2015 was a good year for games, with several major releases fulfilling their potential, and many great small or indie titles surprising us with their brilliance. It was also a good year for women in games-from greater inclusion in first-person shooters, to better-realized female protagonists, to more nuanced female NPCs. (Not so great for women of color, unfortunately, as these female characters are still overwhelmingly white.)
We queried more than a dozen of remeshed’s staff and contributors on their nominees for Best Game of the Year, and below are the games that made the list. Not every writer agrees with each game on the list, but if you sat out the last year in gaming and are wondering what to play, these games are a good place to start.
Long-awaited action-adventure RPG Fallout 4 received the highest number of nominations by far from remeshed staff and contributors. “Fallout 4 is the game for people who like to shoot things,” explains remeshed contributor Sarah Rodriguez. “Or it’s the game for people who love apocalypse games. Or it’s the game for people who like to farm. Or the game for folks who like to dress random people up in sparkly red dresses.”
“This game has something for everyone, and I can’t put it down,” says contributor Emily Kelley. “It’s not a perfect game (what game is?), but it’s still a beautiful, expansive, and incredibly addictive addition to the Fallout franchise. Not to mention, it’s one of the only games out this year that features nuanced female companions, as well as female NPC enemies.”
“Bethesda has a unique way of creating worlds teeming with life and possibility,” says contributor Cassidee Moser, “and they’ve done it again in Fallout 4. There are more stories to hear, enemies to defeat, and items to create. Exploration never felt so rewarding as it does in Fallout 4.”
Tales From the Borderlands
Telltale Games’ latest episodic adventure series has received almost universal acclaim from players and critics alike. remeshed art director Keezy Young describes Tales from the Borderlands-now one of her top five favorite games of all time-as “an Ocean’s 11 heist story with a hefty amount of Mad Max thrown in, and some Serenity-inspired futuristic corporate mystery-solving for flavor.”
“Tales from the Borderlands is one of the funniest and best-written games I’ve ever played,” says staff writer Courtney Holmes. “The characters are so good, the story is so good, the music is so good—I loved every minute.”
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Excellent third-person action-adventure Rise of the Tomb Raider was unfortunately released on the same day as Fallout 4 this year (Nov. 10), which is partly responsible for its low-key reception (along with its one-year Xbox One exclusivity). But the game-in which young archaeologist Lara Croft investigates her late father’s research into the lost city of Kitezh and the promise of immortality-has been highly praised by critics and players alike, and sets the bar even higher than the 2013 reboot it follows.
“The story is beautifully written and effectively delivers a lot of Lara’s inner struggle in a subtle way,” writes remeshed editor Nicole Tanner, and Lara is notable for being “a badass, powerful, but still realistic woman.”
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
The first entry in the long-running historical action-adventure stealth RPG series to offer a female protagonist, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate has been praised for its well-written sibling relationship, beautiful setting (Victorian London), and solid execution. The depiction of Evie Frye as a flawed but highly capable woman is especially noteworthy.
While some found the story a little light, most agree with contributor Jen Allen that “Syndicate is a nice breath of fresh air for a franchise that was starting to feel pretty stale.”
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt won all the awards when it was released in May, and it continues to be the gold standard for how to create a strong story driven RPG. The addition of a sometimes-playable female lead, Ciri, helped broaden the game’s appeal, even if it still struggles at times with how it portrays women and diversity.
Overall, the game offers hours of entertaining, immersive gameplay, and the willingness of developer CD Projekt RED’s to support the game with tons of free content is the cherry on top.
Life is Strange
Episodic mystery/time travel game Life is Strange has received much critical acclaim and some mixed reviews-even among our writers. But virtually everyone agrees it’s thought-provoking and ambitious. And with the game’s success, developer DONTNOD has proved there’s a market for an adventure game about a teenage girl and her life and friends.
“Life is Strange manages to treat adolescent friendship with a poignant and empathetic hand,” writes contributor Jess Famularo, while contributor Mariko McDonald calls it “the best games about supernatural teens you’ll ever play.”
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D
The remastered Nintendo 3DS version of the classic action-adventure game The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D creates an intricate, storied universe centered around themes of grief, loneliness, and compassion. “Every time I pick it up, I find something new to love,” says staff writer Courtney Holmes.
ARK: Survival Evolved
Although still in beta, action-adventure survival game ARK: Survival Evolved has already attracted legions of devoted fans.
“ARK has a really Minecrafty, open-world setup, but with gorgeous graphics and dinosaurs that can be tamed and interacted with,” contributor Sophie Weeks explains. “It’s got a lot of atmosphere and inspires player creativity (for good or ill, as in all multi-player open-world stuff). Because the game is about survival, you start out in more or less desperate shape on a mysterious island, so it plays into the weird shipwreck/primitive survival trope that’s very appealing.”
This simulation city builder created a buzz when it launched in March, because it was everything SimCity (2013) tried to be, but better. Few bugs, great graphics, huge cities, great support from Colossal Order, and a large modding community integrated into Steam made this an instant classic.
Months after release, it’s still all too easy to lose hours of time recreating famous cities, or creating brand new ones.