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(12-21-2015, 05:01 AM)
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1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt ; This game is everything. CDPR have created an absolutely beautiful, massive open world that feels alive. The narrative in the game was so intriguing, and kept me engaged for more than 150+ hours. Geralt’s relationships really define the experience, and Ciri is a force to be reckoned with. A lot of people really hated the combat but for me, as a third person RPG, I really enjoyed preparing through meditation and mixing up melee with magic. Even side quests and monster hunts all felt unique and incredible. Hearts of Stone is one of the best pieces of DLC content, and the tale of Gaunter O’ Dimm was sinister and a ton of fun.

2. Bloodborne ; As a long time fan of the Souls series, this was a dream come true. It was deliciously creepy as the game kept progressing; and some of the boss encounters are right up there with the best of all the Souls games. The Nightmare of Mensis was horrifying to get through, the Forbidden Woods was one of the sections that after navigating I knew I couldn’t stop until I had seen the end. I still haven’t gotten to the DLC, but I’m sure what awaits promises even more incredible map layouts and boss encounters to remember. When Miyazaki is at the helm, it’s noticeable - in world design, shortcuts, and enemy encounters. Although there weren’t as many weapons or armor to customize from, combat felt so aggressive and fast paced that I didn’t mind. From start to end, an incredible journey.

3. Rise of the Tomb Raider ; In spite of the horrible exclusivity, the sequel to Lara Croft’s reboot was something fiercely wonderful. The game had so much heart - each hub felt so much more explorable and open, the swan dive returned, the puzzles were a lot more challenging and a step in the right direction. The story was still simplistic, but it didn’t feel like it took as much precedence when exploring the intricately crafted hubs throughout the entire adventure. Crystal Dynamics created a great Tomb Raider game that will definitely be better appreciated as more people get the opportunity to play it.

4. Yakuza 5 ; Nagoshi will always be my hero. Hearing Gio announce that this was coming stateside at the last PS Experience conference made the wait excruciating, but holy goodness it’s arrived. Kazuma and the gang are back, and it’s a reason to dust off that PS3 and experience the bliss of Kamurocho for the last time on Sony’s last gen machine. This series means so much to me, and will always. It’s a wonderful step in ensuring that the franchise continues to receive translation and attention. I’m only just scratching the surface of this title, and it’s definitely such a nice game to play during the holiday. It has arrived!

5. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate ; I’ve enjoyed every Assassin’s Creed title since the series was introduced way back when. This was one of the best entries in the franchise since the second title - Evie is exactly what this series needed. Victorian London was full of grandeur and I was worried that the grappling hook would make parkour meaningless but it opened up the gameplay in some brilliant new ways. The banter between the Frye twins was great, and the assassination missions almost felt Hitman-esque. Carriages promised wild mayhem, and taking over the city map really allowed you to feel how much of an impact the upgrades had on stealth and combat. It was such a refreshing experience after Unity.

6. Batman Arkham Knight ; Even though the Batmobile was heavily overused, Arkham combat remains one of the most fun melee systems around. The story was absolutely predictable, but the use of the Joker was absolutely terrific. The Riddler puzzles also continue to be mind bending side attractions, and some of the side mission encounters had great finales. I think the Season Pass left a lot to be desired, but getting to wander around Gotham one last time definitely deserved a place on this list.

7. Life is Strange ; As far as episodic adventures games, this was unlike anything I had ever played. Such a beautiful soundtrack to match perfect moments of quiet brilliance, with a ton of mystery to match. Not enough can be said about how Dontnod perfectly balanced an incredible visual style with such strong characterization. Bravo.

8. Resident Evil Revelations 2 ; I think Raid mode alone makes this RE title so much fun. To see Claire and Barry back in this adventure provided a ton of fan service. I think RE combat continues to offer some of the tightest TPS mechanics in the genre, and the monster boss battles were a lot of fun. Those invisible monsters were awful, and although it definitely felt like an RE title on a smaller budget, it was great fun.

9. Everybody's Gone to the Rapture ; This game is so peaceful. It’s so unnerving, but one the best wandering sims out there. Everything about Shopshire felt lived in, and then promptly abandoned. Trying to decipher what happened almost felt like an after thought when walking about and interacting with parts of the world felt so endearing.

10. WWE 2K16 ; Another year, another great showcase. The gameplay from Yukes still leaves a lot to be desired, but seeing Stone Cold’s evolution in a video game mode can’t be beat. It was also such an incredibly deep roster, with a lot of the earlier modes returning as well.

Honorable Mentions:
x. Dead or Alive 5: Last Round ; Every year, a new edition! Lord knows how much money I spent on the DLC this year - but it’s still my favorite fighting game franchise. Tina 4eva!

x. Until Dawn ; What happens when you take the Cage formula and turn it into a cheesy high school horror drama? Greatness! A roller coaster thrill ride from start to finish, with incredible visuals to match. Some of the character deaths were very unexpected, and the cheap scares were a plenty - and it was all amazing!

x. GTA V PC ; 60fps in Los Santos. I can’t wait for the snow to fall again this year to take so many pictures throughout, and for a game with one of the most meticulously detailed open worlds, Rockstar continues to grow stronger in their PC porting development. I sunk in an obscene amount of time messing around in Director mode and it was a long wait, but it’s absolutely gorgeous to play through on the PC.