#5 – Splatoon
Who knew that the tired competitive shooting genre just needed some squids and kids with water guns to revitalize it? In a year when shooters like Halo 5 and Star Wars: Battlefront got all the attention as the next big thing in shooters, Splatoon actually delivered the most fun and unique online shooting experience of the year. And it didn’t even have to fire a single shot. Your weapon in Splatoon is ink and your goal is to merely cover the world in as much of your color as you can. This is the type of simple and innovative game that made Nintendo great, and it shows the company can still do great things even as the Wii U struggles. The lack of voice chat and having to put up with Nintendo’s other silly online restrictions is still a shame, but hopefully those issues are addressed in a sequel on the Nintendo NX.
#4 – Bloodborne
Bloodborne might be easier than the Souls games that preceded it, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy game. You’ll die a lot in Bloodborne’s twisted Lovecraft-inspired world, but building up your Hunter and getting just a little bit stronger each time you tackle a boss is so addicting that it never quite feels frustrating. And the emphasis on combat and being more aggressive in battle is just enough to make it feel different from the Souls games and attract new fans turned off by the methodical pace of those games.
#3 – Super Mario Maker
Kids growing up in the ’80s and ’90s would have sold their parents (or at least a younger sibling) into slavery for a game like Super Mario Maker. Finally, after decades of planning the perfect Mario level in their heads, the average gamer can easily turn those dreams into reality without having to learn a complicated programming language. And even better, the game runs on four different Mario engines ranging from the original Super Mario Bros for NES to New Super Mario Bros. U. Some of the levels you can download are incredibly simple, while others are fiendishly difficult, but there’s something for everyone here. And that there’s now a game available with virtually unlimited Mario levels is enough to make even the most jaded Nintendo fan let down by years of disappointment weep tears of joy.
#2 – Fallout 4
When you start playing Fallout 4, it won’t just become part of your life, it will become your life. Past Bethesda games were big, but there is so much to do and see in Fallout 4 and so many ways to customize your character, that playing Fallout 4 is almost a second job. But unlike a job, the game is just so much fun that you’ll want to experience all of it. And even after you spend dozens of hours in the game, you’ll still see the characters and creatures in the world interact with each other in new ways that will surprise you. Fallout 4 is one of the defining games of the generation, and a must play, but it still falls just shy of being the best game of 2015. That honor goes to…
#1 – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
The Metal Gear Solid games have always been pretty well-received by gamers and critics alike, but either they’ve been held back by overly complicated controls (see MGS 2 and 3) or an emphasis on ridiculously lengthy cutscenes (see MGS 4). The Phantom Pain addresses those complaints, with a control scheme that should be familiar to anyone who’s played a third-person action game. And while there are cutscenes, and they can be ridiculous, they don’t drag on for 30 minutes at a time like in previous games.
MGS V is the perfect mix of gameplay and cinematic storytelling, but it’s the gameplay that really shines here. No longer do you have to complete each mission with stealth. You really do have the freedom to take out enemy soldiers any way you want to complete your objectives. And the new features like extracting enemies with the Fulton recovery balloon system and upgrading your mechanical hand to punch enemies from 30 feet away make the game feel unique even among the crowded open-world genre. Metal Gear Solid V is easily the best game in the series, and the best game of 2015. It’s just a shame that it’s likely the last Kojima-helmed entry in the series we’ll see.