Shane’s Top 8 Games of 2015

Alright, as my holiday vacation ends I decided to weigh in on my personal picks for the best games I played in 2015.  This was a damn hard list to put together and I used no other source other than my Steam list.  These are PC games only (some may cross over to consoles) – there was no consideration given to handheld/mobile games or console games.

Like Casey Kasem, let’s count down the hits of 2015!

8. Galak-Z

Coming in at number 8 is an amazing 2D space shooter loaded with nods and hat tips to classic technology and anime.  Galak-Z feels like a 16-bit shooter but looks like a modern game with all the lighting and effects you would hope for.  The controls are a bit of a struggle, but their tight nature are required for the often brutally hard dog fighting you’ll have to do.

Everything is polished to hell; great cell shaded graphics, real quality voice over work – even the menus are loaded with paused VCR references or video game power up cycles.  Sharp eyes will catch tons of amazing references during the Battlestar Galactica-esque launch sequence.

This game isn’t going to hold your hand and you’re going to die a lot – but it is worth every restart.  Shouldn’t be missed.

Steam


7. Disney Infinity 3.0

The countdown continues with The Mouse House cash cow Disney Infinity 3.0 at number 7.  It wasn’t until I figured out the secret of buying cheap web codes (and not playing it on Wii U) that this game came onto my radar.

The game has a lot to offer OUTSIDE of the “build your own crap” toybox.  Commercial “playsets” are out for Star Wars that include your favorite playable characters.  These can be had for $10-12 on eBay and they will shoot you your code over email.  Beats paying $30+ retail and you get the exact same game experience.  No portals, no plastic characters taking up space.

The playsets are pesudo open world adventures with tons to do – and your characters follow an RPG path of leveling up, expanding skill trees and more.

The game is free to download and “try” but don’t expect much for free.  But, if you wheel and deal on eBay, you can walk away with all the Star Wars playsets and several of  your favorite characters for $30 or so.


Steam | Disney Download

6. Cities: Skylines

Number 6 on our countdown hails from a very old premise of building your own city and making it grow.  But Cities: Skylines isn’t your Papa’s Sim City; it takes metropolitan construction to a whole new level.

While the classic building elements are here, Cities takes it even farther with more complexity – right down to building your own sewage system.  The game’s genius is in replay; each time you play you learn something new about how to “build it right” and like Tinker Toys of old, you knock it down and start again – with your new found knowledge building you an even BETTER city.

You’ll be borrowing money from other cities to get through your fiscal year … you’ll be watching the in-game “Twitter” app to see how your townspeople feel you are doing.  It is so encompassing and engulfing – hours will feel like minutes.  My dream of Sim City was the ability to zoom in and pick a PERSON and watch them … work, play, commute – and Cities delivers that level of detail.

If you’re even remotely curious, pick it up now!


Steam 

5. Huniepop

If any game should stun you to be on this countdown – let alone number 5 – it is a match three + dating sim.  Huniepop was a surprise sleeper hit that sucked me in and wouldn’t let go.

While an amazing match three game in its own right, the dating aspect of it along with the clever writing and diverse girls to “date” truly makes you work at “getting lucky”.  You’ll have to learn about the girls; their stats, their favorite things, etc. to get them to even date you (the date is the match three part).

There is so much going on, hidden secrets to find – and even an “uncensored” patch that will take you just a little bit farther than your significant other would probably like.  You really should give it a chance – even if you aren’t a big match three or dating sim person (who the hell is???); I think you will be pleasantly surprised.


Steam

4. Life Is Strange

The next three on the countdown were very hard to place in order.  They all represent a different experience and they are all amazing games – but part of these lists is making the hard calls – so this head-bending time traveling episodic experience comes in at number 4.

Don’t let the fact you’re playing a female budding artist protagonist sway you from trying out this game.  The game play is a bit more robust than the TellTale games series – but it is hard not to draw comparisons between them.  It is story and character rich; a real rarity in today’s casual and me-too gaming market.  Much like another title in this countdown – you will actually care about the people, places and events of this game as the mystery unwinds … or rewinds – as this game gives you the power to make choices, play them out, and rewind in short bursts to change the outcome (think of it as cheating with Choose Your Own Adventure books of our youth).  But this is no kid’s game.

You won’t just rewind time in short bursts – you’ll time travel too (ever see the movie Butterfly Effect?  This game and that movie share a lot of similarities …) in order to set things right.  All of this is wrapped up in a who-dun-it mystery.  There are five episodes to the full game – each one lasting anywhere from roughly one to two hours depending on how you play the episode out.

When it comes to “must play gaming” in 2015, this deserves to be high on the list.


Steam

3. The Forest

While technically not released in 2015, I don’t care; number 3 on the countdown is in Early Access so it is changing and updating all the time – and the game is still Alpha!

There are dozens (if not more) “survival” games out there; Ark, Savage Lands and of course games like Minecraft.  Unfortunately, none of them have all the stars and moons aligned to my liking.

The Forest became a monster hit with my friends and me over holiday break 2015.  I’ve logged over 75 hours (and once I’m done with this review, I’m probably right back in).

You’ve crashed on a remote island – your kid is taken along with all the other passengers on the plane.  You’re cold, hungry and you soon find out the island is crawling with fierce cannibals that want nothing more that to add your head to their collection.  Build, survive and fight.  Explore the HUGE island.  Discover its many secrets.  Delve underground and underwater to find even more mysteries.  Craft weapons and items to give you an edge – build huge fortresses or take the fight right to the natives.

Then, when your feet are wet (ha) – grab up to seven of your friends and start playing together.  You’ll make better fortresses, you’ll find more secrets.

I spent a whole episode of Passenger Seat Radio talking about it – listen to it here.


Steam 

2. Zombie Army Trilogy

At just one away from the top of charts at number 2 is Zombie Army Trilogy (or ZAT).  From Rebellion, the team behind the amazing Sniper game series comes this insane mixture of arcane dark Nazi arts … and sniping.

The game is a perfect balance of exploration and killing – along with the nagging draw of completeness (finding gold and bottles to shoot).  This is a full remastering of the first two games with a brand new final adventure.  Full solo and multiplayer round off an amazingly engaging, gorgeously bloody experience (complete with gory x-ray cam).  Shoot, snipe and blow up – the choice is yours.

Nothing says lovin’ like a 50 foot Hitler torso and head with dancing fire demons around it and freaky ass skeletons with their hearts still beating in their rib cage.


Steam

1. Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt

This is the best game to come out in 20 years.  Everything I could POSSIBLY say about this game is in my full long form review here.  It is GOTY for most.  Game of the decade for many.  For some?  The best game ever made.  You’re wasting valuable time reading this review – you should be playing Witcher 3.

No, you don’t have to play the other two games.  Yes, it is worthy of all they hype.  Yes, best game in 20 years.


Steam | GOG

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+