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By 15 December 2015 | Categories: feature articles

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2015 has been a bumper year for games. Even as a few notable, highly anticipated games dropped off this year’s roster and leapt instead to 2016 (Yes, Uncharted 4, we are talking about you) there has been no shortage of terrific titles to get stuck into. Here are the standouts that made 2015 such a tantalising year for gaming.

1. Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One, Xbox 360)

Tomb Raider was a terrific game in its own right, but Rise of the Tomb Raider (review) upped the ante in every respect. Bigger environments and larger tombs to explore, a more complex crafting system for weapons, multiple ways of dealing with enemies, new collectibles to find and more globetrotting made Rise of the Tomb Raider quite possibly one of the best Tomb Raider games to date.

Helping matters is that the story is pretty compelling, especially as you delve deeper into Lara’s attempt to follow in the footsteps of her father and discover the key to immortality. At the time of writing, the game’s potential is not done yet, with the first piece of DLC expected to drop in January, with the game slated to become available on PS4 in November 2016.

2. Bloodborne (PS4)

As spooky and atmospheric as you could hope for, Bloodborne (review) saw From Software depart from its Dark Souls franchise for a bit to give us a menacing world to explore, fearsome creatures to confront and a story that evoked H.P. Lovecraft more than a little.

The game may have been like a nightmare come to life, but it was a terrifying joy to play, as you, a Hunter, were faced with constant peril at every turn. As if a plague stricken village wasn’t creepy enough, throw in a fanatical religious mob in a Gothic setting, and creatures who gave no quarter, while its latest DLC addition saw the game taunting you to come to just a little further in.

3. Fallout 4 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

Taking another gander at the post apocalyptic world was Fallout 4. Forget for a moment if you can that it is from the doyen of open world RPGs, Bethesda, Fallout 4 didn’t so much present you with a game to play as much as it did a world, and a second life, to get lost in.

To veteran Fallout players, there are some familiar elements, such as your S.P.E.C.I.A.L  attributes to upgrade, but the star of the show is really the world itself. Whether you choose to pursue the main storyline, allow yourself to be distracted by an array of side quests or venture off the beaten track just to explore, with robotic or canine companion at your side, Fallout 4 was and still is terrifically compelling.

4. Dying Light (PS4, Xbox One, PC )

With all things zombie firmly entrenched in our culture, thanks in no small part to The Walking Dead and a few other horror survival movies, the year began with a familiar challenge, to survive those creatures who consider you a hors’ d'oeuvre.  

However, Dying Light (review) managed to stand out from the glut of zombie-inspired media by combining a first person perspective, parkour (because running is essential) and dealing with the undead with makeshift weapons when you instead need to stand and fight. Gruesome, frightening, atmospheric and downright fun, it was a game that wasn’t afraid to mix things up, with a Be the Zombie mode which flipped the tables entirely.

5. Until Dawn (PS4)

Another survival horror, Until Dawn proved itself a wonderful homage to those terrifically campy horror movies. The premise is familiar - a bunch of young adults converge on a remote cabin a year after a tragedy – for their annual get together, unaware that they have an unwelcome visitor in the form of a crazed psychopath.

What really made Until Dawn (review) sing though, apart from terrific voice acting, was its Butterfly Effect mechanic, where the choices you make could either spell doom or survival for the characters, whose shoes you take turns stepping into. This made every action meaningful and charged with suspense, elevating it above its familiar horror tropes into a game we could not quickly set aside.

6. Ori and the Blind Forest (Xbox One)

When you have had your fill of zombie slaying, of the apocalypse or of gruesome worlds that succeed at reaching out skeletal hands to draw you into their horrendous depths, Ori and the Blind Forest offers a refreshing change of pace.

From the start, the game is particularly emotionally affecting, as it touches on themes of friendship and loss, while tracing the journey of a forest sprite trying to restore its land, ravaged by darkness. It is not just enchanting, it’s beautifully told and even more fantastically depicted. Even as the platformer harkens back to the Metroidvania formula (earning new abilities to explore and progress further) it often provides a fresh challenge, and quickly proved itself to be one of the more memorable games to grace any console this year.

7. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

Metal Gear Solid 5 may have made its entry into this year shrouded in the Kojima-Konami controversy, but this in no way detracted from just how terrific the game was itself. Taking superlative stealth mechanics, and placing them into an open world environment, while offering both the freedom of choice and the full range of movement to complete missions as you saw fit, made the game particularly compelling and engrossing.

Add to this deep and complex gaming systems, and cinematic storytelling, and it’s not hard to see why the Metal Gear Solid franchise in general, and Hideo Kojima in particular, is held in such high regard.  The only down side? The game is a time sink of note; good luck extracting your attention after a play session.

8. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

Speaking of time sinks, quite possibly one of this year’s most alluring role playing games was The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, even as this year brought another RPG luminary, The Elder Scrolls Online. The story, at least for RPG’s was pretty straightforward, seeing Geralt of Rivia pursuing his adopted daughter who had been abducted across a vast, often times impossibly beautiful open world, more laden with monsters and menaces than you could shake two swords at.

Unfortunately for his enemies, Geralt is another man “with a very particular set of skills,” and let’s just say his enemies would come to rue their poor decision. In between though, Geralt of course gets sucked into the political intrigues and battles which mark this world, a task for which he is most suited. Really beating the drum for continuous returns to The Witcher 3 is that there is a whole lot to do in a world that came alive with characters, side quests, and quite possibly one of the best card games to make its appearance, called Gwent (sorry Hearthstone).

Notable mentions

Alas, there were other games that, while they didn’t make it onto the list, are still well worthy of your consideration (or cajoling your family and friends to gift you with) . For example, Halo 5: Guardians, Mortal Kombat X, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Batman: Arkham Knight and Call of Duty: Black Ops III all piqued our interest.

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