So, another year’s gone by already… kind of disturbing how fast that happened.
I feel like I should start this piece off with an apology, as 2015 quickly turned into a year of managing personal matters for myself, which considerably detracted from my efforts to expand SmashPad’s media ventures. 2016 brings new opportunities, however, and a bigger and better Day 0 Update will lead SmashPad’s podcasting charge into the new year. If you caught our final show of 2015, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to look forward to.
Obviously, I’m here to talk about my top ten games of 2015, and I have to say this was another great year for games, even when dismissing notably strong titles I simply didn’t have the chance to play. (Xenoblade Chronicles X, in particular, would surely be on my list had I been able to get my hands on it in time, and I also wish I had found time to play Omega Quintet and Legend of Legacy over the course of the year.)
The game industry is clearly in an “uptick” trend, and there’s no end in sight. This energetic environment provided me with some very diverse material for my list.
10. WWE 2K16 – PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC
If you’re a regular listener of the Day 0 Update, you already know that WWE 2K16 defies modern game industry logic, as a licensed game based on one of the most marketing-driven companies on earth, that was quite clearly not developed in a board room. Yuke’s hasn’t brought us all the way back to the days of Aki’s fifth-gen wrestling titles, but we’re definitely seeing the beginnings of something amazing… as long as WWE itself doesn’t pull the plug in favor of something more palatable to the mass market.
9. FAST Racing Neo – Wii U
Shin’en Multimedia’s finely-crafted contribution to the futuristic racing genre may have been released a little too quietly on a Wii U that desperately needed a more extensive holiday lineup. Far from the F-Zero stand-in it was pegged as in the wake of E3, this intriguing Wipeout/Ikaruga hybrid is practically being given away at $15 and has no problem justifying its presence on anyone’s Wii U.
8. Final Fantasy Type-0 HD – PS4, Xbox One, PC
War is hell, but it’s also completely addictive in Hajime Tabata’s experimental action RPG, having finally arrived in North America this year. Unencumbered by the justifiable expectations aimed at the proper numbered installments of the series, Type-0 just happens to be one of the most interesting and experimental uses of the Final Fantasy brand to date.
7. Mortal Kombat X – PS4, Xbox One, PC
Mortal Kombat‘s belated renaissance continues with Mortal Kombat X, which continues to prove just how good a fighting game developer Ed Boon can be once you get him out from under Midway. Still plenty of life left in this one with Kombat Pack 2 on the way, but they’re going just a little crazy with guest characters at this point…
6. Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward – PS4, PS3, PC
Heavensward reserves almost its entire bounty for those who have played through all of Final Fantasy XIV‘s story content up to that point, which is enormous to say the least. Still, for those who have put in the work, Heavensward is a treasure trove of great content to add to an already amazing MMORPG, as well as an outstanding JRPG in its own right.
5. Axiom Verge – PS4, PC, PS Vita
Metroidvania is justifiably becoming its own codified subset of the platform genre, and a fairly well-populated one at that. That one of the absolute best of the bunch could be made by just one person is quite frankly insane.
4. Brandish: The Dark Revenant – PSP
Nihon Falcom’s cult classic dungeon crawler was given surprising new life this year on the PSP, and the particularly vertical journey of Ares Toraernos and Dela Delon is every bit as compelling and maddening as it ever was. A great move by Xseed to make its localization happen.
3. Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm – PC
A real Kickstarter success story, Yatagarasu is a labor of love by a team comprised of developers, artists, and even tournament players from some of the greatest 2D fighters ever crafted. It’s only a shame that the effort that went into seeing it funded isn’t matched by an effort to see it take root on the tournament scene.
2. Super Mario Maker – Wii U
A cynic might suggest that Super Mario Maker is a sign that franchise caretakers Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka have officially run out of ideas and have thus made the decision to pass the design tools on to a new generation of developers. Whatever you might believe, and however much truth there may or may not be to it, in no way does that possibility prevent Super Mario Maker from being one of the most thoroughly enjoyable video game toy chests ever put together.
1. The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC – PC, PSP
Trails in the Sky SC leads off a one-two punch of Trails titles (alongside December’s Trails of Cold Steel) to wrap up 2015, simultaneously establishing The Legend of Heroes as the breakout franchise of 2015, giving us a satisfying conclusion to its story arc, and setting the stage for even bigger things to come. Collectively, Trails in the Sky deserves to be mentioned in the same company as games like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, as some of the finest RPGs ever crafted.
Closing the door on an amazing 2015, it feels strange that the industry is still riding so much momentum that it feels like my 2016 list is already being written for me. I think of games like Street Fighter V, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II, Fire Emblem: Fates, Star Fox Zero, and Setsuna of Sacrifice and Snow as absolute locks, but then I consider how much we don’t even know about yet…what a great time to be a gamer, right?