I literally bought a Playstation 4 just this week, right on time to get started on Game of the Year considerations, so you won't be seeing a lot of the big AAA next-gen games most other people are going to have. But you don't need me to tell you games like MGS V and Witcher 3 are good! Everyone else is about to say that anyways! Let's have some fun talking about some of the other excellent games that came out this year!
Best game from before 2015: 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
If I could quit my job and just start a professional career of being trapped in fiendishly-designed puzzle rooms filled with clever and intricate hints that must be solved before I can move on, it would be a dream come true. Since the world doesn't exist specifically to make me happy (what's up with that?!), the best I can do is games like the insane 999, a puzzle room game boasting 6 endings and bizarre discussions of quantum mechanics and sci-fi concepts like ice-9. It's a cool game of interesting characters, plot twists, and is well written in a way that's got me hooked on the series, with a third one coming out next year. Very exciting!
Moral choices in games have long been points of contention with a lot of people because they're just so obvious. There's a clear good choice, a clear bad, and even more a giant bar that fills up and achievements based on it. Some even have like demon horns pop up on your face. But SOMA didn't do that. It presented you with choices to make, and then lets you judge yourself, and that's amazing. It was so great to watch let's players go through and pause and justify some of the things they did to themselves. On top of that SOMA is just a sharp, strong game that asks questions about transhumanism and isn't afraid to shy away from some of the intense discomfort that concept brings. Games of this caliber don't usually do things like that, and I was endlessly enthralled to the incredibly strong conclusion.
4. Axiom Verge
At the point in Axiom Verge where I came across a gun that behaved like it was scrambling the hex-codes that control the enemies, that's when I knew I was playing something special. It's such a cool aesthetic and concept, and while games have started to fiddle with the concept of playing with glitches, none have gone as far as Axiom Verge to make it an actual part of the world, from being able to run your body through specific blocks, to scrambling enemies in ways that change their properties. It feels like there are surprises around every corner, and the developer did an excellent job of playing with the genre's expectations. Plus those giant robot computer ladies are so cool, and I dedicate this position to them.
Not only did Nintendo introduce a new concept to the shooter genre with this idea of territory-control-through-ink, they also put on a clinic in how to support a game and a community after release. Since its May release date, Nintendo's put out new modes, maps, weapons, and outfits with such regularity as to keep things interesting, and extra competitions and special teams you can join. And all for free! Splatoon is such a cool idea, achieved with such ease, and somewhere in there they even managed to shove a pretty solid single player. What an excellent new franchise for the WiiU.
2. Affordable Space Adventures
We lament the way that the WiiU is constantly missing out on titles that could use the Gamepad's screen in any cool way. It's the one thing that the system has going for it, and even Nintendo seems to just have shrugged and is just using it for screen mirroring. That's where Affordable Space Adventures was such a great surprise – I played the whole thing co-op, and the person with the Gamepad uses the screen to have full control of all the instrumentation, where the other person controls certain parts of the game. It was like being a real ship crew trying to make our way off this hostile planet, working together to overcome the obstacles, and it was a super awesome use of that second screen. Also it was fun to just cut the engines completely and watch my girlfriend freak out while I giggle at her surprise.
1. Super Mario Maker
How could anything but this be my number 1 game? It collects 4 of the best controlling games ever made and then lets you just go crazy making levels for them, and playing other people's crazy wild ideas. Things like Patrick Klepek's Mario Maker Mornings do a great job of showing how clever and creative and straight-up sadistic people out there can be. It's a much easier level editor to get into than other games have had in the past, and it's so easy to start it up, hit the Mario challenge, and just be served up levels. Maybe it's cheating to say that the best game of the year is a combination of sorts of 4 of the best platformers ever, but this game does so well playing on nostalgia while also building out past the limits of what Mario games have had in the past. Fun, clever, and if it winds up being the swan song for the WiiU, nothing could possibly be more fitting.
Honorable mentions: BOX BOY!, Olli Olli 2, Yoshi's Wooly World, The Beginner's Guide