By Michael Mendis
2015 is coming to a close, and I’ve been blessed to have played many great new games over the course of the year. While I could go on for a long time talking about all the fun new gaming experiences I’ve had in 2015, here are just a few of my personal favorite games that I have played (and completed) this year, in alphabetical order:
Halo 5: Guardians
The newest installment in Microsoft’s long-running shooter series is a solid all-around game, with a strong campaign and a suite of multiplayer options to keep players coming back. Halo 5 is the first entry in the franchise to run at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second, and while the action is a bit faster paced than in the older games, the basic Halo formula remains intact and is as engaging as ever. The two new multiplayer modes Warzone and Breakout are both interesting new additions to the series, as well.
Life Is Strange
I’m a sucker for games with a heavy emphasis on storytelling, and Life Is Strange, an episodic adventure game from developer Dontnod Entertainment, scratched that itch in a big way. I’ve never played a game that is so willing to tackle tough subject material like bullying and suicide, and each episode had me on my toes, thinking hard about making the right decisions in difficult situations. With its complex characters, well-written plot, and beautiful cel-shaded artstyle, Life Is Strange stands out as one of the most compelling games of 2015.
Ori and the Blind Forest
Made by the indie developer Moon Studios, Ori and the Blind Forest is a type of platformer commonly referred to as a Metroidvania game (a game with a large open world where new areas become accessible as you gain new abilities). You play as Ori, a small, rabbit-like creature that must travel through the forest as he seeks to revive a great spirit tree and restore life to his decaying homeland. The charming tale is complemented by the game’s gorgeous artstyle; the characters and environments feel like they have come straight out of a Studio Ghibli movie. It’s also a blast to play, with its tight controls and some very challenging platforming sequences.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Developer Crystal Dynamics gave the Tomb Raider franchise a reboot in 2013, bringing more refined third-person shooter controls and a new origin story for Lara Croft. I thoroughly enjoyed this new take on the classic franchise, and Rise of the Tomb Raider, the sequel to reboot, builds upon what made the first game so much fun to play. The game’s shooting and platforming mechanics are tight and responsive, and the environments are filled with plenty of hidden rooms and collectibles to keep players exploring every inch of the game world. With its interesting, physics-based tomb puzzles and a healthy dose of thrilling action set pieces, Rise of the Tomb raider is an exciting and well-polished AAA blockbuster.
Undertale is a charming turn-based role-playing game created predominantly by one man, Toby Fox. You play as a young human child who wanders into a cave, falls into a pit, and finds him/herself deep underground where the world’s monsters have all been trapped for centuries. As you search for a way to get back to the surface, you meet a cast of quirky and endearing characters that keep you laughing, and who will occasionally tug on your heartstrings. Perhaps what makes the game the most interesting is its combat system, which features a unique minigame for each monster you face, and which gives you the option to spare every enemy in the game (and the game can change dramatically depending on whether you choose to kill or spare these monsters). Undertale is one of those very risky and creative games that can really only be made in the indie scene, and shouldn’t be missed.