After hours of debates and much gnashing of teeth, our global team of GameSpot editors has finally come up with this: the best video games of 2015, in ranked order. Our list of the best 25 games of the year has been informed by the wide array of tastes, experiences, and preferences of dozens of GameSpot editors around the world. It’s a varied and eclectic list, spanning everything from the year’s biggest AAA releases, to smaller, personal gameplay experiences, and everything else in between. We’ll be counting down to number one over the next few days, so keep it locked to GameSpot as we unveil our choices. For today, check out our picks for 10 to 6.
10. Kerbal Space Program
When we think about space flight in video games, we think about dogfighting in starfighters, micromanaging our ship’s crew, and sending probes out to mine for minerals. What we don’t think about is the creation of those spacefaring vehicles, and the never-ending list of complex considerations needed not only to build them but to actually get them into outer space.
Kerbal Space Program challenges us to overcome these problems. Using a highly accurate simulation of real-world physics and orbital mechanics, you have to think about ship design, structural integrity, rocket propulsion, fuel storage, orbital maneuvering, re-entering the atmosphere, landing on celestial bodies, and everything in between. Kerbal successfully motivates you to learn the fundamentals of real-world science in order to achieve self-made goals. It charges you with determination when you fail, and fills you with an unfathomable joy when you succeed. Kerbal is an empowering game that pulls no punches.
9. Tales from the Borderlands: A Telltale Games Series
Whether or not you care about the Borderlands universe, Tales from the Borderlands is an utter delight. Tales’ story is a narrative triumph that takes you through a game world rich with unusual characters. Instead of the powerful Vault Hunters featured in the Borderlands shooter series, you step into the shoes of little guys with big secrets, ordinary joes who do their damndest just to survive. The series is reverential but not beholden to its source material, allowing it to explore somewhat off-brand themes like friendship, family, and what we do when our heroes disappoint us. Filled with epic, cataclysmic moments, truly hilarious dialogue, and dirty humor, Tales from the Borderlands is this year’s must-play episodic series.
8. Rise of the Tomb Raider
Lara Croft’s latest adventure accomplishes everything it needs to: it molds the iconic character into a nuanced personality. It expands its world to encourage exploration and immersion. It features fluid, compelling combat. And it hones its pacing to an almost seamless state, trimming the fat and pushing us through its remote environments at a breakneck pace.
Rise of the Tomb Raider also tells a compelling story of moral grays, building a growing sense of unease as we approach the climax. There are no cutscenes too long and no characters too contrived, and as you make your way through well-designed combat scenarios and platforming puzzles, it all swells to one of the most gripping climaxes of the year. Rise of the Tomb Raider is exceptional for how it builds on the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot, though it’s spectacular in its own right as well.
7. Ori and the Blind Forest
Ori and the Blind Forest is an exquisitely calibrated platform game, demonstrating masterful timing and tempo in its mechanics. Players zigzag up vertical corridors, vault across wooden beams, and spring over beds of thorns with Mario-grade control. The rules of its world strike an immaculate balance between simplicity and freedom, with players given enough incentive to make daring leaps of faith, but also enough limitation to breeze through its world without unnecessary complication. It presents a superbly arced challenge, complete with tense, epic scenarios that demand near-perfect awareness and timing. But at the same time, it never overcomplicates to the point of becoming a hassle.
While Ori and the Blind Forest mimics ideas from its ancestors with accuracy, it also elevates itself beyond mere tribute band status, introducing a series of advanced jump mechanics that are so satisfying and fluid that you can only hope Nintendo is paying attention. Oh, and you may have noticed, it looks alright, too. Its world is set in an enchanting, fantastical forest where every stretch of woodland and fauna has been painstakingly hand-drawn.
6. Fallout 4
Many games attempt to explore what life might be like in a post-apocalyptic world, but few dive as deep as the Fallout games. Set 200 years after a nuclear war, Fallout 4 examines life in an irradiated version of Boston, where Fenway Park has become a shanty town, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has long-since deviated from being a respected source of education. Some may look at Fallout 4 and say it’s just Fallout 3 with a fresh coat of paint, but that surface-level evaluation ignores the nuanced storytelling that sets Fallout 4 apart from other wasteland-based games.
As you explore Boston in search of your son, you grow not only as a warrior and survivalist, but also as a prominent figure in a society that’s hanging by a thread. You navigate different social circles, search for meaning in a world gone mad, and meet fascinating people along the way. Some are objectively good, but it’s not always easy to tell who will inevitably betray you and who you should trust. Everyone has their motivations, including you, and the manner in which Fallout 4 forces you to confront your position on various thorny issues after easing you into its topsy-turvy world makes it one of the most engrossing experiences of 2015.
Come back tomorrow as we unveil the final five games in our Game of the Year countdown.