5) Until Dawn
Until Dawn was a pleasant surprise and a reminder that first impressions are not always accurate. When the game was originally revealed by demoing a chase sequence in which heroine Sam, clad in nothing more than a skimpy bath towel, must evade a psychotic clown figure, I immediately dismissed it as not my kind of thing. However, when the game came out, I watched a few streams and found myself intrigued, so much so that I impulse bought and marathoned the entire game in one sitting. I don't regret it. Until Dawn is a fantastic horror adventure that grabs you early and doesn't let go until you've either saved or killed everyone on Blackwood Mountain. The graphics and performances from the actors — particularly Brett Dalton, who plays Mike — come together in a way that is pretty convincing 90% of the time, and the way you piece together the story to figure out what the heck is actually happening adds a great chill factor to a game already full of scares and freakouts. If you've ever watched a good scary movie and found yourself shouting at the screen as someone inevitably makes a stupid mistake, this is the game for you.
4) Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward
FFXIV was the first MMO I ever seriously played. I really liked it, but toward the end of A Realm Reborn, I was definitely starting to feel burned out. I even considered stepping away from the game entirely. Then Heavensward, FFXIV's first major expansion, came out and made me fall in love with the game all over again. I was completely enraptured by the expansion's story, which has your character uncovering the secrets of the Dragonsong War, a millennium long conflict between the Holy See of Ishgard and, you guessed it, dragons. The cast of characters is excellent; you'll see old comrades, make new acquaintances, and you may even learn some new things about old foes in the process. There's plenty to do in the expansion too: dungeons, primals, a new 24-man excursion, new minigames, and new airship missions that let you actually explore and quest with your friends. And the music is absolutely fantastic; it's one of the most cohesive and thematic soundtracks I've heard in a Final Fantasy game, right up there with my personal favorite, FFXII. All in all, I'd say Heavensward is absolutely the shot of invigoration FFXIV needed.
3) Tales from the Borderlands
I've looked at some of Telltale's other offerings before, but Tales from the Borderlands is the first series that convinced me to give them my money. The zany action and off-the-wall humor are spot on, the characters are interesting and fun to watch, and the Telltale art style actually looks like a perfect fit for the Borderlands universe. I loved the story of a group of strangers teaming up because of circumstance and, through a series of crazy and often hilarious events, coming together as a weird yet strangely perfect family. With all the grit and drama in video games today, there's something to be said for telling a more lighthearted tale, and TFTB does just that.
2) The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt takes just about everything that was great about the previous entry in the series and dials it up to eleven. The world is wide open, with hundreds of points of interest, from small villages to mysterious caves and ruins. This is good because you'll want plenty to see and do while enjoying the gorgeous scenery. The combat improves upon the system seen in The Witcher 2; using oils and tonics is much easier and rewarding, upgrades to your signs create new ways for you to approach your foes, and the swordplay — while perhaps a little sluggish for some — is as impressive as ever. Despite all this good stuff, the star of the show is clearly the quest design. While there are some mindless activities — such as clearing monster nests — most quests are unique and multifaceted, introducing you to interesting characters and situations. Sure, a lot of them boil down to using your Witcher senses to track a person or beast (and contracts almost invariably task you with slaying said person or beast), but it never feels like a cookie cutter experience; rather, you are using your skills as a Witcher to make coin and get by while achieving your personal goals. It's a testament to the talent at CD Projekt Red that all of these things come together to create a cohesive game that's easily the best Witcher experience yet.
1) Xenoblade Chronicles X
I was excited for this game the moment the teaser trailer launched. As the details trickled in and people speculated about the graphics, the music, and even the story, my excitement only grew. The seven months between the Japanese and Western releases were at times unbearable, and I'll admit that I couldn't help but spoil myself rotten in my anticipation for the game. Well, it's out here now, and even though I haven't seen even half of what the game has to offer, I know the wait was most definitely worth it. The world of Mira is vast and beautiful, full of all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies to discover. The combat is fast and furious, and you have a lot of options at your disposal for how your characters tackle foes. The music may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I think it's brilliant and I can't get enough of it. The main story is quite different (and in some ways disappointing) compared to the amazing journey in the original Xenoblade, but the more I play this game, the more I realize that this is kind of the point. Xenoblade Chronicles X isn't about an epic quest to destroy a horde of menacing machines; rather it's about exploring this amazing new world and the people who are trying to make it their new home. And that's pretty cool.
Oh, and let's not forget that you can pilot giant mechs. Combined with other Xenogears references and the ability to make my avatar look like Emeralda Kasim, my all-time favorite RPG character, is it really any wonder why I picked this as my favorite RPG of 2015?
Fallout 4 came at something of an inopportune time for me. With a major FFXIV patch released the day after and less than a month until Xenoblade Chronicles X, I didn't have much time to explore the Commonwealth. But I very much enjoyed what I was able to play through, and I look forward to getting back to the wasteland just as soon as I'm finished taking out indigens on planet Mira. I don't feel like I played enough of the game to rank it against the others, but I wanted to get it on my list because I really like what I've seen so far.