Sean Capri’s Top Ten Games of 2015

Posted January 5, 2016 by Sean Capri in Video Games

Well then. 2015 was a banner for me. I played more games this year than any year previous. My low-end obsessive compulsive disorder had always dictated I finish each and every game I start – even if I don’t love it. How stupid is that? I was getting in the way of my own fun.

This year, I played more games and more types of games than ever, across every console and handheld. Of course, my backlog grows by the day and I was able to cross off some great titles from 2014 (I’m looking at you Dragon Age Inquisition and The Evil Within) but when I sit and think about it, 2015 might be a year that we look back and ask “was this the best year of the generation?”

These are 10 examples of why that is a completely legitimate question.

10. Until Dawn

Until Dawn Screen 1

You won’t find me calling out another developer here but Until Dawn is the new standard for “choose your own adventure” games. I even told my parents about how great it is!

In 2015, we expect more sophistication from our games and Until Dawn ups the ante with its Butterfly Effect mechanic. Every single character can live or die based on your decisions. And don’t expect the basic “go left and live” v.s. “go right and die” types of decisions. Just see what happens if you shoot a squirrel during target practice. It matters. Maybe not right away but that’s what makes it all so interesting.

9. Super Mario Maker

Super Mario Maker Screen 1

Probably one of the best spectator games of the year and in 2015, the year of YouTube Gaming, that counts for something now. Over 30 years, we’ve all come to know Super Mario better than we realize. So when Nintendo handed over the controls, with a slick little interface I might add, everyone knew exactly how it would work – even though none of us had ever created a Mario level before! Mushrooms make Mario bigger so it makes perfect sense that they would also make a Koopa Troopa or Bullet Bill giant too. Power-ups and other combinations are implemented perfectly and perfectly intuitively. It’s an accomplishment that isn’t given enough credit in the community and it speaks to the brilliant design and lovely celebration of the mushroom-devouring plumber who started it all.

A solid search or share functionality would have catapulted Super Mario Maker a few more spots in this prestigious list. Maybe on the NX…

My review

8. Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider Screen 1

She doesn’t know this but Lara Croft and I have been buddies for a long time. We’ve shot dinosaurs and endangered species together. We’ve ridden snowmobiles and motorcycles. We’ve been spelunking (though she would probably call it potholing) for nearly 20 years together and it has never been better than in Rise of the Tomb Raider. Crystal Dynamics portrays a strong sense of identity and confidence, particularly in the wake of Nathan Drake’s PS3 trilogy and upcoming finale.

In an adventure like this, you want to be rooting for the protagonist. And Lara Croft, performed beautifully by Camilla Luddington, is so well-realized in Rise of the Tomb Raider, you almost forget her shallow, misogynistic origins. This isn’t a character (only) for teen-aged boys any longer.  Lara is strong, smart, capable, adaptable, and tough.

If only Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition wasn’t already taken…

7. Batman: Arkham Knight

It’s funny how these lists work, isn’t it? Had Batman: Arkham Knight been the first Batman game by Rocksteady, this might have been my top pick for Game of the Year. Actually, the same logic applies to Rise of the Tomb Raider and, truth be told, it’s a bit of a toss-up between my choices for number seven and eight. When it comes down to it, the ensemble cast and the truly Oscar-worthy performances give Arkham Knight the edge.

This game rewards me at every turn. The lock-up cells in GCPD get stuffy and crowded as the spiral of progress bars stretch out towards 100%. People often talk about how the Arkham series makes you feel like Batman and one of the understated features of Arkham Knight is how the Super Villains are locked behind bars after completing their side-quest story lines. That’s Batman’s promise and you get to make it happen. If that’s not Batman, I don’t know what is.

Plus, it’s one of the best-looking games of 2015.

6. Forza Motorsport 6

Forza Motorsport 6 Screen 2

In movies, the best special effects are the ones you don’t notice. Forza Motorsport 6 is overflowing with artistic detail and technical prowess that take a backseat, pardon the pun, to some of the best gameplay from 2015. Still, it won’t win any Game of the Year awards. Maybe because it’s the sixth entry, or because it’s a racing game, but Forza Motorsport 6 deserves to be recognized and, more to my point, played.

I don’t typically covet digital ‘things’ but these cars look and drive so closely to the real thing, I started saving up for the next best model. This is the closest I will ever get to hopping in to a Ford GT and I am totally fine with it. Somehow, Forza Motorsport 6 makes me feel okay about never owning these cars in real life. I don’t yearn for them because a video game provided me with an experience that satiated me. That’s a level of immersion most would consider only possible through virtual reality, and I just played it on my Xbox One.

My review

5. Fallout 4

Nick Valentine should be the titular character in a film noir.

Nick Valentine should be the titular character in a film noir.

Something happened over the Thanksgiving weekend. One minute, I’m playing Fallout 4. The next, it’s four days later and I’m still playing Fallout 4.

It doesn’t really make any sense. Fallout 4 doesn’t have the greatest visuals. Combat is better elsewhere. Inventory management is fine but not revolutionary. I’ve even been known to wish another developer created it. Yet, Bethesda Studios crafted one of the most playable and addictive games of the year.

Even after leveling up, the next level feels within reach. So you play “just one more quest” over and over to unlock that coveted perk you’ve had your eye one. Or you scrounge for enough loot to upgrade your weapons, armor, or settlement one piece at a time. And this loop perpetuates, untethered by time or personal responsibilities, because the upgrades never feel marginal. You’re always getting a nice boost and the momentum carries you into the next dozen hours of gameplay.

Like Forza Motorsport 6, Fallout 4 is a hardcore game disguised as casual one. It is as complex as it is accessible and as addicting as Jet or Psycho, or so I hear.

4. Halo 5: Guardians

Halo 5 Guardians Screen 3

I’ll never forget it. In 1998, my family went to Universal Studios and it was pouring rain. The park was empty and we could go on any ride, no lines. So my brothers and I discovered the Jurassic Park ride. And what a ride! It’s a little short and kind of a bastardized live version of the movie, but when it was all over, we raced back to the turnstiles and did it again.

That’s Halo 5: Guardians for me. When it was all over, I had to jump back on and play again. This one ranks so highly on my list because it prompted me, numerous times, to pack up my Xbox One and head over to a friends house for some two-television co-op fun. Who needs split-screen, I’m pretty sure you could buy a 46″ LED TV for like $300 on Black Friday.

My review

3. Ori and the Blind Forest

Ori and the Blind Forest Screen 1

Two things kept me away from Ori and the Blind Forest when it first came out. Perhaps you’ve heard the same things:

  1. It’s difficult.
  2. It’s a Metroid-Vania

I’m here to tell you, if these points deter you, ignore them and just play Ori and the Blind Forest.

It is not the easiest game you’ll play but it is far from the hardest. And as far as the Metroid-Vania thing goes, I dislike the term. It refers to a focus on exploration and gaining abilities to progress further into the world and story. Yet it seems to carry a sense of pre-requisite playing – meaning if you haven’t been trained by Metroid or Castlevania, you won’t enjoy a Metroid-Vania game.

Ori and the Blind Forest welcomes all players. It doesn’t matter if you remember that turning into a ball or shooting through bubble doors changed video games forever. This is the most beautiful video game of 2015. Period.

2. Rocket League

Please Shuhei, let us change our PSN names.

Please Shuhei, let us change our PSN names.

There’s no probably about it. If it were a retail release I wouldn’t have sought it out. If it weren’t free, I wouldn’t have purchased it. But neither were the case. Rocket League appeared on my PS4 as a free PS Plus benefit with zero barrier to entry and no excuse not to try it. Rocket League, and the way in which it was released, should be the definition for free-to-play on consoles. A free “purchase” for the first month and let the gameplay do the rest. I think Windows 10 copied this model later in the year…

Normally when someone oversimplifies a game you love, you might be offended. But the community embraces “soccer with cars” even if they don’t love soccer (or cars).  You’re not always in control but the controls feel perfect. A perfectly-timed jump, boost, and aerial hit is all you need to be hooked forever.

The original PlayStation gave us to maturity in our games. This PS4 (console, for now) exclusive reminds us that gameplay rules all. Kind of like another PS4 exclusive…

1. BloodborneBloodborne Screen 1

It is the best reason to own a PS4. Bloodborne will show you how capable you are and how rewarding it is to experience something you’ve never tried before.

This is back-to-basics gameplay combined with the year’s best art direction and sense of setting. Bloodborne isn’t a horror game, per se, but it’s effectively unsettling. You are dropped in to a world you don’t understand, populated by insatiably violent beasts and unsympathetic onlookers. With a giant, serrated chopping weapon in one hand and a stay-back gunpowder blaster in the other, Bloodbore gives you all that is needed for a gorey, visceral, sweaty-palmed experience.

By now you may have noticed how I’ve avoided describing it as “difficult.” Similarly to Ori, this label kept me away and I wish it hadn’t. Like any game, you will face obstacles and puzzles that require overcoming. Where I found the most enjoyment was discovering how to enhance my stats (strength, skill, vitality) to give me an edge.

I played (or replayed) each of these 10 games in the last month of 2015 and the one that kept tempting me away from the others was Bloodborne. For veterans of the Souls series, this will be just another feather in your cap. But for everyone else, Bloodborne will be a major milestone in your gaming career. It certainly was for me.

About the Author

Sean Capri

I am a beady-eyed Canadian. I play video games and feed/walk my three dogs.