This started as my top 10 list, before I realized that I hadn't played 10 games this year. So I threw more stuff on. Maybe I'll keep doing it, too. Anyway, I didn't play Undertale. So this won't be plastered with skeleton pictures like rest of the internet is right now. Behold!
Metal Gear Solid V:
I feel like this is the gorilla in the room, the juggernaut, the bigshot. But there's a reason for that. It just plain beats everything else I played this year.
The basic gameplay and flow feel great. You're not trapped in a hostage terrorism dungeon this time, but decide your missions and tackle them at your own pace. Hell, you're allowed to just run around the open world if you want. You deploy with your choice of loadout, companion, gear, even vehicles. And if you forget something, you can call in a supply drop for anything. There's a huge number of ways to customize your action experience. You can shoot rockets from the back of a horse (which I recommend). There's non-lethal versions of every weapon. You get the D-Walker.
There's a sniper buddy, Quiet, who you can command and she'll basically show off her body as you fly away in your evac chopper. Cause she's hot. She also doesn't talk ever, so she's like a male fantasy, where the fantasy got a bit petty and specific. Boobs and hips not enough? How about no clothes? Want more? How about never talking ever for story-specific reasons? It's a trifecta of creepy wish-fulfillment. I don't hate Quiet, I really don't. I actually appreciate how much of a weird thing she is. It's emblematic of what I love about this whole series. It does what it wants, no matter how crazy, then weaves it into the story in a way that fits the same level of logic as everything else. They DID justify Quiet. She made total sense. But that only works in a world as wild as Metal Gear Solid.
Finally, the story is emotional and will mess with you. One late-game mission put a look of horror on my face for ten minutes, but I felt admiration as much as disbelief and horror. I couldn't believe that a AAA game, representing such a financial risk, was willing to make me feel this terrible. I respect this game's balls, I truly do. Kojima does this stuff with real conviction.
The Witcher 3:
This is funny, because I've only played a dozen hours of this and barely got anywhere. I'm not even done with that Bloody Baron quest. But that this game is my number 2 of the year, is a testament to how impressed I was with it.
I always notice natural features in videogames. Rocks and grass are the place developers go to compromise. But I have never seen a more beautiful rendering of nature in a videogame than I have here. These guys truly love the natural world and it shows.
That sounds like a weird basis on which to name this one of the best games of the year, but that level of care is seldom seen in any genre, much much much less in a sprawling open world. Seriously, it's impressive. There is no reason they should care this much about something so small in a world so big. I look for love in videogames and this team loves nature.
I'm kinda preaching to the choir with this one. I only played a few hours of Demon Souls. I didn't get too far. So I had misgivings about whether I would enjoy this.
While I apparently didn't even get halfway through, I love this game. It's got conviction. There is no compromise in this world. It is what it wants to be and you can just deal with it.
I still remember my first few minutes, choosing the cane, then trying the buttons and finding the "turn this into a whip" button. Holy fucking shit that was cool. Again, I'm easily impressed. My brain went Castlevaaaaaaaaaniaaaaa.
The weapons seemed awkward to wield at first, but when you figure out the timing and spacing and best situations for use, you see the strengths of the different weapons. It's a good introduction to the Souls way of doing things and an impressive world to fight through. It the most Halloween-ass thing since The Nightmare Before Christmas. There's nothing that feels like it's just window-dressing or a facade. No, I was IN A CURSED CITY. A place with a history that I just didn't understand.
Unlike most, the settlement building is why I got this game. I just kinda liked Fallout 3, but I didn't "lose my life" or anything. So I ignored New Vegas. I just wasn't intrigued. But if this was going to have base-building and better shooting, I was going to try it.
Well it certainly does have better shooting. Way better. I almost never use VATS, and only to find enemies in a busy fight, which would be unthinkable in Fallout 3. Even for distance shots, you're actually better off aiming from what I've seen. And the customizable gun crafting makes that even better. I honestly didn't expect gun crafting to interest me, but it really affects how your gun behaves and handles in a significant way. It's like you've ripped-out the guts of one of those loot-gun random number generators from a game like Destiny. Now you can just jury-rig a crazy gun yourself.
Last time I played, I made a bolt-action, short-barreled, sniper pistol with a reflex sight. It was a piece of total shit, but I was so proud. I think most games would have stopped me. They would have used red text to say "This doesn't fucking go there. Does not compute.". You don't have total freedom, necessarily, but you have enough to either embarrass yourself or make something better than you think you should have.
The building stuff deserves some recognition too. Yeah, it was a poor-man's Sim-City/Forge with a weird building limit. But they really tried to make a mini RTS base happen in there. It had resource gathering, populations, settlers, electrical wiring. I really like it. It's fun to do. I hope they build on it. I would hate to see Bethesda abandon it as a mistake. The potential is amazing to think about. It's the base for a first-person RTS game.
The Beginner's Guide:
I know I'm missing a lot of great indy games this year. And many of them I actually own right now. But this was the big one I played. I'm somebody that likes watching DVDs with commentary, so this game was tailor-made for me. Basically, one of the Stanley Parable guys is walking you through the games of a developer he personally loves.
It works just like DVD/game commentary, but the conversation is directed at you and gets quite personal. I won't spoil any more than that. The Beginner's Guide is very affecting and feels authentic. It's well worth it playing.
First they introduce you to Jessica Jones, a clever, asshole private eye with super strength and also my love. Having my love is key. Then they pit her against Killgrave, a mind-controlling sociopathic mastermind who's obsessed with her and won't kill her, but goes open-season on everyone around her. Then they ramp up the damage and drama while exploring every way mind control can be abused by the world's biggest asshole. If you haven't seen Jessica Jones and have Netflix, you really should try it. It's a riveting-as-hell battle of wits. If you liked the Daredevil series, I think this is better. Most like Daredevil better, but this is trying something different. Daredevil is a little more straightforward. This is more like Damages or something.
Emotion by Carly Rae Jepsen
Something magical happened this year. Through Shinta's intervention, I realized that Carly Rae Jepsen's music has something to offer me. So I looked on YouTube and found more hits from her then-upcoming album that I really really liked. So I bought it on release and reviewed it. It's one of my favorite albums of the year. It's punchy, catchy, sing-alongable and fun. You can read my review here: http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/siddartha85/music...
Here's a bonus thing you might like. Or not. I don't care.
+/- by Mew
a pretty big fan of/obsessed with the band Mew and their album this year was one of their best. They have a second guitarist now and so they have more fun guitar tricks. +/- had my two favorite songs this year, "Witness" and "My Complications". Both of them are musical bravado, featuring tricky guitar-work by their new guitarist, who also co-wrote Witness. I saw them live this year in D.C. and that was quite an experience.
This thing from Splatoon:
I didn't even play Splatoon, I just saw this song featured on Giant Bomb. That was enough. I may have to hunt this soundtrack down now, just out of curiosity. Metal Gear Solid V had some good stuff, I guess. The theme was kinda weird, actually, but still pretty good. Her Story had a tuneski, if you find it. But this? This is what music sounds like when you're old and don't understand teens anymore. All rap will sound like this to all of us. But I mean that in a good way. It's futuristic in a more plausible sense than techno is. This is the musical future we're already elbow-deep into. Reminds me of Rayman Origins stuff a little.
Star Wars 7:
I will say nothing. This beat Mad Max. I didn't think anything would beat Mad Max. Fury Road is an action movie that will be remembered for years to come. You're going to see elements of Fury Road in action movies for years and years. But Star Wars did something else. It chose to innovate less and remind us of why we love the classic hero's journey. It dove right into the guts of New Hope, but then changed something in the machinery. It works so well as both a hero story and something else that I'll let you see for yourself.