The Best Video Games of 2015

Fire up the consoles—these are the best releases of the year.

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Complex Original

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2015 has been a blockbuster year for games—let's just say it's been a chore narrowing down our list to just 25 games. We've seen an absolute plethora of quality this year—from advanced sports titles to the absolutely immersive treats like Fallout 4—and this year's crop of games is markedly improved as developers get more and more used to the current generation of consoles. It was also a year that saw video games make a step forward in terms of thriving in an increasingly fractured video game landscape. Things are certainly different now, as it's possible for a newcomer like Life Is Strange to exist in the same realm as a tried and true classic installation like Metal Gear Solid V

While 2014 was somewhat confusing for the world of video gaming, 2015 shows that the industry is as strong as ever. We've had a blast this year with these games, and we hope you enjoy these bad boys as much as we did.

25. fifa 16

Publisher: EA Sports
Consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, PC

As we documented in our Magnum Opus Games feature, EA’s FIFA franchise has grown from the runner up to Konami to the most beautiful, authentic game in soccer and perhaps in all of sports. And never has that been more clear than in FIFA 16. The gameplay has improved and the players have become more detailed, as is tradition. But the pivotal addition comes in (finally) bringing women to the game. 

We’re not just talking tacking females faces onto the existing player skeletons; EA started completely from scratch to capture the differences between the men and women’s games, from the bodies, to the collisions, to the strikes. Twelve national teams are available to play in on and offline friendlies, as well as a World Cup-like tournament. 

Career mode and Ultimate Team, the most popular existing modes, have been bolstered with a new training mode and a more realistic transfer system for the former, and a fantasy futbol-esque draft mode for the latter. And as tricky as they are to learn, the revamped passing and defense systems support FIFA’s “authenticity” buzzword. 

24. forza motorsport 6

Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Consoles: Xbox One

Turn 10's long-running car simulator series is often lauded for its attention to detail and its extensive efforts to ensure the series remains as realistic as possible. That's why Forza Motorsport 6 is widely regarded as the best in franchise thus far. Forza Motorsport 6 features 450 cars, as well as realistic weather effects. The game's great graphics and tight controls will bring out the car buff in anyone, and the driving model also includes wet-weather driving that will cause players to skid or hydroplane if they hit water on the track. You couldn't get much closer to real racing if you commandeered a Veyron and did donuts in a Walmart parking lot. 

23. Life Is Strange

Publisher: Square Enix
Consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC

You think your high school experience was crazy? You have nothing on Max Caulfield, the 18-year-old protagonist from Life Is Strange. Very early into the game, she finds out she has the power to rewind time. But what the actual game stands for is so much more.

In the style of the meta-famous Telltale Games series of episodic video games, Life Is Strange is a five-episode trek through the town of Arcadia Bay, a town that’s rich in the nonsense of corrupt millionaires and a peculiar sense of dread. Max and her best friend Chloe get into a steaming pile of trouble and, with the power of rewind and your inquisitive mind, help unravel the mystery that is this town. It isn’t easy—hell, it can get downright frustrating at times—but the attention paid to the details of the stories, along with the enriching character progression throughout this series, is well worth any hang-ups.

While there might be games that contain more action, or flashier production values, Life Is Strange succeeds where many games fail: your attachment to these characters builds from episode to episode, with a story that will have you binging on the game like it's your favorite Netflix show.

22. star wars: battlefront

Publisher: LucasArts, Disney Interactive Studios
Consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC

Although it's received some criticism about the lack of content, Star Wars: Battlefront's visuals are the closest we've seen thus far to the actual movies. The action is non-stop and for any Star Wars fan or any fan of arcade-style, team-based shooters, this game is a must-have. 

From fighting off AT-AT's on Hoth to engaging in dogfights in the skies of Tatooine, Star Wars: Battlefront models the Star Wars universe faithfully. We're excited to see what the future DLC brings, and hopefully it'll add the additional content that this excellent portrayal of the Star Wars universe deserves.

21. Heroes of the storm

Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Consoles: Windows PC 

Blizzard's take on the multiplayer online battle arena genre is a smashing success in its own right, building on the successes of Riot Games' League of Legends and labeling itself as an "online hero brawler" to denote its refusal to adhere to convention. Oh, and you can play as Blizzard mainstays from games like Diablo, StarCraft, and Warcraft as well, with 39 heroes available to choose from. Heroes has quickly made an impression among streamers, professional gamers, and players looking for something a little different from the droves of other MOBAs out there. It's certainly colorful enough to make an impression, that's for sure. 

20. Guitar Hero Live

Publisher: Activision
Consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, iOS 

Guitar Hero Live is a key player in this year's movement to revitalize the rhythm game, and it won out in every way when stacked up against Harmonix's Rock Band 4. With hundreds of songs available via the MTV-like music channel GHTV and live-action responses triggered during gameplay, it breathes new life into a genre once gone stagnant. The completely revamped guitar controller is a great reason to finally throw out all those old plastic toys in the attic, and the free-to-play-lite structure is great for trying out new songs before committing them to your library. If you've only got time for one music game this year, Guitar Hero Live is where it's at. 

19. tales from the borderlands

Publisher: Telltale Games, 2K Games
Consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, Android, Windows PC, MacOS

Telltale Games has mastered the art of meaningful storytelling, but it also isn't afraid to let loose once in a while. Tales from the Borderlands proved this time and time again with its hilarious one-liners, ridiculous situations, and inventive gameplay mechanics that put the rest of the Telltale entries to shame. The game's predecessors, although humorous and fun, sometimes lacked the immersion necessary to drive the unique setting of Pandora home, but Tales From the Borderlands remedies this by connecting players to two of the regular citizens of the forsaken world, lending a sorely needed personal connection to the series. The approachability and humor of this set of spin-off episodes is fantastic, allowing veterans of the series or newcomers to get equal amounts or enjoyment from it.

18. yo-kai watch

Publisher: Nintendo, Level-5, Koei Tecmo
Consoles: Nintendo 3DS

Move over, Pokémon. There's a new monster-collecting joint in town, and it's called Yo-Kai Watch. The brainchild of renowned Japanese RPG developer Level-5, this colorful 3DS adventure may have been created with children in mind, but it's extremely challenging—as well as rewarding. With the special Yo-Kai Watch device, you can see spirits only visible to those with the device, and then collect and battle others for supremacy. It may look simple on the surface, but the clever Yo-Kai names ("Happiere" and "Dismarelda"), Shin Megami Tensei-like battles, and tongue-in-cheek nature of the game make it worth your while.  

17. Splatoon

Publisher: Nintendo
Consoles: Wii U

Nintendo's first new IP in years was a surprise hit, even for the hardcore crowd. Splatoon has you controlling a squid/human hybrid (are you a kid or a squid now?) who's engaged in a turf war with the nefarious Octarian race. In single player or the raucous, supremely entertaining multiplayer mode, you'll shoot, roll, or spray ink all over the place using a wide assortment of guns, rollers, and bombs. It's impressively deep with plenty of unlockables, customization options, and players online at all times of the day to rumble with. Plus, the fact that months later it's still going strong and receiving continual content updates speaks volumes as far as its lasting appeal as a new Nintendo mainstay. 

16. call of duty: black ops iii

Publisher: Activision
Consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC

Call of Duty is mostly known for its explosive multiplayer action, but Call of Duty: Black Ops III's greatest asset is its much-improved campaign format, with its fascinating look at cybernetics, gestalt intelligence, and death. As if that wasn't enough, the great variety of Zombies scenarios, as well as their differing themes and gameplay, make this one of the best single-player Call of Duty experiences in years.

15. mortal kombat x

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC

Mortal Kombat X is by far one of the best entries in the entire series, with cameos by Jason Voorhees, Predator, and other Mortal Kombat favorites. With its brutal fatalities and other killer moves, it's not for the squeamish, but it's great for those of us who like our violence over-the-top and our fighting matches dripping with blood. The Krypt is an interesting way to keep the game alive as well, offering special unlocks and new items to use in the heat of battle here and there. In addition, this iteration of Mortal Kombat takes things a step further by implementing a story mode you'll actually want to play all the way through, believe it or not. 

14. Rocket League

Publisher: Psyonix
Consoles: PlayStation 4, Windows PC, MacOS, Linux

Every so often a game comes out based on such a simple, nearly stupid concept that it makes zero reasonable sense why it's so appealing. That's the case with Rocket League, a vehicular soccer game where players control rocket-powered cars to "kick" a much bigger ball into an opposing team's goal. If it sounds ridiculous, that's because it totally is. Combining all the best elements of soccer with that of a demolition derby, Rocket League is an affordable and frenetic multiplayer diversion that you'll want to pick up on either PlayStation 4 or PC, since the game allows for cross-platform play. 

13. StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void

Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Consoles: Windows PC, MacOS

The finale of the StarCraft II arc finally reveals the motives behind the Zerg Overminds and the Xel'naga. It's been a journey five years in the making, and if you've been following it, Legacy of the Void is a must buy.

For those just getting into StarCraft II, now is a great time to get into both the lore of the game and its multiplayer scene. With the multiplayer changes that Legacy of the Void introduced, you can join the player base in finding the best way to leverage the new units and stat adjustments. That might not sound like a big deal but trust, it is.

12. batman: Arkham Knight

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

We never get tired of seeing Gotham City's bright neon lights reflecting off the rain-slicked roads, so give us as many Batman games as you want. But really, Batman: Arkham Knight might just be the best entry in the series. This last entry in the Arkham series wraps up the four-game saga nicely, and players got to see all the villains and good guys of the series in one form or another in a way that provides closure to fans of the series. And oh yeah, players finally got to take the Batmobile for a spin.

Arkham Knight is the first in the series to be designed around current-gen hardware, and the visuals are phenomenal. It's one of the first titles from this generation to truly wow us and show everyone what the next few years hold in store in terms of graphical fidelity.

11. Assassin's creed syndicate

Developer: Ubisoft
Consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC

After an off year in 2014 with Unity, Assassin’s Creed has started to move the needle back in the right direction with Syndicate. This time around we’re dropped into Victorian London to play as two different protagonists, one of them being the series’ first female lead (holla!). Jacob and Evie Frye are twin assassins—the latter basically an expert in fucking shit up, and the former a master in stealth, intelligence, and wit. Although, with some upgrading, Evie can capture most of the same brawn. 

The most important character is the city itself. It’s rich in opportunity to spin away from the campaign for a hot second to and delve into a pop-up side mission. Or you can simply explore, an activity that's been invigorated by a new rope line that makes scaling some of London’s most iconic architecture more invigorating and less time-consuming than ever. Free-running and fighting are equally satisfying thanks to the simplicity and fluidity provided by on-screen directions. Hit a button to move up; hit another to move down. Childhood "K.I.S.S." mantras come to mind. 

10. Super Mario Maker

Publisher: Nintendo
Consoles: Wii U

What do you get when you combine the colorful world of Mario with a bevy of creation tools and let gamers publish their own levels and worlds online? No sarcastic responses here. The result is pretty great—you get the excellent Super Mario Maker, which debuted to overwhelmingly positive reviews from fans and critics alike. The Wii U exclusive allows for extremely intricate projects, and fans have gone absolutely insane with the spectrum of levels they've created and shared with the rest of the world: self-playing platforming levels, ruminations on Luigi as a failure of a person, and nods to other Nintendo classics as well. With amiibo support, a bevy of hidden surprises, and a bevy of features added in with each update, this is one of the most powerful tools Nintendo has ever given its fans, and even if you're not a platforming fanatic or all that creative, you'll find Super Mario Maker can bring out the best in you.

9. Rise of the Tomb Raider

Publisher: Square Enix, Microsoft Studios
Consoles: Xbox One

Tomb Raider's 2013 reboot was what the series needed to return to relevance. Rise of the Tomb Raider leverages the excellent gameplay design of that reboot to continue Lara's story in a challenging and puzzle-filled adventure that spans the world. 

For the Xbox One owners who wanted to experience the gameplay of Uncharted, Rise of the Tomb Raider provides all that and more, with a story that might be even more compelling. While it's not a console seller, this title is a splendid addition to the growing number of Xbox One exclusives, although it will be released on Windows in early 2016 and PlayStation 4 in late 2016.

8. bloodborne

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Consoles: PlayStation 4

Fans of the Souls series rejoiced at Bloodborne's release, and the hype turned out to be warranted. The title took the tough but fair gameplay of the Souls series and smoothed and fleshed it out for modern consoles. The journey through a Victorian, Lovecraft-esque London combined the terror of the unknown with the satisfaction of the game's meaty and deep combat system.

Although the Souls series is touted as more of a hardcore gaming experience, we didn't find Bloodborne nearly as imposing—for better or worse. Those that shirked the Souls series because of its difficulty may find that Bloodborne is the right mixture of toughness and accessibility.

7. Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

Developer: Square Enix, HexaDrive
Consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC

While the Japanese got a chance to play Final Fantasy Type-0 in its original form in 2011 on the PSP, the wait until this year was worth it for Western audiences. From the first cut scene it's apparent that this Final Fantasy has a much more mature theme, and the plot ranks up there with Xenogears and Final Fantasy Tactics in its portrayal of war and loss. 

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is a marked departure from the aesthetic of Final Fantasy XIII and its sequels, and those that were fans of the art style of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII will feel at home here. It's odd, but a four-year-old game originally designed for a handheld did more to make the series feel vital again than the two single-player console entries that came after it.

6. Xenoblade Chronicles X

Publisher: Nintendo
Consoles: Wii U

Hot on the tail of the re-release of Xenoblade Chronicles 3DS comes its spiritual successor, Xenoblade Chronicles X. While the two games have no relation to each other plotwise, Xenoblade Chronicles X's gameplay is very much the direct evolution of the original title. Everything that made Xenoblade Chronicles an epic adventure has been magnified and expanded upon and the game might give the most extraordinary sense of scale that I've ever experienced. 

Although the game hasn't been released quite yet, our time with the review copy has more than convinced us that this title will be featured in multiple game of the year lists. You don't have long to wait to play it either—Xenoblade Chronicles X comes exclusively to Wii U on Dec. 4. 

5. Until Dawn

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Consoles: PlayStation 4

Who thought that one of the most thrilling games this year would be an adventure game? Until Dawn continues the revitalization of the adventure genre with a plot that blows away the majority of most movies we've seen this year. The agency of the player in the fates of the characters affected us in ways that few games have. The motion capture makes the characters come alive in a way that few studios have been able to accomplish, and the inclusion of Hollywood talent like Hayden Panettiere only further blurs the lines between CG effects and pure cinema.

4. Halo 5: Guardians

Developer: 343 Industries
Consoles: Xbox One

Halo 5 can’t throw its name into the mix for one of the best games in the franchise because of an underwhelming, often cornball campaign. When Buck says he’ll buy “the whole damn bar” if the squad survives a ~risky~ mission I damn near set the controller down in protest. The line was offensive to a writer of any level, down to a parent writing a sick note for their kid. 

But that multiplayer tho. 

Multiplayer is clearly trying to compete with and takes inspiration from the heavyweights (a group Halo hasn’t been in for some time), especially Call of Duty. Gameplay has taken on a more frenetic pace a la the Infinity Ward franchise. And warzone is an entirely new mode, pitting you against other players and artificial enemies to make the path to victory less clear-cut. It’s a bold move for a franchise that’s essential been the same ole same ole for a minute. 

3. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Publisher: CD Projekt RED
Consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC

If Dragon Age: Inquisition was the action-RPG to play in 2014, then The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt takes that throne for this year. Building on the lore and legend of Geralt of Rivia presented in The Witcher and its sequel, Wild Hunt propels the series to new heights with one of the most memorable casts we've seen in a video game to date.

CD Projekt RED has crafted a mature and compelling adventure that truly shows that video games are starting to grow up along with the gamers that play them. For those wanting to visit a massive fantasy world that rivals Game of Thrones with its intrigue and mystery, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will bring tens of hours of joy to you.

2. fallout 4

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Consoles: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

You'd think that after two romps through the post-apocalyptic wasteland, Bethesda's Fallout series would be getting a little stale. However, Fallout 4 manages to revitalize the formula that made Fallout 3 and New Vegas two of our favorite games of the last generation by adding an engrossing armor and weapon upgrade system, and allowing gamers to build their own settlements. 

Although the Boston wasteland reminded us a lot of the ruins of Washington D.C. seen in Fallout 3, the fresh coat of paint the Creation Engine received, as well as adjustments to some of the more annoying facets of the older games, made Fallout 4 a no-brainer for us to include as one of the best games of the year.

1. metal gear solid V: the phantom pain

Publisher: Konami
Consoles: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the final entry in the long-running cinematic action series Metal Gear Solid, and it's truly a swan song to be proud of. It combines everything fans love about the franchise, from the epic cinematic touch creator Hideo Kojima lends to every inch of the production, to the characters that we yearn to hear from again and again. From its tantalizingly obtuse narrative to its memorable cast members, it is by far one of the most cryptic and engaging departures for the series, and one of the most human. While it answered so many questions fans were wrestling with over the course of the Metal Gear series, it opened up so many more in its wake, leaving the "phantom pain" of curiosity in its wake. A thrill ride from start to finish, it both astounded us and broke our hearts the very same way Metal Gear Solid IV: Guns of the Patriots did so many years ago. It's a fitting send-off for Kojima and quite possibly one of the last great games we'll see out of Konami.

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