The promise has been made.
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Video Game Choo Choo is very different from where it was this time last year. We’ve become a comparative powerhouse, with many strong personalities leading the way to fun times for all. I’m so glad to have met my co-writers, and I hope that my guiding hand has led to a better website for the fans! But we’re not here to talk about Chooch, we’re here to celebrate the best games that came out this year. Our site-wide list is available now, but here are my favorites, also known as the true best list. Just like last year, I’m also posting my favorite song from each game. Happy holidays to all, and may Chooch only get better in 2016!
10. Persona 4: Dancing All Night:
The final Persona 4 spin-off is also the strongest, and even though it was a blatant ploy to line Sega/Atlus’ pockets for Persona 5, I’ll gladly feed the Investigation Team beast so long as games as quality as Persona 4: Dancing All Night keep coming out. With a slick interface, responsive controls, and a rocking soundtrack, P4D is a perfectly good reason to extend Persona 4 just a bit longer.
9. Rocket League
PS+ gave us a gift this year. Rocket League is simple, smooth, and stunning, and nobody saw it coming. Sports games are a stagnant genre, but Rocket League gives it a kick in the pants it desperately needed. Blasting cars across a soccer field and knocking the oversized ball into the goal at the last second will never not be satisfying, and it’s adorable sticking hats on your car to personalize it. Rocket League isn’t my favorite surprise of the year, but it’s a damn great time to share with your friends.
8. Mortal Kombat X:
It’s easy to forget Mortal Kombat after Street Fighter V’s announcement earlier this year, but please don’t! Mortal Kombat X is a strong release in both the franchise’s history and fighting games in general, and even if the game’s community is waning, the rich story mode is worth visiting on its own merits. Cassie Cage and her group of younger, fresher Kombatants are some of my favorite characters from this year, but seeing Scorpion perform his classic “GET OVER HERE” in a bombastic fashion also won me over.
7. The first ten hours of MGSV:
MGSV didn’t exactly win me over. It quickly went from my easy pick for GOTY to a wishy-washy disappointment that I’d almost soon forget. But those early moments were magical. Climbing out of a hospital bed, running away from a flaming horse, building up your base and capturing enemy soldiers, it was all so fun! Eventually, the mission structure became less and less stellar, and I ended up losing interest in the game once I heard I’d have to replay some of the game’s shoddier missions in hard mode in order to proceed past a certain point. MGSV is somehow both too long and missing content…but when it worked, when it didn’t feel bloated, it was something. And I’ll appreciate those first few hours.
6. Xenoblade Chronicles X:
Xenoblade took an odd approach to open worlds, and at least in concept, pulled it off. Walking out of your home base and almost immediately seeing level 93 monsters co-exisiting with level 3 monsters was horrifying, but it also had the game lay its hand out for you in a unique way. I knew what was coming, and I wanted to build myself up to it. Most open worlds are cities or landscapes with definite paths to take. Xenoblade dumps you into a world and forces you to find your own path, both in the world and in your in-game career. You better yourself in the way you see fit, and working with others, create a richer experience for all.
5. Super Mario Maker:
*Dr. Steve Brule voice* You can make up your own levels….It’s not any more complicated than that. Just make up your own levels. Take a level you like from a game and chop it up into little pieces, then players won’t know how to put it back together! And it’s a homemade level of yours.
But really, Super Mario Maker has unleashed a new wave of creativity on the world, and I’m so happy about that. Seeing people craft classic levels from Mega Man games, cute auto-play levels, and torturous mindbenders has resulted in some of the most fun I’ve had in games, both on streams and otherwise. Sometimes you have to give props to a game even when your direct input isn’t what’s causing the fun.
I talked up how much fun Rocket League was for multiplayer earlier, but hot damn does Splatoon take it to the next level. Splatoon has something that most other games lack, and that’s its character. There never has been a game with this amount of style, and not only does Splatoon know this, it revels in it. The outfits, music, and overall gameplay feed into its sense of self, proudly proclaiming “yeah, this is a game about squid kids that like to have fun battles, and we want you to have as much fun as they do!” Splatoon shows how great Nintendo is at personifying and welcoming you into their worlds, and it’s definitely my favorite Nintendo game this year.
3. The Witcher 3:
Dragging my feet playing The Witcher this year was a huge mistake. This was a year of open worlds, and Witcher knocked it out of the park. The best games this year felt lived in, invited you into their worlds in realistic ways. The Witcher did this like no other, allowing you to stumble upon quests organically, weaving stories together as different groups of people interacted, and humanized the inhuman Geralt by giving him a daughter-figure to worry about. Mind you, Ciri is not just a plot point for Geralt to dote over, and no matter how much “dad” protests, Ciri does what’s right for herself. Personally, I appreciated the attention to detail during monster fights. Each creature has weaknesses, and even if you’re leveled up enough, you’ll be destroyed by your foes if you don’t prepare ahead of time. All of these aspects meld together into a fantasy epic unlike any other. Living as Geralt is equal parts empowering and horrifying, and that’s why Witcher 3 is so good.
2. Tales from the Borderlands:
Telltale shut me up. I remember when Tales from the Borderlands was announced a while back, since I remember sighing and groaning at the thought of a good developer wasting their time on such a poorly written franchise. I’m so glad I was wrong. Tales from the Borderlands finds what worked in Gearbox’s shooter, ignored the bad, and fleshed out the world of Pandora in exciting ways. If you had told me I’d have a feeling over Scooter, the Catch-A-Ride guy, this year, I’d have told you to shove it. Almost every character in Tales is riveting, and Loader Bot steals the scene time and time again. Tales made me want to play other Borderlands games, which is quite the problem to have when none of them are anywhere near as well written as this one is.
Undertale does something wonderful, and I’m not talking about “turning RPG mechanics on their head!” or whatever most of the games press talks about when they praise this game. To me, Undertale is a story about kindness well told, and that’s its most important aspect. Sure, you can kill things, yes there is a genocide run, but the overall story arc is one of forgiveness, understanding, and companionship. If we all look into our hearts and act determined to understand others, we really all could be friends. Not only does Undertale tell this story beautifully, it compliments the moral with an engaging battle system, memorable characters, and one of the best video game soundtracks of all time. The number one thing to take from Undertale is that being kind brings us all together, and that’s why it’s my favorite game of 2015.
John Michonski is Video Game Choo Choo's Editor in Chief. He's a fun man who likes to do good.
What would an Italian Plumber do, if Shadow pulled a gun on you?
Oh well. We all have Monster Hunter Rise to distract ourselves now.
Not so wonderful any more, eh?
Goodbye to Super Mario, may he rest in pipes.