Fans will look back at 2015 as one of the greatest years in gaming. Anticipated titles lived up to their hype and a handful of indie titles came out of nowhere to grab the spotlight. But what the year will be most known for is the resurgence of epic single-player experiences.
In an era where much of the focus is on e-sports and building enduring multiplayer experiences, sinple-player releases like "The Witcher," "Fallout," "Batman" and Tomb Raider" bucked the trend. They found a way to suck players in and keep them enthralled. They showed that a great solo experience can work if developers build a world that feels alive with a cast of thousands.
1. "Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain": It always felt as though Hideo Kojima's espionage saga was moving toward a game like this. The stealth gameplay and cinematic storytelling that the famed game designer first envisioned in 1998 reached its apotheosis with this revenge tale.
Nine years after an attack on his mercenary group, the Big Boss awakens and is bent on rebuilding what he has lost. His adventure will take players to Afghanistan and beyond in this game that combines open-world gameplay with the stealth mechanics that has been a hallmark of the series. It's a fitting swan song for the Kojima-led franchise.
2. "Rocket League": Everyone is trying to make the next big e-sport game, but indie studio Psyonix may have actually accomplished it. The title is an intriguing mix of destruction derby and soccer with gameplay that's easy to pick up but difficult to master. Concepts such as centering the ball or acting as goalie all come into play as teams of up to four players battle it out on the pitch, or maybe I should say parking lot.
3. "The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt": If you want an epic fantasy adventure, look no further than Geralt of Rivia's latest adventure. This is a huge game and fans will find themselves lost in an adventure where the witcher (Geralt) has to find his young ward, Ciri, before an ancient evil finds her. The world is dark and savage with compelling quests that force players to make hard choices that often have unintended consequences. It's more "Game of Thrones" than "Lord of the Rings," with quests that will keep fans busy for weeks.
4."Fallout 4": Any other year and Bethesda Softworks' post-apocalyptic game would have been at the top of the list. In this chapter of the sci-fi saga, players take on the role of a survivor from Vault 111, near Boston. The Vault Dweller will be on a mission to get her son back after he has been kidnapped by a mysterious man. "Fallout 4" features the same engrossing world and storytelling and updates with a refined combat system and an addictive colony-building mechanic.
5. "Super Mario Maker": Nintendo made more than a few dreams come true with this Wii U title. It lets players build their own "Super Mario Bros." levels and share them with friends. The idea of user-generated content is nothing new, but Nintendo breaks fresh ground by making it easy to draw up a level with the touch-screen of the Wii U Gamepad. Accessibility is key here and that's what makes this one of the best offerings for aspiring game designers.
6. "Bloodborne": This beautiful game by the creator of the "Dark Souls" series is also brutally difficult. Players will fail. They will get frustrated. They'll probably want to quit, but those who stick with "Bloodborne" will discover one of the most rewarding experiences on any console. The game pits a single hero against a horde of monsters in the mysterious city of Yharnam. A combat system that emphasizes offense over defense differentiates "Bloodborne" from its "Dark Souls" siblings.
7. "Batman: Arkham Knight": Rocksteady Studios has slowly increased the geographic scope of its Batman games. The original was on an island. The sequel was contained in a city district. The last chapter of the team's Arkham trilogy finally gives players free rein over Gotham City. With the help of the Batmobile, players will have to capture the Caped Crusader's foes and put a stop to the Scarecrow's plan to unleash a nerve toxin. Fans of the previous titles will feel right at home here with the wonderful combat system that makes players feel like the Dark Knight himself.
8. "Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate": Finally, Capcom gets everything right with its venerable action title. Players take on the role of a monster hunter who tackles odd jobs in several villages. Often, it focuses on tracking down giant creatures, defeating them and using their carcasses to create stronger weapons. "Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate" nails online play on the Nintendo 3DS, which lets players hunt with friends and strangers.
9. "Rise of the Tomb Raider": After a successful reboot, Lara Croft returns for another adventure. This one takes her on a search for an artifact called the Divine Source. The archaeologist has a few new tricks and weapons up her sleeve, but it's the plot -- focusing on Lara's relationship with her father and her obsession with restoring his name -- that makes this adventure better than most.
10."Ori and the Blind Forest": This indie darling may draw a few tears from gamers. It stars a white guardian spirit who must restore a dying forest after its adoptive mother dies. The gameplay involves a lot of intense platforming with level design that's in the Metroidvania mold. "Ori and the Blind Forest" is a fine example of how story and game design work together to create a vivid and masterful experience.
Contact Gieson Cacho at 510-735-7076 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei. ___
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