The Games of 2015 in Review: December

With Shacknews' 2015 Game of the Year countdown set to begin soon, we thought we'd help readers with their own personal GOTY conversations by taking a look back at the major games (and a few overlooked ones) released in the past 12 months. We now wrap up the year with December.


Shacknews is preparing to release its selections for 2015 Game of the Year. Before we get to the staff's selections, Shacknews is taking a look back at the past 12 months in video games, spotlighting a handful of major releases, including a few that readers may perhaps like to include in their own personal GOTY conversations. Finally, we wrap up with December!

And now it's time to end the look back at 2015 with the games that hit earlier this month. Lest anyone think the GOTY contenders stopped with the November peak, there have been actually been a couple of strong games issued in the month of December, from the AAA blockbuster to a few lesser-known games that emerged out of nowhere. Let's wrap up this look at 2015 and check out what arrived in December.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Upon reaching a new planet, humanity could only look out and marvel at just how big it all was. Even the hub world of New Los Angeles is huge in itself, but there's no describing the sheer size of Xenoblade Chronicles X's world of Mira. Amazingly giant continents to help house only the largest of creatures, from towering dinosaurs to King Kong-sized baboons.

The sheer amount of depth contained in Xenoblade Chronicles X and its gameplay mechanics are far too numerous to name. In fact, at times it can get downright overwhelming. On top of that, many of the major mechanics don't emerge until well over a dozen hours into the game. But with intuitive real-time combat, an engaging story, and a truly massive world to explore, those hidden goodies are well worth earning. With elements like Skell combat waiting in the wings, this is one journey worth embarking on. Of course, if you're going to do so, say goodbye to your social life for a while.

From our review: Xenoblade Chronicles X feels like a truly breathtaking effort, evidenced by how much love has gone into crafting each and every inch of its massive planet. And it's a planet that Nintendo and Monolith Soft have made worth exploring and worth learning. It's not for everyone, as the story gets off to a slow start. In fact, expect the story to last well over 40 hours. The game also doesn't waste much time with tutorials. Players aren't left entirely to the wolves, but the combat, equipment, stats, and party system is far more complex than the simplistic tutorial tips let on. It's also worth repeating that new players should expect to die a lot!

Just Cause 3

Open worlds are fine and all, but sometimes, the urge is just there to blow stuff up. Just Cause 3 feeds that craving in a huge way, with a wide-open island to play with and an endless supply of C4 for total chaos.

Avalanche Studios knows what makes a game like Just Cause 3 so much fun, going beyond limitless explosives and also offering the ability to grapple and glide from place-to-place quickly. Yes, there are missions in this game and the formula actually allows for a semblance of creativity. But make no mistake, Just Cause 3 feels like a stress-reliever. When the world has you down, just pick up a controller and wander around, blowing up as many things as possible.

Just Cause 3 has frequently been compared to a Michael Bay simulator. Those people aren't wrong. The game can feel like all bombast and no substance, but sometimes, you just need to see something explode.

From our review: Rico’s latest adventure is a welcome addition to the Just Cause family. There is plenty of destruction to cause, and plenty of room to explore the world however you want to. It’s a welcome amount of freedom from the action-packed linear games we seem to have gotten used to, and I’d easily rank it among the best of the open world games that the current generation of gaming has to offer.Just Cause 3 is more than worthy of sitting on your shelf next to games like The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4, so don't miss out on this action-packed ride.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege

It had a couple of delays, but Ubisoft ultimately delivered on Rainbow Six Siege, offering up one of the most challenging squad-based shooters to date. The depth in approaching the game's objectives is commendable, allowing players to rappel from the ceiling, bust in through the window, crash through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man, or simply walk in through the front door. The difficulty level also provides endless challenge, with some of the best AI work I've seen in a game of this type. In fact, the game's highest difficulty is so daunting, this writer has yet to see even the development team overcome it.

Rainbow Six Siege does have some issues, like online glitches that are still being hashed out. But for fans of the Rainbow Six franchise, this is a strong next-gen debut.

Steamworld Heist

While Nintendo continues pushing its first-party lineup, the indies on its platforms should not be ignored. In fact, Steamworld Heist is quietly one of the best games to release this month.

Those sad about XCOM 2 missing its projected 2015 date may want to look at this 2D alternative that takes many inspirations from the alien-busting RTS. Heist capably implements RTS gameplay onto a 2D plane, while giving players a crew that can grow through the game's RPG leveling system. Challenges will come through the game's powerful enemies, but also through the procedurally-generated design.

By the end, players should have a powerful army of Cowbots, along with the ability to truly bust some outlaws.

From our review: Still, the fact that I want to go back and grind some missions to level up my less developed characters speaks to SteamWorld Heist's longevity and satisfying appeal. Image & Form has another retro-inspired gem here, and has further established that like its denizens, SteamWorld stands for piecing together something great from a box of spare parts.

Quick Hits

FAST Racing Neo

It's hard to believe that another Nintendo generation is about to pass without a new F-Zero game, but fortunately, the indie gaming sphere has this need covered. FAST Racing Neo is all the high-speed action that's expected out of a futuristic racer, along with aggressive racers and gorgeous environments. It just hit the Wii U this week, but this is the kind of racer that should not be overlooked.

Pokemon Picross

With Pokemon about to celebrate its 20th anniversary, Nintendo kicked things off a bit early with Pokemon Picross. The Picross formula gets an interesting addition in the form of catchable Pokemon, with special abilities that can be used in later puzzles. But aside from that, it's the usual Picross formula, but with pictures of the franchise's 700+ pocket monsters. It's a great brain-teaser and a good way to help pass the time.

Fat Princess Adventures

Diablo clones are easy to come by, so Fat Princess Adventures doesn't quite innovate in that area. Still, it's a decent little co-op adventure that sees friends protecting the princess from various enemies. Also, they need to watch their sugar intake, lest they blow up into fat blobs.

Nuclear Throne

Vlambeer has had Nuclear Throne in Steam Early Access for so long, it was easy to take this roguelike for granted. But the final product released earlier this month and it appears that the developer has refined the game's action elements to make an addictive (and infuriating) top-down action game. Between a large campaign and a daily challenge system, there's plenty to get engaged with in Nuclear Throne and it looks like all the effort that went into development is paying off with a quality game.

Thank you for joining us through this look back at the 2015 Games in Review. Are there any games from the past 12 months you feel might have been overlooked? Join the conversation and let us know in the comments.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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