Three is the magic number, and of this we have long been sure. So, with that in mind and the end of April representing a solid third of 2015 gone, a bunch of VICE Gaming contributors have got together to list their favourite three titles of the year so far. Lots of other sites will wait until the end of June to run such a piece, but we say: why delay when there's so much good out there right now to be playing?
If you're the counting kind, you'll notice a "winner" amongst all of these fine selections. Take a bow, Bloodborne. Guess you're our game of the year so far.
Ed Smith / @mostsincerelyed
Resident Evil HD
Fascinating to see what's aged and what hasn't about 2002's Resident Evil. Still love that you have to burn the zombies' bodies – makes them seem genuinely dangerous. The "find this key to match this hole" puzzle and objective structure is very dry, though, and way too grounded to make the game seem surreal or frightening. (Read more on Resident Evil.)
OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood
It's only very subtly different from its predecessor, but OlliOlli 2 still feels incredibly fresh. A great game to share with friends.
The Writer Will Do Something
Penned by video game scriptwriter Matthew S. Burns, this Twine game gives an inside look at the production meetings behind big games. There's a voyeuristic thrill to seeing behind the doors of an often secretive industry. It's a broad look at how stagnancy and disagreement can corrode any endeavour. (Play it now.)
Dave Cook / @davescook
OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood
Already better than this year's Tony Hawk reboot because, well, it just will be. Roll7 owes me a replacement thumbstick for my DualShock 4.
Matt Porter / @Matt_Porter44
Simply a fantastic city builder. Great mod support, and the boats sometimes do power slides over land. My game of the year so far.
Pillars of Eternity
Of all the attempts at bringing back the RPGs of old over the past couple of years, Pillars of Eternity is the deepest and the best. (Read our article on what's great about Pillars of Eternity.)
Mortal Kombat X
Already the longest I've ever spent playing a fighting game, and there will be many more hours to come. Come at me, D'Vorah. (Read our interview with one of the game's developers.)
Jonathan Beach / @jonothonbeech
The Evil Within: The Assignment / The Consequence
You really haven't lived until you've been hunted around a tiny, pitch-black server room by a bloodied, synthetic-voiced, one-hit-killing prostitute with a spotlight for a head, while the world's slowest elevator arrives.
Enter the darkness. Hold your breath. Wipe your sweaty little hands on your jeans. Tense your bowstring. Pray, pray that it hits. Watch your pixelated arrow soar through the air. Feel the wave of satisfaction when it lands. Welcome to Titan Souls. (Read our article on the infuriating brilliance of Acid Nerve's game.)
This goes out to anyone who's stood watching the moonlight ripple off the silent lake in Byrgenwerth, thinking this is it, quietly wishing the dripping, Lovecraftian horror of Bloodborne would never end.
Carolyn Petit / @carolynmichelle
I was worried that From Software's latest would feel too similar to the studio's Dark Souls games to carve out an identity of its own, but Bloodborne put those concerns to rest quickly. Like Dark Souls, Bloodborne serves up a world steeped in alluring mystery and a level of challenge that demands perseverance, but what makes this title special is the way that playing it feels like a slow descent into madness. It starts out operating in the familiar territory of Gothic horror but eventually confronts you with terrors you may not comprehend and, in the end, its entire narrative is left open to delicious interpretation. Which is why, like all the scariest nightmares, I can't seem to get it out of my head.
So many games have tried to walk in the footsteps of Metroid and Super Metroid, but Axiom Verge understands better than any other imitators how the level design and visuals and music of Samus Aran's early adventures all worked together to create a captivating cocktail of isolation and exploration. Not content to be a straightforward clone, though, Axiom Verge introduces elements that subvert our sense of its world's stability and suggest that the code that pieces it all together is shifting and alive. (Read our article on Axiom Verge's ghosts in the machine.)
Life is Strange
We're only two episodes into Dontnod Entertainment's five-episode narrative-driven adventure game, but it's on track to be something special. I admit I cringe occasionally at the self-consciously overwrought teenspeak of the characters, but I'm more than willing to put up with some clumsy dialogue to spend time with Life is Strange, a game that's all about how time keeps slipping away, even for its time-rewinding protagonist Max Caulfield. With its golden sunlight and sensitive soundtrack, Life is Strange reminds you that sometimes it's possible to feel nostalgic for a moment even as it's happening, because you know it can't last forever. (Read more articles on Life is Strange.)
Steve Haske / @afraidtomerge
If you've spent most of your time with the Souls series poking out from behind a greatshield, Bloodborne will seem especially bitchy at first brush. Then you learn the rhythm of the hunt is a fast, complementary dance that gets more and more thrilling with each nerve-jangling beast encounter. Then you die a lot more anyway. Bonus: the blood-sodden world of Yharnam is absolutely exquisite.
Resident Evil HD
Can I do this? Is it ok to pick REmake even though it technically came out 13 years ago? Fuck it, I don't care – survival horror's most iconic haunted mansion is as brilliant in HD as it ever was, and you should play it. That's all that needs to be said.
If you've never even heard of La-Mulana regular let alone EX, just picture Indiana Jones in a sprawling and utterly merciless Metroidvania-styled ruin bursting with monsters, traps and soul-crushingly arcane puzzles. (The EX just means there's new stuff over the original, and that it's on the Vita. Don't use a walkthrough.)
Chris Schilling / @schillingc
Resident Evil Revelations 2
The best kind of episodic game, as far as I'm concerned – one where you don't have to wait ages for the next chapter. A schlocky horror show that embraces the series' sillier side, it's hardly high art, but this kept me royally entertained for a month.
A modest but stupendously well-designed puzzle game from the folks behind Kirby. Inventive and generous, it recognises that a good puzzle doesn't have to be convoluted to satisfy, and its learning curve is beautifully judged.
Hardly anyone seems to be talking about this fleet-footed first-person dungeon-crawler, which is a great shame – it's not doing much you haven't seen before, but it's bright, zingy and surprisingly polished, and lets you lob magic grenades at sentient carrot-demons.
Andy Kelly / @ultrabrilliant
Pillars of Eternity
A big, deep fantasy adventure. Fun turn-based combat, brilliantly written dialogue, and a massive world to explore make it one of the best modern RPGs on PC.
Grand Theft Auto V
Specifically the PC version. Los Santos and Blaine County have never looked prettier, and the built-in video editor is insanely powerful. The best version of the best GTA. (Read our love letter to GTA.)
A bizarre nautical survival RPG. Explore an underground sea filled with weird, vividly written stories and try not to get eaten by a giant eel. (Read our feature on this essential indie gem.)
Brad Barrett (only picked two) / @artbaretta
Resident Evil Revelations 2
Currently exiled exclusively to PC for my next-gen fix, episodic gaming continues to get big after Telltale's successes. Having not played Resi anything since the fifth game proper (except for ten minutes of that sixth one, which was enough) RER2 has brought me the bite-sized fun I couldn't quite eke out of most previous titles. This is especially good for those of us unable, unfortunately, to plough through slow, plodding, intriguing adventures.
Life is Strange
More episodic excitement - this time from Square Enix, more known for their endless RPGs, or whatever. Obviously being an enthusiastic "SJW" (I guess), a young female character with the ability to rewind time and packing huge amounts of empathy is going to be my thing. It picks up speed quickly and the art is absorbing, with that gorgeous merge of realism that's seemingly splashed with a paintbrush.
Matt Lees / @jam_sponge
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
I've toyed with the series in the past, but it never really grabbed me until this year. Ditching the underwater fighting guff and being more generous with players in terms of dishing out loot and providing a massive catalogue of beasts to hunt has made this 3DS exclusive an absolute joy to play. I've put about 100 hours in so far, and keep expecting to fire it up and find myself suddenly bored of playing. So far, it simply hasn't happened. Probably one of the best things I've ever played. (Read our guide to not sucking at Capcom's beastly adventure.)
After the disappointment of Dark Souls II, Bloodborne felt like a huge relief. But it isn't just a Dark Souls sequel by another name – Bloodborne clearly comes from the same DNA, but plays remarkably differently in practice. Switching fantasy for horror often makes the game feel harrowing rather than difficult, and while it lacks the crazy scope of customisation and replay value that many have come to love from From Software's games, the result is something that feels slick, refined, and utterly thrilling – providing you're willing to embrace the aggression that the game is explicitly designed for. The initial few hours were tough to fully enjoy, but once you find the groove Bloodborne is a gore-caked beauty.
It's a mess that ends up relying too heavily on Dead Island's turgid melee weapon system, but elements of Dying Light reminded me strongly of some of my all-time favourite games. Free-running around a city overrun with zombies is the only part of the pitch that Dying Light needed, and when you're forced to rely on evasion and escape, it becomes an incredible thing. Before long you're just braining shit zombies with shit weapons for a parade of shit characters that never seems to end. A bargain bin gem with a triple-A price tag, but a bargain bin gem nonetheless.
Joe Donnelly / @deaco2000
What to say about Bloodborne that hasn't been said already? Which has been, mostly, expletives. I spent the entire first day of my time with From Software's latest getting my ass kicked. And then it clicked. Bloodborne shows you its ropes by killing you at every turn. It's a slow process, but for every few hours of death, there's the euphoric 10-15 minutes of triumph and for some reason it's all worth it.
Given how brilliantly realised each murderously difficult boss battle is, it's quite hard to believe that Titan Souls began life as a game jam entry. But it did, and it's brilliant. If Bloodborne is about gradually teaching by way of death, Titan Souls is about being thrust into the fires of hell to square-go the Grim Reaper.
Sort of a cheat this one, given Suikoden II launched in the UK in the year 2000, but this millennium baby finally found its way to PSN for the first time earlier this year, so I reckon it counts. This is how RPGs used to be made, and quite frankly is how they should always be made. A tale of socio-political warfare, friendship and betrayal: a true masterpiece and a must-own game some 15 years on.
Jake Muncy / @jakemuncy
I've spent an inordinate amount of time so far this year with Dying Light. It gives you a big, breathing city, fills it with zombies, and tells you to run the hell away, and that blend of survival, parkour, and stealth is surprisingly engaging. The combat is rough, and I wish the game emphasised its survival game influences more, but this has become my go-to game for when I need to blow off some steam and run my legs out.
The only other competitor for hourage in my PS4 this year has been, naturally, Bloodborne. I'm as susceptible to From Software's garish charms as anyone, and they pulled off something remarkable this time by blending the Souls games' unique structure to combat that actually feels smooth, weighty, and satisfying. Combat is meaty, cruel, and addictive.
I'd also strongly recommend you check out Gravity Ghost, a very unique indie title you can pick up on Steam. In it, you control a mystical space girl while she floats in orbit around celestial bodies, guiding animal spirits to the afterlife. It's, uh, tricky to explain. But it's brilliant, and is the most distinctive and emotional thing I've played this year.
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Keza MacDonald / @kezamacdonald
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D
I suspected that Majora's Mask might not seem as eerie or as clever this year as it did when I was 12, but I was dead wrong. It's strange, sad and extraordinary, and if anything it's more unusual and vital now than ever. (Check out a personal reading of Majora's Mask.)
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
Yes, everybody goes on about how challenging and rewarding and enormous Monster Hunter is, but you know what people never talk about? It's probably one of the funniest and most genuine games around. It cheers me right up.
Every minute with Bloodborne is a minute in the company of something extraordinary. It gives me fucking terrible nightmares but I still don't want to stop playing it.
Mike – as in me, the person putting this piece together – picks Bloodborne, Alto's Adventure and Life is Strange. Or maybe Majora's Mask 3D, or Titan Souls. I don't know. And you?