Just like that we’re already four months into 2015, meaning the year is already 1/3 of the way over. Sure, this is generally a slow time of the year for video games – E3 hasn’t happened yet, and the fall rush of games still remains a long way away. However, it would be foolish not to look back at the first part of the year and reflect on what games may or may not end up on our game of the year list eight months from now. Let’s take a look at what makes this year’s highest rated games stand out, as well as what may hold them back.

Note: no remasters, ports, or games previously released on other consoles were considered for this list.

Bloodborne: PS4 (93 on Metacritic)

The dark, terrifying, and bloody RPG has been crushing the confidence of gamers who have entered Yharnam since it was released exclusively on PlayStation 4 in March. However, its difficulty is one of the points that many reviewers and gamers applauded, alongside its intriguing lore and ability to appeal to a wider audience than Dark Souls and Demon Souls did. Do too many games hold your hand and reward you at every turn? Bloodborne is not one of them.   

What may hold it back: When a game shines so bright, the minor flaws that it contains sometimes stand out more than they should, such as Bloodborne’s lengthy loading times (though they have since been resolved through a patch). With a deep, interesting world and an environment that continues to challenge gamers at every corner, will this year’s highest rated original release stay in people’s minds through the remainder of 2015?

From our review: “The game is massive, challenging, wonderful, frustrating, beautiful, menacing, and bloody. The more enemies you kill, the more blood soaked your character becomes. Other than load times, a few frame rate hiccups, some co-op issues, and ambiguity for new players, the game is absolutely breathtaking and amazing. I recommend this game to anyone who wants a challenge and anyone who enjoyed the Souls games.”

Pillars of Eternity: PC (90 on Metacritic)

This PC-exclusive that acts as a spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale nailed three aspects for players: a wide opportunity for exploration, interesting and intense combat, and a story that features immersive writing. Pillars was commended for being deep and engaging experience. Many gamers acknowledged its ability to pay homage to older, classic RPG games.

What may hold it back: While many games are hailed as “great”, game of the year often goes to game-changing experiences. The game may offer a lot to do and is ready to captivate hours of your life, but does the game separate itself enough from the rest of the RPG genre to secure a spot in the game of the year race?

Ori and the Blind Forest: Xbox One, PC (future Xbox 360) (89 on Metacritic)

8X3BM5C1L4S4iYjLOri and the Blind Forest is arguably the most artistic of all the games on the list, though it also shares many Metroidvania qualities with Axiom Verge. Ori was recognized for containing gorgeous visuals, creative and challenging gameplay, and giving players a reason to explore at their own pace, all while enjoying an emotional story.

What may hold it back: This 2D platformer is pretty, precise, and poignant, but will the fact that an “indie” game remains the highest-rated Xbox One original game stop people from recognizing the game? And more importantly, should it?

Axiom Verge: PS4 (future PC and Vita) (87 on Metacritic)

Axiom Verge was special for many who played it. On one hand, there was a single developer behind it: Tom Happ. It’s a nostalgic adventure for anyone who craves to relive the days of playing Metroid or Castlevania. Players loved the creative weapons and gadgets waiting in each world, the mesmerizing soundtrack, and the amount of exploration that is possible throughout the game’s many areas.

What may hold it back: Does the game’s immense exploration and backtracking also become its downfall, resulting in too many players giving up before they reach the end of the experience?

From our review: It’s true, Axiom Verge is not perfect. The bosses are freakishly hard, the map is barely helpful, and there is a lot of back tracking. But it rewarded my time and fed my need to explore like few games ever have. As a game, it doesn’t stand completely on its own, but it’s really not supposed to. Every aspect of Axiom Verge is crafted with love and admiration for some of the greatest games of the genre, and the nods to each and every one is what gives it the personality it has.”

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate: 3DS (87 on Metacritic)

Talk about immense experiences: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is a huge and continues to grow for its fan base each and every month with its free DLC releases. Previous Monster Hunter releases have never really hit the level of popularity in North America that this title has achieved. The 3DS exclusive also contains a solid multiplayer mode and an addicting formula perfected by new creatures, weapons, and gameplay mechanics that hook players and keep them…for a long time.

What may hold it back: Those who fall for Monster Hunter fall hard, but did enough players commit to the experience for it to land on many people’s lists at the end of the year?
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From our review: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate comes with even more features that could be explained in great detail, but are better experienced than read about. A quick rundown: vertical combat, expeditions, palicoes (felyne fighting companions), two new weapon types, entirely new areas, online multiplayer, new monsters, and plenty more.

Cities: Skyline: PC (86 on Metacritic)

Cities: Skyline gives players a sandbox and the tools to create the city they want to. But what separates this PC exclusive from other city simulators out there? Its clean interface, wide variety of maps, and depth of ability in creation are everything that players seek when looking to create a city of their own.

What may hold it back: Many critics consider Cities: Skyline to eclipse its competitor, SimCity, as the definitive city building game, but have enough gamers listened and tried it out on their own?

From our review: Cities: Skyline is a hallmark for a fantastic modern city simulator. It’s one of the few that will successfully be considered one of the best because its base game is already rock solid, and the community will continue to make it better. This game is something that will be played by fans of the genre for many months or years to come; I know the hours I’ve put in have been an absolute joy.

These are just a few of the games released this year that received the highest averaged scores from a variety of video game publications. Notably, there’s not a single Wii U title here. What games are on your list? Something here you don’t like? Something missing? Something coming in the next eight months that you expect will end up on this list? Let us know in the comments below!

  • Alana Fearnall

    The problem with a lot of these games is they were released very early in the year. I would love to see these games, and Dying Light, to be considered for GOTY awards. Unfortunately, there will be a lot of other really good games to come out in the next 8 months. At this point most critics will have finished exploring all the content for Bloodborne or any of the other games you listed, and it’ll be at the back of their minds.

    Going back to Dying Light quickly though, I think the game should be a contender for the uniqueness if nothing else. Dying Light is a beautifully done game, with an incredible story – and if you want to get ‘social justice warrior’ on us, with a great female character. Jade was a (pardon my french) kickass woman who deserves recognition. The ending was perfect for the game and I couldn’t of imagined it ending in another way.

    The combination of free running + zombies created a truly terrifying experience. Even on normal mode you constantly have to plan out your next advancement. The only way to make the game ‘easy’ is to stockpile medkits (which i did, 200+ at the end of the game if i remember right)

    As someone who played Left 4 Dead heavily (I would imagine I put over 1,000 hours into that game on the Xbox, if not closer to 2,000) when it was popular, this was the first zombie game I wanted to play as much as Left 4 Dead. The mission of the game wasn’t “survive!” or “get to the safe area!” it was .. something else. It was about saving others around you. I never wanted to skip a side mission as all of the characters were so colourful and stood out from each other. Even just meeting a character once, I remembered exactly who they were in future parts of the game.

    I heard the complaint of the game was glitch heavy, but after doing almost all of the side missions(I skipped a few of the ‘collect me coffee’ type ones) and the main story, I encountered a total of 4 glitches, none of which were game breaking or required a restart.

    • Mike Nitroy

      I think it’s interesting because Dying Light came out really early in the year when little to nothing else was coming out, so it garnered a lot of attention. It’s a double edge sword I believe, because coming out so early in the year makes it slightly forgettable (to some) by the time the end of the year rolls around, but if it were released later in the year, I believe it would have gotten lost among “bigger” games.

      I chose these games based on their highest average scores just to strive for some objectivity, but at the end of the day, I don’t think score should always dictate what your personal GOTY is, so like you said, uniqueness could be a huge factor in a vote, that may not necessarily have translated into a review score.

      • Alana Fearnall

        I’m not so sure it would of gotten lost. Dying Light had a lot of hype. If nothing else, the company is great at trailers. Dead Island, Dead Island 2, and Dying Light have all had trailers that generated enough buzz for the game.

        I agree on the score dictating GOTY. Obviously these games have to be really good to be considered, but the score is a very subjective thing when it comes to critiquing. Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel had a simple formula or ‘two thumbs up’ when both of them liked the movie. and Ebert is regarded as the most influential critic in movie history.
        Then theres the argument of whether review scores should exist at all. I was discussing this with a friend recently, and he showed me a Nintendo Power magazine and their review format. it was short, sweet, to the point: so in that case a review score made sense. If someone is going on for 2+ pages about a game, do we really need a score?

        • Mike Nitroy

          I just had the impression that more people probably dove into Dying Light because it came out at such a slow time of the year, compared to its originally scheduled late 2014 release date, where, while people who WANT to play it still would obviously, many “casual” games might have passed on it.

  • Pattonfiend67

    I think it is safe to say Xenoblade Chronicles X will be game of the year for most real gamers.

  • Patrick Nguyen

    Too soon to tell, Bloodborne is looking good though. But I have to personally give in to Monster Hunter. It’s gotten me through my rough times; kept me company and what not. Monster Hunter has stayed loaded on my 3DS for far too long and I haven’t felt the urge to play anything else on it.

    • Mike Nitroy

      that charge axe picture above is for you <3

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  • Troll Magnet

    Axiom Verge or we riot!!!

  • meowmel

    Bloodborne is going to be GOTY in some publications i bet

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