Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Hype List - 2015.


2015 is upon us, and it looks to prove itself a banner year in gaming - not just because super hot-looking games like Superhot are coming to a console near you, but because some of the biggest games that were supposed to come out in 2013 or 2014 have been pushed to this calendar.  This effect was pronounced to the point of comedy fodder.


And it will be awesome.  Here we are!  Twenty fifteen, and the water's fine.  The format remains identical to last year's list - and I'll probably update this sometime in late June or mid July.  Maybe.  

The number of cool-looking games bound for a platform near you, in 2015, is sizable.  Huge.  Ridiculous - and there are a few big, triple-A titles that I just can't bring myself to care about - so let's make this an honest hype list.  Let's cut away the chaff.  Let's ignore the games that I just can't bring myself to care about like the next Assassin's Creed or the next Call of Duty.

Let's narrow it down to oh... let's say a hundred games.  Keep it light. And while quite a few of that hundred are big triple-A titles, if I'm being honest, the one game I can't stop thinking about getting to play is...
 
Darkest Dungeon - PC, OSX, Linux, PS4, Vita - Q3-Q4 2015
Developer : Red Hook Studios

#1 on my hype list is Canadian studio Red Hook's Darkest Dungeon.  It's a 2D Roguelike dungeon crawler with permadeath, tactical, position-based combat and a rich home base to tend to the needs of your tragic heroes, but that's not the interesting part.  Red Hook's hook for the title is the concept that, if actual people went down into RPG dungeons and battled the evil that lurks in those dark corners, it would royally screw them up, and their potential to succeed would rest upon their ability to manage their scarred psyches  The game oozes a Lovecraftian tone, in which witnessing the brutal attacks of a particularly grotesque grotesque against a comrade panics your Crusader - "this is folly!" he cries, "all hope is lost!" - which, naturally, brings down the rest of your party.  Thankfully, the pious Vestal is a woman of faith, and when her resolve is similarly tested she discovers a forgotten inner strength that steels her resolve, strengthens her and inspires her comrades to fight on.

It's stylish as hell, it's mature in a meaningful way, it's tactical, it's procedurally generated, and it's driven an exclusively-console gamer to make their first-ever Steam purchase an early-access pass.  I can't get my hands on Darkest Dungeon soon enough.
 
Galak-Z - PS4, Vita, PC - 2015
Developer: 17-Bit

#2 is 17-Bit's Galak-Z, a 2D sci-fi action Roguelike which sees the player dancing through procedurally-generated asteroid fields and space caves, avoiding incoming fire with fore and aft thrusters, gliding about on Newtonian physics in zero G.  It's got the styling of a 70s space-opera anime and the enemy AI of Halo or Far Cry.  I have a friend who was hyped for Watch Dogs 'cause he believed it promised new-gen emergent gameplay.  He was looking in the wrong place.

Two indie Roguelikes top my list.  No wonder so many folks are heading in that direction.

Dying Light - PS4, One, PC - January 27th
Developer: Techland

#3 With Dead Island and Dead Island: Riptide, developer Techland have cemented themselves as the masters of first-person brawling.  Each time a Dead Island game dropped, it wound up somewhere in the top-five gameplay experiences of that year - there has never been another first-person game in which melee combat is so profoundly visceral and immersive.  Now, Techland have broken with (Dead Island) publisher Deep Silver to finance and control the IP rights on Dying Light - and it looks to be the realization of the earnest little developer's dreams  specifically, a child born of a creepy tryst between Dead Island and Mirrors Edge.  They've said, with Dying Light, they want to establish themselves as a triple-A studio (the Dead Island games, in terms of presentation and polish were always pretty B-list), and if Techland can combine their trademark brilliant gameplay with top-tier presentation?  

Dying Light is a heavy GotY contender, for yours truly. 
 
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 5 - PS3, PS4 - 2015
Developer: Atlus

#4 Atlus's Persona - one of several Shin Megami Tensei spin-offs - has the distinction of being both the most-successful thing to come out of Atlus's stable and the series that taught me I could love a JRPG. Now, SMT scholars will tell you Persona is a blunter (easier) instrument than the core franchise, even as they acknowledge its excellence, but there's a flip side to that - its tactical combat is easy and rewarding enough that an action-centric gamer like me can enjoy an emotionally mature JRPG epic with a huge emphasis on its characters. 

So thank you for that, Atlus. 
 
Bloodborne – PS4 – March 24th
Developer: From Software

#5 Famed King’s Field, Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls director Hidetaka Miyazaki didn’t helm 2014’s Dark Souls II – he was hard at work on Bloodborne, the PS4-exclusive spiritual successor to those towering games. Bloodborne’s atmosphere is just as looming, its evil world just as romantic as Miyazaki’s previous titles, but the combat seems a touch more focused.  We’ve never seen a single spell used in the gameplay videos we’ve seen thus far, with heroes relying on (kind of awesome!) transforming melee weaponry, low-range shotguns and dodging – lots of dodging. 

The undisputed king of action RPGs returns, and going on precedence it’s gonna’ be one of the best games of the year.
 
No Man’s Sky – PS4, PC – 2015
Developer: Hello Games

#6 No Man’s Sky is an excellent example of hype above all things.  What do you actually do in No Man’s Sky?  We’re not sure.  You might be able to eke out a living just exploring space and discovering new planets and species.  You might need to ally yourself with the local interstellar government and hunt down bounties, you might pirate unsuspecting ships, you might be a space miner – the fact is, we don’t know.  All we know is the game is ambitious to the point of insanity – an entire galaxy with countless stars and systems to explore, no two planets alike, no two types of grass the same, no two avian species identical – because it’s entirely procedurally generated. 

We, gamers, want to believe No Man’s Sky is the answer to our sci-fi gaming dreams, despite very little evidence to support the idea that it’s fun to play – and I do too.  I want to believe.  I choose hope.  And hype.  If it's the game we see in our minds every time a trailer drops, it might... change everything. 
 
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End – PS4  2015
Developer: Naughty Dog

#7 There has never been a bad Uncharted game.  There’s been Uncharted 2 and other Uncharted games that weren’t quite as amazing, but the series and its developer still lead the industry on cutting-edge graphics, smooth gameplay and compelling narratives in modern gaming.  These are games that set standards, and in many cases (see: cutscene presentation, in-engine graphics) they remain unrivaled years after their last release. 

Our first look at gameplay from 2014’s PSX shows Uncharted has learned a lot of valuable lessons from The Last of Us  namely how to make third-person fisticuffs more stylish and involving for the player while maintaining its pulpy, real-world-ish weight and impact, and if nothing else we can rest assured it will be gorgeous.

[update] Pushed to 2016.  Oh well. [/update]
 
The Banner Saga - PS4, Vita - 2015
Developer: Stoic

#8 Stoic's The Banner Saga, an early standout of the Kickstarter generation of games, should nicely fill the brutally-difficult-strategy-game void on my Vita that’s remained in the absence of an XCOM: Enemy Within port. When The Banner Saga dropped on PCs in 2014, it earned a lot of critical praise and several best strategy game nods – and I’m definitely in the market for some uncompromising, turn-based low fantasy.
 
Mirror's Edge 2 – PS4, One, PC – 2015?  Maybe?  We have no idea.
Developer: D.I.C.E.

#9 2008’s Mirror’s Edge – a pure first-person platformer with a lovely atmospheric soundtrack and bright, minimal, modern art direction – remains unique, more than a half-decade since its release on last-gen consoles.  To this day, I hold that Mirror’s Edge represents the type of leap (heh) the platforming genre hadn’t seen since Super Mario went 64, and an instant classic.  Fans have been clamoring for a sequel ever since, and EA have finally admitted they’re giving it to us.

Praise be.  Let's hope it actually comes out this year. 
 
Severed – Vita – Spring 2015
Developer: Drinkbox Studios

#10 Drinkbox, who cut their teeth on cute, fun platformers before establishing themselves with one of the better action-platformers of the past decade in the shape of Guacamelee, pull a Klei with Severed – striking out in a completely new direction for the studio.  A first-person gesture-controlled dungeon crawler with a morbid but vibrantly colourful and beautiful aesthetic, Severed casts the player as a young woman who survives an attack on her clan and the loss of her arm.  She sets out to put things right, exploring, chopping parts off fanciful, bold enemy designs and grafting them on to herself to gain their strength – growing ever more powerful and grotesque.  Oh, and what we've heard of the soundtrack thus far is incredible

It’s Drinkbox.  Count me in.
 
Hyper Light Drifter – PC, OSX, Linux, PS4, Vita, Wii U, One – "Early" 2015
Developer: Heart Machine

#11 Perhaps the most prominent Kickstarted game in recent memory, Hyper Light Drifter’s gorgeously animated, expressive pixel art and lush presentation – combined with the promise of deep, fast-paced action and a ton of exploration – put the game at the top of many most-anticipated indie lists.  Heart Machine have taken a lot of time fine-tuning the game’s zippy, supremely challenging combat, and press reaction to the gameplay at recent events has been uniformly positive – now we just need to see if they can finish the game.

They're hiring. 
 
Batman: Arkham Knight – PS4, One, PC – June 2, 2015
Developer: Rocksteady

#12 Go ahead and forget the forgettable Arkham Origins from Warner Bros’ Montreal studio.  Rocksteady is back – the Batman-obsessed crew that gave us Arkham Asylum and Arkham City – and I’ll be more than a bit surprised if they turn in anything less than another definitive Batman adventure.  Dangle from tightropes in your dashing cape, soar across a gothic metropolis on leathery wings, take down thugs with vicious crowd-controlling precision and cruise for trouble in the Batmobile.

God yes.
 
Salt and Sanctuary – PS4, Vita – 2015
Developer: Ska Studios

#13 Imagine Dark Souls in 2D on your Vita. 

You’re welcome.

 Not A Hero – PC, PS4, Vita – 2015
Developer: Roll7

#14 The crew behind the mechanically ultra-sharp skateboarder Olli Olli turn their attention to fast-paced, stylish pixellated shooting in Not A Hero.  Given its pedigree, expect simple but deep mechanics, tight controls and absolutely uncompromising challenge.

Hellraid – PS4, One – 2015
Developer: Techland

#15 Dead Island devs Techland have more in the works than just Dying Light.  Hellraid, a dark-fantasy co-op open-world action-RPG, should maintain their exceptional first-person brawling in a creepy kingdom of ambulatory skeletons, demons, monsters and dank crypts ripe for cleansing.

Hell yes.
 
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number – PC, Linux, OSX, PS4, PS3, Vita – Q1 2015
Developer: Dennaton Games

#16 Back for a bit more of the old ultraviolence, crossover hit Hotline Miami returns with its spectacular music, blink-and-you’ll-miss-action, murder-simulator-as-puzzle levels and gobsmacking levels of violence, gore and shock, made somehow more vivid through its detailed, meaningfully-ugly pixel art. 

This is easily the indie with the biggest built-in audience of 2015.

The Order: 1886 – PS4 – February 20th
Developer: Ready at Dawn

#17 Ready at Dawn, the crew that pushed the PlayStation Portable way beyond its comfort zone with the gorgeous, fun, well-designed, emotionally moving God of War: Chains of Olympus and God of War: Ghost of Sparta, leapfrogs the PS3 and Vita to land on the PS4 with The Order: 1886.  The media, critics and humble bloggers still arent quite sure what to make of The Order, even with its release less than a month away  the story centers around centuries-old knights battling half-breed lycanthropes in alternate-history 1880s steampunk London  it could be one of the best games of 2015, or it could be a tired, confined shooter thats all sizzle and very little steak, with way-too-many quicktime events. 

There’s a lot going against the game – not the least of which is the fact that Ready at Dawn more or less established themselves with brawler-platformers they have zero experience with shooters, zero experience with photorealism, zero experience with console gaming, unless you’re prepared to count their (not great) Wii port of Okami.  But here’s the thing – God of War: Ghost of Sparta and Chains of Olympus were gorgeous, fun, well-designed and emotionally moving games, and one thing all comers agree on is that The Order is gorgeous.

One down.  Three to go.

[update]  It's excellent. [/update]
 
Olli Olli 2: Welcome to Olliwood – PS4, Vita – 2015
Developer: Roll7

#18 The crew behind the mechanically ultra-sharp skateboarder Olli Olli return with... more Olli Olli – which, I’ll admit, I appreciated more than enjoyed at first blush.  A year later, Olli Olli has proven itself a lovely portable game – easy to slip in to for a few minutes of grind-bustin’, high-flying action, and rewarding for long sessions in search of perfection. 

Yeah, I’m down for more of that.

 Inner City Kids - Vita - "Early" 2015
Developer: Jamo Games

#19 If Darkest Dungeon and The Banner Saga don’t end up replacing XCOM in my heart, Inner City Kids may have what the doctor orders for turn-based strategy RPGs. A lovely pixel-art game about some urban youth throwin' down with alien invaders, it boasts a deep customization system for your characters and... that’s pretty much all we know about it. I’ll likely wait for reviews of Inner City Kids – but if it’s the game it is in my head, it’ll be awesome.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain - PS3, PS4, 360, One, PC - 2015
Developer: Kojima Productions

#20 After a hiatus – and a youth largely spent adoring Metal Gear Solid and its sequel – I returned to gaming in earnest about the time Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater came out.  In the years between it, 4 and V, I've played a comparatively infinite number of games more than I had in my entire youth, and I'll be honest - Metal Gear does not cause the stir in my soul it once did.  My affection for the series is, these days, entirely nostalgic, and couldn’t bring me to put more than a few runs into Ground Zeroes last year. 

But that’s not how Metal Gear games are meant to be played.  They’re designed for an obscene amount of replay and experimentation, on the part of the player – an exceptional value for a triple-A, third-person action title, which usually ensures a tight campaign with little replay potential beyond harder difficulty levels. Given Kojima’s style, given the series’ very nature, MGS V will very likely prove one of the best games of 2015 – if one can let themselves get absorbed in it.

 * * *

 So there's my top twenty.  But there's more, my friend.  Much more.  

(How many more?)

Seventy seven more.  After the break below. 


(In no particular order.)

Drifter - PS4, Vita - 2015
Developer: Celsius Game Studios

An open-galaxy free-roaming exploration game/shooter in which you find your own way – a pirate, a merchant, an explorer, a bounty hunter – in a galaxy that you cruise across on a 2D plane, Drifter could prove a pocket-sized answer to the sci-fi freedom of No Man’s Sky.

Rime - PS4 - 2015? Maybe?
Developer: Tequila Works

Yeah The Last Guardian is still vapourware – but maybe that’s okay, ‘cause Rime is looking to fill the beautiful moving-painting, lonely-journey-through-a-land-of-mystery void in our gamer hearts.

WiLD - PS4 - 2015? Maybe?
Developer: Wild Sheep

A multiplayer game which lets players take on the roles of cave men and women, wolves, crows and a variety of faunic avatars, we know little about it beyond how lovely that first trailer was.

Adrift - PS4, One, PC - Q2/Q3 2015
Developer: Three One Zero

It’s kinda’ like that Sandra Bullock movie, Gravity, in game form.  And you have amnesia.  I can dig it.

Dead Island 2 - PS4, One, PC - Q2 2015
Developer: Yager Development

With Techland off making Dying Light and Hellraid, IP owner Deep Silver turned to Spec Ops: The Line studio Yager to create a sequel for their highest-profile series.  Yager’s Dead Island sidesteps the thick atmosphere of Techland’s titles in favour of slapstick brutality – but heck, a first-person co-op open-world zombie-brawling RPG still sounds pretty awesome.

 Mighty No. 9 – everything,  Like, every platform there is – April 2015
Developer: Comcept

Legendary producer Keiji Inafune returns to his roots with a game that’s totally not Mega Man – it’s just an awful lot like Mega Man, right down to the character design – and the Internet at large flipped out over the proposition back in 2013, pouring three million, eight hundred forty-five thousand, one hundred and seventy dollars into its Kickstarter coffers. 

The odds of the game actually being worth 3.8 million are pretty slim, but thousands of folks are waiting to find out, and I’m among them.

Hellblade – PS4, PC – 2015
Developer: Ninja Theory

Straight off their (spectacular) reboot of the brawling franchise that created the mould for modern action games with DmC: Devil May Cry, Ninja Theory’s Hellblade is yet another attempt by the studio to create a hit with their own IP.  Their previous efforts, Heavenly Sword and Enslaved were both pretty-good games with exceptional narrative presentation, and I’m hoping they’ll be able to marry the fantastic brawling they finally delivered in DmC to their trademark originality and lush world-building.

This could be amazing.

Heart Forth, Alicia - PS4, Vita, Wii U, PC, OSX, Linux - 2015
Developer: Alonso Martin

A dark and beautiful platforming Metroidvania action-RPG, Heart Forth, Alicia was successfully Kickstarted last year.  If you long for games that draw you back to the heyday of the Super Nintendo and Genesis, you’ll want it on your list, along with...

TimespinnerPS4, Vita, 3DS, PC, OSX, Linux - 2015
Developer: Lunar Ray Games

A grim time-travel plot, action-platforming mechanics, a vengeful heroine and time-manipulation powers with a sixteen-bit aesthetic.  Oh, and she's out to blood after her family was killed, so she's going to take down the empire that did it. 

Doom - PS4, One, PC - 2015?  We hope?
Developer: id Software, obviously.

It’s Doom, finally rebooted for the first time since the (criminally underrated) Doom 3.  If this actually comes out in 2015, it will instantly move into a day-one slot.

Broken Age - (PS4, Vita versions) - Early 2015
Developer: Double Fine

Long before anyone could imagine the impact crowdfunding would have on the gaming landscape (see above... and below), the promise of the first adventure game by Tim Schafer since Grim Fandango summoned up three million, three hundred and thirty-six thousand, three hundred and seventy one dollars in public funding on Kickstarter with nothing but the name Tim Schafer and the phrase Double Fine Adventure.  Broken Age is what they made with all that money, and by the time it comes to Vita I'll be able to enjoy both halves, the first time I play the game. 

Yuss.

Grim Fandango Remastered - PS4, Vita, PC, OSX, Linux - January 27th
Developer: Double Fine (obviously). 

Legendary creator Tim Schafer’s most-legendary work, considered by many to be the greatest adventure game of all time, gets a high-res up-port and a whole new audience.  Cool tidbit: Double Fine actually went to the fan groups that have kept Grim Fandango alive and running on current PCs, to ensure their up-port contains any improvements the community may have added in the sixteen years since the original release.

LiegePS4, Vita, PC, OSX, Linux, Wii U - 2015
Developer: Coda Games

A tactical RPG, Liege boasts a beautiful aesthetic and a rich story of political betrayal and medieval intrigue to go with its grid-based combat.  The Kickstarted game’s developer has been a bit quiet, of late – let’s hope the game is still coming.

Moon HuntersPS4, Vita, PC, OSX - 2015
Developer: Kitfox Games

Another pixelated-but-gorgeous Kickstarted game, Moon Hunters is a action-RPG that sets the player loose in sprawling, randomly-generated fantasy worlds which slowly react to the impact your hero has had on them across multiple lives and playthroughs - until your name is written in the stars.

Resident Evil Revelations 2 - PS4, PS3, Vita, One, 360, PC - February 24th
Developer: Capcom

Most of us are so burnt out on Resident Evil - and were so disappointed by the terribad Resident Evil 6 - that we never gave Resident Evil Revelations a shot.  I sure didn't - but Revelations actually earned a positive reaction from critics, and garnered enough of a reputation on its own to merit a sequel.  

Less a reboot for the series than a return to form, Revelations and Revelations 2 harken back to the good ol' days of Resident Evil, when you were trapped in a creepy environment with too-few bullets and some very dangerous, slow-moving enemies.  Slap it on my Vita and tell me it's good, and I will be all over this

Shovel Knight - PS4, PS3, Vita - 2015
Developer: Yacht Club Games

Kickstarter strikes again - this time in the shape of one of the darlingest indie darlings of 2014, which earned rave reviews when it landed on PC and Nintendo platforms.  This year, it comes to your PS4 and Vita.  The NES never died.

Super Time Force Ultra - PS4, Vita - Spring 2015
Developer: Capybara Games.

A crazed orgy of special effects, "single player co-op" (see link above for an explanation) and groovy time manipulation mechanics in the guise of a retro platforming shooter, Super Time Force landed on Microsoft platforms last year, and now it's our turn.

Bastion - PS4, Vita - 2015
Developer: Supergiant Games

The game that put Supergiant (Transistor) on the map, Bastion took a lot of best-indie nods when it launched in 2011.  If you’re itching for an excellent western-developed action-RPG on your Vita with sublime music, gorgeous art direction and fantastic gameplay (and I know you are), look no further than Bastion.

We will be lucky to have this.

Mercenary Kings - Vita - 2015
Developer: Tribute Games

Good 'ol Kickstarter!  Once upon a time, boys and girls, Borderlands and Metal Slug got very drunk.  Nine months later, Mercenary Kings appeared and I kinda' love it.

I enjoyed the game when it dropped on PS4 last year, but as soon as the Vita version was announced I put it aside and began waiting.  Patiently.  Last we heard, Tribute was having a bit of trouble with the porting process, but remained confident they could get their game on my favorite handheld. 

Here’s hopin’!  'Cause seriously, this is a day-one when it drops. 

I don't care what else is releasing that day.  Could be Bloodborne.  Still buyin' Mercenary Kings for Vita.

Developer: Alfa System

Over My Dead Body 2, as its known in Japan, didn’t receive the most welcoming welcome from gamers in its native home, who took the game’s plot to task.  I don’t care – I’m still dying to get my hands on one of the (very) few JRPGs that was built, from the ground up, as a Vita title – and the fact that you play as the doomed generations of a clan of tragic demigods cursed to live only two years before death sure sweetens the pot.

Night in the Woods - PS4, PC, OSX - 2015
 Developer: Infinite Fall

Mae the cat just dropped out of college and returned to her small-town home, dour, destructive and disillusioned.  Night In The Woods is a deeply character-driven adventure game with gorgeous animation that sees Mae and her beautifully-drawn friends drawn to the darkness that may lurk in the nearby forest... and themselves.  Dun dun dunnn.

Cosmic Star Heroine - PS4, Vita, PC, OSX - 2015
Developer: Zeboyd Games

Zeyboyd’s last two titles were Penny Arcade tie-ins (both of the developers are old-school forum members at Penny Arcade), but they finally return to their original IP production ways with Cosmic Star Heroine.  Zeyboyd have been honing their 16-bit RPG skills for the past half-decade with critical hits like Cthulhu Saves the World, and with Cosmic Star Heroine, I’ll finally get to taste their flavor on my favorite handheld.  Yes please.

Road Not Taken - Vita - 2015
Developer: Spry Fox

Originally developed as a mobile game, Road Not Taken, on PS4, is a puzzle-based Roguelike that I enjoyed more than I appreciated.  I found it too difficult, too obtuse, too willing to obliterate my progress with one badly-rolled room – but I loved its presentation, its style, its atmosphere and the feelings it evokes.  Like Dont Starve, I expect the place I’ll need to discover this game is on my Vita.

...'course it's worth noting that, last we heard, Spy Fox is having more than a bit of trouble getting the game on the Vita... so this might not even happen. 

Le sigh. 

Developer: Gust

Gust’s long-running female-focused JRPG series isn’t female-focused in a way that’ll make you roll your eyes at all the tentacles, near-nudity, lechery and pleated skirts – it’s actually a JRPG series that feels designed to accommodate the female gaze, with casts of zany, beautiful, heroic women and the dashing, handsome fellows who support and admire them.

I picked up Ayesha Plus upon its release, and it’s just... pleasant.  Inoffensive, with no bad design choices, lovely presentation, satisfying combat, a story that just gets better and better and I can craft bombs made of ice.

Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition - Vita - January 6th
Developer: 3D Realms / Abstraction Games

The Megaton Edition of Duke Nukem 3D on Vita is a perfect port of the now-ancient FPS.  Rock-solid framerate, excellent control scheme and all the lovely design of the original games.  As someone who loved DN3D back in the day, I had to buy this.

It’s good!  I mean, it’s not as good as like Killzone Mercenary, but it’s still fun and entertaining.

Nuclear Throne - PS4, PS3, Vita, One, PC, OSX, Linux - 2015
Developer Vlambeer

Vlambeer, of Luftrausers and Ridiculous Fishing fame, bring their arcadey sensibilities to bear in a zany post-apocalyptic action-Roguelike, where the ridiculous combination of mutations you suffer in the radioactive remains of the Earth may give you the boost you need to shotgun your way to survival.

Y2K - PS4, Vita, Wii U, PC, OSX - 2015
Developer: Ackk Studios

A turn-based RPG inspired by Earthbound/MotherY2K begins as a 1990s murder-mystery and quickly evolves into Haruki Murikami-levels of abject weirdness.  Impossible to really describe in a single snippet, it's got a ton of positive buzz. 

SOMA - PS4, PC - 2015
Developer: Frictional Games

Somewhere, beyond the sea, the crew behind (PC indie horror standouts) Penumbra and Amnesia decided to make a horror game set in a research facility at the bottom of the ocean, where machines may have become sentient.  SOMA continues the pleasant recent trend of indie creepers from one of the most respected developers in the game.

The Talos Principle - PS4 - Q1 2015
Developer: Croteam

In December 2014 The Talos Principle launched on PCs and was quickly heralded as this generation’s Portal – a deeply satisfying puzzler with some nice philosophical musings to back it up.  ...weirdly enough, Croteam are best known for the Serious Sam games. 

Mad Max - PS4, PS3, One, 360, PC - 2015
Developer: Avalanche Studios

Avalanche offer up their own take on Mad Max just in time for the movies to get rebooted.  A licensed game?  Might suck.  The crew behind Just Cause at the wheel?  Might rock.

The Witcher III: Wild Hunt - PS4, One, PC - May 19th 
Developer: CD Projekt RED

CD Projekt’s adaptations of The Witcher have proven incredibly successful, with a darkly-drawn fantasy world thick with drunkards, whores and down-and-out brawls with werewolves in the mud.  I’ll admit, I just could not get in to The Witcher II when I finally tried it, but tons of people are ultra-hyped for III, and I’d love to be able to play the games others describe, when they talk about The Witcher.

Skulls of the Shogun: Bone-A-Fide Edition - PS4 - 2015
Deeloper: 17-Bit

17-Bit – who’re currently hard at work on #2 most-hyped game Galak-Z – made their name with Skulls of the Shogun, a cartoony tactical RPG that sees a betrayed Samurai general cutting his way through the land of the dead in pursuit of revenge.  I love everything about that sentence.  ...'course it was "coming soon" last May, so...

...I wonder what's up with that?

Star Wars Battlefront - PS4, One, PC - Holiday 2015
Developer: DICE

Like Mirrors Edge 2, Star Wars Battlefront is an EA sequel that’s been a very long time coming.  Like Mirrors Edge 2, we got the barest glimpse of the game at E3 2014, and have no idea if it’s coming this year – but if it is, expect Star Wars battles on the impossibly-grand scale of Battlefield.  Hell yeah.

Alienation - PS4 - 2015
Developer: Housemarque

The legendary Housemarque are masters of twin-stick shooters (Super Stardust, Dead Nation, Resogun), and with Alienationthey’re building a game from the ground up with co-op in mind, and a sci-fi horror aesthetic.  Nice.

 (In no particular order.)


Ray's the Dead - PS4, Vita, PC, OSX - 2015
Developer: Ragtag Studio

An adventure-stealth-action RPG in which you play as the recently-deceased Ray, gifted with telepathic zombie control, out to solve the mystery of your own murder.  Could be cool.

 Risk of Rain - Vita - 2015
Developer: Hopoo Games

A 2D Roguelike action-platformer, Risk of Rain started as a student project and became the indie of the moment for a month or so last year.  It sets the player as a survivor of a crashed space ship who blasts their way through procedurally-generated levels thick with random drops, powerups and a crazy amount of possible strategies for success. 

Until Dawn - PS4 - Summer 2015
Developer: Supermassive Games

Sony’s own triple-A take on horror, Until Dawn plays like a schlocky slasher and promises a seriously branching plot, where dead characters stay dead and your choices in the (very quicktime-heavy) heat of the moment have a real impact. 

Personally I’d prefer a new Siren, but horror-beggars can’t be horror-choosers.  Now, that being said... 
  • Until Dawn began as a Move controller game in 2012,
  • at some point, they decided that wasn't working out (Move sales) and pushed the game on to PS4,
  • Supermassive have done a few ports in the past, and they developed LittleBigPlanet for PSP, so...
  • I wouldn't expect much.

Apotheon - PS4 - 2015 
Developer: Alientrap Games

2D brawling in the style of ancient Grecian paintings.  If the gameplay proves as pleasant as the presentation, Apotheon could be one to watch.

Helldivers - PS4, Vita - Q1 2015
Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios

A top-down co-op sci-fi shooter in which friendly fire is always on.  This could get crazy.

Skullgirls Encore - PS4, Vita - 2015
Developer: Reverge Labs

Fan-favorite fighter Skullgirls lands on Vita... eventually.  And yeah, I’ll probably pick it up.

Project Phoenix - PS4, Vita, PC, OSX, Linux - 2015?
Developer: Creative Intelligence Arts

Another Kickstartery story, Project Phoenix pulled in about a million dollars on the promise of an old-school JRPG with modern aesthetics, and big names like composer Nobuo Uematsu and artist Kyoshi Arai.  


Volume - PS4, Vita, PC - 2015
Developer: Mike Bithell

Mike Bithell (Thomas Was Alone)’s meditation on passive stealth in a dystopian future.  Can stealth still be fun without stealth kills? (Stealth Inc. says no, no it can’t.)

Broforce - PS4, Vita, PC, OSX - 2015
Developer: Free Lives Games

All the greatest bros of the 80s and 90s (Chuck Norris!  Ripley from Aliens!  Blade! Conan!) combine in the mad, explosive, all-American bloody action of Broforce, which lets you literally tear through levels with Brobocop’s Commie-seeking bullets and Rambro’s flying combat knives.


Titan Souls - PS4, Vita, PC, OSX, Linux - Q1 2015
Developer: Acid Nerve

Imagine Shadow of the Colossus in 2D, with retro-pixel art.  The only enemies are the bosses, and your only weapon is a bow and a single arrow which will return to you when you call it.  Looks fantastic.

Toren - PS4, PC - 2015
Developer: Swordtales

Like Rime, Toren brings ICO to mind - a single child climbing the lonely titular tower, solving puzzles and taking on colossal enemies - it could be lovely.  Or it could be really rough.


Armikrog - PS4, PC, OSX, Linux - Q1 2015
Developer: Pencil Test Studios

Armikrog earned almost a million dollars on Kickstarter with the phrase "from the team that made The Neverhood." It's a classic adventure game made entirely with animated clay.

Developer: Atlus

It's been years since I played a rhythm game and longer still since I enjoyed one - but this one features Chie Satonaka gettin' her groove on.  I'm not saying I'm going to buy and play P4: Dancing All Night, but I'll definitely be tempted.


The Vanishing of Ethan Carter - PS4 - 2015
Developer: The Astronauts

The Astronauts’ atmospheric, supernaturally-seasoned first-person murder mystery arrives on PS4 after gaining a lot of fans on PC in 2014.


Developer: The Chinese Room

Remember in 2012 when every media outlet had an opinion on The Chinese Room's Dear Esther - an exceedingly minimal game in which a distant narrative is slowly revealed through exploration?  Well, they're back with Everybody's Gone to the Rapture - partnering with Sony because they weren't sure they could get funding otherwise - and at the very least it looks and sounds gorgeous.

Developer: Q Games

The folks behind the retro, 2D Pixeljunk series crank their ambition up to 11 with The Tomorrow Children - asynchronous multiplayer, a mind-bending narrative of a Soviet experiment into human consciousness gone awry, town-building, resource gathering and oversized-monster combat in a world that seems entirely populated by creepy-cute living marionettes. 

The Forest - PS4, PC - 2015
Developer: Endnight Games

First-person open-world creepy-ass woodland survival horror.  Imagine The Descent mixed with Don't Starve. Looks promising.

Source - PS4, One, PC - 2015
Developer: Fenix Fire

A gorgeous Metroidvania with a striking, minimal neon-glow aesthetic, Source has been on the docket for a long time – maybe it’ll finally drop this year?

 * * * 


(In no particular order.)

Note: some games are so incredibly don’t-care-worthy that they are not listed at all!
Others are just down here because I don't know enough about them. 
Put your media out there, people!

Papers, Please - Vita - 2015
Developer: Lucas Pope

Perhaps Papers, Please should be higher on the list – everyone was flipping out over it when it launched on PC in 2013 – but I’d probably check out any of the above games first.  It's considered a meditation on freedom as, in your position as a security clerk in a fascist country, it's your job to grant it, take it away and - when opportunity knocks - brave the risks and perhaps seize some for yourself. 

Soul Saga Ep. 1 - PS4, Vita, Wii U, PC, OSX, Linux - 2015
Developer: Disastercake

Another Kickstarter story, Soul Saga is a western-developed love letter to classic JRPGs with turn-based battles, overworld maps and airships.  Could be amazing. 

Wander - PS4, PC - 2015
Developer: Loki Davison & Friends (honestly, I can't find a studio name)

A collaborative, non-combat, story-driven MMO, Wander hopes there's a market for a massively-multiplayer game in which you don't fight anything and explore the world in the guise of living trees, griffons and sea creatures. 

Dragon Fin Soup - PS4, PS3, Vita, PC, OSX, Linux - 2015
Developer: Grimm Bros.

Kickstarter again!  Dragon Fin Soup has a ton of positive buzz.  A turn-based, tactical RPG with procedurally-generated areas and randomly-generated quests, it stars a slightly twisted version of Little Red Riding Hood who makes her living earning bounties on monsters, and is noted by the developers to be an unrepentant alcoholic. 

Axiom Verge - PS4, Vita, PC - 2015
Developer: Thomas Happ Games LLC

A grimy, retro, pixel-art 2D Metroidvania in which glitches are game mechanics, Axiom Verge raised more than a few eyebrows when it debuted last year.

Deep Down - PS4 - 2015?
Developer: Capcom

Not satisfied with making Dead Rising 3 exclusive to Xbox One, Capcom’s Deep Down – which appears to be a free to play straight Souls rip-off – is exclusive to PS4.  I think we got the short end of the stick, on this one.

H1Z1 - PS4, PC - (early access) January 15
Developer: Sony Online Entertainment

Sony Online’s answer to DayZ landed on Steam Early Access just a week ago, and people are not happy. Not happy with its ineffectual combat, not happy with its dated graphics, not happy with its paid airdrop supplies, which gamers say turns the already-mediocre survival sim into a pay-to-win scenario.

Developer: Nippon Ichi Software

Nippon Ichi throw down with another insanely-deep strategy RPG that I find far too intimidating to engage in.  Gamers have lost years of their lives chasing Disgaea’s endlessly-elusive rabbit.

The Witness - PS4, PC - 2015
Developer: Thekla, Inc

That guy who made the insufferably self-important Braid is back with what will no doubt be another insufferably pretentious game.

Magicka 2 - PS4, PC - 2015
Developer: Pieces Interactive

The celebrated co-op indie’s sequel retains the richly deep magical combinations of Magicka, but endeavors to smooth things out with a faster, more intuitive interface – and a PS4 version!  Worth noting: Magicka 2 developer Pieces Interactive didn't actually make Magicka - they made some DLC for it. 

Let It Die - PS4 - 2015
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture

Extreme action game Lily Bergamo, announced in 2013 with a badass female lead, was re-revealed as the grimy-looking Let It Die at E3 2014.  Little is really known about Grasshopper's crazy-violent asynchronous multiplayer title - beyond the concept that when you die, your character will appear as an enemy in other players' games - but I’ll admit I’m pretty curious to see more.  

Just Cause 3 - PS4, One, PC - 2015
Developer: Avalanche Studios

The Just Cause games have a massive fan base thanks to their total freedom and absolutely lunatic action – most of which begins with a grappling hook – and I’d probably be among them if I’d ever played one... but I haven’t.  So, meh.

Mortal Kombat X - PS4, PS3, One, 360, PC - April 14, 2015
Developer: NetherRealm Studios

Okay, so Mortal Kombat X actually looks totally awesome and I wish I was better at any-fight-game-that-isn’t-Virtua-Fighter, ‘cause if I were I’d probably pick this up and have a ball.  From NetherRealm studios, who’ve stewarded the franchise for years and recently dipped very successfully into Batman, Superman and the DC universe, MKX represents the series’ new-gen jump.

Tom Clancy's The Division - PS4, One, PC - 2015
Developer: Ubisoft Massive

Ubisoft have made a big multiplayer third-person shooter with very nice graphics.  It’s Ubisoft.  There’s no way to gauge this thing’s quality until it comes out.

Evolve - PS4, One, PC - February 10th
Developer: Turtle Rock Studios

Turtle Rock are the team who put Left 4 Dead together, so they’re something of an authority on co-op shooters.  The wild card with Evolve is that the game pits a four-player team of human-controlled hunters against a single human-controlled monster, which can evolve as it consumes other monsters, growing from a minor threat to a fearsome powerhouse.  Expectations are high!

Quantum Break - One - 2015
Developer: Remedy Entertainment

Remedy (Max Payne, Alan Wake) continue their Xbox-exclusive string with Quantum Break, which once again looks like a game with a weak narrative and gorgeous, fun third-person shooting combat.  I’d buy it, if I had a One.

Crackdown - One - 2015
Developer: Microsoft Game Studios

The original Crackdown was a huge title for the Xbox 360 in its early years – a futuristic supercop game in the vein of Prototype – and thousands of fans will be thrilled to get their hands on a new-gen iteration.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - One, 360 - Holiday 2015
Developer: Crystal Dynamics

Crystal Dynamics blew everyone’s socks off with its 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider  a spectacular blend of platforming, exploration and brutal combat – and this game would easily be in my top-ten for the year... if it were coming to a platform I own.  It’s not.  Oh well.  Maybe next year.


Halo 5: Guardians - One - 2015
Developer: 343 Industries

It’s Halo again.  Yayyy.

Cuphead - One - 2015
Developer: Studio MDHR

A 2D shooter in the style of 1920s cartoons?  This is awesome.

Phantom Dust - One - 2015
Developer: Microsoft Game Studios

Phantom Dust is a western-developed strategy-RPG that I'd never heard of until Microsoft announced they were rebooting it last year, and Chamberlain got really excited at the prospect.  Frankly, I feel there aren't enough high-profile western-developed RPGs, so cheers to this.

[update]  Cancelled?  Maybe? [/update]


Ori and the Blind Forest - One, PC - March 11
Developer: Moon Studios

Remember when the Xbox 360 was the best place to find the loveliest indies?  Moon Studios remembers, and Ori - a gorgeous 2D metroidvania - makes me wish I had a One. 

Below - One - 2015
Developer: Capybara Games

Capy Games returns to the style that made them famous with 2011's Sword & Sorcery EP - and beyond the fact that Below is an adventure game that sees your tiny warrior exploring gigantic ruins, I know nothing about it ('cause they haven't really said anything).

Still - looks lovely

Splatoon - Wii U - May 2015
Developer: Nintendo

Splatoon is one of those Nintendo games that puts a fundamental spin on an old genre - one so clever it's almost embarrassing that nobody thought of it before.  Every paint bullet fired in team shooter Splatoon counts towards your ownership of the map, and whoever has the map more painted-up when the round ends is the winner.  It's smart, it's adorable, it might be the first great shooter from Nintendo.  

The Legend of Zelda - Wii U - 2015
Developer: Nintendo

In HD.  Finally. 

* * *

And those, my friends, are ninety-seven games to get hyped about in 2015.   

...I'm gonna' post this, now, but it's probably rife with typos and factual (release date) errors.  I'll take another look at it tomorrow, but for tonight?  Posted!

4 comments:

  1. I... just... wow.

    Holy shit.

    Awesome post - just went through all of it. This year is going to be outrageous. Our top few most-hyped, order and all, are really, really similar. Well, maybe there's some variation. Despite my concerns that a few things won't actually deliver on their promises (The Division & No Man's Sky, specifically), I think this is my top fifteen:

    1. Legend of Zelda - because it has to be. I grabbed a Wii U on Black Friday and I still haven't put more than 30 hours total into it, but this is basically the reason I got the system. I'm ready for HD Zelda, and to be taken to a place of pure joy. Not much to go on, but I have to admit that I'm more hyped for this game than any other coming (hopefully) in 2015.

    2. Darkest Dungeon - we're on the same wavelength here. I played a demo at PAX and fell in love - with the concept, with the art, with the style, with the gameplay. I hope there's a lot of depth to it. It certainly has the potential to be infinitely replayable, and it's oh-so-stylish. And the devs seem like great people with a clear vision for something truly unique. I'm pumped. Early Access in, like, one week!

    3. Persona 5 - P4G on Vita was a transcendent RPG experience. It was the first Persona I played, but I'm so ready for more. I consulted a guide pretty often during my playthrough just because I didn't want to screw up - I look forward to playing P5 blind.

    4. No Man's Sky - ambitious as hell, but we'll see how much staying power it has. I hope it's really good. I've been getting into sci-fi pretty heavily lately, where I used to prefer fantasy. I'm most interested to see how solitary vs. how connected the experience is.

    5. The Division - Ubi has been off the rails lately, and I can see why you wouldn't be hyped, but ever since I found some consistent multiplayer friends on the PA forums, I've been off-the-charts hyped for third-person small-group MMO stuff like this. Honestly, if this game is half as good as I hope it will be, it'd be my #1, easily. I'm just too concerned that it'll be a buggy mess or not live up to Ubi's promises.

    6. Uncharted 4 - I've actually never played an Uncharted (I know, I know!), other than Golden Abyss. I got a PS3 in part to play through the Uncharted games, but my PS3 borked before I could get around to UC2 and UC3. I look forward to the inevitable HD rereleases. The Last of Us Remastered was probably one of my top three games of 2014. Maybe #1.

    7. Bloodborne - loved Dark Souls and am ready for more. There's nothing like working through the incoherent and opaque systems of a Souls game with the online community. This will be a blast.

    8. Adrift - not much to go on here, but again, I've been digging sci-fi and especially the "alone in space, exploring ruined environments" aesthetic. Loved Gravity, loved Interstellar, just watched Alien recently for the first time. I'm really curious about the VR potential here. I hope Sony uses this game as a showcase for Morpheus. That'd be super-rad.

    9. Galak-Z - I was more hyped for this before I played it at PAX and got a little down on it, but I think that has to do with the learning curve. The controls are a bit complicated, but the game is stylish as hell and it's going to be so satisfying to pull off advanced maneuvers, Luftrausers-style, once you sink some time into it.

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    1. You just saw Alien for the first time?! Wow. Alien is like... a cultural touchstone. I can't remember a time when cramped, dimly strobe-lit industrial spaceship hallways weren't at the very core of sci-fi horror.

      Also, I'm sadface at the thought that hands-on time with Galak-Z turned you off it - but hope springs eternal!

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  2. 10. The Order: 1886 - I've been hearing such mixed things in pre-release, but I'm still eager to see what the final product is like. I'm hoping it's not all quicktime button-pressing and formulaic cover shooting. Even if it is, I'll bite if it has a halfway-decent story and is as visually impressive as it seems.

    11. Batman: Arkham Knight - I feel a bit burned out at this point, but if Rocksteady can do enough new stuff here, I'm in. The previous games have been great, and Shadow of Mordor showed that there's still some room for growth in this genre.

    12. Yoshi's Woolly World - pretty excited for this one because I can play it with the gf. We played Kirby's Epic Yarn together and enjoyed that quite a bit.

    13. Towerfall: Dark World - had a blast with Towerfall on PS4. Friends loved it. This should actually probably be higher on this list, except that I don't know if I'll be able to wrangle everyone up for more Towerfall now that it's been a while since we've played. But I'll at least get some co-op in with one buddy of mine who really digs it, and that'll be familiar, enjoyable territory.

    14. The Witness - okay, so Jon Blow is pretentious and so is his work. That's okay with me. I really enjoyed Braid, and I like puzzle-solving and exploration. I can't deny that I'm really excited to see what this is like (and to see if it opens up a lot beyond the "solve these line puzzles" premise).

    15. The Talos Principle - I almost picked this up on PC, but when I heard it was coming to PS4, I held off. I've heard very good things. And supposedly, it's super-long (like 30 hours?!).

    Other stuff: Everybody's Gone to the Rapture (those graphics!); Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (so I can at least put my Wii U to use); Broken Age Part 2 (because Part 1 was great); Star Wars Battlefront (especially as Episode VII gets closer); Hotline Miami 2 (on Vita); Hyper Light Drifter (that style!); Severed (which I hadn't heard about until your post - looks interesting); Salt and Sanctuary (if it gets decent reviews); anything Morpheus-related.

    Whew! What a year. Thanks for keeping the hype train rolling.

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    1. I feel like Salt & Sanctuary is probably a pretty safe bet, given Skaa Studios' history. Their brawlers on 360 have earned consistent high-70s/low-80s metascores, and their combat looks... fun. Shankish.

      Just looking at combat vids for it, so far, really establish (for me) that it's living up to the Souls comparison - so, if they can really deliver on the Metroidvania thing, it'll probably be one of the better sleeper hits of the year.

      'Course you never know. Maybe Midora will show up this year and be awesome? (Google Midora if you haven't. It's like Link to the Past with a ton more items and mechanics - and a full 12 dungeons!)

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