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

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 ton of fun putting together all of the features, reviews, and news pieces that I contributed over the past year, and I look forward to continuing to do so in 2016. I hope you all enjoyed my words as well! I also happened to play one of my favorite games of all time this year, which I even had the pleasure of reviewing. Oh, and did I mention I got engaged a few months back? Like I said, 2015 was a pretty great year!

I always look forward to the end of the year when it comes time to put together Game of the Year lists. It’s a joy to think back on all the great games I played while reading about other peoples’ favorites too. Many of us have very different tastes, and that’s awesome! I may not have spent much time with Metal Gear Solid V or Fallout 4, for example, but I still love reading about how much enjoyment others got out of them. That’s why we play games, after all, to have fun. And nothing better exemplifies that than a good old Game of the Year list.

Some may find my own list to contain some strange choices, but these were the games that brought me the most joy this year. I look forward to reading everyone else’s lists as well!

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 Souls

Titan 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. Downwell

Downwell 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 League

I 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. Splatoon

I’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!

Ben Davis