With this, our (slightly delayed) 2015 recap draws to a close. Tomorrow we wrap things up with the staff's final determination on the overall game of the year. And from there... you have more than 11 months of freedom from year-end lists like this. Rejoice!
Best DLC: The Nominees
These days, every game is "downloadable," even if you bought it on a disc—hi, Halo 5—but we're taking the traditional meaning of the term "downloadable content" here. As in, "content you download to expand your core play experience." DLC run a gamut of scope, cost, and quality last year, but these add-ons made the best impression on us.
Bill: Destiny (House of Wolves)
The Taken King was great for two weeks, but House of Wolves was the best that Destiny has ever been, and the DLC which got the majority of my time in 2015. You had a reason to travel to all the planets, the Year 1 Raids were relevant still, and the Prison of Elders was a fantastic way to spend an hour with friends. The Taken King has largely done away with any need to visit anything but the Dreadnaught, and the Prison of Elders is obsolete. House of Wolves wasn’t just Destiny’s best, it was great DLC by any standards.
Bob: Bloodborne (The Old Hunters)
From Software has always taken their RPG DLC extremely seriously, and The Old Hunters is no exception. This substantial chunk of content offers types of challenges not seen in the core game, plenty of new weapons and armor, some of Bloodborne's hardest bosses, and a variety of vastly different environments to creep through. Seeing as The Old Hunters essentially closes the curtain on Bloodborne, it's refreshing to see this From RPG go out with a bang.
Jaz: Destiny (House of Wolves)
I wasn't that keen on Destiny when it first launched: Its open world just felt a little barren. However, House of Wolves really helped fill in some of those empty areas, and brought with it a bevy of interesting new quests and activities. I found it pretty tough going too, but it was rewarding and fun, and really showed where the game might be going. The Taken King built on that potential, and helped evolve Destiny from a decent game into a great one - but I think House of Wolves was a key stepping stone to its transformation.
Jeremy: Super Smash Bros. (Characters and stages)
I don't even like Smash Bros., but I have to respect the sheer quality and quantity of fanservice going on in the game. Nintendo (and really, Masahiro Sakurai in particular) took the game to a new plateau of preposterous indulgence with each new update, incorporating not only beloved characters at the request of fans, but loading down their announcement trailers with in-jokes and sly references. Great stuff all around.
Kat: Shovel Knight (A Plague of Shadows)
How do you make a brilliant game even better? Put the player in the shoes of one of the villains; in this case, the lovely and totally insane Plague Knight. The new context changes everything about Shovel Knight, which was already one of the best platformers of the past 10 years. Far from being a basic reskin, it has a totally new story, with characters who react totally differently to Plague Knight (and why not?) In many respects, it's a totally new game. And best of all? It's free. To me there's no question that this is the best downloadable content of the year. It's not even close.
Mike: Cities Skylines (After Dark)
Cities: Skyline absolutely delivered on every expectation that players had for EA's SImCity reboot, but I admit, it was missing some things. Developer Colossal Order revisited the game with its After Dark expansion, adding a day/night cycle, improved handling of crime, cargo, and transportation, and more city specialization options. They feel like small tweak, but they have a huge effect on how you play the game. Awesome DLC.
Nadia: Super Smash Bros. (Characters and stages)
Shortly after the last Smash Direct revealed Bayonetta and highlighted Cloud’s abilities, someone took a screenshot of the Smash roster as it currently exists and added, “Look at this. Five years ago, this would’ve been the fakest Smash Bros screenshot in existence.” Indeed, Super Smash Bros on Wii U and 3DS are hands-down gaming’s biggest examples of fan service, but all its add-on content is no mere cash grab. Nintendo treated its third-party newcomers with utmost respect, not just design-wise, but through their background stages as well. Now if you pardon me, I need to try and absorb the fact I can watch Bahamut ZERO nuke Midgar on a Nintendo system.
The Winner: Shovel Knight (A Plague of Shadows)
A surprising victor here—despite garnering only a single staff nomination versus Smash Bros. and Destiny's two apiece, Shovel Knight wins as the dark horse in the race. It's well-deserved, though; where other DLCs in 2015 expanded on their base games, A Plague of Shadows was completely transformative, creating an entirely new play experience from an already expertly designed game. Not only that, but it was free... an embarrassment of riches for fans of the game (of which the USgamer team has quite a few) to enjoy.
Runner-up: (2) Bloodborne (The Old Hunters) (2) Smash Bros. (Characters and stages) (tie)
- Most Rewarding Game
- Best Open World
- Best Character
- Best Level Design
- Biggest Disappointment
- Best Quest
- Biggest Surprise
- Best Emergent Gameplay
- Best Time-Waster
Tomorrow: USgamer's 2015 Game of the Year