PlayStation might have the most diverse set of games on our 2015 Game of the Year list. We’ve got a massive entry in a beloved series with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, a wide and beautiful RPG with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, a frenetic multiplayer game with Rocket League, a cinematic thriller with Until Dawn, and, of course, the brutal, harrowing action game that is Bloodborne.
Sure, some of these games made it onto other platforms, but you can’t ignore the diversity of games that specifically PlayStation owners–of which there are many, given Sony’s sales numbers–had the opportunity to experience.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain might be a gigantic, overwhelming game filled with stuff to gather and places to explore, but the tools the game gives you to tackle the the various challenges within are incredibly satisfying. The game shifts from crawling stealth encounters to explosive, action operas at the drop of a hat. Combined with its over-the-top, political narrative and it’s cast of idiosyncratic characters, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain surprisingly stays consistent throughout.
It’s almost bittersweet if you consider the fact that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will likely be the last entry in the series with creator Hideo Kojima’s name on it. Say what you will about the shady machinations going on at Konami–Kojima-related or not–but there’s no way to avoid the feeling that this game concludes an era, if not the entire series itself. It gives a weight to the game unlike any other, making it seem more like a tearful goodbye to something you love. Few would argue that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain made an impact in our lives this year.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has a heart that developer CD Projekt Red put there. The way this action RPG moves and speaks feels more human than any other game this year. The world is stunning and the people and their stories are too. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, in many ways, is unprecedented in its scope and its execution on making that scope interesting.
The story of Geralt is epic, not because the marketing campaign told you, but because it actually is in the truest sense of the word. In a year of big games, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt exists not to waste your time with fluff. No, the game opens its arms and waits for you to embrace it. When you do, you understand why it resonated with so many people this year.
For a game that features no real explosions, Rocket League blew up. It blew up because it landed on PlayStation Plus, Sony’s subscription-required free game giveaway, at the perfect time. There was a blast radius of talk about this competitive car game. You couldn’t escape from the gifs and the brags and the challenges. Rocket League was unstoppable.
Though the dust settled on the conversation around Rocket League, that doesn’t mean the game lost any of its power. There’s a depth to it that only diehards will master, a pure joy to winning a close game, a tantalizing draw to keeping playing for one more match. Rocket League is a blast, and it’s here to stay.
Until Dawn’s cinematic horror story is driven by its absolutely fantastic visuals and a strict adherence to its campy tone. It’s more than “playing a movie”, it re-conceptualizes film tropes and cinematic angles to construct one of the most unique experiences this year. It also helps that it’s genuinely terrifying in a time where zombies and monsters have been gutted of almost all of their terrifying presence in other games.
We needed Until Dawn just as much as it needed us. Those moments where you watch as your favorite character hides just below a savage figure as you try to hold your controller still is more than a one-off mechanic. It’s a bond that makes Until Dawn’s specific brand of horror work. That these moments are scattered throughout is integral to making the game one of the best this year.
You can’t escape Bloodborne. From Software’s gothic horror (with a surprise) action RPG is magnetic. It’s visceral and literary; it’s grotesque and beautiful. It’s everything that other games aren’t, and then it takes all of those things and builds an experience that’s intoxicating in an impressive amount of ways. Whether you’re in it for the challenge of defeating a brutal boss, or if you’re into picking up items and studying its intricate lore. Bloodborne doesn’t ask for any specific approach, it demands it.
Like Dark Souls before it, Bloodborne is an anomaly in a sea of games that adhere and innovate over familiar concepts. It’s the devotion to tone and theme that doesn’t conflict, but infuses its rapid combat that separates the game from everything else this year. Bloodborne is true to itself and nobody else. Bloodborne, above all else, is whole.