by Byte’s Editorial Board

It’s the end of 2015, which means it’s time to select the best games of the year. To celebrate, members of Byte’s editorial board picked their favorite games to highlight. The games below are the favorites of Jake Doolin (@clingtoascheme), Byte’s Managing Editor.

5. Downwell

“Further down into the darkness.”

Source: Gamezebo

Source: Gamezebo

Everything you need to know about Downwell is in the name. Yet even though its description is simple, the game is anything but. Developed by Ojiro Fumoto, Downwell is a rougelike vertical shooter, that tasks players with making their way down a well (see what I mean about the title?).

With only gunboots to guide you, the game is incredibly fast paced but offers enough control to pull off some impressive combos as you blow away enemies. Structured similarly to games like Spelunky or Rouge Legacy, players will find new items and upgrades the further they go down.

And just like those games Downwell is the type of game that invites you to lose hours to it as you make your way further and further into the darkness.

4. Splatoon

“You’re a kid now, you’re a squid now.”

Source: Nintendo

Source: Nintendo

If you were to tell me a year ago that Nintendo would mange to not only create a successful multiplayer shooter, but also mange to create one of the best online communities I would of thought you were joking. But with Splatoon, Nintendo has accomplished just that, providing what maybe the most consistently entertaining online experiences this year.

With its bright colorful design and rocking soundtrack, Splatoon immediately sets it apart from usually military shooters that populate the genre. There is a dash of Nintendo’s usual humor and heart in Splatoon, making for a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

And why should it, when you’re swimming around as a squid while ink is sprayed all around you just lose yourself to the games intense sense of fun, which hasn’t weaned since it’s release.

3. Her Story

“Can you arrest someone who doesn’t exist?”

It’s the little things that make Her Story the wonderful little mystery that it is. From the whirring computer screen to the grimy look of the VHS interviews, the games design perfectly captures an early 90’s vibe. It feels amateurish in the best way, like we, as the player just happened to stumble upon it while digging through our old games.

This isn’t to say that we have seen anything like Her Story before, in fact that couldn’t be further from the truth. Digging though old police interview tapes while piecing together the mystery of just what happened a husband who disappeared feels so completely unique and offers up probably the truest feeling of being a detective that I’ve experienced in a game.

But all of this would be null if the performances didn’t work, and thankfully Her Story manages to hit it out of the park. Viva Seifert is excellent as Hannah managing to craft a character that is at times completely empathetic and brutal.

And that’s the key to Her Story’s success, it doesn’t go for the easy solution instead challenging the player to dig deeper and discover more until they are ready to make the final judgment.

2. The Beginner’s Guide

“It’s about how things looks messy up close…”

The magic of The Beginner’s Guide comes from the way the game makes the player feel like an audience member to a theatrical production. In fact one of the standout scenes in the game is set in an empty theater.

Even though the player is in complete control during this scene, which details the difficultly one of the characters has with communicating with people, it feels as though they really have no control at all.

All of this is just a roundabout way to say that The Beginner’s Guide is a game about depression, and that feeling of being unable to control the characters is deliberate. Depression isn’t an objective to beaten, and The Beginner’s Guide knows this, and because of that the game doesn’t shy away from the harsh truths that depression brings.

1. Undertale

“A long time ago, a human fell into the ruins.”

Source: BoingBoing

Source: BoingBoing

Undertale made me want to be a better person. Now that’s something that I never thought I would be able to say about a game, but after experiencing Undertale there really is no better way to describe it.

Developed by Toby Fox, Undertale is a game so full of heart, humor and yes determination that sets it apart from every other game to come out this year. From it’s colorful cast of characters, which includes perhaps the best pair of brothers since Mario and Luigi, to a story that rewards player actions both good and bad, Undertale is a game that surprises no matter how many times you play it.

But perhaps best of all, Undertale fills the player with a kind of hopeful optimism that is seemingly non-existent in this world of AAA gaming. Undertale dares to be positive in a world so filled with negativity, and as I play it over and over again I feel that positivity starting to rub off on me.

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