I can already smell it in the air. No, not falling leaves, pumpkin pie, or any of that autumn junk. I mean the rush of games that begin coming out in September. Before that starts, though, we have a solid month to go back and make sure we didn’t miss anything important in the first three quarters of the year.
Whether you’re into sprawling role-playing games, tight platformers, or sitting at a computer searching through databases, there’s been something for everyone so far in 2015.
10. ’BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT’
This is how the Batman died. Arkham Knight is the swan song of Rocksteady’s Arkham series, pitting him against his most dangerous opponents yet: The Arkham Knight and what remains of the Joker’s legacy.
In this game we have the best take on Gotham yet—vast, tall, and claustrophobic city—augmented by the addition of the Batmobile. We also have some of the best writing and voice acting as Batman battles some persistent and persuasive inner demons while trying to take down the usual rogues gallery—Two-Face, Penguin, and of course Scarecrow. Arkham Knight is an appropriate coda to a series that will be known as the best superhero games for, quite likely, a long time to come. Just don’t try to buy it on PC quite yet.
The stories of H.P. Lovecraft were all about madness, fear of the unknown and the insignificance of man in the vastness of the universe. As horror stories, they weren’t particularly scary, but those ideas took root and the short-lived author’s stories continue to be the subject of fan works in just about every art form.
Bloodborne might be the best take on the author’s work and concepts yet. It’s not explicitly a Lovecraft story, and fast-paced combat isn’t the first thing that pops to mind when you think about the characters in Lovecraft’s world, but Hidetaka Miyazaki’s first big non-Souls game captures those key concepts better than anyone yet while weaving in a fresh take on Souls combat and the the awesome level design we’ve become accustomed to in his games. Bloodborne is the best PlayStation 4 exclusive game yet and one of the best of the year so far.
8. ’FALLOUT SHELTER’
If Bethesda had announced Fallout Shelter instead of Fallout 4, there would have been riots. Los Angeles would be in ruins. Instead, they announced the two together and were crowned kings of E3, the biggest gaming convention of the year. Fallout Shelter hit iOS the same day it was announced, tasking players with the role of Overseer, building a thriving post-apocalypse vault or experimenting to see what it takes to tear one down.
They put the game out as a free-to-play game, but without the usual limits imposed by the genre. You can pay to get special lunchboxes full of items, but all the money in the world won’t speed up your progress. While we wait for Fallout 4, Bethesda’s take on base building will do a great job of holding us over.
7. ’HER STORY’
Solving a mystery isn’t about ducking gunfire, chasing speeding cars or kicking down doors. No, most games with mysteries in them just make you feel like you’re solving the mystery, when what you’re doing in reality is moving the character from one cutscene to the next.
Her Story, though, is all about the mystery. You play the role of a detective going back through old case files. You’re sitting at a computer with a database of video recordings of a woman’s testimonies. Your goal is to listen to “her story” and piece it together, using creative search terms and attention to detail to figure out what you think happened. It pushes the boundaries of what can actually be called a game and makes for one of the most intriguing mysteries in gaming, well, ever.
6. ’NOT A HERO’
Not a Hero from developer Roll 7 (of OlliOlli fame) is a twisted, ultra violent take on a shoot'em up movie at a purely Atari level of detail. Using a cadre of unique characters—my favorite is Clive, the suave Brit with dual pistols—your goal is to save the future. If Bunnylord doesn’t become mayor, the future is doomed, and the best way to become mayor is to kill all the bad people.
Each character has a special ability, and the game’s fast pace makes it one of those “just one more try” kinds of games. Couple that with stylish graphics and thumping chiptune music and you’ve got an awesome action game made for speedrunning and high scores.
5. ’ORI AND THE BLIND FOREST’
When I started this up, I was prepared for a standard Metroidvania game: platforming, unlocking new abilities, backtracking to old doors. What I wasn’t prepared for was the gorgeous art and gripping story that accompanied one of the tightest platformers I’ve played in a long time.
Ori opens up with one of the most intense, emotional introductions gaming has seen in a while. I’m not going to lie to you—my eyes may have gotten wet. Then came gorgeous environments, stellar animation, and some truly interesting, innovative platforming that was fun to learn and master. Usually I look at the leftover stuff when I finish a game like this and laugh at how much there is left to do. This time I sat down got to work.
4. ’ROCKET LEAGUE’
Here’s a rule to follow: If PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live’s featured monthly free game is something you’ve never heard of, download it and play it. A month ago, no one had heard of Rocket League, and then we actually got our hands on it and found one of the most entertaining games multiplayer games of the summer.
Word about the game started quietly but quickly reached a deafening level, with everyone talking about it, sharing clips of insane plays as if it was an actual sport. Even if you missed the chance to get the game for free as part of the PlayStation Plus promotion, it’s still worth checking out.
Leave it to Nintendo to take a genre we’re well acquainted with and find a way to make it feel fresh all over again. Splatoon is a fast, fun multiplayer shooter, but headshots are nowhere to be found and killing your opponents isn’t really the point.
Instead, you’ll focus on covering painting the map purple, or green, or whatever other fluorescent color represents your team, “splatting” the opponents along the way to send them back to their side of the map. It’s a fresh, colorful, and surprisingly non-violent take on the competitive shooter and has the potential to become Nintendo’s next big thing.
2. ‘THE WITCHER 3: THE WILD HUNT’
When a game is as hotly anticipated as The Witcher 3, it can be very difficult for it to live up to expectations. This is one of the few cases where the met almost every expectation and exceeded a few others.
Despite this being the third game in the series, it’s still a great entry point for new players. The Witcher 3 puts the player in a vast, beautiful, and grim fantasy world and asks them to live the life of a professional monster hunter. Every one of the countless quests has its own storyline, making even the smallest task feel meaningful.
1. ‘YOU MUST BUILD A BOAT’
I know, I know. You’re bored of tile-matching games. But you haven’t built a boat yet. Its predecessor, 10000000, had a simple twist on the puzzle mechanic: stack another type of game, an endless runner, on top. You’ll encounter different monsters and obstacles that force you not to just match smart, but to match quickly. An otherwise slow genre suddenly becomes frantic. Each run at the dungeon is worthwhile, though, as you bring back resources to upgrade your equipment and crew. A simple twist makes an old genre addictive all over again.
You Must Build a Boat does the same thing, except with boat-building instead of dungeon-running. And it’s just as effective.
Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, and it’s been downhill ever since. He takes a multifaceted approach to gaming news and reviews, mixing business analysis, cultural studies, tech and design. Eric has written for outlets like Playboy.com, TechnoBuffalo.com, TabTimes.com, and Kombo.com. In his free time, he perfects his napping technique and pursues the elusive perfect cheeseburger.
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