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GameSpot's Top 25 Games of 2015

Game of the Year 2015 Countdown: #5 - #1

What are the five best games this year? Which one takes the grand prize of being GameSpot's Game of the Year? Find out now.

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, we finally reveal our top five choices, including the coveted Game of the Year.

5. Super Mario Maker

When we think of Nintendo, we automatically think of Mario. He's graced Nintendo's consoles for decades, and his adventures continue to be memorable. But for many of us, it's the likes of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World that stand out. With top-notch visual design and best-in-class physics, these games set the bar for other 2D platformers in the 1990s to hit. With Super Mario Maker, Nintendo made it possible for us to not just revisit these worlds, but to shape them to our liking.

Though Super Mario Maker is built on the past, it perfectly utilizes hardware and online connectivity, making it one of the most "modern" games on Wii U. It leverages the GamePad's touchscreen to make level creation a simple, drag-and-drop affair, and an online database stores everything the game's community has produced, from cute and charming romps to punishing torture chambers. This has proved to be a hit, with communities rallying around individual levels or creators, leading to meaningful exchanges between people who may or may not own a Wii U. Super Mario Maker is infectious in the best way possible.

4. Bloodborne

Bloodborne is an unforgettable experience that sucked us into its gothic fantasy world. With its fast-paced combat, haunting narrative, and devastating boss fights, the game compelled us to play it, even those of us who hadn't played any of From Software's "Souls" games in the past. When it crushed our confidence, we yearned to get farther. When it gave us victory, we felt enraptured over the challenge we'd overcome. Make no mistake, the city of Yharnam is filled with countless horrors and monstrosities, but Bloodborne gives you the tools and systems you need to stand a chance.

And it's those tools and systems that’ll keep you coming back for more. As an action-RPG, Bloodborne lets you choose your own progression paths, adjusting your statistics and weapon loadouts to make the game's brutal combat work for you. At the same time, its systems infuse the game with the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired themes that take shape in its world, lending a sense of meaning and significance rarely felt before. Everything about Bloodborne screams for your attention, and it's well worth giving, even if that scream happens to be a terrifying shrill that sends shivers down your spine for years to come.

3. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain redefines stealth games. It breaks the mold of the genre by going open world. In doing so, it gives us the freedom to tackle missions using our own strategies, allowing for hundreds of memorable moments thanks to its emergent gameplay. Whether we choose to remain a ghost on the battlefield or take it on guns blazing, the game lets us create our own vision of Big Boss's legacy.

Though we lost ourselves to Phantom Pain's layered gameplay systems, it also features a gut-wrenching story that, in typical Kojima fashion, subverts our preconceived notions of the series, whether we are fans of it or not. It's a game that exceeds our expectations, using melodrama to tell a story of loss that shows us what living out the legacy of an iconic character can mean to us as players. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a masterful piece of artistic storytelling and refined stealth that you won't find anywhere else.

2. Rocket League

Rocket League is ostensibly a soccer game, but without referees and an overabundance of rules. Instead of traditional players, teams are comprised of RC cars, and they battle for goals by driving and flipping into a massive soccer ball, praying they hit it at just the right angle to send it into an ever-so-small net. It is as ridiculous as it sounds, but therein lies the charm. Rocket League matches can be orderly or chaotic depending on who's playing, but no matter the state of a match, everyone has a blast.

It's a difficult game to master, but it's also incredibly easy to pick up. Anyone can learn how to accelerate and steer a car and, with a little practice, perform powerful flips that make for authoritative shots and passes. Rocket League makes the simple act of movement fun by removing boundaries and obstacles; instead of running into a wall, you drive up them with your momentum intact. In other sports games, your first engagements can feel like a chore as you test the limits of the mechanics and learn how to control different positions. Rocket League has zero barriers, allowing you to have fun from the start. It's one of the most accessible and unique sports games ever made, and the best competitive game of 2015.

To see what ranked 25-21, check out our feature here. To see the 20-16 list, click here. To see the 15-11 list, click here. For 10-6, click here.

 

1. Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

2015 was no stranger to impactful games. As the months passed, we snuck through Angolan jungles and the Afghan desert. We honed our skills in frantic vehicle-based soccer arenas. We survived the irradiated wastes of post-nuclear Boston. And we confronted the horrors of a mysterious Victorian nightmare.

But none of these experiences left as much of a lasting impact as that of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The expansive setting was a character in itself, and its inhabitants felt nuanced and real. From the swamps of Crookback Bog, to the grimy alleys of Novigrad, to the frozen islands of Skellige, our journey through the Northern Kingdoms set the stage for one of video games' most engrossing epics.

We explored political turmoil, civil war, supernatural elements, and a vibrant wilderness with creatures both beautiful and grotesque. This was a world that seemed to breathe on its own, and carry on without us, indifferent to our motivations as the witcher Geralt. We may have been powerful, but we were still only one person.

The Witcher 3 told some of the most immersive stories not just in 2015, but in any RPG to date.

We weren't without our allies, though. We had the cunning Yennefer, the wise Vesemir, the two-faced Dijkstra. And of course, we had Ciri. She was one of the most convincing characters to emerge from 2015, and in the end, The Witcher 3 was about Geralt's fatherly relationship with her. That we could see her grow, and watch her make choices of her own, lent an emotional thread to the entire experience. CD Projekt Red created vibrant characters that responded to our actions, and in doing so, added emotional weight to every choice we made.

This rang true in The Witcher 3's myriad side quests as well. Here we had vivid supporting characters and subversive plot threads rivalling those of the main story. Many RPGs encourage quest completion with new gear or experience gains. The Witcher 3’s quests, on the other hand, were compelling through the sheer force of their writing alone. The content on The Witcher 3’s periphery told some of the most immersive stories not just in 2015, but in any RPG to date.

Because in The Witcher 3, every detail in its landscape builds toward an immersive, convincing world full of exciting quests, where your actions can have real consequences. It was a year of numerous detailed worlds, but after all is said and done, and we look back on 2015, it was The Witcher 3's that truly felt alive.

Game of the Year 2015 Countdown: #5 - #1