Holy s**t! 2015 has been one helluva year for videogames!! Not only were a bunch of amazing games pushed back from 2014 only to be released amidst an already crowded schedule, but this year already had some standout titles lined up, and even managed a few surprises too. At the start of the year I had a long list of all the games I was most looking forward to, and while some of those have either been pushed back to next year (which threatens to be just as good as this one) or cancelled outright (RIP Silent Hills... *sniff*) there were still a *ton* of absolutely gobsmacking videogames dropped upon us - some of which have already entered my 'Gaming Hall of Fame'. Presented here are my own awards for videogames released in 2015, and as always this comes with a few caveats: firstly, I obviously haven't played every single game on every platform, as I game exclusively on Sony and Nintendo platforms. Secondly, there were infact so many excellent games released that I simply couldn't fit them all in and so notable exceptions are Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Tearaway Unfolded, and Until Dawn, all of which might have ended up winning one of these categories, but I just haven't gotten around to playing them yet. Thirdly, this is my list, and these are my choices that you might not agree with... and that's cool, feel free to sound off in the comments below. Anyhoo, without anymore kerfuffle, here are my GOTY Awards for 2015.
Might as well get this out of the way, as it will likely prove the most divisive choice on this list, but cries of "its an unfinished game" won't dissuade me from awarding Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain the coveted Game of the Year. Truth be told, the decision this year was *agonising* as I could have easily also given this to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt or Bloodborne, which are both utterly amazing videogames, but at the end of the day there can only be one. I chose MGSV in the end because it is the game that has stuck with me and haunted me the most this year after playing it; the story, while derided by others, really struck a nerve with me and I absolutely adore the ending. Structural issues aside, the gameplay is just astounding, the world design is great, the graphics are jaw-dropping (60fps and 1080p on PS4 whilst still looking top-tier!? WTF!) and the whole thing is just so damn stylish. This is likely the swansong of Metal Gear, as without Kojima I just can't see it carrying on in any meaningful way, and it's the perfect game to go out on. For me, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is one of the best videogames ever made, I'm utterly in awe of it and it's *got* to be my GOTY.
My second favourite game this year, and which only *just* lost out on the GOTY, also happens to be the one with the best overall narrative. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an absolutely epic game, in every way. A humongous sense of scale in its large open world is only matched by the poetic sprawling story, as you chase down your adopted daughter across the vast landscape, dodging intrigue and betrayal at every turn along the way. It's a grand tale, and one that perfectly accompanies the books, which I was reading alongside playing the game - and Wild Hunt acts as a fitting conclusion to the storyline of Geralt and Ciri. Like MGSV above, I had a somewhat special relationship with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and found myself completely swept away by its world and characters; I've no doubt it'll stick with me for a long time, especially since I need to dive into the Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine expansions, as well as having the next English-translated book preordered for next year.
My third choice for a potential GOTY, and one of the best videogames ever made, is Hidetaka Miyazaki's Bloodborne, a spiritual offshoot of the 'Souls series that released early in 2015 to rapturous critical acclaim. For good reason too, as the game looks amazing, sounds amazing and the story (while obtuse in its telling) is compelling in every way. Yet, it's the gameplay that is the real standout feature here, as Bloodborne took the tried and tested tight combat of 'Souls and cranked it up a notch; faster and more visceral, Bloodborne is an absolute joy to play. Like it's medieval brothers, this game has a reputation for being particularly difficult, but really the game is designed around a strict set of rules that once learnt allow you to tackle almost any foe with any weapon. It was genius game design before in 'Souls, and in my opinion this game once again massively improved upon it. Miyazaki continues to show why he is the master of this genre.
Poorly received upon it's launch back in February, The Order 1886 was never really on my radar to begin with and quickly slipped onto a wishlist where I could wait for a price drop - in fact I completely forgot about it. When a pupil of mine convinced me to pick it up later in the year I was really surprised with not only how much I enjoyed it but also just how *incredible* the game looks in motion. No array of superlatives or hyperbole can do the visuals of The Order 1886 justice, it's an absolute feat that it looks as good as it does and runs flawlessly on a PS4! Still, I struggled giving it this award at first, due to the constrictive nature of the gameplay it's perhaps easier to control the graphics output than something less linear like Metal Gear Solid V or Witcher 3, both games that looked great whilst giving you a lot of freedom. But nothing else has made me scrape my jaw from the floor in quite the same way as this game did. Also, I really had a lot of fun playing it, and have kept it in my collection.
Another tough call, and this award could have gone to a number of videogames this year (Persona 4 Dancing All Night baby!!) but in the end I think the best music this year in a videogame has got to be Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, which was so good that it topped the classical music charts here in the UK. It's hauntingly beautiful and perfectly accompanies the lavish visuals onscreen, as well as basically filling in the atmosphere of the game. The sound effects and voice acting are also fantastic in Everybody's Gone to the Rapture and it's like walking around a living radio play whilst exploring a landscape to the sound of ethereal choir music.The other day Classic FM did a two-hour feature showcasing the best of videogame music released this year and there were some seriously awesome tracks, but this score still stuck out and really made an impression all these months later. Like the game itself, it's just sublime.
Whether you like it or not, remasters and remakes are here to stay, and I for one welcome the opportunity I've had to go back and replay some absolute classics like the Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection or the PS4 re-release of Journey. Even better is when a remastered game allows you to experience something for the first time and it turns out to be one of the *best games ever made*, which is what happened when I played through Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D at the start of the year. Like the remaster of Ocarina of Time, this is not just a pretty face-lift (although the game obviously looks a million times better than before), but rather the entire game has been reworked and improved in key areas to deliver something that stacks up against modern releases. Simply put, Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask was one of the very best videogames that I played this year and proof that often remasters are worth the groaning from people on internet message boards.
This might seem like an odd choice for this category considering all the hype this game got at launch, and all the excitement and enthusiasm that accompanied its release, and all the bitching currently going on about it's flaws. But back before November 1st, I really didn't give a flying s**t about Fallout 4. I didn't enjoy Fallout 3 and had absolutely no intention of picking up it's follow-up, despite a lot of my friends harping on about how it was going to be their GOTY (before it had even come out, WTF!?). Nevertheless, I'm weak, and was suckered in by the hype, and thought I would give Fallout 4 a chance - I'm *so glad* that I did. I'm actually still playing it at the time of this post, which is why I'm late starting Xenoblade Chronicles X, and can happily say that this new entry in Not-Elder-Scrolls fixes all of the problems I had with it's predecessor and I'm genuinely surprised with how awesome I'm finding it and how much fun I've had. I'll be dropping my review soon, and while it's obviously no GOTY contender, it's certainly a great videogame; another solid entry for 2015.
It's been a while since I've really *loved* a Final Fantasy game, a series that used to be my absolute favourite, but other JRPG franchises have just overtaken it and even Square's own Bravely Default did a better job of representing the series despite not carrying the name. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, because the setting and themes looked like something new for the series, and of course it came with a demo for the new game out next year. Well, after pumping dozens of hours into the game, I just kinda gave up, it overstayed its welcome, felt overly-grindy and insubstantial and... was really quite disappointing. It's a crying shame because I do actually think it's a good game for many reasons; the combat is lots of fun and feels good to play, the soundtrack is *amazing*, the art direction is great despite the low-res textures. Despite that, it never clicked with me, and I've get to go back and finish it - I'm naively keeping the game on my shelf with the intention to complete it someday though. Perhaps I'll feel differently the second time through. *shrug*