2015's Best Games You (Probably) Didn't Play

2015's Best Games You (Probably) Didn't Play

Need some new games to play after putting this fall's blockbusters to bed? Here are some that were likely off your radar.

It's time to face facts: There's so many worthwhile games out there, we'll never have time to play all of them within the waking hours of our relatively short lives. And frankly, we're all out of luck until some Bay Area startup creates a "sleep solution" that hopefully doesn't involve needles.

That said, it's entirely possible you've already defeated this fall's biggest games and need something else to play before 2016. If that's the case, you may be excited to know several other games exist that are worthy enough to consume the remaining grains of sand in 2015's hourglass. Just be sure to respond to any official police "wellness checks" to ensure you're not declared legally dead.

The Magic Circle [PC]

After playing and being bowled over by The Magic Circle, I assumed it would be this year's indie darling. Of course, that title was taken by the fantastic JRPG sendup Undertale, but Question Games' first-person puzzle game/walking simulator still deserves a lot more attention. In this wholly unique experience, you take on the role of a bug tester, stuck within the confines of a game trapped in the final stages of development hell. Here, you're tasked by a vindictive AI with taking out the "sky bastards"—the frustrated design team who spent years tinkering and reworking, only to come up with abject failure. What follows is a story of the perils of art crashing into Capitalism, though narrative isn't The Magic Circle's primary focus. There's also a fairly substantial chunk of "gameyness" here, with plenty of puzzles involving learning new AI routines and assigning them to both friends and enemies for the sake of overcoming obstacles. The Magic Circle may be a little rough around the edges, but there's absolutely nothing else like it this year. (Our full review.)

Westerado: Double Barreled [PC]

2015 seems to be the year of big, bold, and brassy open-world experiences, with games like Batman: Arkham Knight, The Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid V, and Fallout 4 giving us plenty of reasons to spend dozens upon dozens of hours digging up every last secret. Ostrich Banditos' Westerado goes for the same approach, but on a much smaller scale—as if you couldn't tell by its Commodore 64-era graphics. The premise is simple: Find the varmint that burned your farm to the ground and left your family for dead. Tracking him down, however, isn't so easy. Since you have no idea what this mysterious stranger looks like, most quests yield information about his appearance: The style of his hat, color of his jacket, and so on. And Westerado only reaches its finale once you gather enough intel to pull your gun on the right collection of pixels. If you're looking for a charming open-world romp that won't take up weeks of your time, consider giving this Zelda-ish Western a spin. (Our full review.)

Box Boy! [3DS eShop]

Japanese developer HAL might be known mostly for their work on the Kirby and Smash Bros. series, but occasionally they're allowed to deviate from these lucrative series—and when they do, the results are often magical. And the real beauty of Box Boy! is that it feels like a true evolution of the box-based puzzler. Its short levels offer frequent checkpoints and instant restarts, meaning you're really only required to figure out a few steps at a time. But it's by no means a simple game—the amount of variations spun from Qbby's box-growing powers always gives your brain a new set of rules to wrap itself around. If you're a fan of other 3DS puzzlers like Crashmo and Pushmo, but hate the amount of planning and starting from square one that goes into some of the later puzzles, you'll definitely find Box Boy's sharper focus a lot more rewarding. Plus, HAL certainly gets a lot of cuteness mileage out of what's essentially a square with two dots for eyes. (Our full review.)

Resident Evil Revelations 2 [PS3/4, Xbox 360/One, PC, Vita]

If Resident Evil 6 left you feeling fatigued, it's likely this episodic release didn't pop up on your radar. But Revelations 2 isn't a cheapo cash-in to keep the franchise relevant while a bigger sequel stews in development. It's an honest-to-god great installment of the Resident Evil series; one that dials things back a bit from the Michael Bay-style action of the bombastic and bloated part 6. There's also an interesting partner system at play, with the weaker characters lending their own special abilities (like spotting items and tracking down invisible enemies) to the standard zombie-killing firepower of Claire Redfield and Barry Burton. And this episodic series also reuses content in a way that doesn't feel cynical: One half of the story takes place six months after the other, so you'll be covering some of the same ground, but with new challenges that play off of what you think you know. Plus, I think we've all been waiting for the great bearded Barry Burton to star in his own spin-off after the Game Boy Color's Resident Evil Gaiden. I mean, I can't be the only one. (Our full review.)

The Swindle [PS3/4, Xbox One, Wii U, Vita, PC, Mac]

The indie scene may be a little too oversaturated with roguelikes these days, but Size Five Games' The Swindle definitely stands out as one of the better ones. In this successful mix of Spelunky and Rogue Legacy, you're given 100 days to break into Scotland Yard and dismantle a dangerous new piece of surveillance technology—and since each of these days amounts to a randomized level, you essentially have to make the most of every run to ensure you'll be able to meet the main goal by The Swindle's end. Doing well means you'll have the currency to buy upgrades and tools to make each heist a successful one. But if you get spotted, you have a limited time to escape before indestructible police-bots arrive to make your life a living hell. In the true tradition of roguelikes, The Swindle makes for a highly addictive proposition, as the need for "one more run" will quickly turn your nighttime hours into ones that feature our friend Mr. Sun. (Our full write-up.)

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