The Top 10 Video Games of July 2015

Now that the dust has settled and video game outlets have had a chance to review all of the notable releases, it’s time to take stock and see just how good the games were in July. To do so, we’ll use the Metacritic numbers, which average out reviews from all the trustworthy sources on the web.

July was a fairly slow month with big releases, but a number of smaller games and remasters came out. It was a particularly good month for PlayStation 4 owners, as most of the top 10 games are available on that system. July wasn’t a stellar month for games overall, but we still got a few standout pieces of software.

If you missed our previous monthly roundups, you can check out May here and June here. But let’s cut to the chase and start with number 10.

10. Victor Vran

Platform: PC
Metacritic score: 76

Fans of dungeon-crawling games that have you explore monster-infested caves in search of loot and ever more powerful gear haven’t had many standout games to play in recent months. Victor Vran tries to change that, with mostly positive results. While most reviewers admit it has its problems, they also found the gameplay loop rewarding: Go into a dungeon to find better gear that lets you go into tougher dungeons where you’ll find even better gear, etc.

From TheSixthAxis:

As far as Diablo clones go, it isn’t of the same calibre as Path of Exile due to its rather simplistic nature and the overabundance of the six primary enemy types, but it does feature some neat gameplay twists of its own. It’s worth a look if you are starved of action RPGs, with the emphasis on action.

9. Ar nosurge Plus: Ode to an Unborn Star

Platform: PS Vita
Metacritic score: 76

This Japanese RPG follows two separate pairs of characters as they make their way through a complex and intriguing sci-fi universe. The two stories don’t seem to have much in common at first, but they begin to weave together in interesting ways as you make your way across outer space. Ar Nosurge launched on PS3 last year, but is now available on Sony’s handheld system, where many people prefer to play lengthy story-based RPGs. If you’re in the mood for a deep title to get lost in, this is probably your best bet.

From The Vita Lounge:

Ar nosurge Plus: Ode to an Unborn Star is a fantastic game that blends in heavy story telling with a character development system that will let you go as deep as you want. Minor flaws aside, many JRPG fans will enjoy this game.

8. Life is Strange: Episode 4 – Dark Room

Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, and Xbox 360
Metacritic score: 79

Adventure games are great for gamers and non-gamers alike, because their primary focus is not to prove your mettle by jumping over pits, shooting zombies, or defeating dragons. Instead, like movies or TV shows, adventure games are more interested in telling a story.

The story in Life is Strange is a good one. You play as Max Caufield, an artistic high school girl who discovers she can rewind time. While it sounds like the start of a crazy sci-fi adventure, you mostly use your ability to try out different actions and conversation paths as you go through your fairly typical adolescent life. The characters are interesting, and there are hints of an impending catastrophe. How it plays out depends on your choices.

From GamesBeat:

Dark Room doesn’t give you much room to complain, unless you hate things that make you have feelings. It’s the best-paced, most emotional entry yet, and it handles its super-serious subject matter with skill and maturity. This is the chapter we’ve been waiting to play since the beginning.

7. King’s Quest Chapter 1: A Knight to Remember

Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, and Xbox 360
Metacritic score: 79

King’s Quest is a series of classic adventure games made by Sierra Entertainment between 1984 and 1998. They center around the royal family of Daventry, telling fantastical tales that often include characters like Little Red Riding Hood and Dracula.

After a long hiatus the series is back, with an episodic adventure that looks great in previews. The setup is that King Graham, the star of most of the original games, has grown old, and has taken to telling stories of his youth to his granddaughter Gwendolyn. Each episode will have you control Gwendolyn during the current timeline, and then switch to the young King Graham during story time. If you like a good old-fashioned adventure game, this is definitely one to check out.

From IGN:

This tale is funny, beautiful, and challenging enough to make up for a few plodding quests and frequent load screens, and it maintains its personality from start to finish, sprinkling the first episode of its story with happy highs and tragic lows.

6. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

Platform: PlayStation 4
Metacritic score: 79

If you’re in the mood for something more story-driven, this first-person adventure game is for you. A boy has gone missing in Red Creek Valley, a gorgeous setting whose inhabitants have seen better days. You play as a detective on the boy’s trail, and things start looking pretty bizarre very quickly.

To say more would begin to spoil the many surprises that lie in store for players of this four-hour adventure. It’s best to go in blind if possible. Just know that the game was very well received when it launched on PC last fall.

From We Got This Covered:

What was perhaps one of the best games from last year makes its console debut with style, complete with a visual overhaul that only makes this re-release more appealing.

5. God of War III Remastered

Platform: PlayStation 4
Metacritic score: 81

Perhaps you’ve heard of a modest little series called God of War? Typically, Sony keeps these bombastic action games on the bleeding edge of technology, with boundary-pushing graphics and set pieces so epic they could make Zeus himself crack a smile. Seriously, these games are about as subtle as an earthquake.

Instead of diving right into the inevitable God of War IV, Sony is buying time by re-releasing the third game in the series, which originally launched on PS3 in 2010. The remaster still looks perfectly serviceable, but I don’t see much of an improvement in the graphical department. Regardless, if you missed the bone-crushing action the first time around, this remaster is a great excuse to check it out.

From Gamecrate:

Some may wonder why it’s so high-priced, or why certain aspects of the game weren’t as polished as the rest of it. But God of War III Remastered shows that Sony Santa Monica is more than ready for PS4 development, and that means we’re in for something cool whenever Kratos decides to cover new territory. In the meantime, give his god-pummeling journey a revisit.

4. The Magic Circle

Platform: PC
Metacritic score: 82

The Magic Circle isn’t a “normal” game. Like a post-modern work of fiction, it breaks the fourth wall and deals directly with the fact that it’s a video game. The idea is that your character starts testing an unfinished video game before it’s published. You quickly meet an AI who begs you to help it fight back against the “gods” who trapped it here. Once you agree, you use programming tools to change the behavior of enemies and solve puzzles. It’s a great concept, and quite unlike nearly any other game you’ve played.

From USGamer:

This kind of open-ended ambition may leave players feeling lost at times, but its exploration of the act of creation and collaboration will stick with you for years to come.

3. N++

Platform: PlayStation 4
Metacritic score: 83

What do you have left when you peel nearly everything off the bones of a side-scrolling platformer? You have something like N++, the third installment in a series of hyper-challenging, impossible-to-put-down games.

The graphics may be minimal, but the gameplay is fully intact. You play as a graceful, nimble ninja who has to make it from point A to point B without being killed by the enemies and devious traps in between. If you can collect all the coins in each level, so much the better.

This sequel has a multiplayer mode as well as a level editor to keep you coming back long after you’ve beaten the (literally) thousands of stages that ship with the game.

From Destructoid:

N++ might lack online play and feel like more of the same, but it’s pretty much everything a platformer fan could want out of a sequel. It’s still challenging, it has a boatload of levels, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play.

2. Rocket League

Platform: PlayStation 4
Metacritic score: 85

The one game I heard about everywhere I turned in July was Rocket League, a PS4 game about cars playing arena soccer. It probably didn’t hurt that it was a free game to PlayStation Plus subscribers, so a lot of people who normally wouldn’t touch a “sports” game gave it a shot.

It might sound a little out there, but the gameplay is enormously fun and the “just one more match” sentiment is strong. Key to its success is that the game is simple to start playing at a functional level, but using the more advanced tactics effectively (like boosting into the air to grab the ball) are tough enough to require a lot of practice.

From GameSpot:

The joy of Rocket League rests on the countless plans that are conceived and discarded every other second in any given match. Trying to predict where and how the ball will bounce next is a game within the game.

1. Journey

Platform: PlayStation 4
Metacritic score: 93

For many who play Journey, the game offers a deeply emotional experience. You begin as a cloaked figure walking toward a high, shimmering mountain in the distance. As you make your way there, you encounter cryptic monuments, strange structures, and flowing pathways. You also find a scarf that lets you glide through the air, which helps you explore the beautiful landscape.

While there’s more of a “game” here than the developer’s other titles like Flower and Flow, the focus is on the overall experience, not the gameplay. There are few other creatures in the game world, and no combat at all. Journey offers a beautiful, moving experience.

From GameSpot:

If you are returning to Journey, a higher resolution and a higher frame rate are your ostensible rewards for returning–a return that doesn’t cost you anything if you already own the game on the PlayStation 3. But Journey’s real rewards aren’t so pedestrian. Journey offers you comfort. It gives you companionship in a lovely but forsaken world. It gives you reason to dream even when facing loss.

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