Top Games of the Year lists are overdone. We all know which games were released in a given year, and we know how they were received upon release. Despite everyone playing different games every year the majority of the lists only rank the same mainstream games. I aim to provide the reader with something different. That’s why this year I’m writing about my top games in 2015. That’s right, games I played in the last 365 days (but not necessarily games released this year). There’s a few caveats: I’ll only be ranking games I beat. I won’t be covering games I previously reviewed. I won’t be taking this article too seriously, and you shouldn’t either. Games are supposed to be fun and coverage of them should be fun, not akin to baseball stats or Comedy Central roasts. Now, onto my top games in 2015.
8. Ninja Gaiden (NES)
This one barely makes the list. Ninja Gaiden is not actually a video game but a cleverly disguised torture device (that and I can’t finish it). The platforms are narrow and the knockback is fatal. Enemies are abundant and the spawn points are generous. That’s all manageable, what ruins the game is at the end. The final boss hits hard, moves erratically, and has three phases. If you die you start over at the beginning of the chapter–you’re sent back a full 1/6th of the game! I was able to get to the final boss’s second phase several times this year but inevitably my feeble thumbs would slip for a second and I was done. There are infinite continues so you will perpetually force yourself to continue in vain because the game isn’t done with you. Say what you will about Bayou Billy, at least its difficulty was by design and not poor programming. I guess what I’m trying to say is Ninja Gaiden’s a bastard, but I like it anyways.
7. Evoland (PC)
Humble Bundle is a great program but it does have one problem. It’s given me so many awesome games that I actually overlook some hidden gems. I often find myself going through my library and playing random games I didn’t install when I bought the bundle. One such game was Evoland. Evoland takes the history, mechanics, conventions, and enhancements of video games over the last few decades and makes a game out of it all in a really creative way. You start off in Evolandia–the land of Evoland–with a paltry monochromatic display and monaural sound. Your avatar exists on a two-dimensional plane and can only move to the right where a treasure chest has been conveniently placed. Opening this treasure chest gives you the freedom to move left. Opening each subsequent chest modifies the world in some way, large or small. Notable visual upgrades include 256 colors, 3D polygons, and HD textures. Some of the other advancements are things I wouldn’t have considered like going from grid based movement to 6 degrees of freedom. All these evolutions constantly change how the game can be played. Seeing the shift happen seamlessly in-game shows just how much tiny improvements have impacted video games as a whole. The reconstruction of the world isn’t lost on the Evolandian people and it plays into the story nicely. Evoland doesn’t overstay its welcome and wraps everything up once you’re into the modern era of gaming. I hear there’s a second one. Who knows, it could be a contender for my #6 Game in 2016.
6. Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku II (GBA)
One of the new-to-me games I picked up in 2015 was DBZ: Legacy of Goku II. I mistakenly bought this sequel thinking I was repurchasing DBZ: Legacy of Goku. Once I realized it was a different game I was really impressed with the changes. This GBA installment follows up where its sequel left off and covers the Android/Cell Saga. Rather than yet another fighting game it plays as an action RPG like its predecessor. In addition to Goku you can play as a handful of the Z Fighters, each with their own abilities and power-ups. For the most part you can choose your favorite character–so obviously Vegeta, the prince of all Saiyans–and play as them whenever you want. There are specific areas you cannot enter unless you’re a certain character of a certain power level. This keeps the story on track and keeps the boss battles from being one-sided. The Dragon Ball Z universe has almost always been given the super serious treatment with a touch of fun sprinkled in. Legacy of Goku II flips this formula and the majority of the game is light-hearted with charming sprites and pop culture references thrown in. This doesn’t stop the game from getting dark at times and it even features Future Trunks grisly run-in with the androids and Cell. As the story progresses you visit the various towns of the world. The 3D overworld map is a nice touch. At times it feels more like a Dragon Ball game than a Dragon Ball Z game which really works in its favor. DBZ: Legacy of Goku II was one of the most enjoyable handheld games I played this year. If you’re a fan of the show this GBA title (and its prequel) are worth checking out. I look forward to playing Buu’s Fury, the third game in the series, in 2016.
5. Assassin’s Creed (PC)
Last year I got my feet wet with the Assassin’s Creed series. For Christmas of 2014 I received a collection that included ACIII, Black Flag, and the Liberation DLC. The modern deviation on 3D platforming was exciting and the story was interesting (and a tad too reminiscent of sophomore history class). Desmond and his connection to the Assassins, Abstergo, and the end of the world piqued my interest so much that I picked up all the sequels. I was eager to wrap up ACIII but it just kept going. I couldn’t move the story along fast enough and I got bored. I stopped playing and forget about the series early this year. A few months ago I remembered I had the first games and started from the beginning. Assassin’s Creed shares much of the gameplay elements and overarching story. One way it differs is that it’s more straight forward. You can choose to progress the story, or stop to help the city. Traveling is fun but can be skipped so getting somewhere is never a chore. Sometimes less is more. In a series that gets annual releases, adding more content each year leads to a bloated experience. I’m not sure what to expect from the rest of games but I hope to see the story get more attention than the filler content with later installments.
4. Yogi Bear’s Gold Rush (Game Boy)
In 2014 I discovered Yogi Bear’s Gold Rush for the Game Boy. I was hyped for it, but the market value was too high for me at the time (when did people start buying Game Boy games again?). When January rolled around I decided to buy it and I got it for half the price! But did it live up to the hype? It starts off with a hungry Yogi who needs pic-a-nic baskets. The Jellystone Park makes for a nice platforming environment, and the baskets are fun to collect. Before you know it you fall down a cave, climb the cave, keep climbing to the clouds, fall to a pirate ship, and end up in the city. It’s classic Yogi. Yogi Bear’s Gold Rush makes the most of its license. Sure, it’s what some would call a “mario clone” but why is that a bad thing? It has super solid platforming. The sound effects and music are fitting. The level design encourages you to jump down holes and find secrets. The collecting aspect is designed well. Once you beat it, you’re given the option to go back and try to collect all the items. This licensed game was my most played handheld game in 2015. I beat it more times than I can remember.
3. Low G Man (NES)
Back in the old days platforming games reigned above all and the platformer with the highest jump was king. It started out innocent. Jumpman (Donkey Kong) could jump twice his height. Video games used relatively few pixels back then so it could be believed that he was jumping a realistic height. Shortly after Jumpman evolved and we saw Mario perform astounding leaps of up to three times his own height! Not to be outdone by his older brother, Luigi upped the ante by vaulting even higher in Super Mario Bros 2. From then on the Brothers Mario were cemented in gaming history as the high jumpers. The wind started to blow a different direction and speed was the benchmark to beat. That didn’t stop the developer KID from launching their protagonist into the sky with Low G Man. Kal, well he’s the low gravity man. His basic jump height is unmatched, nearly reaching one screen high. Kage (from Legend of Kage) could soar just as high. But Low G Man quickly acquires the ability to jump one and three quarter screens high–nearly two screens! When I first got the jump upgrade I was in awe. I held down the jump button and Kal kept ascending. The game lends itself to this feature. Rather than impeding your jump height the devs allow you to jump up through platforms, sometimes to otherwise unreachable areas. There is knockback from enemies, but the game is designed in a way that there are rarely any cheap deaths caused by it. The Low G Man’s main weapon isn’t a gun. Instead he uses an electro-magnetic disruptor pistol to disable enemies and an armor-piercing spear to kill them or commandeer their vehicle. Pair this with an infestation of alien-machine hybrids, massive and intricate bosses that try to kill you from within, and a kickass cyberpunk setting. It doesn’t get any better, unless you count the intuitive password feature. Low G Man was the best buried treasure I found this year.
2. Mega Man X (SNES)
I initially heard about Mega Man X over at the Kohlrabi. I started the game hoping to play a dating sim where I try to win over Zero, Serge, and the robot masters. Senpai noticed me but then he died and I got stuck playing a challenging, yet rewarding platform game. What can I say, it’s Mega Man but better. The protagonist doesn’t look like a Christmas cookie. The screen follows X rather than being locked into place. In addition to gaining a defeated boss’s powers you get badass armor upgrades. You can even learn the Kamehameha wave (take that Legacy of Goku II!). The level design is perfect and encourages exploration. The boss design encourages experimentation. The only downside is knowing you’ve played the best of the series. After defeating Serge (or did I?), I moved onto the sequels. They really felt inadequate, each one distancing itself further from what made Mega Man X so great. Playing these games made me lose interest in the later games in the series and handheld spin-offs. But hey, Mighty No. 9 comes out in 2016 probably!
1. Rodea the Sky Soldier (Wii)
That’s right, my top game in 2015 was released this year. You might be thinking “wow, another shitty Sonic game just without Sonic.” To that I’d ask you to imagine if Sonic ’06 and all the dime a dozen modern Sonic games had never been made. Imagine Sega hadn’t dragged its IPs through the mud before leaving the video game scene. Now imagine the creator of Sonic Adventure announced a new 3D platformer. Only now you get to fly through the air from floating island to floating island. Unlike a similar Sega title, NiGHTS, this 3D platformer is off the rails. Full 3D movement through the air. The only thing stopping you from falling is your ability to lock on to nearby grapple points and gravitate to them at a high velocity. The end result is magic. After getting the hang of the controls, Rodea the Sky Soldier made me feel like a kid again. The gameplay is just right, the story is somewhere between silly and serious, and the game is simply fun. The human world Garuda is breath-taking and the robotic Naga Empire is gritty but colorful. The midair boss battles are fast and intense (and actually capture the essence of Dragon Ball Z fighting really well). There are also giant guardians you have to scale and take down. Rodea is pretty fast and they are almost as fast. I often launched myself at a guardian’s rising limb only to be lifted hundreds of feet off the ground within seconds. Still, Rodea the Sky Soldier is not for everyone. If you are above playing something that reeks of *shudders* last gen graphics and controls you’re probably gonna hate it. If you yearn for real 3D platforming then you might check it out. Currently the only way to get Rodea for the Wii is to buy a first run copy of the Wii U version, which is a shame because the Wii version is the superior one. Maybe it’ll come to the eShop in 2016.
Machine Head (PlayStation)
Wow, Machine Head…it sure is a video game that you can play on the PlayStation. I got this game from my uncle twenty years ago and never played it. I couldn’t remember why so I dusted it off and well, it’s pretty bad. The cutscenes are god-awful even for the time it was made. If you can sit through them you’ll learn the unsettling plot of the game. A man-made parasite has taken over the world. You play as a female scientist that has been spliced into a hovercar by her perverted coworker as part of his fantasy to take over the world (by controlling the parasite) and act out his spliced hovercar-woman fetish. The story is rarely mentioned once you start and it becomes an action game with puzzle elements and car combat. You’re greeted with a landscape of red, brown, and reddish brown objects that are shrouded in a black fog to hide the pathetic draw distance. There’s a minimap that is almost helpful at outlining the geography. In a labyrinth setting the game becomes very frustrating. In an open area you often run right into enemies or fly past your objective. I can see that the developers set out to make a single-player game like Twisted Metal. The underlying gameplay is fun. It’s a shame that everything else is terrible. It just goes to show that with a bit of determination (and unwillingness to get off the couch) you can accomplish incredible things. Please, don’t play Machine Head.
That’s it for games I beat in 2015. I played a lot of other games and many were good, and I possibly beat some other games that I just forgot. These are the ones that stood out. All in all I think I had a decent year of gaming. What about you? What were some of your top games you beat or played in 2015?