealing with koopas, chain chomps, and thwomps. SMM proves to me that there's always something new to learn and that's exciting. Ultimate Angler is one of my last great StreetPass experiences from when I worked at Disneyland. A steady flow of StreetPasses kept me intrigued on what the next mysterious thing I was going to fish up. Seeing an encyclopedic expanse of real fish was fun, like when I pulled up a humongous sunfish. But the real hook was how I was promised legendary creatures, each a king in their own respective aquatic kingdom. Everyday at work brought me a step closer to discovering the mysterious and monstrous giants. Each river king I fished up thanks to the help of hundreds of Disney guests I wondered, "How on Earth will they top this insane catch." And this feeling persisted right up until the final island, only available after clearing three islands and three more islands that are only accessible with help from foreign StreetPasses. After all that, I'm treated to one final island that promises the most mysterious of all river catches. I could've played Freedom Planet on Steam last year, especially after hearing Shade gush about after I gifted it to him. But I decided to wait for the Wii U port because ultimately, I am a console gamer. The game was pushed back for months because the engine is notoriously hard to port. But all that wait was worth it for a superior Genesis experience. One part Sonic, one part Gunstar Heroes, all wrapped up in challenging boss fights that demand the utmost twitch reactions and mechanical skill. Any game that demands I learn how attacks with invincibility frames work is a game made just for me. Add a dash of cheesy voice acting like it was right out of a '90s anime dub job and you have one masterfully executed game. Play Freedom Planet. If Shovel Knight is NES throwback excellence, then Freedom Planet is the pinnacle of Genesis achievement. Every year, I must find some way to celebrate PlatinumGames somehow. So far, I've taken the time to mention Bayonetta 2 and Metal Gear Rising Revengeance in my past GOTY lists. This year, it's going to be Transformers: Devastation. I won't claim to be a Transformers super fan. But I will acknowledge that Devastation looks like the tie-in game the cartoon deserved 20 years ago. But the way Platinum makes combat unique in each of its games is such a wonder. In Bayo, it's witch time. In Revengeace, it's zandatsu. In Transformers, it's how vehicle mode is naturally interwoven with Platinum's trademark character-action combat. Seamlessly moving from an onslaught of fists to a car slamming into a high speed donut is just ingenious. Moving away from making vehicle mode just a form of movement into making it second nature to how Cybertronians fight is such a smart move and makes great use of the tools Platinum has to work with in designing the game. Hearing the likes of Frank Welker as you dodge roll and pound away, steel against steel in sheer adrenaline fueled fisticuffs is the stuff dreams are made of. Binding of Isaac: Rebirth on 3DS is the purest roguelike experience to me. What you see and get is totally at the mercy of RNJesus. Will I get a homing laser this time or the ability to shoot bombs that explode into a death blossom of bullets? I literally will not know if I will get a good roll, a bad roll, or something else entirely. When it comes to making every experience new, different, and fun, Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is more than capable of providing a unique experience with its hundreds of unique items effects. And this experience can be felt in your home or while waiting in the doctor's office. Never did I ever expect to love an oppressing atmosphere. Binding of Isaac can get dark but at the same time, I'm collecting harmless children's objects as power ups. Darkest Dungeon makes you relish every successful action by constantly bombarding you with stressful crisis management and hopeless situations. Never have I enjoyed a dismayed voice tell me my victory can be trifling as I squeak by with a plague doctor babbling insane gibberish while my highway man is teetering on the edge of death with the slightest breeze doing him in permanently. I take pleasure in thinking I have an incredible party with a grave robber and occultist doing well only to discover things can fall apart quickly when the crusader is shoved to the back of the formation where he's useless and not tanking any big hits. Healing even just 3 HP feels like a big help when I take every advantage afforded to me with stuns and crowd controlling. You'll feel like the biggest badass when your vestal responds to the breaking point with intense resolve and bravery. Then you'll feel like a middle manager whose paycheck is getting sliced to ribbons when your tank refuses a heal because he's become hopeless and masochistic, much rather embracing the heat of pain to the intoxicating taste of victory. Even the smallest detail, like your man-at-arms becoming selfish, affects the morale of your entire party. Want your plague doctor to stun enemies? Not without your man-at-arms verbally abusing him for acting out of line.
ANIME IS REAL, RIGHT? photo
Filled with determination
It's that time of year again! Every year, I love composing my Game of the Year list. I put an extra special amount of effort into it because I always have, every year. I first started doing these in 2012, than I kept going in 2013, then 2014, and finally 2015 is upon us. I saved this special batch for after the New Year passed, and now the time has come for...

Myles Cox's dope picks for Game of the Year 2015

Jan 07 // Myles Cox
10: Nuclear Throne Huge props to Vlambeer for pulling out all the stops on Nuclear Throne. I don't necessarily have a lot of time to sink into huge games (unless it's a mainline Metal Gear title), and Vlambeer games have usually always been the staple of my Friday nights. It's exactly what I want out of a twin stick shooter, and it's even better that it feels vaguely like a cross between Hotline Miami and The Binding of Isaac, two games I hold very near and dear to my beating heart. There's something to be said about a game that not only looks and plays well, but a game that just straight up feels good. Nuclear Throne is addictive as hell and I could write paragraphs and paragraphs on the subtle things and incredible attention to detail that make the player-feedback loop feel so incredible.  9: Splatoon If you turn off motion controls in Splatoon, you're a baby and deserve to get splatted. Splatoon is one of the cutest and genuinely fun video games I've had the pleasure to play in a long while, and the pure sense of style this game constantly throws at your face is incredible. I had just as much fun playing around in the different online modes as I did offline, with the game's stellar single player campaign (which has one of the greatest songs to grace a Nintendo game). A small portion of my immense love for this game might be due to the Jet Set Radio-esque vibes I'm picking up throughout, which really just reminds me once again that we definitely need a new Jet Set Radio title. Don't you dare tell me otherwise or I'll cry. 8: The Beginner's Guide If you haven't touched this game or looked anything up about it, please close this webpage, point your web browser here and play The Beginner's Guide right this instant. Go ahead, I'll wait. There's not even much I can or should write about this game. A part of me almost didn't even want to give it a ranking among my top ten games of the year. I went in expecting a spiritual sequel to The Stanley Parable, and it left me with tears on my face and a slew of emotions I had to deal with lying down. As a content creator, one of the most important things is to show your work with other people and accrue feedback from others, as well as to strive to hit your own goals and show your own personality through your work. The Beginner's Guide plays heavily on the theme of exploring the process behind the creative process, and touches gently at human relationships as well as the effects one might not know they have on others. If you've ever lost a friend for a reason unbeknownst to you, I'm sure The Beginner's Guide will tug gently at your psyche until you're on the edge of your seat and then punch you square in the face, unraveling you like a ball of yarn. 7: Super Mario Maker Level design used to be something I loved to do in my spare time when I was younger, so much that I designed levels for a Portal mod years and years ago. Don't bother looking, you won't find it. Being able to try my hand at creating my own Mario levels had been a dream of mine for so long -- but be careful what you wish for. I just can't get over Super Mario Maker's ability to look innocent and cute, masquerading as a simple level editing tool, and ensnare you in its gaping maw of expert levels and Cosimano traps once you've shown literally any sign of weakness. It'll catch you off-guard and tear you apart, and I think the unpredictability of the Maker community really drives home the point that humans are fucked up and dangerous.  Super Mario Maker was single-handedly knocked down a few spots by the devastating torture level that Mike unleashed upon me in September. I will not forgive him. My heart goes out to Patrick Klepek for enduring the gauntlet of madness that is Dan Ryckert and his cruel Super Mario Maker creations. Pouring one out for you, buddy. 6: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes Pure. Adrenaline. This game makes me sweat and I love it. No other game to my knowledge nails the pure essence of tension and urgency quite like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. Think of the drowning song from the original Sonic The Hedgehog games, distilled and refined into a playable title about bombs and wires and yelling and absolute chaos. It fits very nicely into a small collection of games I keep around for parties, like SpaceTeam and Quiplash. I ended up playing this game a lot with my roommate, using an Oculus Rift and Skype from separate rooms to increase the immersion and difficulty factor. Don't get me wrong, it's stressful as all hell, but nothing beats the sigh of relief you get after clearing a bomb with eight modules in five minutes, all the while knowing exactly zero Morse code and not knowing who's on first. Keep Talking is an endlessly fun experience that's predictable yet fresh with every new bomb you take on, and it's a perfect way to wake up your neighbors on a Saturday night. 5: Bloodborne Bloodborne was, admittedly, completely out of my radar for a long period both before and after release. Only my best buddies Braden and Cameron were able to push me in the right direction, and after some drunken arguing and mumbling I created a character in the guise of beloved Twitter user @dril. I went into Bloodborne with much hesitancy, having previously failed to grasp Dark Souls and Dark Souls II. Muddling my way through the first few hours of the game did end up proving to be an increasingly enjoyable experience, but it all got kicked into twelfth gear once I got my bloody hands on the Kirkhammer. Hell, this section could just be me gushing about how I think the Kirkhammer is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying weapons in all of video games, right up there with the double-barreled shotgun in Doom II.  What started out as a joke playthrough quickly evolved into something far more engrossing. Absolutely everything I love about Bloodborne lies in the animation-prioritized combat, and boy do I like taking huge risks to accomplish most things (hence, the Kirkhammer). With fun weapons, a fantastic art direction, and seemingly bottomless depth, Bloodborne is a magnificent experience that I very much wish I could spend more time with in 2016. 4: Rocket League Now, I don't necessarily see much appeal in the prospect of eSports (or real sports, for that matter), but Rocket League certainly makes a strong and undeniable case to the contrary. Hooting and hollering usually doesn't occur too often within the House of Cox, but when it does, somebody probably just scored a sick goal from across the field with only seconds left to overtime. These are moments I cherish in the form of saved replays I can then use to stroke my own ego over and over again. Rocket League meshes extremely well with most of this list in the fact that it controls like a dream. There just hasn't been a game since Super Smash Bros. Melee that seems so accessible at first, and hides the inner complexity far underneath its tight controls, even though the depth is a bit more apparent in Rocket League. Even if you completely suck at the game, I guarantee there will be at least one moment where you felt like you pulled off something seemingly impossible, a sweet-as-hell move that pretty much nobody saw because screen peeking is a dick thing to do. It feels so good. 3: Downwell Continuing further down the list of games that control great and have tight gameplay loops, Downwell is, penny for penny and hour for hour, the best investment I've made in a game during the whole year. I do a ton of commuting via bus these days, and it's thanks to Downwell that I look forward to sitting with a bunch of strangers inside a large smelly rectangle. If I'm being quite honest here, even I'm surprised that this game is so high up on my list. But what can I say, some of the most joyful moments I've had in 2015 were the constant cravings to play just one more run, visit just one more shop, just one more gem high. In fact, I'm not even going to write any more, because Downwell is cheaper than a coffee and one of the best video games released in 2015. 2: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Goodness gracious, it finally happened. I was alive to experience the release of Metal Gear Solid V, as well as witness the apparent death of the series shortly afterwards. Like it or not, this is what we ended up with, and for the most part it exceeded my expectations built up over the years of waiting.  Yes, yes -- I know, you want to know what I thought of the story. I'm afraid... the series has definitely seen better. Since The Phantom Pain sits right smack dab in the middle of the transitional period between Big Boss' story and Solid Snake's story, we all knew how it was going to end, it was just a matter of subtlety and details, of exactly how the loop is closed up nice and tight. Even the Truth ending left much to be desired, and the entire existence of The Skulls was a complete pain in the ass. Now that I'm done talking shit about The Phantom Pain, I can tell you just how much I loved it. The game is absolutely huge in every way, and it's almost illegal just how much content, love, and care that was packed into it. Backed with the best gameplay of any Metal Gear title, the open world breathes so much life and diversity into the tactical espionage operations we've all come to know and love that I never wanted to stop Fultoning soldiers and resources to build my Mother Base all big and strong. The Phantom Pain has soured my taste for any other open world game at this point, since it actively encourages experimentation and clearing obstacles in drastically different ways. I'm not talking about picking between going in stealthy and rushing in loud and hot, I'm talking about experimenting with traditional Metal Gear guards in an open world context with Metal Gear toys you're familiar with. I think probably 20-30 hours of my playtime with V consisted of straight up fucking around in the world, trying to cause trouble in the stupidest ways possible. Even replaying missions is a joy with self-placed limitations (try a grenade-only run sometime, it's a blast). Despite the less-than-stellar story and questionable characterization of pretty much the only female in the game, the gameplay alone solidifies its slot as my second favorite game of 2015. 1: Undertale Toby Fox, if you're reading this, I wanna give you a kiss on the mouth. Undertale is without a doubt the most enjoyable and delightful experience I've had over the year. I don't know how you did it, man. Somehow you managed to surpass Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door in terms of writing, which is something that is incredibly hard for me to say with a straight face. It's filled to the brim with clever moments, amazing music, charming characters, tense boss battles, all tied together in a nice bow that's actively designed to make you smile, as well as question your own motives and play style. Here's a testament to how much I love Undertale: I have purchased this game nine times, as gifts for several different people who all ended up loving it. I named my cat after Undertale's player character. Replaying RPGs is not something I do very often. Undertale hooked me so deep that I ended up playing over and over to get every possible ending and see as much of the dialogue and world as possible. Did you know that reloading a save file five or six times right before one of the final encounters both establishes context and explanation for a certain character's powers, as well as grants you a key to a locked door in Snowdin? Did you know that during a genocide run, silly inventory abbreviations such as "ButtsPie" (Butterscotch Pie) turn into just "Pie"? That the final boss is foreshadowed in an optional secret room during a pacifist playthrough? What if I told you that saving the aforementioned Butterscotch Pie for a later fight will make the encounter drastically easier? Undertale is filled with so many subtleties and tiny details that are so specific and fleeting -- just when you think you can predict what's next, it throws something entirely different at you. I cannot write enough about how much I adore Undertale without either spoiling it or boring you all to death completely. It's a delightful game that managed to stick with me closer than any other game on this list, and I sincerely hope that you'll give the game a shot. [Undertale header art credit: palidoozy-art on reddit]
GOTY 2015 photo
It's a good one!
Another year, another dollar -- that's what they say, right? More importantly, who is this mystery entity giving you a dollar every year? What the hell am I supposed to do with this dollar, slide it into my piggy bank and sav...

Jed Whitaker's dank picks for Game of the Year 2015

Jan 06 // Jed Whitaker
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is probably my most-played game of 2015 on an "amount of days played" basis, even if it released in 2014. During the past year alone, the game has added two single-player adventures, Blackrock Mountain and League of Explorers, as well as a new expansion called The Grand Tournament, amounting to over 200 cards. The metagame has changed drastically, which kept Hearthstone feeling fresh all through 2015 and is why it deserves a spot as one of my games of the year. Well played. Her Story can arguably be boiled down to a search engine simulator mixed with FMV, but the narrative presented is so interesting and well acted that it is hard not to love. I purchased it one night during a sale and said to my boyfriend, "I've heard a lot of praise for this game. We should play it for a minute." Over three hours later, I was still playing, engrossed in the murder mystery presented on-screen via interrogation videos. Finding a new clip to watch and piecing together the mystery is exciting, even if on paper the plot almost seems like something you'd find in a Lifetime movie or soap opera. I can't stress enough what an amazing story it is and how addictive Her Story becomes once you get started. YouTube videos can't possibly do this one justice -- just buy it and see for yourself without spoiling anything. Westerado: Double Barreled is a rootin' tootin' heck of a great retro-styled western with a large dose of revenge. Each playthrough is randomly generated, but one thing stays the same: someone you love is brutally murdered, and you're out for the kind of revenge that only cold steel can provide. The style, the music, the writing, and the entire presentation are just fantastic, capturing the feel of old-timey spaghetti westerns better than any game I've ever played. That said, even if you aren't a western fan, you can still find enjoyment in the true-to-cowboy-dialect writing. Yeehaw! Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime was meant to be played with a friend or lover, and when doing so, it is damned amazing. You and your partner work together to control a colorful spacecraft searching through space for kidnapped animal buddies. Controlling the ship is done by moving your chosen character around to various stations that handle specific functions including steering, weapons, shields, and so on. It's hands down the best co-op experience of the year, and possibly the past few years. Lovers is a must-own if you've got a special someone in your life who just wants to spend time with you doing your favorite hobby. I know my boyfriend and I love it. [embed]330637:61722:0[/embed] Did you really think my list wouldn't have Splatoon? Nintendo's first shooter turned out to be the most original one in years and everything about the game is on point from the characters to the music, graphics, single-player, multiplayer, and even commercials. Splatoon launched with what seemed like a small amount of content on paper, but since then Nintendo has continually released new weapons, levels, clothing, modes, and Splatfests to make up for it, and all for the low, low price of free. I just hope the rumored Octoling campaign DLC comes true in 2016! Also, in case you missed it the first time, watch Squid Now 2 here to basically see me naked. I'm going to be honest here: I haven't even finished Yo-Kai Watch, but damn do I love it. Just look at this picture of me in my Jibanyan shirt with my Jibanyan piggy bank and try to tell me I don't love Yo-Kai Watch. What could be better than a game that combines Pokémon with cute and colorful ghosts who speak English? Not many games in 2015, that is for sure. The character designs alone make this one of my favorites of the year, and I'm sure I'll love it even more when I get around to finishing it. Speaking of games I love but haven't had the time to finish, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is one of them. Dare I say this is the 'gayest' Zelda game that has ever existed, and I love it all the more for it? So many of the characters are just flamboyant and utterly fabulous. Mix that in with a multiplayer version of that familiar Zelda flavor and you've got yourself a great game. Perhaps the online is sometimes laggy, and other players aren't always so good at communicating, but everyone has, at least, two friends to play with, right? I still laugh every time someone does the cheerleader emote, causing Link to pop up on my screen with pom poms. So cute, so fun, so colorful, and arguably so gay, Tri Force Heroes deserves a spot in your 3DS collection. Castle in the Darkness is the one of those games that flew under the radar for most people while being one hell of a game. If Castlevania and Cave Story had a love child, this would be it. For a game that costs $6, it is packed full of content. It took me around 16 hours just to 100 percent the campaign while unlocking two of the endings, and that is before I touched the other new game plus modes! While you're slaying hundreds of different enemies and giant bosses in this non-linear affair, you'll also be humming along to the best chiptune soundtrack I've heard in years and easily my favorite game soundtrack of 2015. Don't believe me? Then give it a listen. What is more impressive is the game was mostly developed (completely developed?) by one person, Matt Kap, and that includes the soundtrack. Even though it released in February, I've found myself thinking back to my time with Castle in the Darkness throughout 2015. It's easily my favorite single-player game of the year. Halo 5: Guardians is my second-most-played game of 2015 and my favorite multiplayer game of the year. Sure, its campaign is easily one of the worst in the series (what were they thinking having you fight the same boss so many times?), but what shines here is the online experience. 343 Industries took the base multiplayer we came to know and love from previous titles and plucked mechanics from other shooters to make the overall best multiplayer experience in the series. Aiming down sights, unlimited sprinting, clamoring up ledges, spartan charging, and ground pounding are all welcome additions. While there are microtransactions available, they only offer up cosmetics and consumables and are quickly unlockable without spending a dime, however tempting that might be. Because of their inclusion, 343 has promised that all future maps and modes will be provided free of charge. Thus far, it has kept its promise by adding multiple maps and modes since launch.  After putting over 72 hours into the multiplayer, I'm happy to report that this is easily one of the most balanced Halo games, and one that will keep me playing for many more hours to come.  That does it for my main games of the year list, but I'd like to toss out some honorable mentions: Niko: Through the Dream was the best first-person puzzle game I played in 2015. Undertale is the game I'm most likely to fall in love with if I ever play it after having bought it on release day. Rock Band 4 is my most regretful purchase of the year. The Jackbox Party Pack 2 is the best game to play with friends who can't stay off their damned phones. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is the most innovative and stressful game of the year.  Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist is the best walking simulator and free experience of the year. Downwell is the best mobile / cheap game that I love that I may or may not ever beat due to difficulty. Xbox One Elite controller is the best controller on the market (sorry not sorry Steam controller). It Follows is the best movie of the year and features a video game-esque soundtrack by Disasterpeace! [embed]330637:61722:0[/embed]
Jed's dankiest games 2015 photo
Bonus: See me nearly naked, again
I've heard a lot of people say 2015 was one of the best years they can remember, gaming-wise, but I can't say I agree. AAA titles last year were mostly more of the same, and most indie titles just didn't click with me. 2015 w...

Josh Tolentino's personal picks for Game of the Year 2015

Jan 05 // Josh Tolentino
The "Old Story, Good As New" Award Pillars of Eternity and Fate/Stay night: Unlimited Blade Works This award goes to games and anime that are in many ways old, but presented in a way that makes them seem new and fresh.  Obsidian's crowdfunded take on the long-quiescent style of the classic Infinity Engine RPGs reaffirmed that the old formula was not only still viable but pretty damn good, adding new ideas and contemporary touches that made its original setting of Aedyr feel as rich and fresh as Faerun did back in the Baldur's Gate days. Studio Ufotable managed a similar feat with its animated adaptation of Type-MOON's 2004 visual novel, and while neither anime nor the Fate property could be said to have been dormant, the twists, additions, and embellishments the renowned studio added to Kinoko Nasu's original tale put a new spin on a story most fans, myself included, had thought thoroughly explored. In fact, it's thanks to that stuff that this series feels like the definitive version of the scenario, deepening the core story of heroism with a bittersweet look at its costs. Runners-up: Wasteland 2: Director's Cut and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders   The "I'm Having A Great Time, But..." Award Fallout 4 and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders This award goes to games and anime that I had a blast with, but just couldn't enjoy without caveats, either in retrospect or recommendation. I've got more than a hundred hours logged with Fallout 4, which is kind of scary since I'm nowhere near finished. That's because I consider myself a big Fallout fan, and this is possibly the least Fallout-like Fallout game anyone's ever made (barring Brotherhood of Steel). The tension's never been higher between the way Fallout was as a series and the way Fallout is as a game made in the fashion Bethesda prefers. At the same time, Fallout 4 is some of the most fun I've had with any "Bethesda-style" game. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring, looting, shooting, and the way the studio's typical talent for environmental storytelling has lapsed into self-parody ("Oh, an artfully posed skeleton!"). I'm still not sure how happy I am with Fallout 4 as a representative of the series' future, but despite the changes, it's been as engaging as ever, if in a different way than before. Thankfully, though, the caveats associated with JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders can be blamed on the source material. The latest phase in David Production's take on the long-running series suffers from a meandering progression, an overlong broadcast run, and flat character arcs compared to the first two chapters, Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency. At the same time, it's packed with some of the most memorable moments in the entire saga (like a glorious twenty-second fight that takes ten full minutes), and still remains a joy to watch, start to finish.  Runners-up: Metal Gear Solid V and GATE The "Best-Yet-Least-Informative Opening" Award Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Death Parade This award goes to title whose (otherwise awesome) early bits practically misrepresent the rest of the (still awesome) experience. The opening hour or so of Metal Gear Solid V is pure Metal Gear as we had come to know it before 2015. Lots of cinematic flair and cryptic nonsense rooted in the depths of Hideo Kojima's mind. The game that followed felt almost nothing like that first blast of familiar insanity. It felt like Peace Walker, which some didn't see as a "real" Metal Gear. That is, until The Phantom Pain seemed to reveal itself as the game Kojima had always wanted to create, freed by technology to be closer than ever to that vision. It turns out he wanted to make the ultimate version of Peace Walker. That's pretty great, since Peace Walker, and now The Phantom Pain, are as much about the stories that players make for themselves as they are about the grizzled soldiers that star in the opening credits, a fact that's not lost on the main story as well. Madhouse's Death Parade also opens strong, but tricks the viewer twice at the outset. The first is in the killer opening sequence, which, despite being superbly animated, featuring a fun song by a bunch of guys who dress like the people you beat up in Yakuza games, barely has anything to do with the show itself, seeming to sell Death Parade as some kind of party anime. The first episode baits the audience more subtly, leading them to think they might be in for a season's worth of voyeuristic glee, watching the newly-dead get judged by a purgatorial bartender over pub games. Instead, what follows is far more thoughtful and even interesting, though definitely not what folks might have signed up for initially. Runners-up: Fallout 4 and Comical Psychosomatic Medicine The "Existential Crisis" Award Invisible, Inc. and One Punch Man This award goes to the rare game or show that does what it does so well that I end up questioning my ability to critique it, and by extension, critique anything at all. Games like Invisible, Inc. and shows like One Punch Man make me not want to do reviews sometimes, because the process of reviewing often means you're aware of things that you later can't ignore in the name of having fun. In some ways this award is the opposite of the one I passed to Fallout 4 and Stardust Crusaders above. In the case of Klei's turn-based heist game and Madhouse's animated take on the popular superhero satire, playing or watching in the critical state of mind leaves me with little to hold against either, causing me to question whether I've somehow missed something or if there's something I've done wrong, because nothing can feel this perfect to play and/or watch. I'm not saying they're flawless, but they do a damned good job of making it look that way, by mastering their narrow niche and seemingly leaving nothing to chance or apathy. Runners-up: The Witcher 3 and Blood Blockade Battlefront The "Actual Best of 2015" Award Undertale and Shirobako OK, hear me out: Yes, I practically just gave a different game and series perfect marks not two paragraphs ago, to the point of stating that I had so much fun playing/watching them that I didn't even feel comfortable exerting critical thinking in their presence. So why are my "actual" favorites these two? Well, the last two were fun, and practically bulletproof in my opinion, but neither made me more excited about games -- and anime -- this year than Undertale and Shirobako. Both took structures and genres I'd taken for granted as "comfortably moribund" and refreshed them in a way that made me feel better about both games and anime in general. Undertale was a delightful, iconoclastic send-up of the JRPG tradition, making hoary old conventions classed even by their fans as "comfort food" feel fresh and impactful again. Shirobako excelled by having more life and heart than most shows that get tagged with the "slice-of-life" descriptor, crafting genuine humanity out of the trials and triumphs of a small-time anime studio.    The "Oh God Why Am I Still Playing This" Special Award Destiny: The Taken King and Star Trek Online Because oh god why am I still playing these send help please Steins;Gate and Steins;Gate 
Game of the Year Lists photo
AKA The Anime Awards
As Chris Carter likes to say, every year is a good year for games if you look hard enough. That said, 2015 seemed particularly fecund, thanks to a particularly diverse selection of things I ended up liking quite a bit. From o...

GOTY 2015 photo
GOTY 2015

Mike Cosimano's personal picks for Game of the Year 2015


The People's Choice(es)
Jan 04
// Mike Cosimano
2015 was a divisive year -- tremendous in terms of media (TV like Master of None and The 100; movies like Spotlight and The Force Awakens; games like...well, keep reading) and a garbage year in terms of my life. Entertai...

Chris Carter's personal picks for Game of the Year 2015

Jan 03 // Chris Carter
Bloodborne What an amazing year for Souls fans. In addition to announcement of Dark Souls III coupled with a solid release date, we also got the fantastic Scholar of the First Sin, and of course, Bloodborne. Sony and From Software were absolutely genius with their timing of the latter. It was released earlier this year, leaving plenty of time to develop The Old Hunters DLC, just in time for our Game of the Year voting process. With a more twitchy action-based combat system in tow, Bloodborne felt significantly different from its predecessors, but was still a Souls game at heart. If the series is to truly end with Dark Souls III, it will end without one bad game under its belt. Yo-Kai Watch I've developed a full-on addiction to this franchise. I watch the TV show, I've acquired a few pieces of merchandise, and I love the first game. Yo-Kai Watch managed to make its way into my heart for one simple reason -- Level-5 put so much effort into this series that it truly shows. Whether it's the endearing references to the basically-but-not-technically Japan setting and hilarious cast, I'm usually smiling when I'm experiencing something Yo-Kai related. Heroes of the Storm When Blizzard first started talking about a "casual MOBA" years back, I never really took the prospect seriously. I was a devoted vanilla DOTA fan (and years later, League of Legends enthusiast), and the concept really didn't resonate with me. Until I played it, of course. The fact that the roster is made up of classic Warcraft, Diablo, and StarCraft heroes and villains is only the icing on the cake, because as a whole, the game works. I love that I can boot it up for just a bit, play a game that's only 15-20 minutes, and move on, instead of dedicating hours upon hours for it to truly get anywhere. The team-based XP system is brilliant as well. Fellow players are still able to keep up with everyone without getting left in the dust because they didn't last-hit every creep throughout a match. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Expectations were through the roof with Kojima's last project with Konami, but man did he and his team deliver. With open-world gameplay that absolutely smashes so many of its competitors, Phantom Pain was one of the most engaging games I've played in years. It also helped that it looked gorgeous, as every bullet, explosion, and setpiece was beautifully designed and orchestrated. While Metal Gear Online and the sum of its other, seedier microtransaction parts leave much to be desired, the campaign has earned a rightful place among the best work from Kojima's long, storied career. Ori and the Blind Forest I don't think I'll ever get tired of Metroidvanias, and Ori and the Blind Forest is a perfect example of why the formula still works. The platforming is spot-on, the environments are engaging and vivid, and the minimalist story is so well done that it hurts. Clocking in at 12 hours or less, there isn't any fat on Ori -- you need every bit of that game for the package to work. Shortly after completing it the first time, I went back and did another run. I can safely say that it will become part of my annual replay routine. Xenoblade Chronicles X Ah, Xenoblade. I still remember the very moment I knew how polarizing the game was going to be. I had cleared out an afternoon to do a story quest, only to find out that it needed a sidequest as a prerequisite. Having no idea how the flow of things operated, I thought it would be a mere diversion, and I would be able to power through the main questline. Oh how wrong I was, and six hours later, I still wasn't ready to continue the campaign. But you know what? That entire six-hour block was a joyous session. I found a heap of hidden areas, fought gigantic looming world bosses, unearthed a ton of useful loot, and just generally had a blast roaming around the sprawling maps. It's so easy to get lost in Xenoblade Chronicles X, and although it can be a bit too old-school for its own good, the journey is its own reward. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 I usually have one oddball pick every year, and this is it. It sounds like a cop-out to say recent Resident Evil games are better with friends, but damn it, they are. Even Resident Evil 6, despite its general garbage multi-campaign approach, had redeeming qualities with its "Mercenaries" component. My wife and I were hooked from start to finish, and the asymmetrical co-op characters really worked for us. The episodic format was a bit jarring, but ultimately fine, and I liked that some sections had multiple outcomes or endings, among the hundreds of other extras and goodies packed in. I must admit, though, most of my enjoyment is derived from the game's raid mode, which is probably my favorite incarnation of the game-type to date. I've spent more time playing it than practically any other game released this year.
GOTY 2015 photo
Another rad year
As I've said in the past, every year is a great year for gaming if you look hard enough. I see "this year sucked" so many times around the web and just can't relate, because while there may be disappointing releases on a cons...

Ben Davis's personal picks for Game of the Year 2015

Jan 02 // Ben Davis
10. Tembo the Badass Elephant Game Freak's unexpected new game was a little on the short side, but Tembo really drew me in with its vibrant, comics-like art style and cute (I mean, badass) main character. Plus, I'm a big fan of platformers, and the mechanics made this one such a joy to play. Tembo's impressive agility and wide variety of techniques provided me with non-stop action from start to finish. There was never a dull moment. I only wish it was a bit longer! 9. Yo-Kai Watch Between this and Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, there was a period of time when it was almost impossible to pull me away from the 3DS. Yo-Kai Watch was my favorite of the two, since it introduced me to a whole new cast of strange and interesting characters to meet and befriend. I also really enjoyed the battle system, which allows the player to take a more managerial role while the Yo-Kai do most of the real work automatically. I can't wait to get my hands on more of this series! 8. Sunless Sea Sunless Sea was a narrative delight. Some of the gameplay mechanics may have taken a bit of getting used to even though they make sense in context (namely the slow movement of the ship), but it's all worth it for the wonderful setting and narrative. Sailing across a vast, dark, underground ocean, learning about the various islands and their inhabitants along the way, and trying to cope with the unnerving Lovecraftian mysteries of the deep – all of it struck the perfect chord for me. The FTL-like prompts and decision-making helped to enhance the replayability and created some very intriguing stories full of horror, romance, paranoia, mutiny, and sometimes even cannibalism. 7. Grow Home This charming little title may have come from the much-maligned Ubisoft, but that didn't stop me from falling in love with it. I've always believed it's a good idea to support a company when it does something right, after all. While Grow Home is a relatively short game, my time with it was filled to the brim with smiles and fuzzy feelings. Controlling BUD and watching him wobble and stumble around awkwardly was a delight, and for such a small game, the scale of its world was actually rather impressive. 6. Titan SoulsTitan Souls was an exercise in simplicity, and I thoroughly enjoyed its unique approach to combat. You're armed with only one arrow against massive bosses that can kill you in one hit, but they can also be defeated with a single arrow strike – this premise led to some particularly intense boss fights, many of which required fast reflexes or puzzle-solving skills to figure out. Sometimes the battles took me dozens of attempts to succeed, other times they were over in the blink of an eye. I feel like this would make an excellent game for speedrunning. 5. DownwellDownwell is one of those thoroughly addictive “one more try” type of games. A single run can be over rather quickly, but you'll slowly start to develop skills and figure out the most effective techniques to make it farther and farther down this seemingly bottomless well. Eventually, I was combo jumping and shooting my way through the well and feeling like a pro. That growth in skill was so satisfying. I still haven't beaten the game yet, but I have no doubt that I can make it if I keep learning and trying hard enough! 4. Rocket LeagueI may not be particularly interested in sports or cars, but man, Rocket League is fun as hell! The idea of zooming around a soccer field in a rocket-powered vehicle while ramming into a gigantic ball that literally explodes inside the goal is simply awesome any way you look at it. The premise is so absurdly silly that I couldn't stop laughing with all the explosions and cars flying all over the place. There's also a degree of skill involved which can make for some very impressive-looking plays, but I haven't quite reached that level of mastery yet. 3. SplatoonI'm generally not a fan of shooters, unless they're quirky and lighthearted like Team Fortress 2 or Borderlands. Nintendo took the idea of a quirky, lighthearted shooter and turned it up to the max with Splatoon, and I couldn't be happier with it. I love that I can contribute to my team without focusing on killing the enemy, but rather covering as much ground as I can. I've never been a great shot, but it's impossible to miss when I'm aiming at the ground! Of course, it also helps that squids happen to be my favorite animal. I refuse to play with anything other than Kraken weapons, because the giant squid attacks are the best thing ever! 2. Bloodborne As a huge fan of Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, Bloodborne was obviously going to be a big deal for me. The faster-paced combat and lack of shields admittedly took a while for me to get comfortable with, but once I figured everything out it was incredibly satisfying! I've always taken the more careful approach to fighting in earlier Souls games, so getting all up in my enemies' business in Bloodborne made the whole thing feel fresh and exciting. I'm eternally grateful this series exists in today's gaming landscape. Game of the Year: Undertale Undertale pretty much came out of nowhere for me. I played it before all the hype, which was maybe a good thing. Having known nothing about it beforehand, I was surprised by just how engrossed I became with the characters, the humor, the gameplay, the music, the secrets, and just about everything else. In fact, I was originally planning to do less of a countdown GOTY post and more of an awards-type deal, until I realized Undertale would have won all of them. Best boss fight? Undertale. Best new character? Undertale. Best soundtrack? Undertale. Favorite moment? Undertale. I can honestly say that it's currently one of my favorite games of all time. Like, easily in my top ten. I never expected to play one of my top ten favorite games this year. So, you know, 2015 was all right by me! -- BONUS ROUND The “Why didn't I play this sooner?” Award: Deadly Premonition This award goes to games released prior to 2015 that I never played until this year. How did it take me so long to get into Deadly Premonition? Granted, I had to wait for the PS3 release, but still. This game was all kinds of weird and bad, in the best ways possible. The characters and the mysteries were all so strangely engaging, I just couldn't put it down until I'd finished the story. I really hope Swery65 keeps making games, because his style is fantastic! The “I'll get around to it someday” Award: Lara Croft GO I can't play all the games released every year, so there's always going to be at least one that I'm excited about yet never get around to actually playing. I'm a big fan of the Tomb Raider series, especially the first three games, so seeing this neat little title returning to the roots of the series gets me all pumped up! Sadly, it won't run on my current phone, so I'll have to wait until I can get an upgrade or until it releases on another platform. And hey, Hitman Go is coming to PlayStation soon, so maybe there's a chance!  Most anticipated game of 2016: Persona 5 This has been my most anticipated game for the past three years. Persona 3 and 4 are some of my all-time favorites, so I cannot wait to get my hands on Persona 5! I've been trying really hard to avoid any and all coverage of the game, because I'd like to go in completely blind. The only thing I've seen so far is the initial teaser trailer, which told me literally nothing except that Persona 5 is a thing that is happening. And that's really all I needed to know!
GOTY photo
Huzzah!
2015 was a tremendous year for me. I've now been an official contributor at Destructoid for just about a full year, since I started last January. I may not have had the time to write as much as I would have liked, but I had a...

Darren Nakamura's personal picks for Game of the Year 2015

Jan 01 // Darren Nakamura
10. Lara Croft GO This was a great year for mobile gaming (Steven Universe: Attack the Light! just missed my top ten). Lara Croft GO is a perfect example of mobile done right. It can be tempting to use a property like Tomb Raider/Lara Croft and try to shoehorn it onto a touchscreen with virtual buttons or tilt controls, but GO takes a more elegant route. It slows the action down to a turn-based puzzle, which uses gesture control for Lara's actions. Despite the change of pace, it still feels very much like a Lara Croft game with its focus on tombs and the potential for raiding. Simply put, Lara Croft GO was built with both the franchise fundamentals and the mobile platform in mind, and it shows. 9. Affordable Space Adventures Speaking of taking the platform into account in design, Affordable Space Adventures is just about the best non-first party title to show what the Wii U is capable of doing. Heck, developer KnapNok Games might even have the edge on Nintendo in that regard. When the Wii U was first unveiled, I imagined games like Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, but until this there hasn't been much that truly necessitated the Wii U GamePad. It works especially well with a partner, where one takes on the role of the pilot and the other plays engineer. Solving puzzles in tandem requires communication and coordination, and it gives an almost Star Trek-esque glimpse of working as a team on a spaceship bridge. 8. Undertale At this point, Undertale is a cultural phenomenon. It won GameFAQs' "Best. Game. Ever." competition. It spawned several of our favorite new characters. Our own Ben Davis gave it a coveted 10/10 in his review. Many have compared it to EarthBound, one of my favorite games of all time. With all of the hype going in, I had lofty expectations. It did not disappoint. The world is imaginative and so many of its denizens are worthy of stardom in their own games. On top of that, it's refreshing to play something that emphasizes conflict resolution through nonviolence, in what often feels like a sea of games focused only on killing. 7. Pokémon Shuffle I just checked my 3DS to see how much time I've spent on Pokémon Shuffle on 3DS. I have 151 hours in it. That's one for each of the generation one Pokémon. I probably have more than 50 hours on Mobile. And the total amount of money I've spent on it? A whopping zero dollars. This might be the most contentious item on my list. Chris Carter rated Shuffle at 3.5/10, but I can't deny how much of my downtime I enjoyed matching little Pokémon heads together this year. And I didn't even get into it until months after release. Sure, it can get a little shady with its microtransactions, but to me, figuring out how to succeed without paying money is like a metagame on top of the main game. 6. The Talos Principle The Talos Principle released at one of the worst times in terms of game of the year considerations. Out in December of 2014, it missed the cutoff for many; it came too late in the year to compare it to other games from 2014, but long forgotten by the time to compare it to games from 2015. I won't forget it though. Talos was written in part by Tom Jubert, who also wrote the masterpiece The Swapper. It dialogues deep philosophical ideas with the player, while Croteam's puzzle design is taxing for a different part of the brain. For a game made by the same people who worked on Serious Sam, it was a total surprise that The Talos Principle is so intellectual on so many levels. 5. Alphabear We might have given Downwell our Best Mobile Game award, but to me, it would be more appropriate to award it with "Best PC Game That is Also on Mobile." Best Mobile Game, though? That's Alphabear, all the way. On its surface, it seems like a simple word puzzle game, but after only a few plays, its depth is revealed. It combines the usual work with vocabulary and anagrams, but adds in strategic elements in the letter countdowns and spatial considerations. It introduces interesting risk/reward decisions; sometimes the biggest word is not the best play. From a pure design standpoint, Alphabear is one of the smartest games of the year. 4. Downwell So I don't think Downwell is the best mobile game of 2015, but damn, it is a great game on PC. It is gaming in its purest form. It could have existed on the NES, and it would have been just as great. At first I didn't think I would be able to beat it, but like its inspiration Spelunky, I got noticeably better as time went on. These days I'm working on Hard Mode. I know I can do it. Downwell occupied a space in my Steam library where I would play it when I couldn't decide what else to start up. Maybe I didn't have two hours to devote to something meatier, so I'd commit to fifteen minutes going down a well. But then I'd do it again. And again. And oh look, I just spent two hours playing video games anyway. 3. Pandemic Legacy I was really looking forward to Rob Daviau's SeaFall this year, but alas it was pushed back to 2016. In its place was the collaboration between Daviau and Matt Leacock, adding legacy content to the ubiquitous cooperative board game Pandemic. The result, Pandemic Legacy, is amazing. The idea behind legacy board games is that the board changes depending on events that happen during play. Your decisions affect not only the current game, but potentially all future games on that board. Stickers go down. Cards get torn up. Events are permanent. There's no turning back. Pandemic Legacy takes the formula down a more linear path than Risk Legacy did, but it's still the essential board game experience of 2015. 2. Rocket League Perhaps the biggest surprise of this year was Rocket League. I never played Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars, so if you had told me a racing/sports hybrid would be one of my favorite games of the year, I would have thought you were crazy. One of the amazing things about Rocket League is how it feels more like a sport than most sports video games do. By putting players in control of just one car on the field, requiring keen battlefield awareness and teamwork, and injecting the potential for high-skilled acrobatics, it emulates the experience of playing soccer, where FIFA instead emulates the experience of coaching soccer. And what do you know, playing is much more fun than coaching. 1. Tales from the Borderlands Borderlands might be my favorite current IP. I played through Borderlands 2 a couple dozen times on two platforms. The gameplay is a huge part of that, but the world Gearbox built has also drawn me in with its dark humor and sci-fi lore. Taking that framework and building a narrative-focused experience from it was a tall order. Telltale took that opportunity and knocked it out of the park. With great comedy writing, Tales from the Borderlands has fantastic joke density, putting the main series games to shame in that regard. But then there's also drama and adventure, and outrageously badass moments. Following the stories of Rhys and Fiona through to the end makes me want more of that, but it also gets me hyped for the next "main" Borderlands game, because Telltale made its mark on the series. The world will be a different place because of what happens in Tales, and that's one of the coolest things for a fan of the series. My hope for Borderlands 3 is that Gearbox takes on some of Telltale's writers at least as consultants, because Telltale beat Gearbox at its own game. Odds and Ends The "Living in the Past Multiplayer" Award: Tie between The Last of Us and Destiny I played a lot of new games for review and for general pleasure this year (over 50!), but I spent a whole lot of my time with these two games. The Last of Us has incredible multiplayer, slowing down the action from typical shooters, focusing more on tactical play, teamwork, and stealth. Even a couple years after release, it still has a decently-sized community to play with. On the other end of the spectrum is Destiny, whose multiplayer is based almost entirely on twitch skill (with the rest coming from dropped gear). I didn't get into it until after The Taken King released this year, but I found myself enjoying it quite a bit more than I expected to. I'm reluctant to call it good since there's so much about it that's bad, but I find it comforting to sit back, turn my brain off for an hour or two, and just pop some alien heads for a bit. The "Always in the Back of my Mind" Award: Ultimate Angler Earlier this year, Nintendo released two new StreetPass games for 3DS: Ultimate Angler and Battleground Z. The two mirror the dynamic introduced with Flower Town and Mii Force before them: the former is quiet and unassuming while the latter is action-packed and more like a traditional video game. And then after playing for months, eagerly popping the 3DS open every so often, which one persists? Slow and steady wins the race, bub. Ultimate Angler has kept me going on it for months, slowly plodding away, catching legendary creatures like Nessie or a Dragon (along with the more mundane sea bass and trouts). It's always there in my pocket, waiting for that lovely green light to show up.
GOTY 2015 photo
The definitive list
As a site, we awarded our games of the year last month as a whole unit. Those are official; we came to them through a democratic process taking votes from managers, editors, and contributors. Sometimes democracy gets stuff wr...

Joe Parlock's personal picks for Game of the Year 2015

Jan 01 // Joe Parlock
Honorable Mentions Here are the games I really liked this year, but weren’t in my top five for various reasons. Some I forgot about after playing, some had huge glaring problems, and some just got pushed down by games I liked more. Bloodborne: I’ve said it numerous times, but my least favourite game of all time is Dark Souls. So it’s hugely impressive that I do massively enjoy Bloodborne. It simplifies the Souls formula with less esoteric stats, snappier combat, and more easily readable level design. Plus the setting of Yharnam is just swell. Creepy, sure, but also swell. The big problem I had with Bloodborne was its pacing and multiple seemingly arbitrary difficulty spikes. Often I would go hours with few problems, only to spend the next dozen throwing myself at a brick wall. Cities: Skylines: Easily the best city-sim I’ve ever played. Skylines had the pure fun of designing an efficient city, and the in-depth simulation to keep things interesting once the city was all set up. I found the interface a bit wonky at times, and could’ve done without the faux-twitter yelling at me whenever I accidentally flooded a district, but I had a bloody good time with Cities. The Beginner’s Guide: A fantastic look at the creative process and the moral problems that can arise from it. A few of the riskier storytelling elements didn’t quite land for me, but it still gave me a lot to think about in the months after playing it. That was going to be #5 on my list, but then I remembered another game and it, unfortunately, got pushed down. Grow Home: Grow Home showed that big-name publishers like Ubisoft still have hints of creative brilliance deep inside somewhere. While it is yet another Ubisoft game about climbing a structure to unlock more areas, Grow Home did it in an utterly charming, colourful and low-poly style that made exploration a treat. Dying Light: As a spiritual successor to the pretty alright Dead Island, Dying Light improved on it in almost every way. Fantastic combat combined with some of the best parkour I’ve seen since Mirror’s Edge in the dense and detailed city of Harran kept me playing for way longer than it really should have. While the main story is generic Soldier-saves-the-world guff, the side-missions were far more memorable. The Top Five #5: Undertale Undertale was by far the best game I didn’t like playing this year. Gently tucked away inside some genuinely hilarious dialogue is an incredibly self-aware and emotionally engaging story fit to burst with lovable and memorable characters. Exploring the underground, hearing Toby Fox’s excellent soundtrack, Undertale is just bloody lovely. The only problem is I wasn’t entirely sold on the core gameplay. I’m not a fan of JRPGs in general, and while Undertale played with JRPG conventions in really cool ways at times, once you got past all the meta elements it was still ultimately a JRPG with turn-based combat and random encounters. I love Undertale as a cultural phenomenon, with its fanart and fabulous soundtrack remixes… but playing it really felt like a chore at times. #4: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate It’s an absolute miracle that Syndicate was even remotely good. After the trainwreck that was last year’s Unity, I – a massive fan of the series ever since the first game – had become convinced that Assassin’s Creed was on the decline. And Syndicate waltzes in and makes me fall in love with probably my favourite series of games all over again. The buginess and unbalanced combat of Unity was a thing of the past. Instead, we were treated to a fantastically recreated Victorian London that was fun to run and swing around in, and plenty of engaging side-missions to discover to work through. Syndicate isn’t only my fourth favourite game of this year, it’s also now my favourite of the entire series. Let’s hope Ubisoft can keep this momentum going for next year’s inevitable edition. #3: Crypt of the Necrodancer I very nearly forgot about rhythmic roguelike Crypt of the Necrodancer. I first played it when it released in early access last year, and would’ve gladly put it on my top games of 2014 had it not been in early access. After it finally got its full release earlier this year, and I can safely say it’s one of the best roguelikes that has ever been made. Necrodancer manages to have almost all of the standard genre trappings that are so appealing: permadeath, procedural generation, an entire bestiary of enemies and unending torrents of loot. On top of that, it managed to also ram in a pretty damn solid rhythm game too. DannyB’s stellar soundtrack works perfectly with interesting enemy patterns that make each encounter a fast-paced ballroom dance of a puzzle that kept me hooked in a way not even the likes of The Binding of Isaac have managed to. To me, Crypt of the Necrodancer is the perfect roguelike. Every other one I play now is compared to it, and most of them fall far short of being anywhere near as good. Oh, and the Deep Blues boss music has been stuck in my head all goddamn year. #2: Life is Strange With the episodes lasting from January to October, Life is Strange took up almost my entire year. During those ten months, no other game occupied my thoughts or conversations with friends quite like it did. There were times when I was incredibly worried it would collapse under the weight of its sometimes darker subject matter. Dealing with topics like suicide, teen pregnancy and sexual assault in a game is difficult at the best of times, but in an episodic series where those narrative threads are left dangling for months at a time, there was always the risk of them really going wrong with it. Fortunately, each time I doubted they could pull it off, developer Dontnod managed to come straight back with a respectful, engaging and memorable story with multi-dimensional and sympathetic characters. I cared deeply about Arcadia Bay and all of the people who live in it, and by the time the final episode came around I was genuinely sad to see the series come to an end. None of this is even mentioning how well done the sci-fi elements, and the often incredibly designed time-travel focused puzzles resulting from it, are. They’re never layered on too thickly or too blatantly, making the whole thing feel like what would happen if The Twilight Zone happened in 2013. Life is Strange wasn’t without its flaws, though. I feel that the series as a whole had a habit of introducing plot points to shock the player, only to drop them a little later and carry on like nothing happened. One of the most interesting and challenging decisions I’ve had to make in a game ever seemingly had no consequence further down the line, which was a huge shame. What I’m trying to say in a roundabout and somewhat pretentious way is that Life is Strange is hella rad, especially when you play it on a tasty plasma. #1: Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture I’ve never been massively into “walking simulators.” Not due to any dislike of the genre, and I certainly don’t believe they’re “not games,” I’d just never found one that I enjoyed. I think I’m too young to really appreciate the '90s nostalgia of Gone Home, and Dear Esther was slightly too poetic for me to keep track of, but Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was easily the most memorable experience I’ve had with a game this year. Developed by The Chinese Room of Dear Esther and Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs fame, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture takes place in the quiet, fictional Shropshire village of Yaughton after the world has come to an end. As nobody is left, the story is told through echoes of conversations the villagers had while they came to terms with the rapture. What struck me about Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is that it took what I liked about Life is Strange and went in a very different direction with it. Both games are sci-fi stories lightly draped over very personal drama, and neither of them avoids dealing with darker themes. Over the course of Rapture’s multiple interconnected stories, the topics of religion, euthanasia, infidelity, disability, criminal justice and more all come into play at different times.  The difference between the two is that while Life is Strange used its hard-hitting topics to up the ante at the end of each episode, Rapture takes a more introspective approach, dealing with them in a calm, quiet and very hands-off way. . Both games do what they do incredibly well, but I appreciated Rapture’s approach to it just that little bit more. The Chinese Room managed to nail the non-linear storytelling of Rapture, effortlessly juggling and weaving together its multiple narratives in a way that was easy for me to follow, while also not giving away major plot details too quickly Plot aside, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was just lovely to take in. It’s beautiful both from an art direction and a technical standpoint, with its rolling fields, fascinating world design, and excellent lighting effects. In a year where we’ve had technical powerhouses like The Witcher 3 and Metal Gear Solid V, the fact that Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is still the prettiest game I’ve played this year is a big deal. The true star of the show, however, is Jessica Curry’s amazing soundtrack. I don’t usually remember the soundtrack of a game by what’s happening while it was playing, but every time I listen to The Pattern Calls Out I vividly remember the planes flying overhead, and with Carry Me Back to Her Arms I remember the sun rising over the fields. It sends shivers down my spine every time. It’s so good I even bought the limited vinyl run they did, and I don’t have a record player to listen to it on! Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is my personal game of the year by quite a wide margin. Other people had complaints about it being a very slow and plodding game, but the atmosphere, the setting and the story all came together to make it a game I loved from start to finish. It’s not for everyone, but I’m super glad it was for me. Thanks, The Chinese Room. -- Thank you very much for helping make 2015 one of my best years ever, Destructoid! Here’s hoping 2016 is just as good and full of just as many awesome games! Honorable Mentions Here are the games I really liked this year, but weren’t in my top five for various reasons. Some I forgot about after playing, some had huge glaring problems, and some just got pushed down by games I liked more. Bloodborne: I’ve said it numerous times, but my least favourite game of all time is Dark Souls. So it’s hugely impressive that I do massively enjoy Bloodborne. It simplifies theSouls formula with less esoteric stats, snappier combat, and more easily readable level design. Plus the setting of Yharnam is just swell. Creepy, sure, but also swell. The big problem I had with Bloodborne was its pacing and multiple seemingly arbitrary difficulty spikes. Often I would go hours with few problems, only to spend the next dozen throwing myself at a brick wall. Cities: Skylines: Easily the best city-sim I’ve ever played. Skylines had the pure fun of designing an efficient city, and the in-depth simulation to keep things interesting once the city was all set up. I found the interface a bit wonky at times, and could’ve done without the faux-twitter yelling at me whenever I accidentally flooded a district, but I had a bloody good time with Cities. The Beginner’s Guide: A fantastic look at the creative process and the moral problems that can arise from it. A few of the riskier storytelling elements didn’t quite land for me, but it still gave me a lot to think about in the months after playing it. That was going to be #5 in my list, but then I remembered another game and it, unfortunately, got pushed down. Grow Home: Grow Home showed that big-name publishers like Ubisoft still have hints of creative brilliance deep inside somewhere. While it is yet another Ubisoft game about climbing a structure to unlock more areas, Grow Home did it in an utterly charming, colourful and low-poly style that made exploration a treat. Dying Light: As a spiritual successor to the pretty alright Dead Island, Dying Lightimproved on it in almost every way. Fantastic combat combined with some of the best parkour I’ve seen since Mirror’s Edge in the dense and detailed city of Harran kept me playing for way longer than it really should have. While the main story is generic Soldier-saves-the-world guff, the side-missions were far more memorable. The Top Five #5: Undertale Undertale was by far the best game I didn’t like playing this year. Gently tucked away inside some genuinely hilarious dialogue is an incredibly self-aware and emotionally engaging story fit to burst with loveable and memorable characters. Exploring the underground, hearing Toby Fox’s excellent soundtrack, Undertale is just bloody lovely. The only problem is I wasn’t entirely sold on the core gameplay. I’m not a fan of JRPGs in general, and while Undertale played with JRPG conventions in really cool ways at times, once you got past all the meta elements it was still ultimately a JRPG with turn-based combat and random encounters. I love Undertale as a cultural phenomenon, with its fanart and fabulous soundtrack remixes… but playing it really felt like a chore at times. #4: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate It’s an absolute miracle that Syndicate was even remotely good. After the trainwreck that was last year’s Unity, I – a massive fan of the series ever since the first game – had become convinced that Assassin’s Creed was on the decline. And Syndicate waltzes in and makes me fall in love with probably my favourite series of games all over again. The buginess and unbalanced combat of Unity was a thing of the past. Instead, we were treated to a fantastically recreated Victorian London that was fun to run and swing around in, and plenty of engaging side-missions to discover to work through. Syndicate isn’t only my fourth favourite game of this year, it’s also now my favourite of the entire series. Let’s hope Ubisoft can keep this momentum going for next year’s inevitable edition. #3: Crypt of the Necrodancer I very nearly forgot about rhythmic roguelike Crypt of the Necrodancer. I first played it when it released in early access last year, and would’ve gladly put it on my top games of 2014 had it not been in early access. After it finally got its full release earlier this year, and I can safely say it’s one of the best roguelikes that has ever been made. Necrodancer manages to have almost all of the standard genre trappings that are so appealing: permadeath, procedural generation, an entire bestiary of enemies and unending torrents of loot. On top of that, it managed to also ram in a pretty damn solid rhythm game too. DannyB’s stellar soundtrack works perfectly with interesting enemy patterns that make each encounter a fast-paced ballroom dance of a puzzle that kept me hooked in a way not even the likes of The Binding of Isaac have managed to. To me, Crypt of the Necrodancer is the perfect roguelike. Every other one I play now is compared to it, and most of them fall far short of being anywhere near as good. Oh, and the Deep Blues boss music has been stuck in my head all goddamn year. #2: Life is Strange With the episodes lasting from January to October, Life is Strange took up almost my entire year. During those ten months, no other game occupied my thoughts or conversations with friends quite like it did. There were times when I was incredibly worried it would collapse under the weight of its sometimes darker subject matter. Dealing with topics like suicide, teen pregnancy and sexual assault in a game is difficult at the best of times, but in an episodic series where those narrative threads are left dangling for months at a time, there was always the risk of them really going wrong with it. Fortunately, each time I doubted they could pull it off, developer Dontnot managed to come straight back with a respectful, engaging and memorable story with multi-dimensional and sympathetic characters. I cared deeply about Arcadia Bay and all of the people who live in it, and by the time the final episode came around I was genuinely sad to see the series come to an end. None of this is even mentioning how well done the sci-fi elements, and the often incredibly designed time-travel focused puzzles resulting from it, are. They’re never layered on too thickly or too blatantly, making the whole thing feel like what would happen if The Twilight Zone happened in 2013. Life is Strange wasn’t without its flaws, though. I feel that the series as a whole had a habit of introducing plot points to shock the player, only to drop them a little later and carry on like nothing happened. One of the most interesting and challenging decisions I’ve had to make in a game ever seemingly had no consequence further down the line, which was a huge shame. What I’m trying to say in a roundabout and somewhat pretentious way is that Life is Strange is hella rad, especially when you play it on a tasty plasma. #1: Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture I’ve never been massively into “walking simulators”. Not due to any dislike of the genre, and I certainly don’t believe they’re “not games”, I’d just never found one that I enjoyed. I think I’m too young to really appreciate the 90s nostalgia of Gone Home, and Dear Estherwas slightly too poetic for me to keep track of, but Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was easily the most memorable experience I’ve had with a game this year. Developed by The Chinese Room of Dear Esther and Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs fame,Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture takes place in the quiet, fictional Shropshire village of Yaughton after the world has come to an end. As nobody is left, the story is told through echoes of conversations the villagers had while they came to terms with the rapture. What struck me about Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is that it took what I liked aboutLife is Strange and went in a very different direction with it. Both games are sci-fi stories lightly draped over very personal drama, and neither of them avoids dealing with darker themes. Over the course of Rapture’s multiple interconnected stories, the topics of religion, euthanasia, infidelity, disability, criminal justice and more all come into play at different times.  The difference between the two is that while Life is Strange used its hard-hitting topics to up the ante at the end of each episode, Rapture takes a more introspective approach, dealing with them in a calm, quiet and very hands-off way. . Both games do what they do incredibly well, but I appreciated Rapture’s approach to it just that little bit more. The Chinese Room managed to nail the non-linear storytelling of Rapture, effortlessly juggling and weaving together its multiple narratives in a way that was easy for me to follow, while also not giving away major plot details too quickly Plot aside, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was just lovely to take in. It’s beautiful both from an art direction and a technical standpoint, with its rolling fields, fascinating world design, and excellent lighting effects. In a year where we’ve had technical powerhouses likeThe Witcher 3 and Metal Gear Solid V, the fact that Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is still the prettiest game I’ve played this year is a big deal. The true star of the show, however, is Jessica Curry’s amazing soundtrack. I don’t usually remember the soundtrack of a game by what’s happening while it was playing, but every time I listen to The Pattern Calls Out I vividly remember the planes flying overhead, and whenever I listen to Carry Me Back to Her Arms I remember the sun rising over the fields. It sends shivers down my spine every time. It’s so good I even bought the limited Vinyl run they did, and I don’t have a record player to listen to it on! Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is my personal game of the year by quite a wide margin. Other people had complaints about it being a very slow and plodding game, but the atmosphere, the setting and the story all came together to make it a game I loved from start to finish. It’s not for everyone, but I’m super glad it was for me. Thanks, The Chinese Room. -- Thank you very much for helping make 2015 one of my best years ever, Destructoid! Here’s hoping 2016 is just as good and full of just as many awesome games!
Game of the Year photo
I can't get over how good 2015 was!
Bloody hell 2015 has been a fantastic year, hasn’t it? I started Destructoid in back April with this being my first regular position at a major video game site and my god has it been a good year to come into it. We&rsqu...

Destructoid's award for Overall Best Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 23 // Niero Desu
Speaking of cereal business: The accidental legacy of the cock-branded corn flakes goes back to the late 19th century, when a team of Seventh-day Adventists began to develop new food to adhere to the vegetarian diet recommended by the church. In 1894, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the superintendent of The Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan and an Adventist, used these recipes as part of a strict vegetarian regimen for his patients, which also included no alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine. The diet he imposed consisted entirely of bland foods. A follower of Sylvester Graham, the inventor of graham crackers and graham bread, Kellogg believed that spicy or sweet foods would "increase passions." Pictured: Mergo's Wet Nurse This idea for corn flakes began by accident when Kellogg and his younger brother, Will Keith Kellogg, left some cooked wheat to sit while they attended to some pressing matters at the sanitarium. When they returned, they found that the wheat had gone stale, but being on a strict budget, they decided to continue to process it by forcing it through rollers, hoping to obtain long sheets of the dough. To their surprise, what they found instead were flakes, which they toasted and served to the insane, who loved it.  In 1906, Will Keith Kellogg, who served as the business manager of the sanitarium, decided to try to mass-market the new food. At his new company, Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, Will added sugar to the flakes to make them more palatable to a mass audience, but this caused a rift between his brother and him. John thought the sugary version of corn flakes would get people laid. Heaven forbid: sex leads to babies, who are born bloody and can go on to produce murderous vicars and martyrs at sixty frames a second. Gross. Photo Credit: Blame Canada In 1907, his same company ran an ad campaign which offered a free box of cereal to any woman who winked at her grocer. To increase sales, in 1909, he added a special offer, the Funny Jungleland Moving Pictures Booklet. You probably had no idea how much the church, insane people, and masturbation have affected what many of you put into your mouths every morning. Luckily, moving pictures have evolved since. Congratulations, Miss Colombia, you're our game of the year. No seriously, she won. Fuck it, I own Destructoid, the Niero does what he wants. Duuude, have you seen that T-Shirt that has the old American food pyramid, but instead it says "I do what I want"? That's hilarious. Also, congratulations to Bloodborne and everyone at Sony and From Software. Sick game. [GOTY artwork design by Raul Cordoba. Miss Colombia photo credit: El Heraldo Colombia] Also, a huge thanks to the game's lead programmer, Jun Ito, who rarely gets his name mentioned by the Western press. I don't know anything about this person or the countless others that also contributed, but Ito-san is surely like many of hard-working developers in the industry who sacrificed countless nights of restful sleep. Taihen arigatou gozaimashita.
GOTY 2015 photo
Jun Ito
The downfall of Japanese game development has been greatly exaggerated. It sort of reminds me of what happened a century ago, when Dr. Kellogg introduced Kellogg's Corn Flakes in hopes that it would reduce masturbation. Kello...

Destructoid's award for Best Xbox Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 23 // Brett Makedonski
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as standalone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Before Nathan Drake, there was Lara Croft. This is important to note because recently, for a good number of years, Nathan Drake was Lara Croft. Shrewdly, developer Naughty Dog took the cinematic action baton and ran far,...

Best Mobile Game photo
Downwell
There were some great slow-paced, methodical games up for this award (Lara Croft GO, Alphabear), but Downwell proves twitch action can still work on phones. It achieves this through its dedication to simplicity. Three colors....

Destructoid's award for Best Vita Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 22 // Laura Kate Dale
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Persona 4: Dancing All Night
The PlayStation Vita has not had the strongest year for releases. With some of the system's biggest exclusives moving to PS4 and a drastic reduction in the number of new games being produced by first-party developers, many ha...

Destructoid's award for Best PC Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 22 // Steven Hansen
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Undertale
This quirky, JRPG-inspired lovefest has been the unexpected smash hit of 2015, resonating strongly with a legion of fans that helped propel it to victory in a large "Best. Game. Ever." poll against some of the indelible class...

Destructoid's award for Best Wii U Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 21 // Jordan Devore
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as standalone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Splatoon
Simply put, Splatoon delivered. Nintendo's inventive take on the shooter genre was the best in its field this year and so much more. It's a multiplayer experience that is both competitive and joyful, one where seasoned player...

Destructoid's award for Best 3DS Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 20 // Chris Carter
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
The 3DS had a rough launch, but over the course of a few years, it bounced back in a big way. At this point if you count digital releases, it's one of my favorite platforms of all time -- and I'm not just talking about the po...

Destructoid's award for Best PS4 Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 19 // Kyle MacGregor
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Bloodborne
Was there ever any doubt? Of all the distinguished and exemplary titles to grace the PlayStation 4 in 2015, few approach the wit and artistry of From Software and Hidetaka Miyazaki's Bloodborne. As the latest installment in w...

The best new IPs of 2015

Dec 18 // Laura Kate Dale
Undertale While Undertale's release this year was a complete surprise to most people who played it, a turn-based JRPG bullet hell game that remembers your actions, allows you to avoid murder, and has dateable skeletons is a pretty easy pitch to get people to check it out. The game has quickly amassed a rather large and dedicated fan following, and it's not hard to see why. The unusual blending of genre mechanics, the homages to EarthBound, the stellar writing, and the screenshotable nature of the cast was just prime for spreading like wild fire. Undertale may not be the longest game, and it's unlikely to ever get a direct sequel, but it has firmly cemented itself deep in the hearts of many a gamer this year. I laughed, I cried a bit, I screamed in frustration, and I walked away guilty. That's more of an emotional ride than can be said for most video games. Even if I now do feel my sins crawling on my back. Bloodborne While Bloodborne had a considerable head start on many of our best new IP contenders, as the spiritual sequel to the highly successful Dark Souls games, this particular IP did not take the easy design route. Taking Dark Souls' unforgiving combat style and pairing it with a rich new lore, additional mechanics that incentivized aggressive combat techniques, and a considerably upped gameplay pace, Bloodborne invites players to fight their way through a world that was memorable, challenging, and surprising on a regular basis. While there is a new Dark Souls on the way, Bloodborne is the franchise I'm more excited to see a sequel to. Splatoon Splatoon is the very embodiment of Nintendo looking at what other people were doing, and creating something fascinating by adding its own Nintendo Twist. The idea is simple: make a competitive online shooter where players' primary aim is not to shoot other characters, but to shoot non-sentient structures and surfaces. Online shooters are incredibly popular as a genre, but there's very little in the way of options for younger players to get into playing (you know, unless they play Call of Duty in spite being seven). It's an under-served market, and Nintendo seized it perfectly. Splatoon not only managed to capture attention with a unique art style and colour palette, its consistent long-term roll-out of new content has kept players engaged longer than many other comparable releases. Life is Strange Okay, I'll be the first to admit my beloved Life is Strange isn't perfect by any stretch. It's melodramatic, it's at times stilted in its writing, and it has some major issues with pacing. Still, the series is also one of the most memorable things I played this year, and it does things no other games are daring to do. Life is Strange managed to get a lot very right. It used time travel as a gameplay mechanic to get around not knowing the context of your choices in episodic narratives, allowing players to properly commit to choices they made. Pick a choice, watch it play out, rewind, check out another choice, decide which you want to commit to, and go ahead fully in favour of your actions. Life is Strange also managed to tackle some tough themes in a tasteful way, giving agency over real-life situations to powerful effect. Oh, and I really, really like Chloe. I played the entire game constantly trying to kiss her at every possible moment. Her Story Her Story is an ambitious game that tried something untested, and managed to pull it off. Set on a late-nineties British Police computer database, the game tells a nonlinear narrative through tagged, live-action video files. The concept was simple. Start with the word "murder," search the database for any relevant clips, investigate a woman's statements to police, and unravel a deeply bizarre crime. The performances of the game's leading lady were truly top notch, as was the narrative and the natural structure for unraveling plot threads. There was always something to look for more information on, and as additional clues became visible, the plot had numerous unexpected turns. Seriously, Her Story is really damn strong. SOMA SOMA is a terrifyingly grounded horror story about themes of desolation, humanity, sacrifice, and what it means to truly exist. Yep, those are heavy themes to tackle, but SOMA handles them admirably. Giving a wholly bleak view of humanity's future, it makes a strong case that everything we do is ultimately meaningless. Not a depressing thought at all. Besides the strong story, it also wowed with its presentation. From elaborate degrading structures to creature designs that twist expectations, I was constantly impressed with the cohesive structure of the game. Also, SOMA is just plain scary. Until Dawn Until Dawn is an interactive horror movie game, built from a collection of well-known genre tropes mashed together. Throw a bunch of kids in a spooky remote cabin with nightmare monsters, and see what happens. The genius of Until Dawn's design is that the tropes being drawn from are not consistent or predictable, making plot turns hard to see. Experienced horror genre fans will at times see what's coming and be able to make informed choices regarding what to do. Personally, I was a fan of deliberate murder. Let's see what we can do to kill everyone off as gruesomely as possible. I suppose you could try and keep people alive too, if you want.  I just hope we get new Until Dawn games in the future that are not on-rails VR shooters. Ori and the Blind Forest On a simple mechanical level, Ori and the Blind Forest is decent, but nothing special. It's a side-scrolling metroidvania that does everything solidly, but doesn't push much in the way of new ground. So, why is it on this list? Because it was god damn beautifully, visually and as a narrative. Picture those Rayman games from a little while back, but done to a much higher level and accompanied by a Ghibli-esque soundtrack. Ori and the Blind Forest is a technical masterpiece and I can't wait to see what the studio works on next. The Beginner's Guide The Beginner's Guide is a weird game, in that it caused a huge splash upon launch, with many reviewers hesitant to say anything at all about it. People were affected by it, not always positively, and it clearly had a strong impact on many players. A few months on, it's still unclear how genuine the narrative told is, or how much we can rely on the narrator of the experience. But if you have around and hour and a half and want to be floored by an unexpected narrative, you'll be hard pressed to do better than The Beginner's Guide. Just make sure to complete it within your Steam refund window, as there are legitimate reasons to want to return this game after purchase. [To clarify the above statement regarding refunds, while I view this game as a work of fiction, and recommend people play it as such, many players view the narrative as an accurate work of non fiction. If you fall into the camp that view this as non fiction, an aspect of the narrative implies that the content is stolen wholesale from another developer. While I paid for the game and believe doing so is a morally acceptable action, what I wish to make clear is that if players disagree with my reading of the narrative and feel I reccomended them an experience they didn't morally agree with, there is a financial way to back out of that purchase. This is not an encouragement to back out of payment due to length, but simply me pointing out that if you finish the game and believe the narrative to be non fiction, and if you believe that you purchased stolen goods, there is a way to avoid your money remaining with that developer in this very specific case. My initial vague comment was an attempt to avoid a major spoiler for the narrative, but has unfortunately left the reasons for my recommendations open to wider interpretation]  Dropsy In the lead up to launch, many people following Dropsy assumed that before its end, it would take some upsetting or dark horror twist. A point-and-click adventure, it is actually anything but a horror experience. It's a simple game about a socially isolated individual who wants nothing more than the simple joys of companionship. Beneath the initial appearance of Dropsy the clown is an individual whose primary interaction with the world is a hug button. Quests are told through pictorial desires. You bring people together, people see the good in you, and you hug. Dropsy is one of those games that's a beautiful palette cleanser. If you're feeling video game murderer fatigue, it's an experience poised to make you feel just a little better about the world. Gravity Ghost Gravity Ghost is a simple game mechanically. You play the ghost of a young girl, jumping among planets and stars to reunite animal bodies and spirits. It's relaxing. There are no punishments for failure, and the experience is almost mesmerically smooth and simple. It is a gorgeous, laid-back experience hiding a deep and relatable human story. The game deals with themes of growing up. It deals with taking responsibility for the consequences of your actions, processing loss, and the connection that remains to those we lose. Gravity Ghost's narrative is simple, elegant, and resonant in a way few games manage. Read Only Memories Read Only Memories is a charmingly written, wonderfully stylised, instantly memorable point-and click-adventure that released earlier this year. It tells a cyberpunk story of crime, politics, technology, and relationships that's super intriguing from start to finish. Oh, and it also happens to have a cast full to the brim with simply handled diversity. You've got gay characters, trans characters, a bunch of other different types of characters, and the fact they may be gay or transgender never becomes the forefront of who they are. They just happen to be those things without any fanfare, and it's wonderful to behold.
Best New IPs photo
Not every series is Assassin's Creed yet
Video games are increasingly expensive products to create. Every generation as graphics increase in quality, the sheer size of teams required to put together new amazing, fantastic worlds grows dramatically. With video games ...

The best new characters of 2015

Dec 17 // Darren Nakamura
Tales from the Borderlands: Gortys I didn't know it before, but Gortys was exactly what the Borderlands universe needed. Apart from its particular brand of humor, the series is known for its pessimistic world, where if the indigenous wildlife doesn't kill you, the local bandits will. Countless people live on Pandora and just about everybody hates it. Everybody except Gortys. Gortys's unrelenting enthusiasm is so out of place it highlights just how absurd this world is, after three previous games have numbed players to its oppression. Voice actor Ashley Johnson is perfect in the role, delivering Gortys's unbridled joy and naivete, along with some of the best lines out of the whole cast. My favorite line in the entire series is down a particular dialogue branch; I didn't even hear it the first time playing through. As Gortys is trying to convince a corpse to get moving, Fiona and Rhys explain that he's dead. Gortys gets a sad look on their face, then the protagonists elaborate that the dead man was very bad. Without missing a beat, she perks up, says "Oh, well then good riddance!" and scoots away. I almost fell out of my chair laughing. Undertale: Asgore The entire cast of Toby Fox’s runaway success Undertale could’ve made this list, as the entire game is full of interesting and memorable characters. From the skeleton brothers Papyrus and Sans and the awesome fish soldier Undyne, to Alphys the massive weeaboo, the list goes on and on with fantastic monsters to encounter and potentially befriend. However, I don’t think any of them are anywhere near as endearing, tragic, or adorable as King Asgore Dreemurr. Asgore both stole and broke my heart. Originally made out to be an unstoppable, terrifying force who will rip you limb from limb, over the course of the game the various citizens of the underground fill you in on how wonderful he is. He loves making cups of tea and tending to his garden, and each Christmas he’ll dress up as Santa and leave gifts for the monster children of Snowdin village. Not to mention one of his favourite jumpers is a knitted pink one with ‘Mr. Dad Guy’ written on it, and if that doesn’t make Asgore utter perfection, then I don’t know what does. Finding out how lovely King Fluffybuns is only served to destroy me at the conclusion of the game. I’ll avoid specifics because of them being major spoilers, but Asgore is a truly lovable but incredibly emotionally damaged man put into a horrible situation where anything he does will result in causing suffering to a lot of people. What he’s done is truly evil, and while he thinks his actions were necessary, it doesn’t make them any easier for him to come to terms with. I really, really love Asgore. He’s friendly, likable, and kind, yet he’s also one of the most conflicted and multi-dimensional characters in the whole game. Interacting with him and learning more about him as I progressed through Undertale is easily one of the biggest emotional gut-punches I’ve had this year from a game. But for King Goatdad? Totally worth it. Undertale: Papyrus Papyrus is basically the best. ...What? You want to know more? I mean, it should be pretty obvious why he's so great. But if you really want the specifics, here are a few pieces of trivia about our neat skeleton friend. - He likes to say, “Nyeh heh heh!”- He's a member of the highly esteemed Royal Guard! ...well, not yet. But someday he might be!- He's really good at making spaghetti. It's practically edible!- He's very cool and strong. Just check out this picture of his sunglasses. And his biceps. And his biceps' sunglasses.- He has really high standards when it comes to dating. Potential dates must have, AT MINIMUM, zero redeeming qualities.- He dabs only the finest MTT-brand Beauty Yogurt behind his ears. Wait... you're saying he doesn't have ears?!- He's always prepared. In fact, you can't spell “prepared” without several letters from his name!- He has the greatest theme song. I could go on, but you get the idea. Papyrus is simply a cool dude and a great friend. Just ask his brother, Sans! King's Quest: King Graham Okay so he's not entirely "new," and he isn't even a proper king in the first episode, but the updated characterization of Graham really made me fall in love with The Odd Gentlemen's new take on the series. As one part Guybrush Threepwood and two parts lovable scamp, you can feel his unbridled enthusiasm for the adventure through the screen. The storybook style framing only augments the character, as the always wonderful Christopher Lloyd does a great job of playing the older version of Graham, re-telling his tales to his granddaughter. It's adorable, and although narrative techniques tend to overstay their welcome, Lloyd plays it off with such panache that you won't get mad at a death, because it's met with a chuckle and a pun. Although I'd love to see his son Alexander take on the series in the future, this one of the better reboots in recent memory. Splatoon: All the Inklings It would be fair to criticize me for not singling out one specific character for this article, like one of the Squid Sisters or the default "Inkling girl" as she appears in most of Splatoon's promotional art, but that wouldn't be honest. The truth is, the concept of the entire Inkling species and what it represents is my favorite video game character of 2015. The way Inkling culture revolves around the seamless combination of style worship with competitive social cliques is such a fun adaptation of teenage life. Even the physical makeup of the Inkling is feels teenage -- mushy and unstable, stuck between baby-cute and grown-up-tough, not quite one thing or the other. Most teenagers will tell you that depending on what social environment they've been thrust into at the moment, it may be smarter for them to show their true colors or just hide in the ink until they're less likely to be torn apart by their enemies. They may not actually use the word "ink" when describing that scenario, but the underlying feeling remains the same. When it comes to tying visual design, gameplay mechanics, and surrounding lore into central, cohesive metaphor for the teenage experience, the Inkling is about as perfect as it gets. Yo-Kai Watch: Jibanyan Two words: Ghost. Cat. Let those sink in. When you first come across Jibanyan he is waiting on his owner while attempting to beat up passing cars at the very intersection where his physical life was ended by them. After a brief chat Jibanyan tells you how his prized possession, a picture of his owner, was taken by some local Yo-Kai bullies. Once the bullies have been taught a lesson and the picture returned, Jibanyan joins your side with his fierce but adorable Paws of Fury.  There hasn't been a ghost this awesome since Patrick Swayze, nor a living dead cat this feisty since Pet Sematary.
Best new characters photo
Very excited to meet you!
Video games have a fair share of legendary heroes. They've been around for years and their stories have spanned generations (of both consoles and humans). They are household names: Mario, Sonic, Master Chief, Solid Snake. Thi...

Nominees for Destructoid's Best PS4 Game of 2015

Dec 12 // Kyle MacGregor
Bloodborne Life is Strange Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain N++ OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood Rocket League Tales from the Borderlands The Talos Principle Until Dawn The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt [Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles, and episodic titles that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Majestic!
The PlayStation 4 has seen its share of ups and downs in 2015, from the wonderful Bloodborne and unexpected Until Dawn to the disappointing The Order: 1886 and delayed Uncharted 4. It could have been a lot better, but it just...

Nominees for Destructoid's Best PC Game of 2015

Dec 12 // Steven Hansen
Here are the nominees for Destructoid's Best PC Game of 2015: The Beginner's Guide Downwell Her Story Heroes of the Storm Invisible Inc. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Rocket League Soma Tales from the Borderlands Undertale The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt [Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles, and episodic titles that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
Best PC Game 2015 photo
Got a PC? Then you've got a computer!
The personal computer ("PC," to those in the know) is always good for a clutch of unexpected surprises and in 2015 it was no different. There heavy hitters are there, from Metal Gear to The Witcher. But there is also an unexp...

Nominees for Destructoid's Best Mobile Game of 2015

Dec 11 // Darren Nakamura
Best Mobile Game of 2015 Alphabear Downwell Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft Lara Croft GO Steven Universe: Attack the Light! [Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles, and episodic titles that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]  
Best Mobile Game photo
Great gaming on the go
Mobile gaming often gets a bad rap among the hardcore crowd, but looking at 2015 it seems like the platform is really coming into its own. These aren't your Candy Crush or Flappy Bird clones; these are some legitimately great...

Nominees for Destructoid's Best Wii U Game of 2015

Dec 10 // Jordan Devore
Best Wii U Game of 2015 Affordable Space Adventures Splatoon Super Mario Maker Yoshi's Woolly World Xenoblade Chronicles X [Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles, and episodic titles that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
Best Wii U Game photo
Fun for everyone
As much as the Wii U isn't the runaway commercial success Nintendo would like it to be, and as much as it's more of a first-party machine than anything else, it remains one of my favorite consoles in recent memory. The game r...

Nominees for Destructoid's Best Xbox One Game of 2015

Dec 10 // Brett Makedonski
Life is Strange Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Ori and the Blind Forest Resident Evil HD Remaster Rise of the Tomb Raider Shovel Knight: Xbox One Edition Tales from the Borderlands The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt [Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles, and episodic titles that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
Best Xbox Game photo
The Gold Standard
What are you looking for from a game on Xbox One? Do you want narrative excellence? Action perfection? Platforming prowess? Xbox One had all of that in spades in 2015. That is to say, a lot of good games came to Microsoft's c...

Nominees for Destructoid's Best Vita Game of 2015

Dec 09 // Laura Kate Dale
Best Vita Game of 2015 OlliOlli2 Grim Fandango Remastered Persona 4: Dancing All Night Resident Evil: Revelations 2 Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires Super Star Wars Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax [Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles, and episodic titles that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
Vita GOTY photo
Slip into something more portable
Oh, hey there reader, you've just caught me at that time of year where I and the other Destructoid editorial staff are beginning the long and often vicious process of putting together our Game of the Year awards. First come t...

Nominees for Destructoid's Best 3DS Game of 2015

Dec 09 // Chris Carter
Best 3DS Game of 2015 Pokemon Shuffle Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D Xenoblade Chronicles 3D Yo-Kai Watch Boxboy Pokemon Picross [Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles, and episodic titles that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
What a lovely handheld
The 3DS has gone through a tremendous change since its launch. While Nintendo did its best to completely fumble its initial year with a weak launch lineup, paltry Virtual Console offerings, and hardly any third-party support,...


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