Below's Nathan Vella Shares His Top 10 Games Of 2015
On the lead up to Game Informer's Game of the Year awards of 2015, we've invited a number of the video game industry's influential figures to share their favorite games of the year.
Nathan Vella is the co-founder and president of Capybara Games, the indie house behind Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery, Super Time Force, Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes, and Critter Crunch. Capybara's next game is Below, slated to release in 2016 for Xbox One and PC.
Here's Vella with his picks for the year in no particular order:
End of year lists are always odd for me to write, since, as a ritual, I do most of my ‘retail' gaming in marathon sessions over the holidays when i finally get a chance to relax a bit. So before you say ‘WTF NO FALLOUT 4?!?!,’ please enjoy my list for what it is: my 10 favorite games I played while briefly not making our own. For the most part, I tend to dive into shorter games – I find they fit both my schedule and my tastes a little better. 2015, for me, tended to be about games I played with other people. From competitive to cooperative, most of my favorites brought something awesome to the table on the multiplayer front. I also play a lot of iOS games, so I made sure to include a couple of those too!
Rocket League is a phenomenon, and I don’t say this just because of its runaway hit status. It’s a phenomenon because it does “simple but deep” better than almost any game in the history of ever. Picking up the game, it’s immediately understandable: You drive a car into the ball to score goals. It is also immediately fun: You are driving cars into balls to score goals! What we don’t immediately grasp is just how deep the game goes. How much teamwork matters. How the seemingly limited tools Psionix gives players actually have 10 layers of usefulness depending on the situation. Dear lord it’s great. If you’re not playing Rocket League, you missed one of the most fun things in video games.
Let’s be honest. On paper, this game should never have been made. A purely-FMV murder-mystery game starring a single live actor in 2015? Surely that would both suck, and fail commercially! But luckily for us it achieved the polar opposite of our piddly expectations. It is well-researched, well-written, exceptionally acted (by Viva Seifert) and grabs you in a way that isn’t all that different from what hooked you on Serial, only now it’s up to you to unspool the truth. There’s a bit of a resurgence in games that you play with a notepad beside you, and Her Story leads this pack. Well done, Sam.
Now I finally get to publically profess my love of Sage Solitaire. I confess I’ve played the game nearly every day since I got a beta build from developer / friend Zach Gage well before launch. I confess(brag?) I scored exactly 1790 in single deck mode three separate times. I confess I am awful at Vegas mode. Sage Solitaire is one part totally familiar solitaire, one part totally familiar poker, and a third part combining and tweaking the rules of both to create something totally new. Simple, understandable, deep, fun and frustrating. Yet another genius game from one of the best iOS game designers out there.
Physics platformer perfection from the team that basically invented the sub-genre. Thousands of levels, an amazing soundtrack, and the ability to choose your color palette are just a few reasons why this game is one of the best. My favorite component of N++, however, is the brilliant 4 player race mode. Infinite respawns until someone clears the level, big bonuses for collecting risky coins, your transformation into a tough-to-guide missile. Race mode is easily some of the most fun local multiplayer experiences in years.
Alto’s combines a simple mechanic with beautiful art to create something in between challenge and meditative zen. For me, Alto’s was about strapping on my board, chasing some llama’s, doing some flips, all while watching the day turn to night, or sun turn to rain. It’s about cruising through a world that doesn’t feel like it exists solely to amuse you. It’s just doing its thing, and so are you. As you play, the game feeds you well-designed micro-goals for you to focus on, or totally ignore. Sure, it fits into the endless runner genre, but instead of piling on stress, it actively takes it away without eliminating the challenge.
Here’s a weird one. I have never played Until Dawn myself. However, I spent a whole bunch of time with friends playing together – mostly yelling at each other, the game’s characters and/or the game’s writers. Until Dawn is great. Perhaps most importantly, Supermassive nailed the cast, mixing in all the right ingredients. They all have over-the-top personalities, and they ebb and flow from confident to clueless, bearable to super-ultra-annoying. These traits are exacerbated by player choice, and the understanding that you can simply decide to have a character brutally, mercilessly killed off. I adored the yelling, laughter, shock and surprise the game brought to me and my friends. What a strange videogame to love.
The Beginner’s Guide
Davey Wreden’s follow-up to the amazing Stanley Parable is one of the strangest videogames I’ve played. That’s pretty much all I can say without spoiling it. Love it or hate it, you should take the 1.5 hours it takes to complete, and see how it makes you feel.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
Lovers is pretty dang fresh, and extremely dang colorful. Two players are crucial, so make sure to play this with at least one friend to bring along. There’s something genuinely awesome about trying to steer your circular ship through the mayhem while your teammate mans the weaponry and blasts baddies out of your way. A lot of games get the “unique” identifier strapped onto their marketing, but Lovers is genuinely new and one hell of a good time. Fair warning, it gets pretty tough, but new difficulty modes the devs added in will help.
I’m fairly certain there’s never been a game that controls like Mushroom 11. And therein lies its draw. Mushroom 11 is one of the most interesting games of 2015, and arguably one of the better puzzle-platformers I’ve ever played (if you can even call it one). Perhaps the best part is how deep and challenging the puzzles get – there’s always a twist that forces you to think about moving your green glob of goo in a different way. The boss battle elements are especially fun to figure out and complete.
I’m not the biggest strategy fan. Or at least I wasn’t until Klei tricked me into being one. Is Invisible Inc. a stealth game set in the strategy genre, or a strategy game set in the stealth genre? Who knows! I do know, however, that you’ll genuinely feel like a super-spy when you deal with a scenario correctly. It’s hard as nails, but levels are so nicely focused that you never feel stuck forever. Also, in typical Klei form, early access helped round the sharp corners and ever since launch the community support is flowing.
Games that were also great and I probably should have included them: Ori and the Blind Forest, GALAK-Z, Downwell (the PC version), The Room 3, Broken Age Act 2, Flywrench, Pillars of Eternity, SPL-T, Steven Universe: Attack the Light, Rising Thunder.