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 20 to 16.
With the terrific Amnesia series, developer Frictional Games established itself as a master of the horror genre, and its 2015 offering, SOMA, lives up to the studio's reputation. Eschewing traditional jump scares for an oppressive sense of psychological dread, SOMA explores themes of solitude, humanity, and death. But that doesn't mean it's just a high-concept think piece. While there's no combat, SOMA builds on the stealth, survival, and puzzle elements from Amnesia to immerse you as an actor in the experience.
The underwater setting and run-down corridors invites comparisons to the classic BioShock, and the compelling story feels ripped straight from a Philip K. Dick novel. But Frictional takes those elements and crafts them into a unique experience that demonstrates what video games can do better than any other medium: scare the crap out of you. SOMA is a horror ride that pulls you into its world, but also sticks with you well after the credits roll.
Few games are as unrelentingly inventive as Undertale, a daring and distinct RPG adventure married to shmup mechanics. Each turn-based battle determines the rules of a spin-off mini-game where your heart becomes a spaceship weaving through projectiles that are associated (in some way) with your foe. You can also use your powers of conversation/influence/begging to avoid battles altogether.
Undertale thinks differently at nearly every step, and somehow does so with incredible finesse each time. Even so, the writing still manages to stand out as its greatest achievement; your encounters with the ne'er-do-wells of this fantastical underworld are frequently hilarious (genuinely funny, not just funny for a video game), with razor-sharp writing and impeccably timed witticisms. You won't forget the ending, and you won't forget the people you met on your journey.
18. Her Story
It's hard to imagine a game like Her Story would have a big impact, but it presents a complex narrative in a clever way. While simple in execution, it requires great attention to detail. With a broken but searchable database of interviews taken during the investigation of a murder case, you have to piece together a confusing web of tales by searching for clues and keywords. When a video matches your search term, you can access it, but with a hard limit of five results per search, you're forced to examine videos with greater scrutiny to identify subtle details, and thus more granular search terms.
Uncovering every video in Her Story is challenging, but not as challenging as understanding the truth. For most of the game, your relationship to the characters is shaped by what you choose to believe, and the game's somewhat open-ended conclusion keeps the mystery alive long after you walk away. Her Story is an amazing narrative-driven experience that's immediately arresting, and the deeper down the rabbit-hole you go, the more intrigued you ultimately become.
17. Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege
In an age dominated by run-and-gun twitch shooters with near-instant respawns, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege feels like a refreshing breath of ice cold air. Ubisoft's latest take on the genre has incredible tactical depth, with two teams made up of five uniquely equipped Operators, allowing for endless combinations of carnage. Its potent cocktail of permadeath, friendly fire, and health that doesn't regenerate means every confrontation is tense and every bullet fired matters.
Siege offers up plenty to do outside of shooting, from laying down barbed wire and reinforcing walls to setting up traps and planting explosive mines. The game's destructible environments make situational awareness even more important, and individual skill takes a backseat to teamwork. Even though Siege lacks a single-player campaign, the variety and depth of its mechanics allow for some brilliant moments that will keep you on the edge of your seat and coming back for more.
16. Just Cause 3
Just Cause 3 makes few attempts to take itself seriously. Instead, it sets you loose in a massive world with destructible environments and tools with which to wreak havoc. It's more of a superhero game than anything else, as you glide over the landscape in your wingsuit, grapple through military bases, and parachute behind enemy lines in an effort to remove a dictatorship through sheer force.
The spectacle of domino explosions alone is enough to satisfy during Just Cause 3's initial stages, but the many unlocks and challenges, as well as the finely-tuned controls, extend the enjoyment past the first several hours. Just Cause 3 is a game of experimentation, and each tool changes how you play. The results might not always work in your favor, but they're almost always entertaining.
Come back tomorrow as we unveil the next five games in our Game of the Year countdown.
To see what ranked 25-21, check out our feature here.