The end of the year is here and it is time to reflect on my experiences over the last year. So I am starting with my Top 10 games of 2015. Of course, the list is going to be mostly Nintendo games because those are the systems I primarily play and because they make the best games. So let’s get on with it.
10: Boxboy – This simple but delightful little platformer from HAL was easily one of the best games on the 3DS this year. It took a very simple concept, a box that can make other boxes, and crafted some excellent puzzles and challenges out of it. It is all too brief, though. It matches that simple gameplay with similar graphics, being mostly black and white and mostly just boxes. The game uses that simplicity to its advantage, clearly indicating just what is possible and what is important. It is all around just an excellent game.
9: Legend of Zelda Triforce Heroes – This game is everything that the 4 Swords games, delightful even if limited, wanted to be. It features three Links instead of four, but otherwise is exactly what you want a multiplayer Zelda to be like. The getting power-ups from different costumes, and making those costumes an integral part of the game was a brilliant move. This is not the sequel to A Link Between Worlds that most people wanted, but it is a perfectly fun game in its own right.
8: Affordable Space Adventures – This one slipped by a lot of people’s radars, which is unfortunate. It makes some of the best use of the WiiU tablet controller for the system yet and is a damn fun game regardless. In Affordable Space Adventures, the player goes on a voyage courtesy of a fly-by-night space exploration company. After the inevitable crash landing, up to three players must work together to pilot their tiny space craft to safety. It is just an awesome experience. The biggest part of the game is knowing how the various systems of the craft interact with the surroundings, like the noise the motor makes or the electrical systems making it detectable by some obstacles.
7: Steamworld Heist – A late entrant on the list, but I think this one will have staying power. SteamWorld Dig was a delightful little metroidvania, but Heist keeps the same robotic aesthetic but changes genre to turn based strategy, playing something like Worms. The game features a lot of options for tackling maps and looks and sounds great. Really, the game just oozes charm. The fact that is features hats just so they can be shot off is wonderful.
6: Splatoon – I really wish my time with this game hadn’t been derailed by losing my save data. This is a charming and fresh take on the multi-player shooter that has been a well-deserved hit for Nintendo. It is mostly here for the multiplayer, which I really enjoyed for the month I stuck with it, but the single player was also a lot of fun. For a company that has an undeserved reputation among the uniformed for trotting out the same games over and over, Nintendo has a knack to taking genre’s other pioneer and giving them accessible spins. Games like Pikmin. Splatoon is simply aesthetically and mechanically a joy to play.
5: Yoshi’s Woolly World – This is Nintendo going back to their old faithful genre. No one does hopping and bobbing like Nintendo. This game also takes Kirby Epic Yarn’s arts and crafts aesthetic and takes it even further. On graphics alone this game may be worth putting on this list. Luckily, the game itself is great to. I have not been a huge fan of any of Yoshi’s previous starring roles, but this one just feels good. It hits that sweet spot of being easy to beat each level, but hard to get all the secrets. It makes you want to get the secrets, but you are never trapped by anything other than your desire to not leave anything behind. This is just an excellent take on a reliable formula.
4: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate – It is just like Monster Hunter 3, only bigger and better. I spent more than 100 hours on this in just a few months, but then kind of got distracted. Still, it is a ton of fun. There is just so much to do in one of these games that no sane player will ever see everything. This time I got right to the end of the high rank stuff, not quite to G rank, before wandering off. I have every intention of coming back to it, but who knows if I’ll ever make the time. MH4U is such an assured, steady game that it is hard not to admire.
3: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – Wildly ambitious and somewhat flawed, The Phantom Pain is an amazing experience. The sheer breadth of things it allows the player to do is astounding. This is the game glimpsed occasionally through MGS4’s narrative pretensions. After a highly scripted opening, it drops the player in Afghanistan and just leaves you alone. There is near complete freedom in how missions are tackled. Each of the game’s 40 or so missions are a significant chunk of the size of MGS1. The game never seems to run out of new things to do. The only flaw is that it seems like large portions of the story are just missing, as though the game was shoved out not quite finished, with just enough context to tell its tale. Still, it is an unforgettable experience.
2: Super Mario Maker – Almost less of a game than a toolset, Super Mario Maker is also a complete delight. Because it is a toolset, a surprisingly deep one if far from comprehensive. It has allowed prospective game designers the keys to the kingdom to make their own Mario levels. And really, playing other people’s levels is as fun as making your own. My levels are pedestrian affairs, usually with a focus on precise platforming over waves and waves of enemies, but some people have managed some truly great and inventive stuff. It can be annoying to wade through some cruft, but this game is a gift that keeps on giving.
1: Xenoblade Chronicles X – I liked but didn’t love Xenoblade Chronicles. It was impressive and ambitious, but ultimately too long. I ended up never finishing it and enjoyed The Last Story significantly more. XCX, while playing in large part like its predecessor, has utter captivated me. Never before has a game given me a world I more wanted to explore or given me the freedom to do so at my own pace. The world of this game is huge and beautiful and is pretty much completely open to the player right from the start. From the great green plains of Primordia to the broken volcano fortresses of Cauldros, this game never lacks for things to see. The plot and story is never more than serviceable and the battle system can be needlessly obtuse, but just running out to see what you can find is a thrill that no other game can match.