In my Top 5 of 2014, I made mention of it being a great year for Nintendo fans. Never did I imagine what was coming in 2015. This year, I had no less than 4 games in consideration for my Game of the Year that were all exclusive to the Wii U. In the end, the top three spots were dominated by Nintendo.
Yet, 2015 is highlighted by an expansion of the systems that I was playing. For the first time ever, I acquired an XBox 360 thanks to falling prices and my son having an itch for Castle Crashers. I resuscitated my PS2 (the laser was failing) and I even bought my family a PS4 that’s currently sitting under our Christmas tree. Next year will be a wild west with games from every corner competing to be my favorite, and I can’t wait!
But it ain’t New Year’s yet and now let’s find out what are the Top 5 Best Games I Played in 2015!
5. Nidhogg (PC/PS4)
In many ways, my introduction to Nidhogg this year was destiny. (The game was actually released in early 2014.) As part of the contingent of admins for The Denver Retro Gamers, we went up to Boss Stage Arcade to scout the location out for our holiday party. While discussing possible options for a gaming tournament, the owner mentioned Nidhogg.
Wait, what word are you saying?
Obviously, I was pessimistic about this “jousting game” being anything interesting. What about Mortal Kombat, or Street Fighter? Nidhogg?! Well, all of my doubt washed away the moment I laid eyes on the thing.
In many ways, Nidhogg shouldn’t be such a great title. The graphics are simple though retro. There’s no story. There’s no real one-player experience to be found unless you want to absolutely rip the soul out of the game. Heck, even playing online is not nearly as good. THIS is a game meant for local multiplayer and parties.
And it will be the best party game you’ll own.
The rules are simple: you start in the middle of 5 separate screens and each player is trying to get to their respective end using just a sword and some dexterity. You can slay your opponent, sure, but you can just as easily jump over them and keep running to your goal. Or tumble. Heck, you don’t even need the sword, just throw it at them! But run…run run run…
In this age of online play, it’s rare to find a local multiplayer game so enjoyable. Couch-op as we call it. One of my honorable mentions, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, is another fantastic game to play with friends in your living room, but Nidhogg is the best because it retains such an element of strategy while being so easy to pick up and play for anyone who’s never even seen it before.
The game is primarily available on PC/Steam, but a console version of it can be found on PS4. If you own one, you absolutely must purchase this digital-only game to play with your buddies!
4. Shadow of the Colossus (PS2/PS3)
2015 has truly been the year of my wrapping up of loose ends.
I re-watched my all-time favorite sitcom, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and finally got to see the series finale after so many years of regurgitating lines. (Though I would’ve preferred an ending where they return their bodies to their “original owners” and the actors spend the last minute being complete different people.)
I re-read the first three books of The Inheritance Cycle (Eragon et al.) so I could, finally, read the 4th book and find out how the story ends. I’m still reading it right now.
I beat classic games like Super Mario 3 (SNES) and Space Quest (PC) for the first time ever, and then…then it was time to go back and beat Shadow of the Collosus.
I’d bought the Ico/SOTC Collection for PS3 several years ago based on a review by Orange Lounge Radio. I played Ico right away and enjoyed it, so I moved on to SOTC right after. This is a game where there are no enemies at all — just 16 boss battles. Now, you do have to go find each boss and sometimes this can get frustrating. My biggest complaint with the game was the damn horse being so clunky to ride.
I dispatched of two of the bosses before getting stuck on the third and then, for some reason I can’t recall, I never got back to it. Yet, in all the intervening years, I always wanted to try it again. And I did. And I beat it.
What makes this game amazing is the sense of scale the developer instilled into it. When a colossus comes on to the screen, you the player are dwarfed in ridiculous proportion. Personally, several of them downright terrified me and that’s a testament to the art direction of this game. You’re put into a mindset that you’re facing an invincible opponent so that, when you defeat them, your body swells with prideful accomplishment!
The game will take you about 10-12 hours with no hints, somewhat short by today’s standards, but when it’s done I am confident you’ll regard this game as an epic. A beautiful story. A short and sweet experience that you’ll find no comparison to in any other game.
Shadow of the Colossus is a beautiful game.
3. TriForce Heroes (3DS)
Announced at E3 2015, this game came as a surprise to many and it wasn’t long after that it was released. (Even if it felt like something to tide us over until the true new Zelda game.) Being a Zelda fan, I was immediately interested. It being a 3DS game, I knew I’d be purchasing it. (My favorite platform after all.) Even then, I didn’t buy it right at launch because I was preoccupied with some other games.
But once I started playing…oh man…
I like to describe Triforce Heroes to people as a crossover dungeon crawler. It’s actually nothing like that genre, but what it lacks in similarity it has in accessibility. In a year where I tried and hated Etrian Mystery Dungeon, I simply couldn’t stop playing Triforce Heroes.
The game breaks down into 8 worlds (ignoring the Den of Trials DLC) with 4 levels each and each level having four areas. That’s 32 dungeons to explore with 128 challenges and it’s top-notch level design. After you pass each level, you get the choice of 1 of 3 chests to pull an item out of. (The game tells you which 3 items are in them before you even start the level, but you don’t which is where.) it’s just so addicting to go back in to a level and try to find the last item you need to build an outfit that will make another level you need to beat easier.
What makes this game so fantastic is that you beat these challenges with friends! Yes, there’s three of you that must work together to overcome the odds. You can play online with strangers, with friends, or even play locally. The best part is that you only need one copy of the game to play so long as your friends are OK with just playing along with you without goals of their own. (Or, they can just go buy a copy of the game those cheap bastards.)
There’s no single goal in this game either. You can try to beat all the levels and beat the game, but even then I’m not sure you have to beat all of the levels, just a whole lot of them. Another thing you can do is try to collect all the outfits in this game. You see, cosplay gives you powerful abilities that enhance your character. Many of them make your use of items stronger and thus get through certain levels more easily.
And that’s not all. Every level has 3 extra challenges you can accomplish. They’re all variations on the original level where sometimes you have to beat it with less hearts, or with a maniac hand trying to squish you, or even with balloons floating around you either have to pop or avoid popping. There’s so much to do, and it is soooooo hard to stop playing it.
The only knock I have on the game is that it’s sometimes hard to find two friends to play with you. Online play is great, but most of the time I had to play with strangers and there were definitely some major league douchebags. Sometimes, they didn’t even seem interested in playing, preferring to just pick up your character and throw them off a cliff. Every so often, though, you get matched up with a good team and you have a whale of a time! I guess I just wish I was a kid again and could play this on the school bus with my buddies.
Being an adult sucks!
There is a single-player experience which involves you controlling all three characters yourself, taking turns between each one. I ended up using this mode way more than I thought. Sometimes, you just need the best team for the job and that team is you. Yet, there’s some challenges you just can’t do by yourself, most notably the time-based challenges.
I’ve beaten the game, beat each of the 32 levels, collected every single outfit, and cleared the Den of Trials. Still, I find myself wanting to squeak out those final challenges I have yet to pass. This is a forever game. You can go back to it at any time. I hope Nintendo continues to push out DLC as I’ll keep coming back for more!
2. Splatoon (Wii U)
The first time I saw game footage of Splatoon I wasn’t sold. At my core, I couldn’t shake my memories of de Blob, a hideously boring game that fell so short of expectations. I wasn’t impressed with the squid mechanic either, there was just something about the art style that soured me. I just wasn’t into this game.
Over the intervening months, several friends were ecstatic about it and couldn’t wait for it to launch. When the “global test-fires” started, I felt myself succumbing to the hype. It wasn’t until the final two weeks that I managed to test the game out for an hour and, oh my, my son and I had a blast! By the time launch day hit, between Splatoon and all the Amiibos coming out that day, I couldn’t wait to get to the store!
Splatoon is, in short, one of the more compulsive, addictive games I’ve ever played. Nintendo has put strict controls over the content, too, which is where this all comes from. Unlike other multiplayer shooters, you can’t choose your level or the game type, they are selected by Nintendo and there’s only a couple possibilities per hour. So, if you sit down to play this game, you’ll likely only play a couple different game modes and levels that entire time, and you’ll play them over and over again.
And this works great!
Each matchup takes just 3 minutes which is an ideal time to fight, fill up a stage with ink, and battle for an advantage without it dragging on. If the game took 2 minutes or 4 minutes, it wouldn’t be nearly as good. Sometimes having constraints in a game is a good thing, and this is a very good thing.
I already can’t wait for Splatoon 2. That has to be my most eagerly anticipated game that doesn’t actually exist yet except for in my fantasies.
1. Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)
Last year my Game of the Year was Fire Emblem: Awakening. This year, there should be no question what it is because recently I dubbed it the Best Video Game of All Time.
If you own a Wii U but not this game: get it. If you don’t own a Wii U, get one and then get it. Platinum Games hit a grand slam rocket out of the stadium with this one!
Here’s what they did: They took a great game in Bayonetta and updated it to make it an even better sequel. They evolved the character and changed her whole fighting style. They mixed an engrossing story and frenetic action into one single game. Great, right?
Well they weren’t even close to done. They injected all kinda of replayability into the game with extra time-based challenges. Then, they capped it off with making special new costumes available that not only change Bayonetta’s appearance, but completely change her attack style, too. You can dress up as Princess Peach, Fox, Link (Linkle?), and Samus! There’s also Daisy, too, along with a bunch more non-Nintendo versions! You’ll want to play this game all the way through again as Peach, I assure you!
OH…and then they freaking re-mastered the original Bayonetta and included that game for free in the same package! So, you not only get what I regard as the best game I’ve ever played, you get the first game for free so you can follow that story, too, and on two discs!
There is not one complaint I have with Bayonetta 2. Not one. It’s perfect. The game starts fast, letting you fight even while the game is introducing the story. The enemies are big and detailed, fantastically rendered, and brawling is so satisfying. You learn better and better moves as the games goes on, and playing it a second or third time as Samus or Peach is just frickin’ adorable. The game is sexy and cool without being sexist and sleazy. The voice acting is incredible, the game addicting, and oh man I just want to play it all over again RIGHT NOW!!!
And there it is, 2015. A year full of great games including the greatest of them all. All hail, Bayonetta 2!
Honorable mentions: AVGN Adventures (3DS), Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U), Super Mario Maker (Wii U), Yoshi’s Wooly World (Wii U), Eathbound (SNES), Mother 3 (GBA), NBA Jam: On Fire Edition (XBox 360), Journey (PS3), Ducktales: Remastered (Wii U)