This year saw the newer generation of hardware finally take shape, and sprawling blockbusters arrive in quick succession. Still, for me, someone who isn’t well attuned to 100+ hour RPGs like Chad is, is that the best? For me, 2015 saw a lot more games on the shelves of an inarguably high quality that didn’t speak to me all that much. The following three though, definitely did.

Game Of The Year: Her Story

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Yes, an FMV game is my game of the year. Who’d have thunk it? Sam Barlow’s gripping murder mystery certainly broke new ground when it came to using video in games, as its short fragments of story examined, shuffled and meticulously explored, made video sequences a key part of, rather than a reward for, gameplay. Viva Seifert played a wonderful suspect, at turns sympathetic and psychotic, and every time you as the player thought you had the answers, the game had a funny way of changing the questions.

Her Story felt especially pertinent in the age of instant reactions to down to the second ‘news’ on social media, as one can easily draw completely false conclusions from ten seconds of ‘proof’ out of context. Tellingly though, the game would never fail (or reward) you for making your decisions, and it’s ‘ending’ so to speak left it to the player to decide whether they’ve done enough or not, with the simple hanging question asking whether they were satisfied.

Unlike anything that’s appeared before it, Her Story stands alone for its bravery and uniqueness, and an easy choice for GOTY.

First Runner-Up: Metal Gear Solid 5

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That right up to release nobody quite knew what to expect from MGS5 before release is testament to Kojima’s unpredictable nature as a creator. That people were still digging deeply into the game for the slightest hint of extra content, or some strange quirk to exploit, is testament to Kojima’s ability to weave an insane amount of detail into his experiences. A good deal of MGS 5’s staying power has been the desire to uncover more of its mysteries, especially in light of Kojima’s uneasy relationship with Konami, creating an insatiable desire for some sort of message baked into its missions, collectibles or even its lens flare.

What kept me interested in the game though was that for the first time in a main line installment to the series MGS5 was accessible, modern feeling and fun to play. Yes the game was story light, and from a writing standpoint would have been better sold as Peace Walker 2 than Metal Gear 5, but this followed the pattern laid down by the impressive PSP MGS games to make stealth a mechanically satisfying experience, not something struggling to communicate itself with systems more old fashioned than its concepts.

Phantom Pain is truly the most free form MGS, with any number of valid approaches to a scenario that, combined with its open world settings, generates any number of emergent narratives and exciting experiences unique to the player. It’s a perfectly good shooter for those going loud, and wonderfully intense for those who approach more covertly. With the game finally able to be carried by its mechanics the , it’s no surprise that Phantom Pain is story light; there’s still a ton of cutscene and expository dialogue material here, but it’s fine being placed between five hour chunks of play, or in non essential cassette recordings. After decades of being the guy who made games you mainly watched, and after the ultimate step in MGS4 to get that out of his system, Kojima is saying with MGS5 that this is a piece to be played, explored and experienced.

Second Runner-up: Rittai Picross 2

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If anything could be forgiven for providing an expansion pack sequel that didn’t build on the original concept, it’d be Picross 3D. Yet Rittai Picross 2 made a major change to the formula, adding curved surfaces and irregular shapes, and making the puzzles much more intricate and complicated. That said, the friendly interface of the original, along with that certain Nintendo charm, persists and makes for an unmissable 3DS gem.

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Gamer, Educator, Writer of Stuff, wrestler of professionals (sometimes)