Saturday, January 2, 2016

TheDustinThomas' Game of the Year Awards 2015

It's that time of the year again. Game of the year season is upon us, and since I like to pretend that I'm a legitimate voice in the world of videogames and that people care about my opinions, I've decided to do my own game of the year awards again this year.

We'll start off with a few random categories before going into my top 10 of the year list. Let's get started with my Biggest Disappointment...

Biggest Disappointment
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

I was super stoked to play this game when it released in the Spring. I had it purchased on day one and immediately fired it up, completing it a few days later. It's got great music and the gameplay is still just as solid, addicting, and infuriating as the first game. But with that said, it just didn't differentiate itself enough from the first title to make me want to replay the game over and over like I did in the original. Outside of a few new weapons and masks, there just wasn't a lot there for me.

Biggest Surprise
Fallout 4

I tried to play Fallout 3 on two separate occasions and gave up after only a few hours both times. At the time, I had never really played a western RPG, but in the years since, I've put hundreds of hours into games like Bethesda's own Skyrim and the Borderlands series, so I have a lot of experience with the genre now. I knew I was going to have to buy Fallout 4 because my wife really wanted to play it, and I won't lie, I began to get hyped the closer the game got to release. I put about 50 hours into the game in two weeks and I'm currently trying to get as much off of my backlog before the season pass content begins to drop, which will bring me right back into the Commonwealth.

2015's 2014 Game of the Year
Rogue Legacy

This category was a toss-up between Rogue Legacy and Shovel Knight. While I certainly played Shovel Knight with as much love and fervor in 2015 as I did 2014, it loses for that exact reason: I already played it last year.

Rogue Legacy was a game that I heard a lot about last year, but I shied away from rogue-likes. Due to the recommendation from my Error Machine cohort, Luke, and the fact that it was free on Playstation Plus shortly after I bought a PS4, I decided to give the game a shot. Obviously, I wasn't disappointed. I got obsessed with the game for a good 3-4 months, constantly returning to it. It really did give me the "just one more run" bug like no other game this year.

Most Unnecessary Re-Release
Limbo (PS4)

I own the game on 4 different consoles and I've only purchased it one time. I bought it on the Xbox 360 when it was first released, and then Sony decided to make it free every other month on the Playstation Plus service. I always download, but I don't play it. Just stop already. I don't need any more copies of this game. It's good, and I really do love it, but it's starting to wear out its welcome.

Best Unnecessary Re-Release
Gears of War Ultimate Edition

I mean, it's Gear of War, and Gears of War is awesome. Also, it's 60 FPS, if that actually means something to you. So...yay. It's the best re-release of the year, but it's still very unnecessary.

Best Moment
"Truth" (Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain)


In retrospect, it's something I should have seen coming, but the final reveal of The Phantom Pain goes down as one of my favorite twists in gaming history. It's even better than when you found out that dude's wife was in his arm.

In honesty, I was a little bummed to find out that I wasn't actually playing as Big Boss, but I really loved the way it all played out at the end and the way it tied into Ground Zeroes.

Retro Game of the Year
Felix the Cat

While I've played games like Super Mario World and Symphony of the Night this year, this category is reserved for a retro game that I've never played before, and Felix the Cat is that game this year. If you haven't seen the Hall of Game video that I made for it, you can watch that below.

It's just a really solid platformer featuring a classic cartoon character. Controlling Felix feels a bit slippery when you first start it up, but after you get acclimated to it, you'll find it to be a hidden gem on the NES.

Best Title
Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders from Planet Space

This sounds like a movie they'd make fun of on Mystery Science Theatre 3000, and I love it for that.

Best Value
Rare Replay

30 classic games for $30? Sign me up, especially since games like Conker's Bad Fur Day are reaching ludicrous prices on eBay these days. Plus, whenever someone calls my store and asks if we have Battletoads (and yes, people still do that), I can say yes and hang up on them.

Game I'm Most Sad About Not Playing This Year
Batman: Arkham Knight

I got it for Christmas, but I haven't had a chance to play it enough to put it on my top 10 list. It's surely a contender for 2016's 2015 Game of the Year though.

Most Adorable Game
Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker

It's about time Toad had his turn in the spotlight. Just don't go into this game expecting it to be a Mario clone, because it's definitely not. What we have instead is--as every reviewer on earth called it--a puzzle-platformer with no jump button. Most levels are fairly straightforward, but the real challenge lies in trying to find all the secrets, which are sometimes extremely difficult to find. Definitely worth a playthrough.

Favorite Portable Game
Puzzle & Dragons Z/Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition

Obviously, I didn't play too many portable games this year, but I think even if I had, this would still be near the top of the list. I'd never played a P&Z game before, and I didn't even touch Puzzle & Dragons Z. I bought this exclusively based on the fact that they slapped Mario in the game. I have no shame about it, because it's still a solid game for Nintendo's handheld system.

Notable games not listed on my Top 10 list:
Batman: Arkham Knight
Dying Light

For these titles, I just didn't have a chance to play them this year, so they unfortunately missed out on making my list. If I had the chance, a couple of them probably would have made it, but it'd be tough, because 2015 was a fantastic year for gaming. And with that, let's get on to my top 10 games of the year.

10. Splatoon

The only reason Splatoon doesn't appear higher on this list is because I've only had a few days to play it. I received it as a Christmas gift, but in the short amount of time I've been able to fire it up, I've had nothing but fun. Being someone who shies away from online multiplayer, especially online shooters, I was apprehensive about paying full price for Splatoon in the off chance that I wouldn't like it. My wife managed to find it for a cool $20 on Black Friday, and if I would have known how much fun I would have had with it, I would have been an early adopter.

Since the point of the game is covering up the arena with your team's colored ink rather than kills and deaths, you can still gain lots of experience points even if it's a one-sided battle. That's always been the main reason I've avoided FPS games online, I'm just not good at them, nor to I have the patience to try and get good, but with Splatoon, not only can I level up quickly, but I'm actually halfway decent as well.

9. Resident Evil Revelations 2

The Revelations series is where you go for a true Resident Evil experience these days. After the turd that was Resident Evil 6, I wrote a breakup letter to the series because of how disheartened I had become with it. But this sequel to the ex-3DS exclusive plays how a modern Resident Evil should. It preys on your claustrophobia with tight corridors and small, cramped rooms, all the while making you feel like the next cheap jump scare is right around the corner. They mix those segments with fairly large areas and the ability to use stealth on your enemies, which is something that seems strangely necessary for the series.

I waited for the retail release rather than jumping in with the downloadable episodes, and I think that's the way to go. I don't know how well the game would have kept my had I had a week's wait time between episodes. While a week may not seem like a large wait, it's a big enough wait for me to find another game to move on to and not come back.

The only real complaints I have about the game are the lack of enemy variety and fairly week boss fights.

8. Fallout 4

I was hooked from the moment I stepped out of Vault 111. I've already talked about why it was such a surprise, so I don't feel I need to go into great detail why it's on this list.

Considering the insane amount of hype everyone had for this game, I kind of feel like it was a letdown for some. A lot of people fully expected this to be the game-to-end-all-games, and while it's certainly an incredible experience and one I'll go back to, I think it falls short in that regard. I didn't feel the need to explore the Commonwealth like I did Skyrim, and I was pretty much always actively involved in a quest, straying away from the path only occasionally.

Fallout 4 is still fantastic and made me a fan of the series after I thought all hope was lost.

7. Rise of the Tomb Raider

The Tomb Raider reboot was one of my favorite games of the last generation of consoles. I was never a fan of the original series, and had no real intentions of playing the reboot, but after numerous positive reviews, I played it about a year after release when I found it for a decent price. I wasn't going to wait that long for its sequel.

Being released on the same day as Fallout 4 didn't do the game any favors, and I was part of the problem, I chose Fallout 4 over Rise of the Tomb Raider. I can't say I regret the decision despite the fact that Tomb Raider appears higher on the list, but I wish Microsoft would or whoever was responsible would have made a better decision and released the game on a date that would have been more beneficial for its sales.

That being said, this game is everything I loved about the first one and then some. I liked the story and location a lot more this time around, and hey, they even included some actual tomb raiding in this one! The inclusion of side missions was a nice diversion, although I'm afraid that Crystal Dynamics did this as a way to test the waters for a fully open-world Tomb Raider in the future. I can't say I would want that, but I would certainly play it and likely enjoy it.

If I had one complaint, it would be this: why does literally everything fall apart the moment Lara touches it? If she were a real person, I would never go near her. Every building she enters just collapses!

6. Axiom Verge

Metroid's influence on Axiom Verge can't be denied. Being the fan of the metroidvania genre that I am, it came as no surprise that I had the release day marked on my calendar. The game is so chock-full of secrets that I'm sure there are some that still haven't been discovered. I know for a fact that there are numerous weapons that I never found, and I was very thorough with my playthrough.

It nailed the tone of Metroid, with long sections of loneliness and dread. You certainly get the feeling that you're on your own, and the game even felt like a 2D survival horror game at times. As far as indie games go, Axiom Verge is one of the best I've ever played.

5. Yoshi's Woolly World

I've never been a big fan of Yoshi's Island on the SNES. It's amazing how much more you like a game when they ditch the baby and make everything out of yarn. Another game that was contending for my "Most Adorable Game" category, Yoshi's Woolly World is just fantastic. I played it mostly co-op with my wife, but it's still great fun when playing alone. If you've played the original Yoshi's Island, then you'll know what to expect here. Yoshi controls pretty much the same, and if you're a completionist, then you're going to have quite a time with this one.

As with the original, you have red coins, flowers, and in this case, spools of yarn to collect. The red coins don't do much other than giving you 100% at the end of the level, collecting all the flowers in a world unlocks a secret level, and collecting all the yarn in a level unlocks a new Yoshi for you to play as, usually with a design that represents the level you just completed.

The game has some of the most creative level design I've ever seen in a platformer. So many times my wife and I would stop and take a moment to comment on how cool the level we just started was. It looks beautiful and some of the tricks they allow you to use in certain levels are fun to use. The only flaw I found in the game is the same flaw I find in the New Super Mario Bros. games, which is when playing co-op, you constantly bump into one another. It's a little more acceptable in Mario, but in Yoshi, you'll find yourself accidentally licking up and bouncing off your partners, which can be annoying. Overall though, Yoshi's Woolly World is one of the better 2D platformers in recent memory.

4. The Witcher III: Wild Hunt

I had never played a Witcher game prior to Wild Hunt. I had heard the console port of Witcher II was pretty much terrible so I avoided it at all costs, and I didn't really have any intention of playing this game when it first came out, but again, because of word of mouth and extreme hype, I picked it up and found myself completely sucked in.

The way a seemingly inconsequential side story would turn into a multi-hour adventure that I had to get to the bottom of, causing me to just get lost in the world. Unlike Fallout 4, I did find myself just exploring the world of The Witcher for hours on end, which was made worse by the fact that there were so many darn question marks for me to discover on that map. I may not be a completionist, but I do have a bit of OCD and I had to go discover what those question marks were anytime I found myself near one. Not to mention the hours I would spend playing Gwent.

I never finished Wild Hunt because it's so large and a certain other game was released that I'll get to later. I did buy the expansion pack that came with the physical Gwent set, and once I get some of these games off my backlog, I fully intend to go back and finish Geralt's adventure.

3. Rocket League

Who would have thought that something as simple as playing soccer while operating a car could have been so addicting? Like most people, I discovered this game when it was free on Playstation Plus, and even after all the hubbub, I still didn't play it for about a month after everyone else had, but once I did, I was hooked.

Rocket League did something that I didn't think was possible, it made me love playing online multiplayer, and again, it helps that I'm actually decent at the game. It's funny how that works, eh? Even when my team would be getting blown out, I still found myself having a blast, and there's nothing more thrilling than making a last second goal to tie the game or take the lead. There was a lot of fist-pumping going on in the Thomas household this year.

I haven't played the game since they added in the mutations, but from what I've heard from friends, I don't need to. Rocket League is still a great game to play when I only have a few minutes to kill, but now that I have Splatoon, I think Rocket League will be retired. Thank you, Rocket League, you were incredible.

2. Super Mario Maker

Despite my admitted fanboyism for all things Mario, I was a little apprehensive about Super Mario Maker at first. I've never been the kind of person to enjoy creating levels in games. I loved the single-player of the first Littlebigplanet, but never touched the level creator, and I never cared much for anything that other people created either. But the more information that was released, the more excited I got. Even if I didn't care about creating levels, this was a seemingly never-ending Super Mario game. Not only that, but it had four different Mario styles to choose from, including the best videogame ever made.

I do enjoy the level creating, but the real joy to me is just playing random levels. This is another game that I know I'll come back to again and again for years to come. This is the game that Wii U was made for. While the majority of levels range from average to good, every so often you'll come across an absolute gem that you'll want to star just so you can play it again or show a friend. We at Error Machine love it so much that Luke began a video series dedicated to highlighting particular levels. Here he is reviewing my level "Airship Troll."

My only complaint is the auto-scrolling levels. Don't get me wrong, they're incredibly creative and the people making them are very talented and understand the level creator on a level I'll never reach, but they're just no fun to actually play, but then again, those levels all have 50,000 stars and I have one level that has 20, so maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.

Super Mario Maker is the gift that keeps on giving.

1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

I don't think this comes as much of a surprise to anyone. I dedicated the entire month of August to playing all of the Metal Gear Solid games in anticipation for The Phantom Pain. Remember the game that got me away from The Witcher 3? Yeah, that was this. After 90 hours, I had combed every inch of the two incredibly large areas and Mother Base. Every mission, every side mission, every story, almost everything that could be done in this game, I did.

I expected Phantom Pain to be good, but I don't think any of us expected the game to be as good as it actually is. They put so much love into every detail, even down to the most insane degree. The fact that you can play a tape of a guy taking a dump while hiding inside of a port-a-john and have enemies walk away in disgust...just...that's amazing! I can't even with this game, you guys. I've been a fan of the series since I first played the first Metal Gear Solid back in 1998, and during my replays, it was obvious that the controls of each game were products of their time, but Phantom Pain plays and controls the way a Metal Gear Solid game was always meant to. It just feels good.

I've always considered the original Metal Gear Solid to be the best in the series, and yes, I'm fully aware that nostalgia plays a role in that opinion, as Snake Eater and Guns of the Patriots are also fantastic games, but I can sit here and say with certainty that Phantom Pain is the best Metal Gear Solid game there is, and considering that I would rank the original MGS in my top 5 games of all-time, yes, that means I would rank Phantom Pain in there now.

Skull Face (and the Skulls unit in general) aren't the strongest antagonists the series has ever had, but I'll let that slide, as you only encounter them in certain missions. There's nothing more satisfying than marking an entire outpost of enemies and taking them all out and fulton-ing them with getting spotted. A perfect stealth run through a mission? Nothing better. And of course, the way they bridged the gap between Peace Walker and the original Metal Gear was done beautifully. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is far and away my favorite game of 2015.

Thanks for reading, and don't forget you can find me on the internet at all the places linked below.

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