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This is easily one of my favorite categories, as these are the games that came out of no where to really impress me. Sure, there may be a couple big names on this list, but either from bad past experiences, or my hesitation at diving in on day one, these games were some of the best I’ve played this year. For me, it’s one of the best feelings of being rewarded for taking a chance on a title you may not be 100% sure about. Make sure you don’t miss these 2015 gems!
Here is my list for the biggest surprise game from 2015.
And the nominees are…
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
This is a series I’ve wanted to love for a very long time but unfortunately, I’ve been unable to get into the franchise. Knowing that, I was pretty apprehensive to The Witcher 3, even though everything I had read about it sounded awesome. It’s a trap I had fallen into before and frankly, I didn’t want to repeat past mistakes. I’m glad I went with my heart instead of my brain because The Witcher 3 was one of my favorite games from 2015 and one that I easily pour countless hours into. In fact, I still have a ton of things I could be doing. I felt really connected to the world and I think part of that is the strong NPC characters CD Projekt RED created. What also helped is that even side quests were well thought out and ditching the typical kill x amount of animals or collect x amount of flowers used for padding. Everything was crafted with a purpose and you could see the amount of love and detail the team put into the game.
I almost forgot this game launched in 2015 thanks to it’s January release date. Techland is a company that unfortunately isn’t associated with putting out massive AAA success stories. Dead Island had a fantastic marketing campaign but the final produce couldn’t live up to that trailer’s massive hype. I figured Dying Light would be in the same boat, massive hype but kind of a let down in the end. Boy, was I wrong thankfully. Not only was Dying Light a huge success story for the company, but the game was well reviewed and incredibly fun. Thanks to some easy to use controls, this first person parkour survival experience proved to be just what people wanted. The characters were great, the story gave fans a fun ride, and the gameplay was fantastic. Techland is now working on a massive expansion for the game, and I for one can’t wait to dive back in.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
See The Witcher 3 for reasons why Metal Gear Solid V was my first Metal Gear experience. I’m not a Metal Gear guy which is odd considering my love for stealth games like Splinter Cell. With the crushing amount of hype that was generated earlier this year, I was easily swept up in it. While I was okay with the fact that most characters and story wouldn’t make much sense to me, gameplay proved to be king. Not only could you fulton out almost anything from enemy soldiers, items, and animals to improve your home base, Kojima and his team pretty much let you tackle missions the way you wanted to play without penalty. They gave you the toys and you could pick which one you wanted to use. I found myself addicted to roaming the land, stealing enemies for Mother Base, finding resources, and generally being a sneak. The Phantom Pain gives a lot to the player while supporting them with thier play style. I was surprised at how hard I fell for this game, but I’m glad I gave it a chance.
Destiny: The Taken King
On paper, Destiny sounded like a dream game. Bungie, the Halo masterminds were creating this brand new shooter world, complete with a rich lore, character progression, and RPG elements. Combined with their know how on FPS mechanics, it was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, vanilla Destiny wasn’t quite what gamers were promised with a horrendous story, poor world building, and gameplay trappings that promoted grinding. Thankfully, The Taken King launched as a major expansion and fixed many of the issues from the base game, giving the new content a cohesive and fun story, stronger gameplay diversity, and better world building by giving NPC characters more personality. Destiny still has issues for sure, but The Taken King proves to be a BIG step in the right direction for the franchise.
The marketing campaign for Mad Max didn’t seem to kick in until a couple months before it’s actual release so my feelings for this one never really emerged until a few weeks before the game hit store shelves. What sold me on this wasn’t that it was Mad Max, but the fact that the game had a lot of arcadey style car combat, which represents a hole in my heart that I’ve been trying to fill since the last Burnout. Mad Max featured a conquest sort of gameplay where you’d basically complete events in a given area until you take it over, and placed a heavy emphasis in decking out your car in order to survive out in the wastes. Considering how little hype I had for it prior to release, Mad Max was a very welcomed surprise.
Assassin’s Creed Rogue
Okay, hold on, before I get comments about this game launching last year with AC Unity, let me say that, yes, you are correct. However, I’m talking about the PC version which launched earlier this year in March, so technically speaking, this counts.
Now, as I mentioned, Rogue was the game that got overshadowed last year by it’s bigger and more marketable brother, Assassin’s Creed Unity. Plus, not being on the newer consoles hurt as well, so when I heard that the game was coming to PC, I became interested again. The biggest reason why I even looked at this title in the first place was the story it aimed to tell. Sure, the gameplay mirrored that of Black Flag, letting you sail around New England and Canada, pre-American Revolution, but this time, players took up the role of a former Assassin now turned Templar. Not only would we see why this character left the order but players would actually hunt down former allies including characters seen in previous games like Achilles and Adewale. It’s unfortunate that the game got overshadowed because it did tell a great story even if the gameplay was familiar.
and the winner is…
Winner: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
As I mentioned above, after failing with The Witcher 2, this new one was always going to be an extremely hard sell. Typically if I don’t like something, that’s pretty much it. I don’t know what it was that ultimately drew me into The Witcher 3, but whatever it was, I’m glad it did because this is easily one of my favorite games of 2015. You better believe you’ll be seeing this game again in another Best Of category.