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10. Contradiction: Spot the Liar

I don’t know if Contradiction: Spot the Liar is a great game, but I do know that I had as much fun playing this campy FMV murder mystery as I did any game this year. The title is filled with delightfully over the top performances, surprising plot twists, and has what is hands down my favorite moment of the entire year. I had great fun playing Spot the Liar but it was the experience I had playing with my wife that seals this game’s place for me. I urge anyone who plays it to have a friend or significant other to help steer you through the trials and tribulations of Detective Inspector Jenks. Yes, the game has some control issues and a few plot holes, but Contradiction is so much more than the sum of its parts and it’s because of this that it sits at my number 10 spot.

contradiction

9. Soma

Soma is a game that grew on me. If I had made this list the moment I had finished my ten hour jaunt with the title it probably would have missed my list. I came away loving the narrative, but not liking the hide and seek monster mechanics at all. However, in the days and weeks following my playthrough I continued to re examine the events of the story and muse on the layered themes the games presents. Suddenly I couldn’t picture it not being in my top ten. I like to reward games that do things exceptionally well even if I don’t love the whole package and what Soma gets right it really gets right. It’s a tour de force of interactive storytelling and I can’t wait to see what Frictional Games does next.

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8. Bloodborne

GOT TO HELL BLOODBORNE……NO, NO, I LOVE YOU BLOODBORNE…….F&*&#(@*(*@(#@(#*@(#@#@@* YOUUUUUUUU BLOODBORNE…..DON’T EVER LEAVE ME BLOODBORNE.

Thus goes the gameplay loop of me an any game that From Software (Dark Souls, Demon’s Souls) makes. They are as maddening as they are satisfying, and Bloodborne is no different. I love how they sped up the combat and I even came around on the fact they took away my shield. It made me rethink the way I went into encounters and it forced me to learn how to parry. Justin mentioned it in his top ten list, but he was dead on about how stellar the gameplay loop is in Bloodborne.  The combat in the game is so good that going directly from it to The Witcher 3 was too jarring a step for me to handle at the time. The game is viciously hard, (I think I suffered actual depression in my quest to take down the Blood Starved Beast), but nothing beats that moment you take that elusive enemy down. It’s the Stockholm Syndrome of games, but damn if I’m not ready for the next time From takes me hostage.

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7. Rocket League

My first hour with Rocket League did not go well. I was horrible, I didn’t understand the controls and the sense of speed left me reeling. But there was something there — something that made me want to go back for more — and over time, a bad first impression turned into a genuine love. For a solid month it was the only thing I played. There are few experiences I had this year as fun as playing Rocket League with friends. I was going out of my way to watch YouTube videos on more advanced tactics and maneuvers. I actually cared about my score in ranked mode and I never think twice about those things.  The game is beautifully simple, at once easy to get into, and at the same time difficult to excel. It’s far and away the best multiplayer I played this year.  

rocketleague

6. Life is Strange

Life is Strange may feature time travel, a dying town and mystery of a missing girl, but it’s really  a story about two friends rediscovering something they thought they lost. Max and Chloe have one of the most well developed and believable relationships I’ve seen in a game. It’s the game’s willingness to focus on them and the little things that make life, well….strange, that truly set it apart.

I didn’t know what to make of Life as Strange after I played the first episode. I enjoyed it, but it felt like a lesser version of the TellTale adventures I had come to appreciate so much. I filed it away in my mind as a “that will be a cool game to play for a few hours every couple of months, and not have to think about in between”.  By the climax of episode 2, the realization came that this episodic game from DONTNOD would be so much more than that. The events that Max encounters in the rest of the episode lead you to a situation you can’t get out of with Max’s time rewind powers. What follows is a raw,  frank, emotional and potentially devastating conversation that left me floored. That was the moment that LIS went from “neat little distraction” to full on obsession in my house. The next two episodes would only up the ante with huge revelations and jaw dropping cliffhangers. The game doesn’t completely stick its landing, but it never waivers on keeping the focus where it belongs.

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5. Rise of the Tomb Raider

I’m not what you’d call a Tomb Raider fan. In fact, I think the only game in the series I had beaten up until this point was Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. I dabbled in the 2013 remake and enjoyed it, but never enough to want to finish it. I ended up picking up Rise on the back of good reviews and a buy 2 get 1 one free sale at Target. I booted it up to just give it a look, but I expected it to be a game I bounced off rather quickly. Instead, I was enthralled by the gorgeous visuals, fun combat loop and well designed puzzles. Throw in a fun Indiana Jones-like story and some solid platforming mechanics and you have one of the most complete games that came out in all of 2015. I have small gripes (I wish stealth wasn’t taken away from you at the end) but that is a minor gripe compared to how much fun I had with the game. Oh, and I’ll say it again – damn, this game is pretty. From the smallest animations to the grandest set pieces this is a thing to behold.

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4. Her Story

The less you know about Sam Barlow’s brilliant Her Story, the more joy you can pluck from it. The game presents the player with a fake computer OS which has a piece of software running that has archived video on it. You access the video clips by typing in keywords that stand out to you throughout your gameplay. The videos are a set of interviews with a woman who is being questioned by the police, and can be seen in any order depending on what you search. If you have ever wanted to feel like a detective it’s an absolute must play and  It had my wife and I scribbling down notes theories at a breakneck pace. It’s also an essential game for Viva Seifert’s performance. The depth and range of ability she shows is amazing. This was by far one of the most effecting game experiences I’ve ever had.

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3. Until Dawn

I love playing games with my wife. Getting to share in these types of experiences with her makes each one of them more enjoyable. Contradiction, Her Story and Life is Strange were all enriched by having her both at my side and other times driving the experience. Those were all amazing experiences, but none of them quite match up to Until Dawn. The game is a full on teen slasher flick and that is right in both of our wheelhouses. All throughout our first playthrough, we would take turns making choices and living with where they would lead us. We watched as the game turned seemingly onenote annoying characters into sympathetic favorites and marveled at the sheer depth of choice the game afforded us. Until Dawn deserves huge props for making us care about losing characters so much that we would agonize over every decision big and small.  The game takes concepts from adventure games, Quantic Dream and horror films, but still manages to create something that feels wholly fresh. I think I’ve seen the entirety of Until Dawn four times and not once was it ever the same.

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2. Super Mario Maker

I’ve never had any fun with level editors.  I’m always excited by their concepts of games like  Little Big Planet, ModNation Racers, and Minecraft, but I can never find the hook to stick with them. It turns out that hook was Mario. Super Mario Maker is a sterling example that when Nintendo puts their mind to it, they can be the best at anything.  I flat out love making levels in Super Mario Maker. I love making mean ones, easy ones, silly ones and any other kind you can imagine. More than that, I love watching other people play those levels. I never thought I’d ever get to experience the joy of making a video game, and in some small way Nintendo has given that to me. When I streamed during Extra Life for over 20 hours, by far the best thing I did was my first two hour playthrough with Super Mario Maker. It’s magic in a bottle and will be something I will be playing for years to come.

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1.Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

It was night in Africa, the rain was pouring and a camp full of enemy soldiers lay before me. As I scoped out the camp I heard a recognizable ding on my radio, “That’s the prisoner, extract him Boss.” I marked the person on my map with my binoculars and worked out my infiltration strategy. I had to be careful with the weapons I used near my objective location, and I didn’t want to risk hurting a prisoner, but the other parts of the camp were fair game. I did a quick double check to make sure there were no high value soldiers, and began to make my way in. First thing was to take out the outside guard with tranq darts. I extracted one using my Fulton, a balloon system that sends knocked out enemies careening into the air and then back to my base, and on the other I strapped a piece of C4. I picked up the soldier, snuck into the middle of the camp, and threw his body right in the path of one of the other guards. Once they saw one of their men down a few ran over to see what was up. They woke up their friend, and just as they did, I set off the C4. That killed 3 of my enemies and sent the whole camp running over to see what was going on. As they freaked out, I quietly grabbed the prisoner from the other side of the base and used my same Fulton system to send him back home. Mission Accomplished.

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Metal Gear Solid has always been a series that has strived to give players options. Want to fight Sniper Wolf in a cat and mouse battle of long range gun fire? Go for it. Or maybe you just want to shoot her in the butt with remote control missiles? You can do that too! You’ve always had the ability to go about things your own way, with one glaring issue. The Metal Gear Solid games never played well enough to allow this freedom to really be worth anything. That all changes with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

The game encourages players to be stealthy, but doesn’t punish them for going in with guns and grenade launchers blaring. The result of this is a feeling of freedom I’ve never experienced in a game before. Using a combination of buddies, tranquilizer pistols, stun rifles and deadly assault weapons I carved the legend of Big Boss through the mountains of Afghanistan and the jungles of Central Africa. The act of playing an MGS game, or in my opinion any open world action game, has ever felt better. Layer on that base building, tactical squad deployments, and string of constantly upgradable equipment and you have not just my favorite game of the year, but one of my favorite games ever.

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