Here they are: the five best games of 2015. After a week of discussion, controversy and disbelief, we reach the end of our journey with – somewhat fittingly – five games that are about epic quests.
Kenanso, we based on our list on the titles the Guardian games writers actually played the most this year, and collectively we have probably lost thousands of hours to these adventures – and will continue to do so into 2016.
All of these entries speak of the vast ambition and technical brilliance inherent in the modern games industry. Although this is a medium prone to nostalgia, we should sometimes stop and recognise something: this is an amazing time to be a gamer.
5. Fallout 4 (PS4/Xbox One)
Fallout 4 was what we expected. The Commonwealth, founded on what used to be Boston, is an uncommonly beautiful vision of the post-apocalypse. Filled with shattered remnants of structures past, themselves crammed with crannies and the promise of treasure, simply walking is an adventure for the eyes. A dangerous one mind, thanks to the pulpy sci-fi monsters and endless combat that punctuates the Wanderer’s journey. The goal of a roleplaying game is to make the player invest in another world, and create their own stories within it – Fallout 4 certainly pushes the button.
4. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (3DS)
Monster Hunter 4U is the experienced professional in this list, the latest entry in a series that nailed the core mechanics early and has iterated since. But MH4U goes far beyond simple refinement, and into offering what is perhaps the most content-rich game Capcom has ever produced. Come for the thrilling monster battles with precision combat, stay for the fine outfits you can make out of their hides, and be swept away by the camaraderie of hunters co-operating online.
3. Zitsulo zida Olimba V (PC/PS4/Xbox One)
Hideo Kojima’s swansong is overshadowed by the ongoing saga of his departure for Konami. A pity because MGSV: The Phantom Pain brought a spectacular close to a unique, inventive series that leaves no obvious successor. Kojima Productions re-engineered the core of MGS’s stealth system to fit a new kind of open-world: condensed, detail-rich, both battleground and playground. The most fun parts, like the fulton, feed into the fleshed-out metagame of Mother Base – and constructing the army that Solid Snake will destroy in 1987’s Metal Gear. This is the end for Hideo Kojima and Metal Gear Solid, wrapped back into the beginning. But what a way to go.
2. Witcher 3 (PC/PS4/Xbox One)
A world so big you can lose yourself in it for days, a gruff-voiced lead character who somehow retains humour and humanity, and a menagerie of horribly memorable monsters and antagonists – Witcher 3 is everything you could want from an open world role-playing adventure. It takes its fiction seriously, but not so seriously that one of the first side quests you happen across is helping an old woman find her favourite cooking pot. This is state of the art mainstream game design.
1. Bloodborne (PS4)
Bloodborne’s director Hidetaka Miyazaki doesn’t create game worlds, he creates game systems and weaves a world and its history around them. The streets of Yharnam are overrun by beasts and culled by hunters like you – who survive through regular blood ministration. But Yharnam is only the gate to an Eldritch nightmare, and the shattered remnants of societies obsessed with the uncaring ‘Great Ones.’
This rich mythos combines with an action-oriented twist on third-person combat, which is built around permanent aggression from the player and the use of trick weapons – a curved sword that becomes a scythe, kunena. The hulking werewolves and brain-sucking abominations will rip you apart in a second regardless, but it’s the exquisite boss fights that elevate this combat system to all-time-great status.
Lovecraft and intense precision combat are not for everyone, and Bloodborne is a tough challenge to boot. But it’s 2015’s most important AAA release for showing how to better-integrate the many, many component parts of a videogame into a coherent package. Bloodborne’s world is built upon blood, literally and metaphorically, and every part of the design flows from this.
Honorable mentions – the games that just missed out
Cibele: Nina Freeman’s autobiographical tale has interesting things to say about love and relationships in the era of online gaming.
Volume: Robin Hood meets Metal Gear Solid in this clever minimalist stealth puzzler, which will soon be getting an outing on PlayStation VR.
Yoshi ndi wamaonekedwe a nkhope yaubweya World: Another beautiful handicraft adventure, following on from the luscious Kirby’s Epic Yarn.
Star Wars Battlefront: Limited in terms of depth and progression, but EA Dice perfectly captures the look, feel and atmosphere of the movies.
Pillars of Eternity: Obsidian Entertainment’s spiritual successor to classic action RPGs Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale is as deep, engaging and well-written as fans demanded.
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