After hours of debates and much gnashing of teeth, our global team of GameSpot editors have 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 25 to 21.
25. Assassin's Creed Syndicate
Syndicate marks a return to form for the Assassin's Creed franchise, and is in many ways its reminiscent of fan-favorite Assassin's Creed II. Protagonists Evie and Jacob Frye are a delight to follow around a city rife with corruption and opportunity. Syndicate follows in the long-running Assassin's Creed formula, presenting the same schema of a sprawling city packed with quests. But it also abandons some longstanding mechanics, upgrading the series' climbing and traversal mechanics with a new rope launcher tool. You hunt down Templars, collect bounties, and gather up collectibles when you're not building your own street gang, the Rooks. With two protagonists boasting different skillsets, a gang to manage, and the familiar host of Assassin's Creed goodies, it's easy to lose yourself in this version of 1868 London.
Few AAA games took as many risks as Evolve this year, and even fewer managed to succeed. In a genre awash with me-too experiences, Evolve turns the multiplayer shooter on its head through its distinctive 4v1 structure. Playing as one member of a team of four hunters evokes the deep cooperation required in games like Left 4 Dead (little wonder given developer Turtle Rock was responsible for that Valve classic), while playing solo as one of Evolve's towering monsters scratches a very different itch. Whether you're a dedicated team player or a lone wolf, Evolve has something for you.
Make no mistake: if you aren't ready to embrace the game's complexities, then Evolve could easily turn out to be much less than the sum of its parts. But when you have a great team around you--as well as an equally proficient monster player--Evolve truly shines. Other games can either give you the thrill of being an all-conquering solo player or the satisfaction of working as part of a well-oiled team. Evolve, on its best days, provides both.
23. Halo 5: Guardians
Halo 5: Guardians is undoubtedly one of the best shooters of 2015. You might have been miffed at its lack of split-screen co-op, but the strides forward this game makes cement it as the best core Halo in years. The frenetic but strategic 24-player Warzone mode is the most interesting and distinctive thing to happen to Halo since Halo 3: ODST’s Firefight. It's a brand new take on the classic Halo formula, and it proves itself to be a worthwhile and meaningful addition to the combination of single- and multiplayer modes that Halo 5 offers.
Meanwhile, the campaign goes in a new, exciting direction with its Chief vs. Locke theme. Even though it doesn’t totally provide a satisfactory conclusion (Halo 6 is coming, and will presumably continue the story), it crafts a compelling narrative with many great hooks to keep you interested throughout.
22. Heroes of the Storm
It was only a matter of time before Blizzard presented us with its own take on the MOBA genre. Populated with characters from various Blizzard universes, Heroes of the Storm is a streamlined and light-hearted approach to MOBAs. Gameplay elements traditionally found in the genre have been refined in Heroes to create a more accessible, entry-level experience. Each map contains unique objectives to encourage teams to clash more often, ensuring that the action keeps on rolling. The game also places an emphasis on teamwork over individual performance, which helps to reduce the rampant toxicity that often plagues the genre. Even if you've had your fill of MOBAs, Heroes of the Storm offers countless hours of fun.
21. Project CARS
This may not be the racing game you expected to find here. After all, Forza Motorsport 6 delivered yet another stellar franchise entry, continuing the series' tradition of immaculate polish and precise handling. But, at the risk of sounding reductive, Forza 6 was (and is) predictably excellent. Project CARS, on the other hand, is different. Project CARS is special. Its unflinching, painstaking commitment to realism sets CARS apart from nearly every racing franchise outside of Gran Turismo. Instead of simply gifting players outrageous parts or flashy vehicles, CARS demands time, care, and thought--and substantial amounts, at that. To succeed, you must understand motorsports from the garage to the track and back. Naturally, this makes the experience daunting and demanding, but we nonetheless have tremendous respect for the boldness and clarity of CARS' vision, not to mention the exquisite final product that vision produced.
Come back tomorrow as we unveil the next five games in our Game of the Year countdown, and come back when our #1 Game of the Year is revealed on December 21 to vote on your pick!