This year has been a fantastic one for games, but most of the time many of these games are expected to be good. Very few would have doubted the critical success of games like Bloodborne and the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, however this year is also full of surprise hits.
With releases like Dying Light coming from a developer whose last games were average at best, Rocket League whose deal with playstation rocketed it to the top of the download charts, Life is Strange managed to take Telltales unique storytelling method and apply it to a brand new franchise, Undertale was a game that merged gameplay and storytelling into one complete package that was a critical success despite being made by a single person and finally Until Dawn seemed destined to fail but managed to tell a story that made your decisions not only impact the game but feel important.
Rocket League is a phenomenon. While having some small publicity before releasing, Rocket League wasn’t particularly on anyone’s radar, however that all changed once it landed on Sony’s Playstation Plus required free games service.
The moment many people were able to grab this game for free it’s popularity sky rocketed, and the release on PC as well allowed those without a playstation to get in on the action for a price. The combined release on Playstation Plus along with the incredible amount of attention garnered from streamers made the game insanely popular, this is a surprise within itself.
However the real surprise is Rocket League is an incredible game despite it’s simplicity. Despite just being a refined version of Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket Powered Battle Cars a game that no one talked about and it’s ability to make Soccer fun even for those who don’t care, make Rocket League a very welcome surprise.
Life Is Strange
Not many of us expected much from Life is Strange bar it being another drop in the bucket of a genre that was already spilling over just from Telltale alone. However DotNod managed to take the tried and true Telltale formula, that has at times relied solely on it’s reference to source material, and craft an independent narrative.
This in itself is a surprise as it’s not something even Telltale, the master of the interactive storytelling genre has tried. Even though Life is Strange is definitely flawed, its compelling, diverse and managed to stand on it’s own two feet, which surprised more than a few of us.
Dying Lights financial success was less of a surprise than how good of a game it actually is. Coming out in a time with no other major releases on the horizon, it didn’t take a genius to work out even a mediocre game would have been a commercial success.
I don’t think anyone could have predicted the game to be much more than that, Dying Light not only arrived at the right time it blew Techlands previous attempt at a zombie survival game out of the water. It’s combination of a huge open world, plenty of zombies to smash and most importantly it’s great parkour system surprised everyone. I don’t think anyone could have predicted that another first person, survival, melee focused zombie game from the developer who made Dead Island would be this good.
Undertale has captured the hearts and minds of so many gamers this year that not putting it on this list would be a crime. Coming from a singular developer Toby Fox and with little to no publicity leading up to it, Undertale managed to become a critical success with a huge cult following.
Undertale was a game that on the surface looks just like another sprite based RPG with an interesting combat system. However it is so much more than that, it manages to blend gameplay and storytelling in a way few games have been able to, creating a truly incredible narrative populated by interesting characters and genuinely heart wrenching moments. The biggest surprise with Undertale is that an hour or so in you probably wont think much of it, but by the end it will be an experience you wont soon forget.
Until Dawn was a game that blew me away. I never would have expected this game to be as good as it was, I don’t think anyone did and that’s part of why its the biggest surprise of the year.
First being announced in 2013 as a Playstation Move exclusive first person game, Until Dawn almost seemed destined for development hell. Speculations of cancellation in late 2013 were false but by 2014 Until Dawn was a vastly different game. Moving to Playstation 4 and ditching the Playstation Move Until Dawn was finally taking real shape, however very little was still expected from it. Horror games are a dime a dozen these days with many jumping on the band wagon to try and make money off the Youtube market. All of the advertising for Until Dawn appeared to make it just seem like a AAA attempt at a scare-fest, this was all so very wrong.
Until Dawn is the biggest surprise of 2015 as the game that came through many different iterations is actually good, but not only that it’s full of fresh ideas. Until Dawn has done what few horror games have done before it and truly embraced the B-Movie slasher motif, and it has actually pulled it off incredibly well. It’s full of sex, violence and cringy teenagers, but that’s exactly how it should be, not to mention it can be actually terrifying at times when most horror games have lost their teeth. Until Dawn is the best kind of surprise, it doesn’t come out of nowhere but completely changes your opinion of it as soon as you pick up the controller.