The Best Games of 2015
It’s that time of year when we put the turkey under the tree, the presents in the oven and man the turrets in anticipation of the fat man from the North. As the nights draw in and Christmas approaches, we celebrate the bells in the dark by counting down the best games of the last twelve months.
As usual we count down from eleven rather than ten, because as with the trousers I wear to Christmas dinner, I like a little wiggle room. But our method for compiling this list is a tad different from previous years. Rather than going by the scores given out throughout the year, Jake and Rick each selected their favourite games from this year, and combined those lists to produce the final countdown below. Well, shall we crack on?
11. Cities: Skylines
The first of several surprise successes this year is also the cheekiest. Cities: Skylines copied the design template laid out by Maxis' SimCity reboot from 2013 almost ad-verbatim, before fixing all the problems that proved to be that game's (and somewhat tragically Maxis’) undoing. Skylines gave the people exactly what they wanted, which apparently was huge plots of beautiful countryside to ruin with sprawling pollution machines, but without any irritating online faff or enforced multiplayer shenanigans that sprouted abundant headlines two years back.
Skylines appeals to abundance not only through the size of cities, but the amount of buildings, monuments, services and so forth that can be constructed by the player. Colossal Order expanded this almost infinitely through their extensive mod support. It’s worth remembering, however, that Skylines didn’t simply allow players to build and grow their city, but also to sculpt it using districts. You could dedicate a plot of rich agrarian land exclusively to farming, or enact laws such that certain areas only permitted low-rise structures.
In short, Skylines let you approach its simulation however you wanted, be it with the eye of an artist or the brain of an economist. That’s what makes it such an engrossing city-builder.
10. Rocket League
Cars and football, a match that normally results in either shattered windscreens or crying children, was harnessed by developers Psyonix to create some of the most entertaining multiplayer we enjoyed this year. There’s a lot that feeds into Rocket League’s thrills, the unpredictability of vehicular football, the sense of speed and impact communicated through the game's madcap, springy physics, the way the ball explodes when a player scores a goal, sending cars flying across the pitch to the sound of a bellowing horn.
But I think what makes it so intriguing is how it offers a new perspective from which to play a sports game, casting you as an individual player rather than placing you in control of an entire team. This forces you to coordinate with the other players, filling a defensive or attacking role accordingly, setting up scoring opportunities for them and leaping upon chances they create for you. Rocket League has a unique moment-to-moment fluidity about it that you simply won’t find in any other multiplayer game.