A strong start
I don’t want to blow your mind, but it’s already July. I know. Crazy. And it’s been one hell of a year so far for video games— The Witcher 3! Kerbal Space Program! Grim Effin’ Fandango! Phew. We’re on track already to have one of those years—you know, like 1998. Or 2007. And we haven’t even entered the fall reviews season yet, where we’ll see heavy hitters this year like Fallout 4 and SOMA.
So while there’s still time to catch our breath, let’s take a look back at the first six months of 2015—and the best PC games so far this year (in no particular order).
Kerbal Space Program
I’ve been playing Kerbal Space Program for so long now, it still feels a bit weird to throw it officially on a best-of list—but this is the year! Kerbal finally hit its 1.0 release!
A fantastic blend of casual, explosion-filled fun and deep astrophysics simulator, Kerbal Space Program puts you in command of a fledgling space program and then watches you fail. And fail. And fail. And then maybe build a rocket that actually makes it into orbit.
It’s addictive as hell, and earned our first perfect score in two years. Expect to find yourself sitting in the dark at four in the morning, feverishly reading up on Wikipedia pages with titles like “Escape Velocity” and “Aerobraking.”
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Our second 5-star score of early 2015, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is maybe the best open-world RPG ever created. Is it massive? Absolutely. But more importantly, the quests you undertake as Geralt of Rivia (monster-slayer extraordinaire) feel like they matter, by and large. The world is alive.
That’s a feat, and a welcome change from the dead/unresponsive open worlds we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. Is it perfect? Not at all! There’s still quite a bit of room for improvement in the open-world RPG.
But The Witcher 3 is, at this moment, unmatched.
Crypt of the Necrodancer
But actually, I have little doubt the best rhythm game of 2015 is probably Crypt of the Necrodancer, a Zelda-esque dungeon crawler where you can only move and attack to the beat of the music. Crypt of the Necrodancer earned an honorable mention on our “Best Games of 2014” list while in Early Access, but now it’s officially released! I definitely recommend checking it out.
“That SimCity game EA released in 2013 was not very good,” says a person with a gift for understatement.
Luckily, there’s Cities: Skylines. Mod-friendly, intuitive, and (most importantly) enormous, Cities: Skylines is basically the SimCity follow-up everyone actually wanted. And Steam Workshop support has made it even better, by adding in a ton of new, easily accessible content—for free.
Pillars of Eternity
The isometric CRPG is back. And while last year’s double dose of Wasteland 2 and Divinity: Original Sin was a fantastic start, it was Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity I had the highest hopes for—a deliberate throwback to both the aesthetic and storytelling of the Baldur’s Gate games.
Grim Fandango Remastered
It took seventeen years for Grim Fandango to come back on the market. Long one of those games that was equal parts “Legendary” and “Impossible to find (legally),” the Grim Fandango remaster is the only remake I’ve ever been legitimately excited to see announced.
The remaster was a bit workmanlike in some ways—for instance, the 2D background art could’ve used some touching up. But the story’s just as good as ever, and the fact you can finally play the game as an actual point-and-click adventure game instead of using the original’s tank controls makes this remaster about as modern as could be expected. Viva la revolución.
Book of Unwritten Tales 2
Part pop culture reference humor, part fairytale, the trope-bending Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is proof positive that some of the best (and most creative) writing in games is still to be found in the simplest of genres.
Another remaster! I have to say: I wasn’t looking forward to Homeworld Remastered as much as Grim Fandango.
But Gearbox surprised me. If anything, Homeworld Remastered is the better of the two projects, with obvious care put into everything from the interface to the ships themselves. I think it’s safe to say these are the definitive editions of Homeworld and Homeworld 2—a pair of damn fine games.
Verdun definitely isn’t “for everyone,” but it is for me. It’s a super-slow, semi-historical shooter with a focus on trench warfare, meaning you’re liable to get sniped before you even make it across No Man’s Land.
And I love it. I love all of that. While I have worries about how long its multiplayer community will last, Verdun is my favorite shooter released so far this year—not that the genre’s been too crowded the past six months.
If you’ve never played, Westerado is basically lo-fi Red Dead Redemption. Your family’s been killed by bandits and it’s up to you to hunt them down and deliver justice, Old West-style. Meaning shoot them.
Or just shoot everybody! After all, you know what they say: “He who fights bandits should see to it that he himself does not become a bandit.”
Honorable mention: Grand Theft Auto V
Sure, it’s two years old. Sure, the base game isn’t necessarily spectacular.
But we’d be remiss to leave Grand Theft Auto V off the list, because it’s a prime example of the power of the mod community. Even before Rockstar gave its official blessing, we’d already seen everything from whales raining from the sky to guns that shoot cars. And that library of user content just keeps growing.
Grand Theft Auto V is everything that makes PC gaming great.