The Best 2D Games of 2015

END OF YEAR AWARDS
We're doing it again! We're taking a look back at all of the best games from 2015 and giving out super meaningful awards! If you'd like to spend an hour watching a man and a horse as they talk about 2D video games and get up to some shenanigans, then you should proceed immediately to the video below.

If that isn't your bag, then you can check back here later and just read a list of all the best games below the video, but you will disappoint a certain lovable horse and make him cry real puppet horse tears.

Otherwise, get ready for the best hour of your life!





Here's a preview of all of the categories featured in the video:
Best Updated Re-Release
Most Innovative
Best Old-School Throwback
Best Fire
Best Weirdest
Most Ambitious
The "It's About Damn Time!" Award
Best Use of Brutal Difficulty
Best Game Starring an Animal
Best Game Starring a Ninja
Best Puzzler or Puzzle Platformer
Best Platformer
Best Action-Adventure or Action-RPG
Best Action Game
Biggest Disappointment
Best 2D Game of 2015

INK

A game by ZackBellGames for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2015.
In INK, you take on the role of a white square in a world of darkness. Fortunately, bright multi-colored paint emanates from your very being, allowing you to splat the walls and floors with color in order to make your way around. The game is a precision platformer, inspired by the likes of Super Meat Boy, offering twitch gameplay across 75 levels, each of which is designed to be completed in less than 30 seconds.


In the early going, things are very simple. The player is able to see the exit door from his starting position, and the only real danger comes in the form of bottomless pits. As the white square moves along the floor or slides down a wall – stretching and squishing as he goes – a colored trail is left behind, highlighting the edges of the environment.

Jotun

A game by Thunder Lotus Games for PC, Mac, and Linux originally released in 2015.
Jotun features a young woman named Thora – named after Thor – a Viking warrior who meets her end in a shipwreck, rather than in glorious combat as is celebrated in ancient Norse myth, and therefore she is unable to enter Valhalla. But after her death, she finds herself awakened in a green field wearing her armor and wielding her trusty axe. Nearby stands the great tree Yggdrasil, which connects the nine realms.


In this place, Thora is given a second chance to impress the gods by proving herself as a warrior, which she must to by defeating powerful jotun, giant Norse elementals that are summoned by activating runes. Inspired by Shadow of the Colossus, these creatures tower over her, and battles are long and tough. There are five jotun to be fought before opening the way to Thora’s final trial, and her story is told by the heroine in a thick Icelandic voice.

The Swindle

A game by Size Five Games for PC, Mac, PS3, PS4, Vita, Xbox One, and WiiU, originally released in 2015.
The Swindle mixes steampunk and cyberpunk to create a world where the player faces off against clockwork robots and hacks computers to override security systems and steal loads of cash. The game takes place in an alternate London in the year 1849 where Scotland Yard are about to activate an artificial intelligence program called The Devil’s Basilisk, which will effectively put an end to thievery of any kind.


As a master thief, you must gather enough resources – through a series of burglaries – to eventually steal the AI itself and put an end to their plans. You have 100 days to implement your plan before the device is activated, and this countdown hangs over your head the entire game. If you can’t complete your mission by then, it’s curtains for you... lacy, gently wafting curtains.

Dragon's Wake

A game by Brainbox Software for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2015.
Dragon’s Wake stars a newly-hatched dragon on a grand – and occasionally tragic – adventure. New to the world, the dragon spends some time exploring the cave surrounding his nest and tests out his wings… eventually leading to the discovery of his mother who lies dead near the cave entrance. Despite the game’s overall cutesy style, the large blue dragon is lying in a pool of her own blood with arrows sticking out of her back.


Soon, the knight who killed the mother dragon enters the cave, but the hatchling has no offensive abilities and must instead flee as the knight fires arrows in his direction. Leaving the cave, the dragon encounters a lizard man wearing a red scarf. The man drops food in front of the dragon, and eating it restores some of his health. Eventually the lizard man coaxes the dragon back to his village.

The Curse of Issyos

A game by Locomalito for PC, originally released in 2015.
The Curse of Issyos stars a fisherman named Defkalion who is out fishing when he is called upon by the goddess Athena to return to the island of Issyos, which has been cursed by “the Olympus”. The fisherman makes haste to reach the island, fearing for the life of his daughter. Fighting his way across the shore and through the caves, he makes his way to his village and learns that his daughter has escaped to the east, but she is in great danger. The humble fisherman and former soldier takes up arms once more and sets out to rescue her, fighting terrible beasts along the way, but Athena is secretly offering her assistance…


The game is an action platformer with a style and setting very much inspired by the works of Ray Harryhausen. A large number of enemies are taken directly from Harryhausen films, including skeletons wielding swords and round shields, giant scorpions, and a colossal soldier. Bosses include some of the greatest creatures of Greek myth, such as Polyhemus, Medusa, Scylla, and Cerberus.

Castle in the Darkness

A game by Matt Kap for PC, originally released in 2015.
In the kingdom of Alexandria, the king falls ill, and the princess orders the royal guard to protect the castle. Suddenly, they find themselves under attack by fiendish creatures commanded by an evil sorcerer. All of the castle guard fall to these enemies, save one, a lone hero who is knocked unconscious and awakes to find the princess gone and the kingdom overrun by monsters. And so he sets out to destroy these beasts and rescue the princess.


Castle in the Darkness is heavily inspired by games in the Castlevania and Metroid series, with a dark tone, macabre enemies, and sprawling environments. The action is supported by RPG elements that allow the player to gain new abilities and more health, stronger weapons and armor, and a number of relics that act as passive buffs.

Skelemania

A game by Benal for PC, originally released in 2015.
Skelemania is a metroidvania starring a skeleton man who falls down into an underground area populated by single-colored enemies and talking stationary frogs. The player is offered no explanation as to what his goals are or what he is doing in this subterranean land. In fact, there is nothing in the way of a narrative in the first half of the game, and it is not until much later that the player begins to gain some context for his actions.


The world is made up of a series of interconnected single-screen rooms, divided into regions and represented by an extremely low color palette. Each room consists of only a single color overlaid onto a black background, with enemies appearing in the room’s color as well. The only other color seen is white, which is used to represent the skeleton hero, as well as checkpoints, powerups, spikes, and a few other in-game objects, as well as the minimal HUD.

UmiharaKawase

A game by TNN and Studio Saizensen for Super Famicom and PC, originally released in Japan in 1994, and released in the US in 2015.
UmiharaKawase began its life as a Japan-exclusive Super Famicom title. The game stars the eponymous Umihara, a young girl carrying a pink backpack and fishing gear as she travels across the world contending with a variety of sea life, most of which wanders about on land. What truly sets the game apart from its contemporaries – and most other games in general – is the use of Umihara’s fishing line as a grappling hook. There are very few games with grappling mechanics, and even fewer where the player is free to grapple any surface he likes… but no other game takes things to quite this extreme.


Instead of the rigid grappling line seen in games like Bionic Commando or Ninja Five-O, Umi’s fishing line is elastic, causing her to bounce around wildly when she leaves the ground. This makes her movements less predictable and more difficult to control, while simultaneously opening up a number of opportunities for advanced gameplay. Advanced techniques involve retracting the grapple with the proper timing to send her flying through the air, grappling the floor for a speed-assisted long jump, wrapping the grapple line around corners, and performing some wild last-minute grabs.

Downwell

A game by Moppin for PC, iOS, and Android, originally released in 2015.
In Downwell, you play the role of a man who has purposely flung himself into a well filled with monsters and deadly traps. But the place is also packed with treasure in the form of red gems that burst forth from defeated enemies and are occasionally found stacked in side rooms. Fortunately, our hero has equipped himself with “gunboots”, allowing him to deliver a steady stream of projectiles directly downward, blasting through enemies and smashing destructible blocks as he goes.


Downwell is a procedurally-generated action game, so level layouts and enemy placements are different on each attempt, although the overall structure is the same. The game has four themed areas, with three levels each… although you’ll be spending most of your time in the first few levels, as you are returned to the surface of the well each time you die. If you are skilled enough to survive the 12-level descent, a huge boss awaits you at the bottom.

There Was a Caveman

A game by Nauris Amatnieks for PC, originally released in 2015.
There Was a Caveman is a prehistoric action platformer that mixes caveman and dinosaur, per the world's combined pop culture fantasy. You take on the role of a caveman who finds himself to be the sole surviving member of his species. In order to make the world safe for cavemankind, he must fight his way through six themed environments, survive tough platforming challenges, and destroy all manner of critters so that he can find a suitable cavewoman and boff her brains out.


The beefy cave dweller moves through a chunky lo-fi world made up of block-based environments, equipped with only a short-range club for bashing in the faces of his enemies. He has a 2x variable jump as well as a double jump that gets him up to 3x, but he has very little midair direction control, sometimes making it difficult to line up platform landings. Players must rely on the double jump for full midair direction changes, while also being careful not to overcorrect in the opposite direction.

Nubs’ Adventure

A game by IMakeGames for PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android, originally released in 2015.
Nubs’ Adventure stars a little white antenna-topped fellow named Nubs who is roughed up by a pair of brown-colored ne’er-do-wells named Wiley and Marv. The pair break into Nubs’ house, throw him outside, and then kick him off the side of a cliff where he tumbles to what should be his certain doom. Just before he reaches the bottom, however, a huge worm emerges from the earth and arcs through the air, seemingly set on a course to devour him.


Moments later, Nubs regains consciousness, apparently none the worse for wear, but his house has been burned to the ground. Nubs falls to his knees and cries until a yellow wisp named Ally picks him up by his antenna and flies him away. Not long after, Nubs has a another run in with Wiley, who attacks him with a boomerang before being run off by the same giant worm creature. Nubs grabs the boomerang for himself and sets off across the world.


The game is an open world platformer where the player has all of his abilities at the start of his adventure. This is a rare design choice in an open world action game, as most such games fall into the metroidvania category, requiring that players earn new abilities along their journey in order to backtrack and access new areas. Here, access to new areas is blocked by locked doors and monolithic stones, requiring that the player seek out the necessary keys and runes to open the way.