GamesBeat has already chosen its top 10 games of 2015, but I’m not going to let that stop me from telling you about my personal favorites.
Come and count down with me.
10. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
I haven’t really tried a Metal Gear Solid game since the original. I’ve always wanted to go back and play the third one — some of y’all seem to think it’s OK — but I just never have. So by the time Phantom Pain appeared, I was pretty sure that it would end up a decent game that probably wouldn’t meet any of the expectations fans had put on it.
I was wrong.
This is an incredible open-world game that really gives you a level of freedom I haven’t experienced before. The best part was talking with friends about how they solved certain missions only to find out I did something completely different. Having that sorta gameplay in a massive triple-A release seems like a risk, and it’s one I can’t believe actually delivered.
9. Kerbal Space Program
This past year I discovered that I really love games where you build stuff, and Kerbal is probably the best example of this. This Steam Early Access breakout finally launched as a full product this year, and it came with all the sandbox, space-exploration fun that I fell in love when it was in Early Access. But it also included a great campaign mode that kept me on task.
8. Star Wars: Battlefront
I definitely had high hopes for this game, and I’m not quite sure that Electronic Arts’ shooter lived up to those expectations. But it is my go-to shooter when I have a half-hour or so to play games. It does the Star Wars feel better than anything else I’ve ever played, and I like how the multiplayer maps tend to tell a story about the differences between the Empire and Rebels.
7. Ori and the Blind Forest
No one has ever made a more beautiful game than Ori and the Blind Forest. It is like a Disney film come to life — but it plays like Super Metroid. One of the biggest things I took away from Ori is just how sticky and playable it is. I never wanted to put down the controller because it just looked so nice, played so well, and doled out progression at a rapid rate.
6. Fallout 4
I played Fallout 4 for about 100 hours, and I loved every minute of it. It’s such an easy game to give your time to because you can find fun throughout its huge map. Of the missions, my favorite quest was probably the Silver Shroud, where you got to dress up like a silver-age superhero (think Batman from the 1960s) and talk in a radio-drama-style voice. But I also loved just exploring the world on my own terms and stumbling across events and stories naturally.
5. Dying Light
Zombie games are still surprising me. Dying Light is incredible for combining a great movement with difficult gameplay. I loved boosting up my characters capabilities to easily take out enemies during the day only to never stop feeling pitiful and cowardly at night. It also steals some of the best parts of open-world Ubisoft games like Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed while leaving some of their crustier elements behind.
Splatoon is such a relief. It confirms that competitive shooters don’t have to revel in violence, and it also reaffirms that Nintendo can still make something totally new and exciting. Splatoon is easily one of the most stylish games of the year, but it is also just a great multiplayer game that makes everyone feel like they’re contributing.
3. Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rise of the Tomb Raider blew me away. I didn’t expect such an expert and original combination of set pieces and open-world exploration from this adventure. But developer Crystal Dynamics brought the heat with its latest entry in this long-running series. The pacing is wonderful. You never have time to get tired of exploring or running through the story because you are always bouncing between the two. And everything feeds into your progression, which keeps you looking forward to the next opportunity to use the new ability or weapon you just got.
2. Rocket League
Sports games are back thanks to a car-soccer game that came out of nowhere. Rocket League is the closest a digital sport has ever come to making me feel like I was playing the real thing. I’ve had plays, where I set up a pass to a charging midfielder who was able to center it perfectly a one-timer to our striker. And when you get that thing where everyone is playing their part and taking care of their responsibilities, it’s hard not to throw your hands in the air when your team gets a goal.
1. Super Mario Maker
Super Mario Maker showed me a style of gaming that I never thought could exist. I got into something of a rivalry with this game where a player was building difficult levels that I took as personal challenges. I went insane trying to beat them, but I was compelled to keep going because I began talking with the creator of the level. That’s not exactly something you get from a game that developer builds with “everyone” in mind.
The game only gets crazier when you start trying to build stages specifically to drive one person mad, you get something that just isn’t possible from any other game.
All of that is simple and inviting because Nintendo designed an experience where anyone can pick up and start building courses. Combine that with the familiar Mario aesthetics, and you have a game that can empower rivalries in way that nothing else ever has.