Just when you thought video games couldn’t push any further, they did.
It was that kind of gaming year in 2015. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were known quantities, and Nintendo embraced the Wii U as an underrated console on the fringes. And that made for plenty of quality titles that dared to push the bounds of what you expected in a game.
A sports game with narrative? A game that fully recreated a storied 80s cartoon? A movie-themed shooter that actually lived up to expectations?
They were all here — along with a great many more. And all of them show up in the News’ top 50 video game titles of 2015:
MARIO TENNIS: ULTRA SMASH
A simple arcade-y tennis game for the Wii U that doesn’t try too hard but does offer fun in short, quick doses.
THE ORDER: 1886
No, Sony’s much-hyped PlayStation 4 action game didn’t quite live up to the hype. But look past the gameplay limitations, and it tells an engaging “Underworld”-style story, and visually, it’s just as good as advertised.
TALES OF ZESTIRIA
The latest in Namco’s Tales line of JRPGs again deigns to reinvent, but it does deliver a solid adventure and another quality battle system.
DISGAEA 5: ALLIANCE OF VENGEANCE
Classic Japanese tactical turn-based RPGs simply don’t come better than this latest visit to the Netherworld, which features a handful of new features.
DRAGON QUEST HEROES
The finest Dynasty Warriors-style game yet overflows with nostalgia from Square Enix’s Dragon Quest series. No, it’s not hard, but it is plenty of fun.
CITIZENS OF EARTH
Atlus’ charming and simple downloadable role-playing game featured some of the best writing of the year, happily satirizing both politics and gaming in one cute package.
A bounceback year for EA Sports’ NHL franchise finally sees the return of key modes such as Be A GM and Be A Pro and offers a terrific on-ice experience.
CIVILIZATION BEYOND EARTH: RISING TIDE
This is how you do an expansion. Rising Tide specifically addresses the weakness to the original Beyond Earth turn-based strategy game, and it’s at its strongest thanks to the new hybrid affinities. Aliens and tech? Sign us up!
Activision’s toys-come-to-life franchise becomes the first in the genre to introduce vehicles and contains the most prolific production values in the genre. Despite the inclusion of several female Skylanders, it remains a game best for young boys.
A next-gen multiplayer game from 2K that pit a quartet of hunters against a gradually evolving monster, it presented one of the more unique multiplayer ideas of the year.
YOSHI’S WOOLLY WORLD
No company churns out cutesy platformers quite like Nintendo. This Wii U exclusive channels Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Levels are simple to complete, but nuance and challenge overflows in the quest to acquire all collectibles.
XENOBLADE CHRONICLES X
Few games are as daunting as this Wii U exclusive, which oozes overwhelming challenge as its first impression. But grow accustomed to the MMO world and terrific battles and role-playing depth await.
Warner Bros. Interactive
Holy graphics, Batman! A scene from Arkham Knight
UNCHARTED: THE NATHAN DRAKE COLLECTION
Required playing if you’re prepping for next year’s Uncharted 4 on the PlayStation 4, The Nathan Drake Collection faithfully upgrades the first three Uncharted games. Drake’s Fortune shows its age, but the final two games hold up well.
At first glance, it seems like a Pokemon clone, but Nintendo’s 3DS game has depth all its own, headed by a battling system that’s all at once engaging and annoyingly helter-skelter.
GUITAR HERO LIVE
The best part of the new Guitar Hero? The new guitar, which feels less like some video game toy and just a little bit more like the real thing. Guitar Hero Live is hard . . . but when you get it right, boy is it fulfilling.
MLB THE SHOW 15
The only baseball video game in town continues to be a supremely good one on the PlayStation 4, and the ability to roll saves over from the previous year’s iteration is something that all sports titles desperately need to mimic.
MONSTER HUNTER 4: ULTIMATE
The finest Monster Hunter game yet, thanks to an engaging story and tweaked battling mechanics that bring even more nuance to the franchise. One of the best 3DS games of this year.
ROCK BAND 4
A familiar rhythm-music game revival that plays it safe but remains plenty of fun, with a new guitar solo-ing system only adding to the enjoyment. And where else can you play video game drums?
Finally, a Transformers video game worth playing! Devastation flawlessly channels the 1980s cartoon that started it all, delivering so much nostalgia that you’ll find yourself downloading classic episodes just to relive a little bit more.
Another loaded soccer game from EA Sports.
FORZA MOTORSPORT 6
Microsoft’s trademark racing sim manages to push the limits of realism with its Drivatar features and simultaneously offer more video game-style fun with “Mods” and “Spins.”
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: MAJORA’S MASK
A faithful 3DS recreation of the most unique and challenging Zelda from that franchise’s golden age, this is a must-play for the on-the-go adventurer.
JUST CAUSE 3
No game lets you feel more like an action hero than Square Enix’s open-world masterpiece, and you know that from the very start, when you’re blowing up everything in sight with a rocket launcher, from the top of an airplane in midflight.
NEED FOR SPEED
EA Games reboots its edgy racer, and the gameplay here is as fast and furious as you’d expect. But it’s the near film-quality cutscenes that steal the show and almost make you forget you’re playing a video game.
The prelude to Fallout 4 is a simple but painfully addictive iOS and Android experience that you’ll keep playing even after you’ve done everything you thought possible in your vault.
The latest edition to the toys-come-to-life craze is perhaps the most ambitious, with Warner Bros. Interactive’s entry getting youngsters to build with actual Legos then bring those creations to life. A franchise that oozes potential for 2016.
TOM CLANCY’S RAINBOW SIX: SIEGE
Ubisoft’s revival of the Rainbow Six franchise brings a few new ideas (and some memorable old ones) to the multiplayer genre. Fluid controls and terrific visuals round out an underrated package.
PRO EVOLUTION SOCCER 2016
Konami’s storied soccer franchise hits its stride with some of the most fluid, natural and believable action you’ve ever seen on the video game pitch.
All-new catch mechanics add welcome meat to the one area of video game football that seemed to let gamers sleepwalk. The end result is the first meaningful step forward for the Madden franchise in several years.
Sports fans had plenty of cool features to grab onto with Madden 16.
A strong open-world game that’s powered by a solid story, terrific visuals and a massive sense of scope.
ASSASSIN’S CREED: SYNDICATE
The best Assassin’s Creed game in years grows on you the more you play it. Jacob and Evie Frye complement each other well, and this game, glitch-free (unlike last year’s Unity) features an enjoyable London.
Finally, a zombie game that thought outside the box. The first-person perspective and excellent parkour made it a joy to traverse areas and survive another zombie apocalypse.
CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS III
That rare year where a Call of Duty game flies under the radar. The latest Black Ops is a game loaded with new content and overflowing with modes, even if it doesn’t quite explore its brilliant technology-implanted-in-humans premise as deeply as you’d hope.
MORTAL KOMBAT X
In a lean year for fighting games, the newest Mortal Kombat was easily the cream of the crop, delivering a solid cast of fighters (plus more in DLC) and the usual plethora of fighting game modes.
DISNEY INFINITY 3.0
In its third go-round, Disney’s toys-come-to-life franchise truly hits its stride, offering several fun Star Wars adventures and overflowing with Toy Box creative freedom. Well-crafted toys (check out that Hulkbuster armor) round out an experience that children absolutely love.
ORI AND THE BLIND FOREST
A charming downloadable Xbox-only platformer that looks beautiful and delivers a quietly emotional story.
LIFE IS STRANGE
A terrific serial downloadable from Square Enix that captures plenty of teen angst in its story.
DESTINY: THE TAKEN KING
An expansion that proves Bungie really wants to continue building the Destiny franchise, The Taken King removes many of the annoyances of last year’s game and finally adds a story that’s at least somewhat worth paying attention to.
STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT
It’s multiplayer Star Wars nirvana from EA Games, faithfully recreating many of the Star Wars lands you’ve come to know and love and adding a boatload of fun modes. If only it didn’t feel as if EA was holding back for DLC.
Star Wars fans came out in full force to play Battlefront.
BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT
No, the Batmobile wasn’t nearly as much fun as advertised (especially given how it limited several other Bat-abilities). But Arkham Knight’s story is so rich that you’ll play through those annoyances anyway. An apt coda to the Batman Arkham franchise, although you can’t help but hope Warner Bros. finds time to keep this going.
The most loaded sports franchise of them all just keeps on rolling, this time with an even richer MyPlayer Mode. Spike Lee’s story falls short, although you have to like the introduction of deeper stories into sports gaming. Rich franchise and season modes round out the experience, and the only thing missing is a full-featured online league mode.
SUPER MARIO MAKER
A new take on Mario. This Wii U game delivers every tool you could possibly need to make the Mario level of your dreams — or every level you could possibly want to test your Mario skills. The learning curve is perfect for creators. It’s the perfect way to indulge or game developing fantasies.
Perhaps the most underrated shooter of 2015, Nintendo’s Splatoon offered a shooting experience that both gaming vets and grandmothers could love. It’s a franchise that you desperately hope Nintendo will continue to grow; in a world of endless Call of Duty clones, we need more shooters like this.
Painting a picture of what it’s like to play Splatoon
The future of the horror film, perhaps? The PlayStation 4 exclusive delivers a story that will actually creep you out in moments and a terrific amount of tension, not to mention quality horror movie acting performances. The tension of a horror movie is even more nerve-wracking when you’re the one actually doing the exploring.
METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN
Hideo Kojima’s final Metal Gear game had lofty gameplay goals with its open world gameplay and its Mother Base growth, and it delivers on all of those, even if it comes at the expense of the franchise’s typical tight narrative. It’s a robust game overflowing with terrifically refined stealth gameplay.
HALO V: GUARDIANS
The latest Halo takes some heat for its story, and boy is there a lot of lore here, but the end product is still the most complete shooter of 2015, delivering a meaty and well-built campaign mode and a host of multiplayer options. Visually, the game is as beautiful as it gets. 343 Industries has put its stamp on the Xbox’s signature franchise.
The newest Fallout is everything you’d expect, throwing you into a vast post-nuclear wasteland filled with things to do. It’s a Bethesda world, overflowing with quests to undertake and people to meet, but it’s more developed than ever, with town-building and scavenging features that push the genre to new levels.
THE WITCHER 3: BLOOD HUNT
Geralt of Rivia’s latest adventure is his best, taking place in a vast world filled with NPCs who truly come to life and ooze personality. This is that rare open-world game that makes your decisions matter and leaves you feeling pangs of guilt in certain moments. Oh, and it looks spectacular. Just check out the details on Geralt’s garb.
Rise of the Tomb Raider proved to be a treasure for fans of the franchise.
RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER
Square Enix really has Lara Croft all figured out. The second game in this rebooted Tomb Raider franchise tells another terrific story, further showcasing Croft’s growth in a story with flawless pacing. Few franchises blend standout cinematic storytelling with terrific action and puzzle-solving and quality RPG principles better than this one.
The PlayStation 4’s early-year hit remains the finest game of the year, a unique role-playing adventure that carefully balances a steep learning curve. Combat is as polished as ever, bettering the slow pace of Dark Souls with a slight dose of Ninja Gaiden, and the balance between explicit storytelling and gamer discovery is sublime. And if you want storied boss battles, something often missing in 2015’s games, they don’t get any better — or more colossal, at times — than the baddies you’ll encounter in Bloodborne.
Bloodborne may have been the best title of the year…but it’s not a video game for the sensitive.
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