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Introduction

By the numbers, 2015 was a down year for games overall. However, it finished ridiculously strong, with one of the more jam-packed holiday seasons I’ve seen in a long time—keeping all of us here on the EGM crew insanely busy. As my list hopefully proves, quantity did not necessarily affect quality, though, and there were still some great games that came this year that I felt would come to define 2015.

Ray’s Top Five Games for 2015

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#05: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Ray’s Take

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate didn’t exactly have a high bar to surpass considering the lackluster entry in the franchise that was Unity. Still, not only did Syndicate provide a more coherent story, but it injected much needed life and wonder back into the series. Whether it was scaling the beautifully-rendered Victorian Era London, laughing at the banter back and forth between main characters Jacob and Evie Frye, or surprises like the fully fleshed-out World War I scenario that followed Jacob’s granddaughter, Syndicate was the return to form Assassin’s Creed so desperately needed. If they had included a few more old-school puzzles or a modern day scenario that allowed us to step outside the simulation, this might have been even higher on my list.

Tales from the Borderlands Episode 2 (1)

#04: Tales from the Borderlands

Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, OS X, PS3, Xbox 360, iOS, Android

Ray’s Take

When you first think of Borderlands, story doesn’t exactly fall on its list of strengths. While subsequent games in the series have added a little more to the lore of Pandora, there were plenty of unexplored opportunities that were perfect for Telltale to come in and exploit. Plus, this doubled as a chance for Telltale to really stretch their comedic muscles for the first time since the days of Sam & Max (or maybe their foray into Homestar Runner). The result was what I believe to be Telltale’s best effort yet. Serving up a rollercoaster of emotions, Tales from the Borderlands gives the most life to any characters that universe offers, while also making your decisions have some real weight come the game’s finale. Now, we just need to figure out where that cliffhanger ending will lead.

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#03: Fallout 4

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Ray’s Take

At this point, it’d be more surprising if Bethesda made a bad game. Fallout 4 once again creates a beautiful, dynamic world out of the smoking crater of an apocalyptic disaster. No interaction in the world happens the same way twice, and the new gun crafting and S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skills system extends an already deep pedigree of customization. Despite this, I can’t get past the sense that Fallout 4 is more like Fallout 3.5. The largest new attraction the game brings—the ability to create and link settlements—honestly bored me. Managing people and resources became a chore, and was quickly relegated to “afterthought” status even just 20 hours into my near-100 hour playthrough. Still, there are few experiences more complete, or as satisfying, as Bethesda’s latest adventure in the wasteland.

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#02: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Ray’s Take

I never played the first two Witcher games, and in the end, that kept it from being my personal game of the year. You see, my number one pick last year was Dragon Age Inquisition—and I felt you could jump into that adventure not having played the previous two games and gotten the same amount of enjoyment out of it. My caring about Witcher 3’s characters and world took a hit because of my unfamiliarity. That said, CD Projekt Red crafted an absolutely spectacular adventure, and an even more epic world for it to take place in. Geralt of Rivia is one of the most perfect examples of an anti-hero I’ve ever met in games, and the people he interacts with portray an incredible amount of depth. The most telling thing about Witcher 3’s world, though, may be how much time I spent in it: 212 hours on my first playthrough.

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#01: Ori and the Blind Forest

Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Moon Studios
Platforms: Xbox One

Ray’s Take

There are no games this year that grabbed my attention from beginning to end quite like Ori and the Blind Forest. The first thing that catches your eye is the hand-painted art style, but once you begin rolling around Ori’s dying world, you soon realize how tight handling the game is. In fact, it’s easily the best playing metroidvania we’ve seen in years. The heart of the game—its story—builds on this, with a heart-wrenching tale that pulls you through the beautifully diverse world Ori must explore in order to restore the natural balance of things. Combine all this with a steadily increasing degree of difficulty all the way until the climactic finish, and I can only wish more games were as polished as Ori and the Blind Forest.

Ray’s Off-Topic Awards for 2015

The 5th Annual “The Colors, Duke! The Colors” Award for Most Colorful Game, brought to you by Popsicle (not really)
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
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This has become a tradition for me during the EGM end of the year awards, and we’ve gone too long to stop now. There were some strong candidates this year, and while the aforementioned Ori and the Blind Forest could’ve easily taken it, I wanted to show some other great looking games some love—and lo and behold, Nintendo had quite a few of them. I’ve got to tip my hat to the good folks at HAL Laboratory, whose beautiful looking Claymation in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse impressed me just a slightly bit more than Good-Feel’s work with yarn in Yoshi’s Woolly World. Congrats Kirby on looking as bright and as wonderful as ever.
The “Fashionably Late” Award
Kalimba

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I really shouldn’t be giving a game an award for 2015 when it came out in 2014, but let me explain. Although we here at EGM wait as long as possible before doing our Game of the Year voting to insure we give as many games as possible the chance the qualify, there are still occasionally titles that miss deadline. Rarely, however, are they as fun as Kalimba, which released on December 17, 2014. Available on Xbox One and later for PC, Kalimba is an addictive, fun little puzzle platformer that only gets better when playing co-op with a friend. Although we did end up reviewing it for EGM post-holiday break, it was ineligible for last year’s voting. So here is your well-deserved spot in the limelight, Kalimba.

The “Somehow Made Me Fall In Love with a Genre” Award
Super Mario Maker
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I hate world creation games. When I drop $60 on a game, I’m doing so for the express purpose of playing someone else’s creation—not so I can spend time making my own. Minecraft, LittleBigPlanet, Project Spark? Throw them all in the trash as far as I’m concerned. Then came Super Mario Maker. Leave it to Nintendo to turn my pre-conceived notions on their head and throw them in the trash instead. Maybe it’s the nostalgia or familiarity that Mario Maker brings to the table, but there is something about it that has me testing out other people’s levels and building my own on a far too regular basis. And, with a steady stream of updates that only expands our potential toolset, there may be no single greater reason to own a Wii U than this.

EGMNOW’s Best of 2015 Awards Schedule

http://www.egmnow.com/wp-content/themes/egmnowv3/christmas_links2015.php

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