After hours of debates and much gnashing of teeth, our global team of GameSpot editors has finally come up with this: the best video games of 2015, in ranked order. Our list of the best 25 games of the year has been informed by the wide array of tastes, experiences, and preferences of dozens of GameSpot editors around the world. It's a varied and eclectic list, spanning everything from the year's biggest AAA releases, to smaller, personal gameplay experiences, and everything else in between. We'll be counting down to number one over the next few days, so keep it locked to GameSpot as we unveil our choices. For today, check out our picks for 15 to 11.
15. Xenoblade Chronicles X
2015 was dominated by games with large, open worlds, but none could match the scale of Xenoblade Chronicles X's Mira--an alien planet with five massive continents. Mira's size would mean nothing if it wasn't filled with surprises, but sure enough, its landmasses are dense with otherworldly creatures and structures that defy explanation. The diversity of things to see is impressive, but so too is the number of game systems that you interact with while exploring, fighting, and managing your team. In this way, Xenoblade Chronicles X is a dream come true for people who like to tinker with options and manage long-term goals.
Beating Xenoblade Chronicles X is a long-term goal in itself. The massive world plays host to dozens of optional quests on top of the main story, and eager players can easily play for 100 hours and still have plenty left on their plate. While this may seem daunting, Xenoblade Chronicles X sets a good pace by saving its best rewards for the second half of the game. At the halfway mark in the story--around 30-40 hours into the game--you unlock Skells, which completely alter your relationship with Mira. These giant, bipedal robots--which can also transform into vehicles--allow you to look dinosaurs straight in the eye and cover large swaths of land in no time. Skells feel like a privilege, and once you get your first one, you feel like you're playing the game's sequel. Xenoblade Chronicles X is an achievement in large-scale game design and a boon to Wii U owners craving a new RPG.
14. Dying Light
There are so many things to love about Dying Light: its massive open world filled with tantalizing loot, breathtaking views, and untold dangers; its exhilarating traversal system, which at first borrows the frenetic, first-person parkour of Mirror’s Edge but eventually embraces the gleeful grappling hook insanity of Just Cause; its distinctive day-night cycle and the inescapable tension that seeps into every moment as another deadly night draws near; its monster-in-the-closet multiplayer, which lets us stalk our friends as a variety of grotesque creatures.
Perhaps most impressively, though, Dying Light manages to be more than the sum of these parts. The experience somehow feels cohesive and fresh despite combining two overexposed concepts: zombies and open worlds. Ultimately it’s a better Mirror’s Edge than Mirror’s Edge, while also being a better Dead Island than Dead Island, and that’s precisely why we couldn’t put it down.
13. Cities: Skylines
Cities: Skylines is the city-building simulator we wanted. It takes some of the best ideas from recent titles in the genre, but refines and expands those concepts, adding satisfying depth. Its large maps, intuitive infrastructure tools, and flexible policy customization give us a captivating civic strategy game, while the wonderful traffic and public transit systems create realistic planning problems that are rewarding to resolve.
Cities: Skylines also gives us citizens who have life stories: they live in specific houses and work specific jobs. They grow old, have families, move house, pass away, and we care about how well our cities are able to provide for them. And of course, Cities: Skylines’ user-friendly mod support and strong community provide a near-infinite supply of new maps and building assets, elevating the game above anything else in its class. It’s the city-building simulation at its peak, and it reminds us why we loved role-playing mayors and urban planners to begin with.
Splatoon is the best original franchise from Nintendo in years, and it fundamentally changed how people view competitive shooting games. The spirit of competition is king, negating the need for violent undertones or overt references to war and conflict. Rather than firing bullets at your enemies, you fire ink. While you can use ink to deplete an enemy's health and force them to respawn, your primary goal is to cover as much of a map with your team's ink as possible. Moment-to-moment accuracy is still highly valued, but because you can shoot almost anywhere and earn points for your team, it's easy for anyone to feel successful. Given that you're part squid, you can swim through ink or take cover in it with the press of a button. This allows you to swim up and over walls, and paint your own path with your gun, rather than stick to pre-ordained channels.
At first blush, Splatoon may appear to be a shooting game that trades mature themes for a kid-friendly experience. While that's partially true, it's not the whole story; Splatoon is also the most inventive shooter in recent memory, and the elements that make it so approachable are the basis for its most innovative elements. Splatoon is easy to underestimate, but don't let its saccharine veneer fool you: there's hardcore depth waiting for anyone who's willing to take the plunge.
11. Until Dawn
Until Dawn is often described as the sleeper hit of 2015; released in late summer with little fanfare, the game stole the spotlight as players began untangling its complex narrative. Driven by player choice, Until Dawn's story features a deeply developed "butterfly effect" mechanic that rests the fates of eight teenagers on your every decision. The game turns familiar horror movie tropes on their head and weaves them into an experience that's less about the horror and more about letting you craft your own version of its Cabin in the Woods-like story. A smartly written script, excellent acting, and a beautiful, eerie aesthetic round out Until Dawn, making it one of the best narrative-focused games this year.
Come back tomorrow as we unveil the next five games in our Game of the Year countdown.