Mesoian is a guest on The ROMs Over Baghdad podcast and enlightens us with what its like living in Boston when PAX East rolls through, tells superb tales of various conventions and festivals and is one of a rare breed that goes and gets up to shenanigans in Las Vegas during EVO. Find him @Mesoian and please take a loot at his games of 2015.
10. Life Is Strange
It’s easy to forget, in this world of video games we occupy, that most of us are old as hell. So it’s pretty interesting to see a developer come along and be able to nail teen angst in a way that doesn’t make us want to pull our finger nails out. Life is Strange excels by putting the glamour of having super powers on the back burner, instead letting us root ourselves within the lives of a group of spoiled trust fund babies who have the luxury of ignoring missing persons and shady characters. That sort of thing is great, a thing rarely kept as side content for the most eccentric jRPGs and honestly, it’s something that more games should do; let the player reveal in the strangeness of the otherwise mundane. You come to know these people, you come to like them, in some cases hate them, and most of all, you judge them, harshly, all the while trying to figure out the answer to the question that most people chose to ignore at best, and forget at worst. It’s a quirky little game with a lot of emotion that manages to do something that most games fail to do at all, care.
9. Ori and the Blind Forest
There are a lot of pretty games out there, but it’s pretty infrequent when a game makes me stop and look around in order to take in how amazing everything looks at any given moment. Ori is fascinating in it’s beauty as I’m never able to pinpoint what exactly is holding the visuals of the scene together. It almost becomes an internal puzzle of what gorgeous layer what is stacked upon another is drawing me in. But every single visual piece in this game is nothing short of exquisite. The snappy gameplay practically begs the player to sequence break as early as possible, the mechanics lending themselves to the player in efforts to get you horribly lost, only to find vista after breathtaking vista. And while the late game may not be as tight as the heartstrings tugging opener, the story is magnetic enough to keep pulling you through a few frustrating boss situations in order to show off how they end this woodland tale of a wierd light cat dragon and his ball-with-limbs friend.
8. Axiom Verge
We are never going to get an official Metroid 5. That sucks, but it seems like people have begun to realize this fact and started taking matters into their own hands. Axiom Verge is, without a doubt, the most advanced MetroidVania on the market to date, consistently subverting expectations on traversal with new, interesting, and wholly alien mechanics. A little bit Kubrik, a little bit Geiger, Axiom Verge never fails to make the world you’ve been thrust into feel truly alien, the solutions to puzzles often being outside the traditional realms of logic or reason.
Bloodborne is a son of a bitch. It’s a piece of shit motherfucker. It’s an asshole asshat that excels at nothing better than pissing me the fuck off. It is also an amazing game that kept me hooked for weeks as I died over and over and over and over again. It is a testament to FromSoftware that, even though they created a game that made me curse up a storm nearly every time I played it, I always wanted to learn more about this failing world what is falling apart after Eldrich invasion and occupation. If you are a patient person, if you can hold yourself back from rushing in, if you know how to “Woosaw”, Bloodborne is a game that you should absolutely play, even if it is a right kick in the balls.
6. Transformers: Devastation
This game is short. It’s real short. And a lot of people are going to have issues with that. And there is something to be said about a game that needs to be played through multiple times in order to really get the best meat out of it. But man oh man, the moment you beat this love letter to 80’s cartoons and replay it on hard, and the difficulty of the game begins to push you to learn new combat elements and combos, and you finally feed enough swords and hammers to other swords and hammers to get those sweet level 50 drill hands, it all feels worth it. Very little else this year has put me on the edge of my seat like fighting the entire Decepticon legion as Optimus Prime at the same time. Platinum goodness flows through this game’s veins, and while it’s definitely a smaller package than their larger fare, Transformers Devastation manages to prove itself as well worth the time and money.
5. Fallout 4
The best word to describe Fallout 4 is consistent. The engine it runs on is old, it makes us smile when it bends, it makes us curse when it breaks. It’s not the prettiest gal at the ball and it has a lot of clunkiness when it comes to usability. But all that being said, no one quite does a open world game like Bethesda. All of the working parts under the hood create scenarios that we never expect or predict and make the act of exploring the wastelands of post nuclear Boston exciting, even if it is the 5th time we’ve done this dance in the past 10 years. And while it is the last time Bethesda will be able to rely on wonder and whimsy to make up for it’s aged systems which often feel like they will shake apart under the stress of the world that rests atop it, their last installment still manages to entertain for dozens upon scores of hours.
Comedy is hard. Comedy in games is harder. Yet somehow, Toby Fox managed to not only make a game that is almost consistently funny, but also one that manages to be an off kilter, diversive take on the jRPG formula. More than anything else, Undertale is a master class in characterization, managing to make almost every single npc in the entire game both completely charming and memorable. And sure, if you don’t play through the game three times, you won’t see everything, but the game does such a great job of letting those characters get under your skin, you might find yourself unwilling to do the things necessary to see every outcome; I know I wasn’t. An absolute masterpiece from nock to tip, and an experience that will leave you filled with D E T E R M I N A T I O N, Undertale is absolutely a must play.
Not all games have style. Most games adhere to a lot of “tradition”. Ugly, grey, muted, the kind of style your dad might recall whimsically about. So when Splatoon hit the scene and challenged the other grimdark shooters with a flashy, colorful, upbeat nature as well as some super fun and relatively innovative gameplay mechanics, it made the world really start questioning whether or not such rigid serious aesthetics were really necessary. A little bit Da Blob, a little bit call of duty, a little bit Style Savvy, Splatoon takes it’s time in combining various genres in ways that keeps people playing, shopping, and accessorizing. And while it didn’t have the biggest amount of content on the game’s launch, it’s current form is bristling with a bevy of maps, modes, guns and clothes to keep people switching up their play style and fashion sense. Splatoon gave me, unequivocally, the most fun I’ve had all year playing a shooter.
2. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Metal Gear Solid 5 is, without a doubt, the worst Metal Gear Solid game. It lacks the character building that the other games spend hours upon hours with, it lacks the zaniness that’s hidden away in the corners of the design, the story isn’t very well put together and the twist at the end is almost completely lackluster. That being said, MGS5 is, by far, the best playing video game of the year. It is a magnum opus of open world games; no one has done it this good. The sheer amount of options available to tackle the task at hand is only limited to your imagination and tool sets. It’s a massive shame that every task Konami has for this masterpiece post release only serves to make the game worse, but even then, the act of simply replaying old missions doesn’t come with the same fatigue other games have due to the almost limitless possibilities. If anything, the excellence of the gameplay makes me profoundly disappointed with the story and characterization in the game being as poor as it is. This game was on track to being the greatest of all time, but in the end, it ends up only being one of the best games of the year.
1. Super Mario Maker
Mario Maker hit me sideways. The prospect of a tool used to make super mario brothers’ levels was never something that I ever thought I wanted until I finally had the chance to sit down and really pump out some real hot garbage. It’s not the fact that the game is basically a mario paint homage, or the fact that the tools are so easy to use that anyone can make a fairly decent (or terrible) level in a short amount of time that makes the game stand on it’s own; It’s the fact that as time progresses and more and more people become familiar with how Mario Maker works, the levels that steadily populate the Nintendo Network only become more interesting, more complex, more innovative; simply better. I never expected to sink as much time into the game as I did, and I find myself still a little shocked to recommend the game as readily as I do. But Mario Maker is a damn fine product, and an shining example that the WiiU still has life in it’s effete bones.