Top Ten Xbox One Games of 2015

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2015 was a pretty great year all around for the Xbox One.  There were a lot of really good games released this year, and unlike years past where I struggled to find ten worthy games for this list, there were easily 20-25 titles that could have made it in 2015.  Please keep in mind that these aren't the ten "best" games, just our ten favorites (that's something to remember for every list on every site, not just this one ...).  The order of the list doesn't really matter, other than #1 is my 2015 Xbox One Game of the Year.

Guitar Hero Live box
Guitar Hero Live box. Activision

Guitar Hero Live dared to change up the plastic guitar formula and it is all the better game overall for it.  I have to admit that I was very skeptical of Guitar Hero Live at first, mostly because the new six-button guitar setup looked complicated and I feared it wouldn't be worth re-learning how to play a brand new style of fake guitar, but once I actually played it I fell in love with Guitar Hero all over again.  The six-button setup does take some getting used to, but it also feels surprisingly natural once you wrap your head around it.  It is harder and more complex than past games, but that's a good thing!  Similarly, it doesn't have the standard DLC setup where you buy a song and play it forever, and instead you just sign on to Guitar Hero TV and it gives you a constant stream of new music to play for free.  Sure, you can't pick the song you play and practice it over and over, but playing lots of different songs is fun too.  Guitar Hero Live isn't trying to deliver the same experience you're used to. 

In comparison, Rock Band 4 was a little disappointing because it was basically the same game we've played 25 times already with even less features.  It gives you very little reason to upgrade over Rock Band 3.  Guitar Hero Live, on the other hand, is actually something fresh and unique and reminds you why you loved plastic guitar games in the first place.  It is new and different, but still focused on pretend shredding on the greatest musical instrument of all time, and that is why I like it so much.

Guitar Hero Live XONE Review

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Farming Simulator 15 box
Farming Simulator 15 box. Focus Home Interactive

Now things get weird.  I love Farming Simulator 15.  I spent more than 100 hours playing the XONE version, but I also played the 360 version for 20 or so hours to get the achievements there.  I just really, really enjoyed it.  Sure, its ugly and kinda clunky and slowly paced and one whole aspect of the game - logging - is barely functional on consoles, but I loved almost every second I spent with it.  There is just something about the cycle of preparing fields, planting, fertilizing, waiting for it to grow, harvesting, and delivery that is deeply satisfying.  It sounds dumb and bad and boring, and it kind of is at the beginning, but once you get good equipment like giant tractors and massive combines and can work more efficiently, it really is a lot of fun.  It also doesn't hurt that the machinery itself is surprisingly complex with lots of functions and moving parts that is just interesting to watch.  As a kid I spent my days digging in the dirt with Tonka trucks (the awesome metal ones of the 80's, of course) and I suppose I never grew out of it, which is why Farming Simulator 15 is so appealing to me.  If you're still a big kid digging in the dirt at heart, give Farming Simulator 15 a try.  

Farming Simulator 15 XONE Review

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Transformers Devastation box
Transformers Devastation box. Activision

I'm a huge Transformers fan.  Like, crazy huge.  I have something like 70 different Optimus Prime toys plus lots of others including my prized possession, a G1 Shockwave.  So when Transformers Devastation was first announced in all of its Generation 1 glory with those gorgeous cel-shaded graphics, I was sold.  When it was revealed Platinum Games was making it, I was double sold.  It looks and sounds amazingly close to the TV show, but the real appeal in Transformers Devastation is how it plays.  It isn't as deep as a typical Platinum stylish action game, but you still have a ton of moves and abilities and can pull off some really cool looking combos when it all comes together.  With five playable characters that all play differently along with a remarkably complex loot system with upgradable weapons, it can keep you playing for quite a long while as well.  It may be 4 hours long, but it has crazy replay value.  In the end, Transformers Devastation is a dream come true for die-hard Transformers fans.

Transformers Devastation XONE Review

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MGS V TPP box
MGS V TPP box. Konami

I've played all of the Metal Gear Solid games multiple times and I can easily say that Metal Gear Solid V isn't a particularly good MGS game.  But!  That doesn't mean it isn't still a great, great game overall.  Because it is open world it doesn't have the tightly polished level design and inventive boss encounters the series is known for, and the story is pretty darn awful all around.  Everything else in MGSV, however, is pretty much amazing.  The graphics and sound are absolutely stunning.  The gameplay is easily the best the series has ever had.  Snake has never been so easy to control, nor has he had this many abilities.  The freedom to approach an enemy outpost from any angle with any weapons and items you want and to play however way the mood strikes you at the time is simply awesome.  It is also incredibly deep and gives you new gameplay systems after seemingly every story mission.  Recruiting soldiers, building Mother Base, fultoning everything you can get your hands on, researching weapons, on and on - and all of it directly impacts what you do out on the battlefield.  Just about everything you choose to do actually matters in Metal Gear Solid V, and I love that.  It is a joy to play and easily one of the best games of 2015. 

Metal Gear Solid V XONE Review

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Elite Dangerous logo
Elite Dangerous logo. Frontier Developments

The biggest - as in total area - release of 2015 is pretty easily Elite Dangerous.  Other games have you running around a few square miles of Afghanistan or somewhere, while Elite Dangerous gives you a full 1-to-1 re-creation of the entire Milky Way Galaxy with billions of stars and planets and space stations to visit.  This is a hardcore space exploration simulator where you have to run through a pre-launch checklist before you can even take off.  Traveling between planets and stars isn't a matter of seconds, it is a matter of minutes and potentially hours and that is even while traveling faster than light speed!  Just learning to control your ship so you don't blow past your destination is a challenge.  Accomplishing anything seems like a monumental task at first, not just because of the time required, but how freaking difficult and in depth and freaking hardcore everything is.  But once you do finally start finishing missions and earning credits and can upgrade your ship, it suddenly becomes the only thing you can think about.  It is amazingly satisfying and addictive and wonderful once you learn how to play it.  Elite Dangerous is the ultimate space exploration experience.  And it is going to get even better in 2016 with the release of expansions that will add planetary surface exploration and a new loot system.  If you ever longed to be out among the stars, Elite Dangerous is amazing.  

Elite: Dangerous XONE Review

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ROTTR box
Rise of the Tomb Raider box. Square Enix / Microsoft

For the record, I loved the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot and consider it the best in the series.  It might not have much real tomb raiding, but it does everything else extremely well.  For both good and bad, Rise of the Tomb Raider is more of the same as the 2013 reboot.  That's good, obviously, because it means it looks and sounds amazing and plays like a dream - plus it actually has a ton of tombs this time around - but slightly disappointing because it is a very similar experience overall.  When that base experience is so amazing to begin with, though, it is pretty easy to forgive and just enjoy yourself.  And there's lots to enjoy here.  The game world is massive and the amount of collectibles and upgrades and tombs to explore is pretty impressive.  The set pieces and daring escape sequences are likewise bigger and more bombastic as well, but Rise of the Tomb Raider also greatly increases the quiet times, the slow times, so you can actually soak in the world you're exploring.  It also ramps up the number of puzzles - not just in tombs but in the overworld as well - and is all the better for it.  Rise of the Tomb Raider might be "just" more of the same, but that just means its still great.  PS4 fans will have a blast with it a year from now.  That's a burn.

Rise of the Tomb Raider XONE Review

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Lifeless Planet box
Lifeless Planet box. Stage 2 Studios

Elite Dangerous has deep space locked down, but Lifeless Planet delivers the boots on the alien planet aspect of space exploration.  I think what I like best about Lifeless Planet is that it is purely about exploration and puzzle solving.  There are no weapons.  There is no combat.  It is just your little lonely astronaut hopping around a desolate world.  I also really like that the game never tells you what to do or where to go.  Instead it is designed in such a way where it naturally draws your attention to the next checkpoint by having an interesting rock on the horizon or a glowing button in the distance or the glint of sunlight off the metal of an oxygen tank.  You always know where to go without the game telling you anything, and that really is an impressive feat.  The story is also fascinating because you expected to find a vibrant, lush, green planet here when your astronaut left Earth only to find a desert.  It also turns out you aren't actually the first person to get there, and discovering the details of the Russian colony and what happened to its residents is chilling.  It is a simple game with generally easy platforming and fairly easy puzzles, but it is a truly memorable experience that has really stuck with me all year long.  Lifeless Planet is amazing.

Lifeless Planet XONE Review

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Forza 6 box
Forza 6 box. Microsoft

Easily the best Xbox One racing game of 2015, Forza Motorsport 6 righted all of the wrongs of Forza 5 to produce one of the best racing sims yet.  It looks and sounds amazing - seriously, Forza has by far the best engine sounds in the business - and features the biggest car list Forza has ever had.  Not only does it have a huge car list, but it also offers full performance tuning and visual customization, along with an insanely deep and detailed livery editor, so you can truly make your cars your own.  Forza 6 also offers incredibly satisfying racing gameplay with up to 24 cars on the track.  It isn't just a hardcore driving simulator for super fans, however.  It also has a ton of options and settings and assists to make sure anyone and everyone can have fun with the game no matter their skill level.  450+ cars, 26 tracks with multiple variations, night races, rain races, a full suite of multiplayer options - Forza 6 has it all.  I might prefer Forza Horizon 2 overall a little bit, but there is no question Forza 6 is the best racing game of 2015.

Forza Motorsport 6 XONE Review

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02
of 10
Fallout 4 box
Fallout 4 box. Bethesda

Another game I've spent way more than 100 hours with in 2015.  Fallout 4 is almost everything I wanted in a new Fallout game, though it does have some distinct flaws.  I love how dense the world is and how pretty much every location has something worthwhile to find, and just about every named character has a quest for you at some point.  I love how the power armor works this time around, and I really like the perks / level up system.  The gameplay just plain feels great.  Simply exploring is a thrill, and the missions are generally very well done and interesting.  Its too bad the writing sucks.  The main story is just awful and the writing overall is a major step back from Obsidian's work in New Vegas.  The dialogue system is limited and poorly executed.  I also miss some of the gameplay elements in New Vegas like ammo types.  Postgame mission are repetitive and obnoxious.  And the base building and settlement management is messy, to put it mildly.  Even with these legitimate complaints, however, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy every second I spent with the game.  Your companion characters are wonderful (shoutout to my boy Nick Valentine and the amazing Curie!), the random missions you can find are usually awesome (I like fridge boy and the sea monster), and darn it, I just really love the whole Fallout aesthetic.  Exploring is a ton of fun.  I love the enemy redesigns, too.  Fallout 4 is flawed, but still great.  I can't wait for the DLC.

Fallout 4 XONE Review

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Ori and the Blind Forest box
Ori XONE box. Microsoft

For me, Ori and the Blind Forest is the only game in 2015 that actually got everything right.  Everything is great.  The story is incredible and emotional and heartfelt despite there being only a bare minimum of dialogue and cutscenes.  You care deeply for Ori and Naru and other characters without them saying a word, and I'm not too proud to say I teared up a time or two through the game (in fact, I'm getting emotional just listening to the main theme while I write this).  The gameplay is a mix of Metroidvania-style progression where you find a new item / ability to open a new area of the map along with 2D platforming and it is a ton of fun.  I have to admit I'm not much of a fan of the current Indie game trend of super hardcore difficult 2D platformers, but Ori and the Blind Forest pulls it off with flying colors.  It is challenging, but the controls are so precise and perfect and the level designs so good that it keeps you coming back for more.  And all the while you're soaking in gorgeous 2D visuals with amazing animation and arguably the best soundtrack of any game in 2015.  Ori and the Blind Forest is easily my favorite game of 2015 and one of the best Xbox One games overall.  Everyone should play it.

Ori and the Blind Forest XONE Review

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