Editor's Note: In case you missed it, this list was authored by Liz "Gaiages" Henges; not Elizabeth "Liz" Atkins (aka TheLiztress), who has contributed in years' past. This is the first year we're using her real name, so hopefully there won't be any confusion going forward!
Man, it's December already? Where did 2015 go?
Then again, I can't say I'm not excited for 2016... it's the 'Year In Which Every Gamer's Dreams Come True,' after all. But then again, that's doing a bit of a disservice to this year -- it was a pretty good year, after all! Lots of ups and downs in terms of releases, but overall there were a lot of great video games.
Let's get right into my somewhat unorthodox list of the best games of 2015, shall we?
Consider this the 'honorable mention' position for me. It's not that I think Bloodborne is better or worse that any of the other games on this list, but I've simply not been able to really to dig deep into what Bloodborne has to offer this year, so it's hard to properly grade it... but even with the little I played, I could see why the fanbase loves it so much.
Bloodborne, like the Dark Souls games that came before it, is hard. Very hard. But it's also fair. The game forces you to really learn how to fight, when to push the advantage and when to fall back, when to parry and when to dodge. It's frustrating at times, but it's also so rewarding when you finally take down a boss or get through an area. If nothing else, Bloodborne makes you 'git gud.'
9. You Must Build a Boat
Putting a mobile game on the list?! Obviously I'm a filthy causal gamer now. But honestly, You Must Build a Boat is the perfect example of what a mobile game should be. It's simple to learn but requires skill to see the end; it can easily be played in short bursts while idling on your phone for whatever reason; and there are no microtransactions, just the cheap entry fee of $3 to jump in and enjoy.
You Must Build a Boat is a puzzle game, with light RPG elements. Kinda like Puzzle Quest, but better. It's one of those 'easy to learn, hard to master'-type games, but you'll always be making decent progress, and always unlocking new features and stuff. It's absolutely perfect for the mobile environment, though it's also available on Steam.
8. Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~
I didn't really think I'd be throwing a visual novel on my GOTY list this year, but here I am, prepared for any minor controversies this will bring. But you can throw all the accusations of 'this isn't a real game' and 'all you do is romance men' all you want; I don't care, because Code: Realize is a legitimately good game.
Code: Realize follows a young woman named Cardia, who has a mysterious power (or possibly curse) that melts everything she touches . She is one resigned to her fate of isolation, but events lead her to hold the company of famous fictional characters in a steampunk version of London. Despite all the oddities, though, this is a compelling story that is worth spending the 30 or so odd hours to read through.
7. Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below
Dragon Quest Heroes is one nostalgia-laden trip. While the Action RPG with Dynasty Warriors flavor can technically be played by any gamer interested, without the Dragon Quest memories, this doesn't amount to much.
Of course, I'm a huge Dragon Quest fan, and to me, this game was an absolute blast. The musical and character throwbacks are great, the gameplay is solid if a bit repetitive, and everything about it simply oozes the series' style. It is by no means perfect, but it warmed my cold, jaded game reviewer heart, and I can only hope that the sequel can improve on some of this title's weaker points.
6. Westernado: Double Barreled
The Red Dead series is more or less runs the Wild Wild West, but I wish it really wasn't that way. There's a dearth of Western titles available, and there's plenty of content there for developers to work with. Thankfully, Westernado is there to help fill that gap.
In Westernado, your family is murdered by a wandering psychopath, and it's up to you to get revenge. By helping the townspeople and exploring, you'll learn clues of the murderer, which is randomized each time. There's multiple solutions and choices to each quest, too -- including the choice to pull your gun on anyone and everyone (of course, they all have guns too). It's a short adventure, but quite fun and worth the entry fee.
5. Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows
What is this, DLC on a GOTY list? Madness! But even though it's the same stages as the original Shovel Knight, there's enough new stuff in Plague of Shadows to justify it getting recognized in its own way.
And Plague of Shadows is all about the little touches, like the new 'town' and story, and all the cute little changes that happen from the original Shovel Knight campaign to keep Plague of Shadows' continuity in check. Of course, Plague Knight's control scheme allows for a new play style too, making the old levels feel new again. It's amazing how much work went into this free update, and it's well worth booting that copy of last year's beloved indie games again.
So, I only got Splatoon on Black Friday. It was one of those titles I've always meant to pick up, but never had time to play, so I didn't. Eventually though, I bought it and finally put it in my Wii U, and... quite frankly, I was blown away by how great it was. After I learned to turn off gyro controls, that is.
Splatoon isn't a typical shooter -- instead of sheer kill counts, gaining turf is name of the game here, and you do so by spreading your ink everywhere. I'm not particularly great at shooters because I'm bad at aiming, so running around and shooting with little care in the world while still doing something productive is a lot of fun to me. And, there's a lot to do that really gives you a sense of progression, from weapon unlocks to other neat things.
Oh, I guess there's a single player mode, but that's not really important.
3. Shin Megami Tensei Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker
In my few years of reviewing games, I've only given a perfect score to a single game, and that game would be Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker. That might lead you to wonder why it's only number three on this list, but GOTY lists are inherently subjective things that shouldn't take review scores into account. Anyway...
Devil Survivor 2 on the DS was a pretty great game, but there were a few problems that plagued the original version of the title, the most notably of which was the unreasonably hard difficulty. Record Breaker takes complaints into account and offers an easier difficulty, as well as a whole other 30 hour story to play on top the lengthy main game... not to mention that the SRPG gameplay, plot, and music itself are all fantastic. Record Breaker is certainly worth the 'Atlus tax' price of entry
2. Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengence
Disgaea 5 surprised me. I had really loved Disgaea 4, but I knew the fifth entry was going to be handled by a different team, and I loved Disgaea 4 because of the twists it pulled on the regular Disgaea formula. Imagine my surprise by how downright good Disgaea 5 is.
First off, Disgaea 5 actually has a good plot, which I haven't been able to say since I've played the original title. On top of that, Disgaea 5 takes all the good from the many previous entries to the series and gets rid of (most) of the bad, leading to tons of stuff to do without most of the tedious work to go along with it. It certainly has a few downsides (that song that plays in the Netherworld is horrid), but Disgaea 5 is just a ton of fun and probably the best game in the series yet.
My favorite games aren't always the objectively the best; instead, they are the ones that affect me, stay with me after the credit roll. Last year, that title was Danganronpa 2, and this year, that title is of course Undertale.
It's such an unassuming little game. It looks like some kind of Earthbound mod -- a bit bland and low key. The game kicks RPG tropes to the curb and encourages you to not fight -- something that won't appeal to everyone. Everyone that plays the game seems to clam up whenever the game's story is mentioned... that is, aside from a big boned jokester skeleton.
But Undertale is so much more than what's on the surface. The plot is an emotional ride, one that's best to go into unsullied. It's also a programming marvel, with so many Easter eggs and tricks that even though it can 'run on a toaster', no console could handle it. Oh, and the humor is great, and I hate most humor in games.
Undertale is an experience. It's not perfect, of course, but something every gamer should at least try. I haven't played such a charming video game in years.
That about wraps up my Game of the Year list, which is completely objective and no one can disagree about. But, if you just want to go into the comments below and gush about my infinite wisdom, you are free to do so.