2015 is going to go down as a great year for video games, and especially for open-world video games. We spent countless hours this year traveling around massive maps, tracking down that very last collectible or side-quest, but that’s not all this year had to offer. There are incredible indie games, a few instant classic horror titles, and even a title that lets you make your very own Mario levels in contention.
Here Screen Rant’s list of the 20 Best Video Games of 2015 (So Far). They might not all make it to our final end-of-year list, but they’re all great in their own right. In order of release date, let’s begin!
Dead Island may have had an amazing trailer, but the game didn’t hold up to its promises. So developer Techland sought to prove that they know the zombie genre early this year with Dying Light, which is still one of the surprise hits of the year.
Just traversing the ruined, post-apocalyptic landscape is enjoyable, mostly thanks to the free-running your character can perform. Jumping and climbing lets you stick to the safety of the roofs during the day, but at night things get crazy as faster, stronger zombies appear, forcing you to run for your life to safety.
Well-implemented multiplayer lets you play as a zombie and invade other people’s games, and the best part of Dead Island, co-op, returns and allows you to bring some friends for the ride. You’re going to want to – the game is much less lonely and scary with friends to watch your back.
A city-building simulator in the style of – you guessed it – SimCity, Cities: Skylines allows you to build the city of your dreams. Most people agree that this was the game the recent SimCity 4 should have been, as it allows you to create a much bigger city than ever before. You can also choose to play with the tiniest bits of minutia – from energy and water budgets to police forces and traffic congestion. You can create districts with specific rules and policies down to the absurd or fantastical. Do you want to legalize drugs? Or perhaps you hate the idea of dogs sullying the neighborhood and want them banned? In Cities: Skylines, you can do whatever you please.
Mods are not only allowed but encouraged, and a thriving community has sprung up for the game.
Pillars of Eternity
As you might tell from the name, the cRPG (computer role-playing game) is a uniquely PC genre. As the successor to classic cRPGs such as Baldur’s Gate and Planetscape: Torment, Obsidian Entertainment’s crowdfunded Pillars of Eternity is the best kind of throwback. It’s a game that old-school fans will appreciate that includes enough new gameplay elements for newcomers to the style to jump right in. Even though it features an isometric perspective, it’s an utterly gorgeous game, one full of wonderful music and voice acting. The story is compelling as well, set in a fantasy world where infants are born without souls. You, naturally, are the only person who can find out what’s going on and save the world.
An expansion pack, The White March, is on the way, promising a higher level cap and new characters to add to your party.
Ori and the Blind Forest
An action-platformer from indie developer Moon Studios, Ori and the Blind Forest looks like an animated painting. In a world of 3D games, its 2D art stands out and shows there’s some life to the style yet. It plays like yet another Metroidvania-style title that sees Ori, a guardian spirit, leaping over platforms and solving puzzles.
Ori is an orphan who is tasked with restoring the titular forest, which is not only blind, but dying as well. Little by little, as you’ll learn how to play, jumping and wall-jumping with the best of them. Things change when Ori is joined by a sprite named Sein who floats around and attacks evil creatures at your command, but also has a secret behind it.
Game developer FromSoftware takes what they learned from their iconic Souls series (Demon’s and Dark) and brings it to next-gen, bringing things into more of a Lovecraftian horror universe. It’s still got all the trademarks of a Souls game- the punishing difficulty, the giant bosses, the incredible character design, the way the cryptic story is gradually revealed to you… there’s just lot more tentacles here.
You play as a customizable Hunter who’s fighting through a Gothic city whose inhabitants have been infected with some sort of (wait for it) blood-borne disease. The real pull of the game is the combat, which is faster than a Souls game but no less satisfying.
This is one of the few PS4 exclusives owners really have to brag about, and an expansion is on the way titled The Old Hunters, which promises to continue the remarkable experience.
Everyone loves a good Metroidvania game, but Axiom Verge is more of a faithful Metroid game. You play a scientist who gets whisked away to some other dimension (as they do) and has to fight his way through hordes of aliens, as well as strange game glitches. In this game, static-y graphical glitches are features, not bugs, and you soon get a gun that can both eliminate them from the world and turn your enemies into them.
As with any Metroid game, you’ll get a number of new weapons and features that allow you to fully explore every inch of the map, little by little. The sole work of a designer who spent the last five years of his life working on this game, Axiom Verge is as great an homage to classic games of this style as you’re ever likely to see.
Affordable Space Adventures
The number of Wii U games that fully utilize the Wii U GamePad are few and far between, which is why it was so impressive to see Knapnok Games release a game that literally could not be done on another platform. Affordable Space Adventures lets you control a (cheap) space ship on an alien world. Every feature of your budget craft has to be adjusted using the touchscreen. Tap the engine button to turn it on, and adjust the boost to make your ship slower or faster. You’ll get upgrades to your system that give it more features as you travel through the game, which sees you tiltingn the GamePad to maneuver around the cavern-like environment. It becomes an action puzzler as you try to avoid mines and other obstacles, searching everywhere for a distress beacon for help returning home.
Mortal Kombat X
It’s amusing that the Mortal Kombat series was able to ride so long on the coattails of the (then) astoundingly lifelike violence, which was done so well that everyone was able to ignore the stilted combat. The ninth installment of Mortal Kombat changed everything by focusing on the gameplay, offering fluid controls while still giving us all the bonebreaking fatalities we could ever need.
This tenth installment is easily the best and most gruesomely violent one yet. The story mode is surprisingly great and it’s got familiar features like the Tower system and Krypt to ensure maximum replayability, as well of the return of brutalities to give you more opportunities to groan out loud at all the completely over-the-top violence. That’s on top of great combat, which makes for one of the best fighting games in years.
Crypt of the Necrodancer
Roguelikes are all the rage nowadays, but a roguelike mashed up with a dancing game is something new. Crypt of the Necrodancer pulses to the beat, and we mean that literally. Every level features a new song and everything moves in time with it. Think of it as a world dancing with itself, where even your movement has to play to the music. Enemies all have unique attack patterns and you’ll have to figure them out and kill them off, nabbing dozens of different weapons, items and spells hidden around the world. But the most important thing is to never, ever stop moving.
It’s a tough game but a satisfying one, and the utterly amazing soundtrack certainly helps things along. You will not be able to get this one out of your head.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Geralt of Rivia, the protagonist of the Witcher series, moves into an open world with literally hundreds of hours of quests to complete – and that’s not even mentioning the 16 free DLC packs that CD Projekt Red has bestowed upon us, or the two paid expansions on the way that will add another 30 hours of gameplay. The game sold six million copies in the first six weeks after release, and for good reason. If, for some reason, you can only buy one game a year, this is the one to get.
A massive, fully-realized fantasy world full of amazing combat and fleshed-out characters is one thing, but the game really makes you feel as if your input matters. On your playthrough you likely won’t see a good chunk of what can happen, because each decision that you make can have major consequences for the rest of the story. This means that your epic story is yours, there’s no right or wrong decisions to make, just ones that change the world.
Ostensibly soccer played with a giant ball and rocket-powered cars, Rocket League is easily one of the most addictive games released this year.
This is the kind of game that could have been ignored on consoles, but Sony in their good graces decided to make a free PS Plus selection. This meant that a huge community of Rocket League players started up from day one, and it was never hard to find a match. It also helps that with each game, win or lose, players receive something new – a car, a design, or even a hat to wear. Each car controls the same no matter how they look, but this allows you to customize it to your heart’s content.
Tales from the Borderlands
Best Telltale Games series ever? Best Telltale Games series ever.
Taking place directly after the aftermath of Borderlands 2, it introduces two new characters (and more than a few old ones) into a point and click adventure game that gives you plenty of hilarious decisions to make. What’s most remarkable is how much it retains the feel of the series despite being a completely different genre, one not exactly known for their action sequences.
It doesn’t seem possible that a company known for remarkable games like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and Tales from Monkey Island can keep topping themselves, but this may be their most entertaining game yet. Even with one more episode to go in the season it’s obvious that this series has more action, witty dialogue, and shocking moments than almost anything released this year, and in an adventure game, no less.
The Wii U may be out of the running for the lead in the next-gen battle, but Splatoon proves that Nintendo’s still got it. A colorful, team-based multiplayer game that lets your characters turn into squids shouldn’t be this much fun for adults to play, but it is. A mix of Super Mario Sunshine with Team Fortress, your team will have to splash their color all over the map, trying to cover up more than the opposing team who’s doing the same. Fast, fun matches abound.
Most surprising is how there’s no voice chat, something that seems unthinkable in this age of multiplayer shooters, but the game stands up so well by itself that it proves not all games need it. Nintendo is also killing it with regular free updates and events, ensuring that players have had stuff to do every single week since its release. They’d be smart to keep up on this one, as it’s the only big Wii U game in a very long time…
Batman: Arkham Knight
Batman: Arkham Knight takes the open world of Arkham City and inserts the tight, incredible story of Arkham Asylum back into it, throwing in a gigantic tank of a Batmobile for flavor. Here, Batman is going a little crazy after dealing with the Joker, and is left alone in a Gotham City that’s been abandoned after Scarecrow threatens it. Now the thugs rule the roost and Batman swoops in to beat the hell out of each and every one of them… but there’s also this new character, the mysterious Arkham Knight, who comes with his own paramilitary group to shut down the city. Fortunately, you do have that tank…
One of the few open world games where the main story is as compelling as the side missions, this is one you’re going to want to 100% finish, if only to get the last true ending. Even if you don’t have that kind of time, this is the best in the Arkham trilogy.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
You play Katherine Collins, a doctor who wakes up in her village in England to find that she’s alone there. There are mysterious balls of light floating around though… could this be it? Could this really be the capital-r Rapture, and is she left behind?
A first-person adventure game developed by The Chinese Room, who is perhaps known for Dear Esther, Everbody’s Gone to the Rapture takes a lot from that previous game. A so-called “walking simulator”, the game revels in the slow experience. There’s not much to interact with but there is a world to explore nonetheless, and the mystery around the plot is a deep and curious one.
Thomas Was Alone developer Mike Bithell is back with a much different game. Deeply inspired by Metal Gear Solid, Volume is a stealth title that sees a thief discovering a plot for a military coup. To stop them and get the word out to the masses, he uses a device called “Volume” to virtually perform these heists and broadcast them to the world.
Besides the 100 levels included with the game, there’s a level editor that allows you to create your own missions. In order to upload them and share them with your friends, however, you first have to be able to complete them yourself. It’s a great way to entice gamers into creating levels they’d want to play through themselves, and guarantees they will be doing so for some time to come.
Originally scheduled to be released on the PS3, Until Dawn was delayed time and time again until it finally hit PS4 a short while ago. Think of it as a game in the vein of Heavy Rain, an interactive drama/adventure game, mixed with a campy slasher film. The horror focus allows you to have quite the body count if you make the wrong decisions, and the insane graphics makes sure that when characters do die, it’s pretty disturbing. These are some realistic people, at least until they become corpses.
The game also singlehandedly makes the PlayStation camera worth it, as there’s a feature that records you every time there’s a jump scare in the game, making for some hilarious videos to show how effective and scary this game is.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Last year’s Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes released to positive reviews, but most lamented how little there was to do. Now it’s become obvious that the game was serving as little more than a demo for the full experience of The Phantom Pain. Here lies the first open-world environments in the series and a staggering amount of things to do in them. The stealth game allows you to spend all your time crawling around, completing missions and attacking enemy camps and bases, if you choose, but you can also build your own army. Snake’s base of operations is called Mother Base, and by being sneaky and either knocking enemies out or putting them to sleep you can capture them and bring them over to your side. The same goes for weapons and vehicles- if you’d like to use something at home, you can nab it.
It’s entirely optional (it can all be automated) but those who want something deeper will find layers upon layers in this game. A staggering achievement, and sadly one of the last big budget games that will likely be created by Konami, who is turning its considerable talents towards mobile and casino games instead.
26 tracks. 450 cars. Xbox One exclusive Forza 6 certainly has more than any installment before, but it’s also got more than that.
It also looks better than ever, with rain being the most impressive new touch. You can race in a flood of rain and it looks realistic on every single surface, streaking along windshields and getting flicked off by the wipers. It adds to the gameplay too, as puddles are dangerous and have to be avoided at all cost, lest you really experience haptic triggers as they jump all over the place.
Super Mario Maker
Everyone in the world knows Super Mario Bros World level 1-1. It’s perhaps the most iconic level in all of videogames, and now you can make your very own. Super Mario Maker is just that – the tools to make your own Mario game. Thanks to the touch screen on the Wii U GamePad it’s easy to plop down any enemies or items you desire, creating a playable level in a few minutes with the greatest of ease.
Want to do it retro 8-bit style? Go for it. Rather have a polished 3D New Super Mario Bros. U look and gameplay? You can do that as well.
So yes, this is more a tool than a game, but best of all is the fact that many talented designers are working at creating their own levels for the game. Each and every one of them can be downloaded and tested out for yourself. It’s an infinite amount of Mario.
What do you think? are these the best games so far? Are there any we missed, or any upcoming ones you think will knock out some contendors? Let us know in the comments below!