It's the beginning of a new year, so now is the time to look back on the past year and see what kind of games stood out the most. Because...why not. It's tradition, or something? I'll admit I spent a large majority of last year playing a game that came out in 2014. Namely, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS/Wii U. That said, 2015 did have some incredible games that were completely worth playing. So without further ado, here are the ones that stood out the most to me.
Ah, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. This was released rather early last year, not too long after the release of the NEW 3DSXL. Essentially a simple port of the infamous Wii RPG, you can now take Shulk and company with you on the go!
Graphics look really nice on the 3DS screen.
Not much to say about this that hasn't already been said, but it's a fun, massive, EPIC adventure. So epic in fact, that I haven't actually beaten it. But I like what I've played of it. The music is amazing. The graphics are impressive. The battles are fun, and quick. And for such an epic adventure, being able to pick-it-up-and-play-then-put-down-again works really well on the new, smaller hardware.
I'm glad this came out and gave gamers another chance at this fantastic game. A must-have if you own the NEW 3DS.
Monster Hunter 4 ULTIMATE
Monster Hunter and I have a strange history. I've heard how popular it has been, so I wanted to check the series out. I tried it originally back on PSP, and was not really taken by it. The control scheme was kind of ridiculous, IMO. When the series was brought to a Nintendo platform with the Wii, I tried it again, but it failed to catch on with me. I even gave it a THIRD chance with the 3DS version of 3 ULTIMATE, but...I don't know. Just couldn't get into it. So I decided this series was officially not for me, and moved on.
Monsters are big and scary in this game!
But then, Nintendo of America released the NEW 3DS XL here, and I opted for the very cool-looking Monster Hunter 4 ULTIMATE model. I still didn't care for the series, but the N3DSXL hardware looked SO COOL. As a bonus, the game came pre-loaded on the machine. So, after hearing so much praise over the latest game, I decided, WHAT THE HECK, I'll give it another go. I already own it, right? So what's the harm.
Well, I'm glad I did. The first three attempts may have failed to capture me, but the 4th is the one that did the trick. I can't really put my finger on WHY I dig this one more than any other. It could be that the opening is probably the best the series has seen, with a rather "God of War"-style adrenaline rush of jumping onto the back of a huge monster racing along the desert right from the get-go. Or how easy it was for me to explore Val Habar and take job requests from the Caravaneer. And get online and play with fellow gamers (I've played online with people from this site, in fact! It was a blast!) Who knows, but I'm glad it finally clicked.
It may have taken a while, but Capcom finally got me to enjoy this franchise. Or at least, this installment of it. So yeah, it gets on the list. Partly because it's a fun game, partly because it surprisingly got me excited to play a Monster Hunter game! For the first time EVER. Congrats, Capcom.
Indie developer Image & Form may have started out with humble beginnings. Particularly with their SteamWorld games - which actually began on DSiWare (of all things) with SteamWorld Tower Defense. They followed that successful game up with a great sequel; SteamWorld Dig. And now, a trilogy is completed, with SteamWorld Heist.
Colorful, expressive, charming. Heist has it all.
A great take on turn-based strategy, the game challenges players with a bit of geometry and physics-based combat, an absolutely charming cast of characters, and some fantastic tunes to enjoy it with. Graphics and animations are a sight to behold, and controls are tight and responsive. One of the best games released (late) last year, and definitely worth your time.
One of the complaints some may hear is how Nintendo doesn't create new IPs. Obviously, that's ridiculous. It's not that they don't create new IPs, it's just that...well, their legacy stuff often overshadows their new, unproven work. Which is too bad, because one should not overlook HAL Labratory's BOXBOY!
Simple, challenging, charming. BOXBOY! in a nutshell.
Purposely simple in presentation, BOXBOY! challenges players with puzzle-platforming in a way that (best of my knowledge) was never done before. Crossing pits, hitting switches, and reaching heights by using blocks is just simple fun. The game starts off rather easy, but the challenge ramps up later on in the game. Just what one might expect from HAL! Well worth checking out. It's only $5, so why not?
The Legend of Legacy
A spiritual successor to the Final Fantasy Legend games on Gameboy, The Legend of Legacy comes in with a weird name, some great graphics, amazing music, and old-school RPG gameplay.
This game is like JRPG comfort food.
There's not too much to say about this one. It's a rather short game (as were the Final Fantasy Legend games), but it's rather deep with it's battle system, multiple characters, multiple endings, and exploratory feel and vibe. And difficult at times! Those huge griffon enemies will surprise you if you're not ready! There's not much story to speak of, but it's of little concern when it's fun to just explore, grind, and discover what's around the next bend.
DragonBall Z: Extreme Butoden
What? A licensed game? A licensed FIGHTING game? A LICENSED FIGHTING game from DRAGONBALL Z? HOW CAN THIS BE ANY GOOD?
Because Goku said so.
Published by Namco but developed by fighting game veterans Arc System Works, Dragonball Z: Extreme Butoden is deceptively easy and simple at first. Essentially controlled by only a few buttons, moves and combos are pulled off almost by button-mashing. And (at first) your foes will go down without much of a fight. But once you get past the basic "training" areas of the game, the real challenge becomes apparent, and Arc System Works' legacy of fighting game expertise reveals itself. Opponents will block and counter, do cross-over combos, tag in-and-out of battle with their partners and strategic times, and more. You'll have to be on your toes, and know the proper moves and combos to survive. And of course, surviving is only half the battle. You can unlock more characters, stages, and other goodies in certain modes by performing well (and fast) and earning enough points per battle. It's far more challenging than it seems at first blush. With tons of love crafted in the game, over 40 characters to choose from, and several modes, DLC and more available, this game isn't just a good Dragonball game. It's a solid fighter and a welcome addition to the 3DS library.
Another spiritual successor to a game from a past Nintendo platform, Stella Glow comes in at #4 as a follow-up of sorts to Luminous Arc from the original Nintendo DS. While having next to nothing to do story-wise with those games, Stella Glow will give you the same "vibe" as Luminous Arc.
Gorgeous artwork is all over this game.
A fairly epic storyline is paired with turn-based strategy RPG gameplay, great music, amazing artwork, and....well, anime tropes. Lots of anime tropes. Anime tropes out the WAZOO. Which...is fine, if you're cool with that. Which, thankfully I am. Those that are not patient enough for the shy girl and stammer out her feelings, or the male hero to understand that a girl likes him, or for the villain to give an epic soliloquy while their enemies are barreling down on them...stay away. For the rest of us, this charming adventure is sure to please. Or at the very least, hold us over until Fire Emblem: Fates releases!
Code Name S.T.E.A.M.
Did I mention how Nintendo doesn't get enough recognition for their new IPs? Code Name S.T.E.A.M. may be the poster child for such neglect. Unlike BOXBOY!, S.T.E.A.M. was a full retail release, and came from celebrated developer Intelligent Systems. It didn't get the recognition it deserved, because this game is fantastic.
Nintendo and guns. Who says they don't mix?
Mixing turn-based strategy gameplay with a fairly unique third-person view, S.T.E.A.M. put you in command of various fictional literary heroes, led by former President of the United States Abraham Lincoln, as they battle an invading army of aliens. And...honestly? Is there much more to say? If that crazy premise doesn't at least intrigue you, then I don't know what to say. Honestly, if you want to know more about this title, check out this review here. Then go out, buy this game, and enjoy! You won't regret it.
Tri Force Heroes
Oh man. This game. This is such a departure from what The Legend of Zelda typically is like. Especially considering the other Zelda game that came out this year (The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D) this game couldn't be more tonally different unless it was some other franchise entirely. While Majora's Mask has this atmosphere of dread, eeriness, and solemnness...Tri Force Heroes is...well...
Mixing traditional top-down Zelda gameplay using the same engine from A Link Between Worlds, Tri Force Heroes is a multiplayer-centric action adventure that requires teamwork and collaboration in order to win the day. Typical tight controls, great visuals, music, and challenge await you in this game. You can play locally (with only one copy of the game, if you like) or online. Personally, I've only played locally with friends and family, but I've heard the online experience is a blast as well. This is another game I haven't actually beaten, but the fun I've had playing together with others is more than enough to nab the #2 spot for me.
This one is a bit of a surprise! Yo-Kai Watch is a new IP from legendary developer Level-5, and is great fun. Well, I say "new" IP, because it's new to me, here in North America. This is actually a series that is no less than three games deep in Japan, but we've only just now gotten the game here on our shores. Better late than never, I say.
For someone named "Whisper" this guy sure talks a lot.
Yo-Kai Watch follows the adventures of a boy named Nate (or a girl named Katie, if you choose the female avatar) as he or she discovers the supernatural beings known as Yo-Kai. Invisible, spirit-like entities that cause everyday annoyances in our lives. You will find, battle, and befriend these creatures and help them to use their powers for good, rather than mischief.
It's rather simple, but it's charming as anything. Graphics are clean and smooth. Music is perfect for this kind of game. The battle system is fun and unique, and the overall adventure invokes the same kind of "gotta catch 'em all" mentality that Pokémon instilled in so many gamers for years.
I'll admit that a lot of my connection with this game is also affected by how into it my kids are. They love this game (and the anime on Disney XD) so I think their enthusiasm rubbed off on me a bit. Plus it's fun to play games with my kids, so whatever. Level-5, Nintendo, whoever is responsible for making this game happen in North America, congrats. You got me.
So there ya have it. My Top 10 Games for 2015. It has been a great year for games, and 3DS again proves to me that it is the best system out there, period. The variety of games is unmatched, and I'm happy to be able to enjoy these (and more) on my handheld.
Here are some honorable mentions that are also great, but didn't quite make the cut (for me):
Stretchmo 3D Out Run Pokémon Shuffle Pokémon Picross 3D Streets of Rage 2 Nintendo Badge Arcade Dementium Remastered The Binding of Isaac: ReBirth Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition
Once again, it's been a great year of gaming. 2016 looks to be fantastic too. I mean, who isn't looking forward to Fire Emblem Fates? Or the DragonQuest remakes? Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam looks amazing, and I personally can't wait to see what's in store next for Phoenix Wright, or to see what happens in the third (and possibly last?) Zero Escape game. Throw in some Mega Man Legacy Collection and Final Fantasy Explorers, and 2016 could really give 2015 a run for its money.
Which hey, is win-win for everyone, right? Cheers, and happy gaming everyone! Thanks for reading!
Good list, Grant! The 3DS had a lot to offer last year, and your top 10 shows that. 2016 should be great with Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam leading the charge. Oh, but I still need to beat Mario & Luigi: Dream team first...
I need to get back into The Legend of Legacy. I didn't keep up with it and now it's a part of my massive backlog.
I'm reluctant to play a Monster Hunter game any time soon due to that backlog of mine, but Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate looks cool. If that game got you into the series then I guess I'll start there!
It's good to see Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. here! It's one of my favorite 3DS games, and I gave it the number 3 spot on my list, too. Oh, and thanks for including my review!
I keep hearing good things about Yokai Watch. I've only been mildly interested in the game, but I may check it out after all.
I liked the list! I am interested in playing Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. but I do not want to pay full price for the download. I see the game on sale a lot for the physical copy but I download all of my 3DS games... just waiting for that time to come. This list makes a strong case for me having to buy a lot of 3DS games this year. I get distracted by the flashy big PS4 and X1 consoles and I forget that my favorite style of games are actually on the 3DS....
Also.... I hope Yo-Kai watch starts getting more attention here; it is a fantastic game!
Great list. SteamWorld Heist has me BACK on 3DS (which I basically ignored all last year) and your list has my tail up. So I think I'll try one of the RPG's, I like how you said Legend of Legacy was short. Short is a good selling point for me.
I didn't realise that Yo-kai Watch had captivated you this much. I did like what I saw in the demo though, so it's something I'll grab eventually, along with The Legend of Legacy. I already have Codename STEAM, but have not played it, and downloaded the demo for Stella Glow but have not tried it yet.
Ho hum. Played about an hour and a half of the Legend of Legacy demo and I'm clearly not "getting" the battle system. In fact, I end up running away from a lot of battles because they have the dreaded shadow element with them. Tried mixing up the formations but it hasn't made much of a difference and nothing exciting is happening. Quite lovely how the maps appear and it sure is pretty but I don't think there is enough here to hold me.
Stella Glow and Yo-Kai Watch are months away from release in PAL-land. Hmmm, I'll maybe plump for Codename S.T.E.A.M. or Paper Jam.