Film has The Lord of the Rings, television has Game of Thrones, tabletop has Dungeons and Dragons, and the gaming industry has games like Dark Souls and Dragon Age. However, even these universally praised and beloved titles are given a run for their money by a couple of the games coming out of 2015. Now, while I speak of the fantasy genre when referencing the previous titles, fantasy is more than dragons, wizards, knights, elves, orcs, ogres, etc. Fantasy truly comes from the idea of infinite possibilities. How far can certain concepts be stretched? How elaborately can we create new worlds? What types of adventurers can we think up? Where will they go? Who will they encounter? What trials will they face? This all stems from the fantastical thinking that we all are capable of.
Many of the games on this list fit this definition of fantasy. 2015 traverses the “what if…” questions that cultivate a new life outside of the one we live in. What if a roguelike had a beat to it? What if I tried to slide down the sand dunes in a cardboard box? What if cars played sports? What if there was a world where horses were on crack all the time and never knew where to go? Every one of these questions receives a booming answer in the form of some of the most well-respected games of the console generation:
10. Until Dawn
“Until Dawn is the cheesy-as-hell, horror game experience I didn’t even know I wanted. Although your decisions are mostly unimportant in deciding the main plot, the fact that the main cast’s lives depend on them kept me involved. Yeah, some of the characters are super annoying, but the plot and presentation keep you guessing. Did I mention this game is actually scary? Until Dawn serves as a meal made up of almost every horror trope, one I keep coming back to.” – Nathanael Hueso
“At first glance, Until Dawn seemed like it might be a carbon copy of David Cage titles like Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls. Luckily, it didn’t turn out that way. While Until Dawn clearly borrows the QTE-centric gameplay of those titles, it manages to have its own identity, and player choice seems even more important. Every choice you make can result in the death of one of the many playable characters, and there’s a classic horror movie mystery to uncover along the way.Until Dawn captures both the classic, horror-film atmosphere of the late 20th Century, as well as a chilling tale of human fragility. The dialogue-heavy storyline makes it the perfect game to play with friends, too, as you argue over whether you should run, hide or fight back.” – Lewis Mackin
9. Crypt of the Necrodancer
“Crypt of the Necrodancer’s soundtrack is pure bliss. Even the track names put a smile on my face whenever I’m shuffling through my Spotify. Danny Baranowsky’s composition manages to keep every track uniquely recognisable but still perfectly suitable to a rhythm game.
“This isn’t just any rhythm game. Crypt of the Necrodancer adapts all the best staples of roguelike titles and adds its own amazing spin on it. It’s easy to learn and hard to master. You’ll have to carefully consider what items to take along, how to move around each zone, and keep tapping to the beat the whole time you do.” – Lewis Mackin
8. Batman: Arkham Knight
“The Arkham series was for a long time the king of superhero games and still is in some people’s eyes. Arkham Knight gets some flak for its excessive gimmicks, but contrary to dominant opinion, I really enjoyed those gimmicks. It was fun as hell manning the Batmobile tank, destroying the opposing tank with my ludicrously overpowered Batgear. While the gameplay is tons of fun, the narrative has gotten some criticism for embracing the Joker for the third (or fourth) time. I understand the dissenting opinions to the Joker’s dominating presence in this game. However, I thought the game handled the Joker (and all of the other villains) exceptionally well. How the villains attacked Batman psychologically more than anything else created a very compelling and complex narrative. Maybe Batman isn’t as impervious as we thought? The rhetorical questions the game proposes and the consistently exhilarating action makes me greatly respect Arkham Knight.” – Peter Finaldi
7. Super Mario Maker
“Since the dawn of the NES, the red plumber has been synonymous with platforming, starring in some of the most iconic games of the genre. This year, though, Nintendo upped the ante by giving players an infinite gauntlet of levels in the styles of Super Mario Bros, Mario 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. The sheer amount of variety in blocks, mechanics, and enemy behaviors allows players to create anything they can dream up, from automatic levels synced to music to incredibly challenging speedruns to complex puzzles. There’s so much content in the game that players were discovering new techniques right up until the release of the sequel. It’s hard to imagine another game based on User-Generated Content allowing for this much to make.” – Max Broggi-Sumner
6. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Metal Gear Solid V got a lot of things right. It’s hard not to appreciate its open approach to stealth encounters. Giving the player even weirder and wackier options to take on enemies feels like a natural progression for the series gameplay-wise. The game also brings back a great feature from Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker in the Mother Base management system. Now there are even more details to consider when you recruit a soldier…” – Lewis Mackin
5. Rocket League
“I’m not a huge online gamer. I also hate the notion of paying for ‘swag’ items in games. Rocket League is the exception to both of those golden rules of mine. It’s just one type of game. Put the ball in the goal while trying to master the physics. There’re some variations, but people just play the extremely-bouncy-soccer game mode. I loved getting goals and having teammates compliment on me. I loved getting special skins after every match. Nothing will be more satisfying than getting the MVP badge and subsequently receiving a loot crate. I’d spend cold hard cash for that digital box and watch the RNG do its thing. It was probably not worth the extra investment, but I really wanted that swag so I could show it off to players who often had way cooler skins than me. Now they’ve changed up the reward system, and it’s been a while since I’ve played, but when I jump in, rustier than ever, I’ll undoubtedly fall back in love.” – Peter Finaldi
4. Life Is Strange
“Telltale Games kind of had a monopoly on story-driven, choice-based games that have more cutscenes than game. Dontnod brought Life Is Strange into the same space, creating what is arguably the best in the genre. Real, sympathetic characters alongside an interesting story full of twists won me over. It’s a game I think about often.” – Nathanael Hueso
“It was tough to fathom FromSoftware raising the bar again after the initial Dark Souls, but Bloodborne stands tall over not just its predecessors but the Soulslike genre as a whole. The patience and nuance asked of you in the game’s opening as you try to punch out a wounded Scourge Beast (and fail) is a microcosm of Bloodborne’s unforgiving but rule-bound world. Understand Bloodborne on its own terms, and you’ll find one of the most rewarding swordplay systems in Action RPG history (faster than Dark Souls without sacrificing strategic heft). You’ll also find an enthralling atmosphere that threatens to actively chip away at your psyche while you explore. Bloodborne routes horror and challenge through the player experience in ways few games have fulfilled. And on top of all that, the lore somehow adds to the terror!” – Zack Kauz
“Bloodborne was the first From Software game that I actually enjoyed and continued to come back to (sorry, Dark Souls). The gameplay was smoother and faster, and the world and monsters were captivating. One of my favorite elements in the game is the two versions that every weapon has, giving you more options and spicing things up during combat. There’s so much to do in this game, and it’s well worth your time.” – Nathanael Hueso
“I think the best thing about Bloodborne is that it knows exactly what it wants to be. Every aspect of FromSoftware’s lovecraftian horror is meticulously thought out. As time goes on, it’s even easier to appreciate Bloodborne, and I can even see it becoming more highly regarded than a certain other FromSoftware release.“My love for Bloodborne is eclipsed only by my love for that certain other action RPG, but even I recognize that it improved on its proverbial Dad in so many ways. The world is influenced by more niche works, creating a wonderfully unique atmosphere. The combat is fast-paced and highly rewarding. If you haven’t played this game yet, then… you’re doing it wrong.” – Lewis Mackin
“Bloodborne is a beautiful amalgamation of the punishing gameplay that FromSoftware is known for, and enemies are pulled straight out of the cosmic horror genre. Bloodborne sheds Dark Souls‘s defensive combat in favor of a more fluid and active combat system that sees the player relying on parrying and evasion rather than defense. It’s a must-own for any PS4 owner.” – Donogh Moore
2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
“The Witcher 3 is the fantasy video game you need to play if you’re looking for the best in the genre. It’s raw, violent, and mature in the best way. While some games do really well in gameplay or story and decently in the other, The Witcher 3 excels at both. You can almost argue that there’s too much content, but it’s of such high quality that it’s a good thing (if you have the time). The Witcher’s world is exactly the type of place that you can fully immerse yourself into and lose track of the real world, even long after you’ve finished the main story.” – Nathanael Hueso
“It speaks volumes about the quality of a game when every single sidequest in an 80+ hour adventure is emotionally satisfying to complete. Frankly, that’s a miraculous feat, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt proves again and again that it’s a game that never finds comfort in complacency. CDPR always finds a way to go one step further in everything they do by packing Geralt’s quest with distinct characters and engaging storylines. Not to mention it features the greatest minigame in all of gaming: Gwent. The release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was a watershed moment in gaming, in truth, it’s so good, it kinda spoiled us a bit.” – Theo Durrant
“The Witcher 3 embodies everything I love about dark fantasy: storylines about all aspects of the human condition, plenty of lore surrounding every monster and town, and a badass main character with his own personality.
“I love Geralt of Rivia. His philosophical apathy is a little toned down in the games, making him a bit less of a sad boi. Still, he has some pretty compelling conversations between chopping up monsters with his silver sword. I’ve played this game for hundreds of hours, and I still want to go back for more. I’ve reviewed The Witcher 1 and 2 on here, and I fully intend to review this one in the future. 10/10, will romance Yennefer again.” – Lewis Mackin
“Undertale is one of those games that blows your mind when you play it. Normal rules don’t apply in Mt. Ebott, where exp doesn’t measure your strength but emotional callousness, and hugging your way out of fights is a valid strategy. Every single boss in Undertale feels fresh, stealing the show as they torment you through each region of the game before finally challenging you to brilliant fights and make sure to keep in touch with you after you best them. Each of the three major endings has its own incredible set pieces, between the neutral boss who breaks the game rules entirely, the genocide boss who knows killing you is pointless and tries to force you to give up instead, and the emotionally intense true pacifist boss who just can’t bring himself to destroy you. All of this is wrapped together with an absolutely beautiful soundtrack with expert use of leitmotifs, making Undertale a game where you don’t want to say your last goodbye. Here’s to a bright future with Deltarune.” – Max Broggi-Sumner
“Simply put, Undertale is one of my favorite video games. It’s quirky as hell, funny, and gives you a heavy dose of the feels. The multiple ways you can play through the game culminate in one of the most unique uses of the video game medium. Don’t dismiss the game due to the sloppy graphics; they actually add charm to the already oozing-of-charm adventure that Toby Fox and company have put together. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced and has a killer soundtrack as an added bonus.” – Nathanael Hueso
Ori and the Blind Forest
Brandon is a young writer who loves going deep into games to explore meaning, purpose, and life. He believes that there’s nothing better than getting lost in a world full of characters to love and lessons to learn. He has a special place in his heart for single player games such as Mass Effect and Life Is Strange, but he also blows off some steam playing some of his favorite multiplayer games, like Paladins.