2015 was a literal game-changer for the video game industry.
The transition to PS4, Xbox One and Wii U had resulted in a bumpy few years in the gaming sphere. The launch titles were weak, as they always are, and even after that window many of the best-reviewed "new" games were just upgrades of great last-gen titles.
Thankfully that all ended in 2015 as developers finally got their heads around the new tech and started pumping out the quality that gamers had grown accustomed to in the dying days of the last-gen.
The variety of titles that came out, be they all-new original works or long-running franchise plays, finally began fulfilling the promise of our new consoles. It was a very good year, and here are 15 of the best games that come out in 2015.
Fallout 4 (PS4, XB1, PC)
The creativity and art direction on display in Fallout 4 was simply astounding as Bethesda successfully brought us back to their retro-futuristic world where everything turned out how the Atomic Age imagined it -- robots, fusion and, eventually, nuclear war.
Set in a sprawling, still-ravaged Boston 200 years after the bombs dropped, the sandbox is deep enough that no two players will share the same experience. In Fallout 4 the place becomes vastly more important than the plot because despite the post-apocalyptic scenario, Bethesda built a living, breathing world that really feels alive.
Transformers: Devastation (Multiplatform)
For fans of the old ‘80s cartoon, the soulless Transformers movies have been crushing. Which is the genius of PlatinumGames’ adaptation of the franchise.
Yes, it’s an arcade-style hack’n’slash action game that lets you fight as robots that transform into a vehicle. But it's also an interactive version of the beloved animated series -- Soundwave is even the old-school version with a cassette deck on his chest and the original voice actors, also including Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Grimlock and Megatron, all reprise their roles for the game.
It's quite simply one of the best examples of fanservice ever.
Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U)
Nintendo’s console has suffered from a lack of support by third-party developers, which is why Xenoblade Chronicles X is such a godsend for Wii U-owning sci-fi fans.
The set-up may be boilerplate – aliens attack earth, survivors flee in a space ark and crash land on far-off planet – but once you start exploring beyond the New Los Angeles settlement, the game is all about creativity and scale.
The landscapes and creature design is eye-popping, the combat is gratifyingly complex, the massive open world feels fresh and, well, your customizable character will eventually get a mech robot suit. That last bit may be enough on it's own.
The Witcher 3 (PS4, XB1, PC)
While the medieval-inspired open world of The Witcher 3 may seem familiar to Lord of the Rings fans, Polish video game developer CD Projeckt has pulled off a unique role-playing game experience that will enthral for endless hours.
It’s not only operating at a very high quality level, it’s also much more narrative based than its game-of-the-year competitor Fallout 4, further developing the story of Geralt of Rivia that has been unspooling across a host of past games and novels. Oh, and it isn’t kidding about its mature rating – this is very much a game made by adults for adults.
Lego Dimensions (PS4, XB1, Wii U)
Dimensions is the iconic Danish brick toy’s nostalgic incursion into the “toys to life” genre, dominated by Skylanders and Disney Infinity.
But while Lego is following their lead, it doesn’t feel like a copycat move given that they’ve been brickifying other entertainment properties in physical sets and video games ever since Lego Star Wars exploded over a decade ago. The base set is like a tasting menu. While it includes minifigs of DC superhero Batman, Lego Movie star Wyldstyle and Lord of the Rings wizard Gandalf, the trio get to explore a whole range of worlds, from Wizard of Oz and The Simpsons to Ghostbusters and Back to the Future. In other words, it's family friendly but it's not just a kids game.
Rise of the Tomb Raider (PS4, XB1, XB360, PC)
Lara Croft, the first lady of gaming, continued to excel in Crystal Dynamics’ reboot series. This post-origin story has the badass British tomb raider much better at her job while also keeping her relatable because she she doesn't shut off her emotions like a traditional testosterone-fuelled action hero.
The graphics are great and the levels cleverly designed, whether she’s searching for clues in Syria or hunting down a lost city in Siberia in hopes of discovering the secret of immortality. And as she navigates natural obstacles and battles ancient booby traps it takes a wonderfully long time before she resorts to gunplay.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS4, PS3, XB1, XB360, PC)
This is likely Hideo Kojima's final chapter in the Metal Gear franchise, which he first launched for the original Nintendo NES console back in 1987. But it's a big, bold and bizarre as you could hope.
The storyline is confusing, yes, but that's because it places emotion over coherency. The gameplay itself is spectacular with flexible missions and a well-designed open-world, even if it's eerie spending so much time fighting in Afghanistan. Oh, except you're actually fighting the Soviets, not the Mujaheddin, and this war game is also profoundly anti-war.
Life is Strange (Multiplatform)
Dontnod's Life Is Strange combines aspects of My So-Called Life with Twin Peaks for a Pacific Northwest-set, supernatural-themed and grrrl-powered episodic game.
The game was engrossing on its own, but also functioned as proof that the medium was expanding, in terms of female leads but also structure, gameplay and the ability to look past violence as the only solution. Life is Strange may have looked like a blast from the past but it played like the future.
Splatoon (Wii U)
The only surprising thing about this shooting game for people tired of shooting games is how long it took for someone to make it. Splatoon is a third-person paint-splatter game that takes the essence of an online multiplayer shooter and Nintendo-izes is.
It's a team-based game where you play as kids who can transform into squids, and you're armed with ink guns. The goal is not to shoot the other players, but to paint as much ink as possible on floors, walls and assorted objects on the game map (you can also swim though your own ink when in squid form).
It's wonderfully weird and even more fun.
Yoshi’s Wooly World (Wii U)
Created by Good-Feel, the appropriately named studio behind another lesser-known Mario spinoff, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, the game once again applies a crafts aesthetic to the digital artform. Everything in the game is made of yarn or felt, including Yoshi the dinosaur, who now spits out weaponized yarn balls rather than eggs. But while the look is new, the side-scrolling level design is another fantastic refinement of what Nintendo has been working on for decades.It's also just about the most adorable game ever made, and that's saying a lot for a Nintendo product.
Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4, XB1, PC, OS X, Linux)
The Scarecrow may be the initial villain of Arkham Knight, but Batman's full Rogue's Gallery comes out to play in Gotham while the titular big bad remains a mystery unless you yourself are a dark knight detective (or a comic book nerd).
The game can be occasionally too self-serious and grimdark, but as the trilogy closing sequel to gaming's greatest superhero video game franchise it's peak wish fulfillment for Bat fans.
It's also gratifying to realize that British studio Rocksteady nailed the landing as it is to use your batclaw to soar through Gotham's stormy skies.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate (PS4, XB1, PC)
Ater last year's Unity misstep, the Quebec-made franchise is back on its feet. This latest in a long-line of parkour-friendly historical adventures sets its new open-world down in London, England at the tail end of the Industrial Revolution.
The period-appropriate non-player characters are pretty cool, including Charles Dickens, Florence Nightingale, Charles Darwin, Alexander Graham Bell and Karl Marx.
But the best part is the introduction of the first-main series female playable lead, Evie Fry, who joins twin brother Jacob to try and take down their antagonists by uniting the city's criminal gangs.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III (PS4, PS3, XB1, XB360, PC)
Dare we say that Call of Duty got progressive in its 12th go-round? Treyarch's latest first-person shooter is set in 2065, four decades after Black Ops II, in a world under siege from climate change. You can even play as a female or person of colour for the first time.
Getting away from feels-too-real modern warfare in favour of futuristic fighting with cyborg soldiers and robotic drones has been a boon to the frequent franchise.
The game also boasts voice-actors like Christopher Meloni and Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff in its story campaign, which also now featured up to four-person co-op, an appreciated play for narrative fans considering most game time will no doubt be spent fighting over the maps in competitive online multiplayer. Oh, and there's a zombie mode because why not.