2015 was one of the best years in video games in recent memories and therefore was one of the hardest years to condense into a list featuring all of the good stuff. Sure, there were controversies and such but that didn't stop many of us loving the games that came out in that year.
It means something then that 2016 was even better.
No there wasn't a whole host of 10/10's but there were far more great games overall than last year and, somehow, I managed to play 46 games this year. That number would have seemed stupid to me at the start of the year, with my aim of twenty-five being the seemingly reachable goal; that number being without seven or eight other games that I am still waiting to play or have yet to finish.
Also this is normally when people ironically say that their list is objectively correct and try to make you realise that the list you are about to read is the 'definitive' list on the internet.
I'm not going to be anywhere near as coy.
It's my subjective list, personal experience and enjoyment is a massive factor and that if you disagree with where I place certain games you are welcome to email me and I'll get right round to ignoring you.
I will say though, that I do think these 15 games are the best of the year and that you can rearrange them in an order that best suits you and you would still have an incredibly solid list.
Before I get underway with the list good and proper, I do have some honourable mentions to lay down.
These are truly great games in their own right, but I enjoyed my Top 15 just that little bit more.
Deus Ex Mankind Divided - (A game that really makes you realise that #AugLivesMatter)
Zero Time Dilemma - (Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey)
Owlboy - (TheBlondeBass' favourite game of the decade so far)
Tokyo Mirage Sessions - (The pit-stop before Persona 5)
Guilty Gear Xrd - (It's basically Street Fighter V but actually good)
Warhammer End Times: Vermintide - (The best form of killing rats other than putting members of parliament to the sword)
Developer - Playdead
LimoMaker's Rating - 8/10
Playdead prove once again that they are masters of minimalist storytelling and that they are one of the best developers working today. Inside is a fascninating game that has many different layers to it that peel away bit by bit, revealing its story to be about more than just an oppressive world but can also act as a criticism to the idea of control.
The art style is gorgeous and you can tell that there was a little more money pumped into this game given the greater depth-of-field and excellent lighting effects throughout the course of the games play-time; regardless of whether these things are due to money or artistic growth, Inside is gorgeous to look at in its own haunting way, the bleak colours helping to create a sense of foreboding that is rarely seen in most games nowadays.
A lot of people have had a lot to say about this game and it is obvious that the game has had a lasting impression on people, but for me, while the story is interesting and the themes present are handled very well, it's still nothing more than a good platformer to me.
This could be because the game simply didn't resonate with me as much as it did with others or that other people are looking for things that aren't there (or both of them because why not), but either way I feel like while it is excellent it isn't as good as the other games on this list.
Still though, it is an easy recommend and if you haven't played Inside, I urge you to give it a shot as you might get more out of it than I did.
Developer - Superhot Team
LimoMaker's Rating - 8/10
Something truly different and inventive, Superhot is a remarkable indie game that I replayed endlessly despite the little amount of content offered.
The idea of having time around you move only as you do creates the sense of tension that few first-person-shooters can muster nowadays, while also allowing players to take a more tactical approach.
The game makes you feel like an untouchable God when you lay out five or six guys and watch the replay in real-time, marvelling at how simple an idea can create such a huge andrenaline rush.
The narrative isn't the best, though it is still a fun ride even on the second time round, while the anaemic amount of content does prove to be frustrating at times but that doesn't stop Superhot from being one of the best games of the year and one of the most innovative shooters in years.
Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2
Developer - PopCap Games
LimoMaker's Rating - 8.5/10
I bloody love this game.
From a joke of a first game comes a sequel that truly reinvigorates itself, with more classes, a fleshed out hub-world with loads to see and do, with a set of aesthetics that look weirder than the inside of Nekro's dungeon.
The game is delightfully tongue-in-cheek, beautifully animated with several modes that serve to entertain you throughout the course of your playtime.
Personally, I actually loved the relatively simple and by-the-numbers horde mode 'Garden/Zombie Ops' and I love the fact that the developers put the time in to implement split-screen mode, something too many shooters today are lacking.
Garden Warfare 2 hooked me from the get-go and despite it ranking so low on my list, it had to go somewhere just because of how damn good it is.
It has solid design, well-balanced (except for that God damn Rose) and most importantly, it's a lot of fun.
Developer - Blizzard Entertainment
LimoMaker's Rating - 8.5/10
Despite my bitching and moaning about how damn shallow the game design is, how poor the map design is and the severe lack of content (surely it means something that it launched with a similar amount of content to Destiny), I can't help but put the game on this list.
Its characters are iconic through great design, excellent marketing and stand-out voice acting, the bright and colourful aesthetic is something to behold and while the Attack/Defend gameplay is as shallow as my ex-girlfriend's grave, it takes a while for the gameplay loop to start to drag.
Hit-detection is almost always on-point and the overall online experience is solid.
I also really appreciated the emphasis on feeling rewarded despite your preferred playing style.
Playing as Support (Lucio is my man) or Defense (Reindhart is bae) has never felt so good, something that I really hope catches on with other developers given that they normally emphasise elimination of players as opposed to the support of your own team.
The game isn't perfect, not by a long shot, and could really do with some more content to flesh out its game world by actually including a campaign of sorts, but it's certainly a lot of fun and will be one of the highlights of the year when looking back in the future.
Developer - EA DICE
LimoMaker's Rating - 8.5/10
With a strong set of stories that form the main campaign and a robust multiplayer that utilises its aesthetic to great effect, Battlefield 1 might be the most well-rounded first-person-shooter experience of the year and it honestly surprised me at how solid the game actually was, especially after the Star Wars Battlefront debacle.
The War Stories are a great way for the writing team at DICE to string together a series of short-stories instead of dragging the narrative out into one long overarching story, letting players be thrust into various different locales and see many different forms of conflict across the years of The Great War and somehow the stories don't overstay their welcome.
The aesthetic of World War 1 lends players a welcome break from the modern/future settings that many first-person-shooters have utilised over the last 5 years (Evolve, Titanfall, Call of Duty Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Advanced Warfare, Battlefront, Black Ops 3, Infinite Warfare... To name a few) and with the change in history comes the ability for DICE to show off their excellent eye for technical design; most prominently the sound and graphical elements of the gae.
DICE went all out for this game and the amount of polish in all areas of the game is astounding.
It blew my reservations away and I enjoyed almost every hour of my experience with it.
Developer: Sukeban Games
LimoMaker's Rating: 8.5/10
"Want to play a cyberpunk game?"
"Sure why not? Is it a stealth-action game?"
"Nope, narrative driven, visual-novel-esque bartending game."
I never thought for a single second that this game would be as good as it was.
Surely the mixing of drinks would lose its lustre, surely the story would lose steam or the pacing of the narrative would be clunky.
Not only do none of those things happen, but the game is absorbing in a way that few games on this list are.
The art style is elegant and simple, with each character striking an image that is clear and distinct from one another and all have dialogue and backstories that match their interesting charcater design.
The game builds its world not through flashy cutscenes but through sharp writing, proving to all the big-budget developers that creating a strong set of characters is not down to hiring the best actors but having a set of narrative arcs that are interesting, humanising each character individually with nuances that speerate each other and making sure that they are all, for better or for worse, memorable.
Memorable is exactly the world that best suits VA-11 HALL-A. It is distinct and truly memorable and unlike anything else I have played all year.
Developers - ConcernedApe
LimoMaker's Rating - 8.5/10
Stardew Valley starts out in a fairly pedestrian manner and I found myself being bored to tears for the first hour or so; but then after I started exploring the town and talking to people I suddenly found that 12 hours had flown by and the sun was starting to rise outside my bedroom window.
That's the draw of Stardew Valley really: the mundane tasks of tending your crops, feeding your livestock, talking to villagers, going on side-missions to get better equipment and so on and so on.
You feel at first as if there is nothing particularly special about Stardew Valley, then as the game opens up the gameplay cycle sneaks up on you, you begin to realise that the game manages to make mundane tasks and activities fun the same way Minecraft made building fun.
I'm finding it hard to explain what makes Stardew Valley so damn enjoyable, because writing it out makes it seem like the most boring video game I ever played; but in practice it is one of the most remarkable titles to be released in the past few years.
Developer - Respawn
LimoMaker's Rating - 8.5/10
Respawn know how to handle a sequel it appears (of course they do, the creative leads helped craft Modern Warfare 2 for crying out loud).
Coming off of the fun, fast but ultimatey forgettable first game, Titanfall 2 is just as snappy as its predecessor, this time featuring a fleshed-out campaign, decent amounts of world-building and a multiplayer so fun I honestly feel like my addiction to it is becoming unhealthy.
The exploration of the bond between Titan and Pilot in the campaign is wonderful to behold if a little hamfisted at times, yet the level design is so fantastic and BT such a loveable character that any awkward lines or story beats are basically forgotten the moment you come to realise that the story of brotherhood is told not just through dialogue but also through gameplay as, for almost the entire campaign's runtime, you have nobody really to rely on other than BT and he has nobody to rely on but you, hammering home the need for cooperation.
The gameplay is as fast as before and small tweaks to the hit-detection and implementation of more Titans really helps add some variety to both multiplayer and single-player mode, as well as spicing up the affair with a whole host of new skill-sets to try out on opponents (my personal favourites being the Ticks in multiplayer).
Titanfall 2 deserves the praise it got and definitely deserves more sales. It is the most fun I've had with a multiplayer shooter all year.
It isn't the most technically competent (Overwatch) nor is it the most well-rounded (Battlefield) but it is a damn lot of fun... And what more could I ask for than that?
Final Fantasy XV
Developer - Square Enix
LimoMaker's Rating - 8.5/10
A return to form (for the most part) for Final Fantasy as a series, this game starts off in the best way it could have, by not opening like Final Fantasy XIII.
I loved this game, truly loved it, it had a loveable cast of main characters, with each putting their own stamp onto the game in some form making each moment with them memorable, a variety of side-quests to choose from, a villain who had the whole "love to hate" vibe going on and an ending that pulled on my heart strings and created an affective experience overall.
I spent hours simply hunting beasts, travelling the open road and completing side-quests, because while some of the optional missions are a little repetitive in nature, the world at large is enticing enough to make you want to go off the beaten-path and explore new things.
The problems, however, start at the beginning of Chapter 10, where the pace slows considerably which, normally, isn't a bad thing as it allows the player time to digest what has occured.
Thr game throws concepts and terms around that mean nothing to me, mechanics are picked up and dropped on a dime; it all ends up making the later half of Final Fantasy XV sour the playing experience.
But by the time I had finished the final mission and witnessed the fantastically executed ending, the sour feeling floated away and I remembered the good more than the bad.
The finale does enough to make the game worth recommending and easily worthy of being 7th on my end of year list... It just isn't quite as good as the next 6 games.
Dark Souls 3
Developer - FromSoftware
LimoMaker's Rating - 9/10
Placing this one was hard.
What a way to top off the Souls series, with a game that has some amazing boss-fights (the Abyss Watchers being a particular stand-out), excellent game design and, a first for the Dark Souls games, combat that is actually fun and doesn't make every attack look clumsy as hell.
The story is told in the only way Souls games do, through minimalism and game design, and personally I feel like revisiting this series now after the way the finale wraps up woud be a disservice to the series as a whole.
The art style is great, the gameplay is excellent, the combat is refined, the music is top-notch once again and really the whole game is just a damn good time.
What else needs to be said really? I knew this game would be on my end of year list as soon as I played it earlier this year... It is that damn good.
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Developer - Naughty Dog
LimoMaker's Rating - 9/10
This is, in my honest opinion, the best Uncharted game out of the bunch. It has more gameplay options, an end boss fight that isn't trash, motivation and conflict for Nathan Drake that actually makes him a more three-dimensional character, the ending wraps everything up into a nice little bow (and didn't play to our expectations as to what we thought Thief's End means).
Unlike most other action games this year (looking at you Rise of the Tomb Raider), A Thief's End manages to marry it's well-crafted gamplay to its compeling story in one go, not focusing on one or the other but instead polishing both to create something very special indeed. The notable inclusion of an actual stealth system really allows the player to improvise their styles of play across the game, slipping from the gung-ho approach to the more reserved playstyle almost on a whim.
Most importantly, the climax of the campaign feels like a culmination of three games worth of effort, with a final villain confrontation that would fit right at home in any swashbuckling story.
I'm a sucker for adventurous romps and A Thief's End felt like the ultimate Indiana Jones video-game we will never receive.
Naughty Dog should be damn proud of this one.
Developer - Daniel Mullins Games
LimoMaker's Rating - 9/10
Well blow me hard like you're Juice's mother, I was not expecting Pony Island to be as interesting and subversive as reviewers were saying, simply because after reading said reviews, I expected a rip-off of Undertale more than anything else.
Shame on me for being so cynical.
The writing is as strong as any big-budget title this year and the design of the story is structured so well and utilises the idea of 'meta-humour' incedibly well without ever over-staying its welcome, something a lot of talented writers find difficult to balance regardless of what medium they are creating for.
The game has what I call the Madoka Magica effect: It starts off unassuming enough before slowly devolving into madness with excellent results.
I have been intentionally vague on the details of this game because I feel like the best way to experience this game is to do what I did, that being going in completely blind other than expecting something interesting and different.
Developer - Campo Santo
LimoMaker's Rating - 9.5/10
Damn this game is so beautiful, both aesthetically and in the themes present in the narrative.
Probably one of the best examples this decade of how to do a 'walking-simulator' right, featuring an intriguing plot, fleshed out characters, a strong ending and an art style that is so great to look at I honestly think it might be the best looking game this year.
An adventure game such as this lives and dies by the strength of its narrative and the characters driving it, and Henry and Delilah are probably the best video game duo since Clementine and Lee from The Walking Dead.
The chemistry between the two is palpable and the voice actors consistently give their characters a believable air about them, as if you are simply a fly-on-the-wall listening to two real humans converse with one another.
I have to give massive props to Rich Sommer and Cissy Jones by the way who really nailed their lines and proved that a video game actors performance really does matter.
Well done Firewatch, I will never forget the time I spent with you.
Developer - id Software
LimoMaker's Rating 10/10
"So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again."
Good God... Where to start?
Everything about this game is glorious to behold and the gameplay just feels so damn satisfying.
The shredding of flesh from every shotgun blast, the blistering pace of the movement system, the snapping of bones as you tear demons apart with your hands... All of Doom is absolutely amazing to play just due to the fine tuning that went into the game.
The campaign is strong and robust, featuring incredibly well-constructed levels and a story that, after the surface is peeled away, really manages to have a real sense of scope that a lesser developer would never have attempted to use for a Doom game.
That isn't to say of course the game focuses on the story; on the contrary it mocks the idea of following it and lets players run wild killing demons, necause id Software know their fanbase like the back of their hand.
Doom is everything I love about first-person-shooters and everything I love about well-designed video games rolled into one.
So... This is it.
My personal Game of the Year.
Not everyone is going to agree with it and that's fine and really, I don't think this game is the most enjoyable out of the rest of the games on this list, but the impact it had on me is profound.
I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I first played it.
I have completed its campaign three times, watched two of my friends play it and had my girlfriend play through it too.
It is an indie game, it is a different game, it is a great game.
My favourite game this year?
Developer - Night School Studios
LimoMaker's Rating - 10/10
Now I'm going to stop you right there.
The person who is currently frothing at the mouth to tell me why I'm wrong and why you dislike this game and why Overwatch or Doom or Uncharted 4 are so much better than Oxenfree. And that's fine, I mean I get why you would say that.
Not your list though is it?
To anyone who knows me, I'm a lover of film and I mean a big lover of film.
Oxenfree feels like I'm playing a spiritual sequel to The Goonies, Stranger Things and Friday the 13th all at once and frankly, it reminds me of Until Dawn in a lot of ways, mostly down to the choices you make along the way and that it's a narrative-driven adventure game.
The game's story follows a group of friends who are trapped on an island and it is the players job to find them a way off before they are killed by forces unknown and unravel the mysteries of the island as you go.
Gameplay is pretty much summarised as: walking, note collecting and puzzle-solving.
I have to give special praise to the use of the dialogue in this game, it flows so freely in a way I don't think I've seen before, with voice acting that is truly excellent in every regard. The dialogue system allows you to interrupt characters conversations naturally, which they will remark upon, or your silence will be noted, or your conversation choice earlier in the story will be mentioned casually later on, not as a big life changing decision but as a simple thing to remind you what you said or did as noral people in a conversation would.
Exploration is encouraged and affects the ending you get, and while the walking speed is a bit slow, unlike Everybody's Gone to the Rapture conversations occur naturally and help you invest more time with the characters while you are busy walking this way and that on the island.
The exploration element of the game also helps the developers create a foreboding atmosphere, where it constantly feels like you are being watched from the shadows.
The artistic side of the game is fantastic too, with the game looking like a watercolour book, blotchy colours and beautiful backgrounds domianting the art style while the music is haunting with a techno-twist that definitely fits with the sci-fi elements that are sprinkled throughout the game.
To some, this game won't really click with them and that's fine, but for me, the story that unfolds and the characters present, the art style, the music, the subdued sense of horror... It all helps make Oxenfree memorable to me and the ending (regardless of which one you get) is something both puzzling and satisfying.
Oxenfree is the game that affected me most this year.
It is my favourite game of the year.
So that's it. List is done, 2016 is wrapped up and I am looking forward to the first set of games this month (Yakuza 0, Resident Evil 6 and Gravity Rush 2 to be precise) and frankly I am terrified of making this years list because, frankly, the amount of quality games coming out in 2017 astounds me.
2016 was a pretty good year if I'm honest.
Let's see what 2017 brings.