With 2015 coming to a close, many are starting to look back at the best video games this year had to offer such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Fallout 4, Halo 5, Bloodborne, and many, many more. There’s no denying that we had a great year of gaming, but, as with every year, we had plenty of releases coming out in a short span of time — which leads to many titles being overshadowed by their more popular counterparts.
But with 2015’s release season coming to a close, there are a few titles worth a second look which you might have missed the first time around.
Originally released on September 1 alongside Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Mad Max was a game that many people (including myself) made the decision to skip in favor of playing Kojima’s latest masterpiece. But after a trip back to the post-apocalyptic world of Max, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed my time in the Plains of Silence. The game takes inspiration from the movies, but sticks to its own self-contained narrative where Max is robbed, beaten, and left for dead.
Throughout the game you’ll build up your own car and resources, strengthening yourself to take on Scabrous Scrotus and claim what is rightfully yours. While the narrative itself isn’t anything to write home about, the video game absolutely nails the same feeling the movies represent: the environments are vast deserts with hastily-built metal shelters occupied by scavengers and the combat is brutal, filled with cars covered in spikes that go up in flames as you take them down. Sure, it’s a little repetitive in nature, especially with the side activities, but is it worth the $30 you’ll find it on sale for this holiday? Absolutely.
Mad Max is available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
SOMA is a wonderful trip into a science fiction world filled with the same survival horror aspects as its predecessor, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. You’ll be taking on the role of Simon Jarrett after he is involved in a car crash that kills his friend, leaving him with severe brain damage. Due to the nature of his condition, he agrees to an experimental brain scan where he blacks out and wakes up a century later to find himself in PATHOS-II, an underwater research facility. Throughout the game, you’ll be working to uncover the mysteries of PATHOS-II in order to find out what happened to the original occupants and hopefully, a way to get back home yourself. It’s packed with puzzles, exploration, and stealth-based gameplay that accompany a fascinating narrative about human consciousness — one which is both satisfying and enlightening for all of those who play it.
SOMA is available on PC and PS4.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rise of the Tomb Raider continues the successful reboot of the Tomb Raider video game franchise, following a young Lara Croft as she struggles to explain her experience on Yamatai within the first game. Seeking answers, she turns to her father’s research on immortality — pursuing leads that take her across Syria and Siberia. Narratively speaking, the game brings back all of the successful plot twists and supernatural elements from Tomb Raider back in 2013, incorporating them into another successful evolution of a young Lara. Along with the narrative comes the phenomenal combat and over-the-top action sequences we know and love, plus a few improvements such as a weather system and day-night cycle that characters react to. Certain animals may only show up at certain times of day, or certain enemies may be easier to take down if you wait for a snow storm — essentially, ROTTR improves on the formula set by its predecessor in order to give you more options as a player, resulting in a much more polished experience that feels more varied and open. While it may have been overshadowed by the more anticipated release of Fallout 4 on November 10, it’s certainly worth a trip back to while we’re moving into 2016.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is available on Xbox One and Xbox 360.
Ori and the Blind Forest
Ori and the Blind Forest is an indie masterpiece from Moon Studios that was released earlier this year on Xbox One and more recently on PC. During the course of the game, players control Ori, a white guardian spirit who is trying to restore the forest after a cataclysmic event. While trying to complete this task, you’ll be exploring a 2D open world while solving puzzles and using a wide variety of abilities — but honestly, it isn’t the gameplay that makes Ori and the Blind Forest so special: it’s the artistic design behind it. The game is filled with beautiful colors that occupy a wonderful atmosphere, accompanied by one of the best video game soundtracks I’ve heard in years. This combination when placed next to the narrative generates emotion in players in a way that few games do these days. I won’t spoil it here for the sake of surprise, but let’s just say I’ve never played a game that made me cry so easily.
If you’re looking for a good indie to dive into, Ori and the Blind Forest is one of the best this year had to offer.
Ori and the Blind Forest is available on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.