It’s that time again folks, winter has come and we’re getting ready to say goodbye to another year. For the world of video gaming, this was a really slow feeling year at times, with a lot of little pockets of gems and promises of what’s to come. We’ve had quite the year, so without further ado, here are our top 5 games of 2016.
WOW. I’ve always been a fan of Blizzard, and this game really showcases the best of everything they do; rich storylines (that don’t get in the way of gameplay), varied and exciting characters, and addictively paced. There are few times when I will say a game is near perfect and this is one of them. If you would have told me this time last year that one of my favorite games would be aPVP style shooter, I would have laughed at you. Overwatch is a game that is just genuinely and purely so much fun to play, half the time it doesn’t matter whether you’re winning or losing. Plus, Blizzard is one of the best companies when it comes to making tweaks to gameplay and constantly making improvements (like the competitive ranking improvements and new game modes), so it feels so good and so rewarding to continue to come back.
EMILY KALDWIN IS BAE. But really, this game has gotten me so immersed in a world and a story to a point I haven’t seen since the original Bioshock. Dishonored is dark, gritty, and primally satisfying, whether you are planning on murdering the entire world or slipping through the cracks unseen. It has such a refreshing range of possibilities in terms of play-style and choices to make, which really let you take control of the game and play your way, instead of just blasting away some baddies because a quest-giver told you to. Granted, so far I have only played as Emily (you can also play as Corvo) and so I’ve really only seen one half of this story. The game is so good that I already know that I want to play at least two more rounds of a full play through, one as Corvo and another with a different morality choice, to see what happens to my story and gameplay making different decisions on another go-round. Without any spoilers, it also has THE MOST IMPRESSIVE new game mechanic I’ve seen, and it is executed SO WELL. When I got to that part of the game I didn’t know I could fall more in love with Dishonored 2 and it happened.
I had been so excited for Doom to come out, I’ve got to say that I probably overhyped myself for the beta. After a lackluster multiplayer experience, I had re-evaluated my expectations for the full release of the game. BOY WAS I WRONG. This game blew all my expectations out of the water. It still didn’t have a very solid multiplayer experience, but the single player campaign was a high rolling, adrenaline pumping, badass murderfest for the ages. I can’t tell you enough how insanely fun this game was to play. Super eerie settings and lighting, beautifully rendered nasty enemies, and so many destruction inducing weapons at your disposal. The combat was some of the most intuitive and raw feeling combat I’ve every played, and you really got the awe inspiring feelings that come from decimating a horde of enemies. So well done.
Fire Emblem Fates
Fire Emblem Fates was a game that took me by surprise in terms of how much I enjoyed playing it. I ended up playing fates a number of times (I wanted to try out all the romance options that I liked please don’t judge me) and it holds up REALLY well even after putting it down for a few months. For anyone unfamiliar to the Fire Emblem series, it plays as a top down strategy game, where you essentially have a tabletop-esque map and command your characters to move into battles. This game was so fun and refreshing, and is one of my favorite 3DS titles. The battles, story, and characters are so interesting and fun, and dear lord I loved the romance options in this game. Even if you’re not as into playing matchmaker as I am, this game is still very tactically challenging and fun, and has so much content to play – between the two storylines split into two games (Conquest and Birthright) and the ending DLC (Revelations).
Again, another surprising game that blew me away. I picked up this game on a whim and HOLY CRAP did I get sucked in hard. The Witness is an open world puzzle game that essentially drops you off on this island, with little to no story established, no real instructions or long tutorial, and just allows you to learn and discover it’s secrets and rules. It honestly did feel like it asked a lot of the player, in the sense that you need to be more self driven and that this game isn’t going to hold your hand to have you figure stuff out, but if you choose to invest your time and energy into this game, your mind will be blown. Seriously, I have never had a game make me feel like my brain was growing inside my head. It was so challenging and so massive… honestly it was such a treat to play. Would definitely recommend to folks who enjoy puzzles and are ready to give a part of them to get back an amazing experience.
Ratchet and Clank
Ratchet and Clank has always been near and dear to my heart ever since their debut on the PS2 days. For the most part, with a few exceptions, they’ve gotten better with each passing generation of hardware. Hell, even the PSP game was fun. Ratchet and Clank on PS4 is a re-envisioning of the duo’s very first tale with an overall story that’s much more enjoyable. And the power the PS4 really brings the world and the characters that inhabit it to life. Oh—and it’s a culmination of the best gameplay mechanics throughout the series thus far along with some fan favorite weapons as well as some new ones. I loved it.
I missed the first entry in the SteamWorld series completely. One day I was scrolling through the eshop in search of something to play and stumbled upon SteamWorld Heist. During the first week I put around twenty hours in and had an amazing time…..until my SD card bit the dust. You can read all about it in my review, but to make a long story short I ended up replaying it on my Vita and had more fun than the first time. Heist is a strategic, turn-based, shooter with light RPG elements and a beautiful 2D steampunk aesthetic. It’ll likely look the best on PS4 or Steam thanks to the HD visuals, but I found it makes for an excellent pick up and play handheld game. It’s even available on iOS. You’ll encounter many different robots to build your team with all of them having their own quirky personality, and pulling off an insane trick shot is satisfying every time. I can’t recommend it enough.
Dragon Quest Builders
I never got into the Dragon Quest series and as I’ve publicly stated many times before in our podcast, I don’t like Minecraft. I find DQ too heavy on the grinding and Minecraft too boring. And yet, this past year the two franchises practically boned and birthed this wonderful little gaming darling. Dragon Quest Builders is such a chill game you can play any time. You tear things apart and collect blueprints in order to rebuild your home base and continually expand upon it, all while fending off a few waves of enemies bent on going Godzilla on your ass. My only complaint is the lack of cross-save between the PS4 and Vita versions. It just seems like a huge missed opportunity. I primarily played this during my commute on the Vita and think it’s one of the handheld’s best titles this year. Granted, there might be like ten games, but a win is a win. What saved this from being a Minecraft clone for me is the structure from the quests and side quests. There’s always something to do and a reason to do it. Check out the demo for yourself on Vita or PS4 to see if you like it.
Watch Dogs 2
This one caught me by surprise, especially because the first game was such a disappointment. Aiden was boring as fuck and your abilities as a hacker were limited to messing with traffic lights and peeping through some security cameras. Remarkably the sequel builds upon the original while surpassing it in every way from tone to gameplay. From the start Marcus Halloway is immediately more interesting and fun along with the rest of the cast of rag-tag hackers. The world is bright and vibrant with humorous interactions between civilians and police at random. My only complaint is if you play it GTA style with guns-a-blazing, it all falls apart. Not only that, but becoming a mass murderer doesn’t fit in with the narrative in any way. Hacking with your RC car and drone are a ton of fun and can be more challenging in a puzzling kind of way, giving you a great ‘ah-ha’ moment as you complete your objective from the comfort of your laptop. Finishing missions and side missions gains DedSec (your group’s name) more followers which work akin to XP in other games, allowing you to build out Marcus’s skill tree to match your play style. As a hater of the original, I’m a huge lover of the sequel and am itching to play as I wrote this.
The Last Guardian
This was tough. I was going to put Super Mario Maker For 3DS on the list. On one hand Mario Maker is essentially the same game as last year, albeit missing the massive headlining feature of sharing your created courses online. And on the other, I haven’t finished The Last Guardian. Hell, I’ve barely scratched the surface of the story, but god damn it do I feel connected to Trico. He’s nothing short of fascinating both to look at and to just watch. He feels alive in a way I’ve never experienced before in a video game creature. Out of nowhere he’ll stop to scratch an itch or jump up and bat at a chain dangling from the side of the building. Once I was carrying a barrel which contains his food (weird) and he playfully batted it out of my arms and rolled it towards himself before he ate it. This giant bird-dog is playful and curious and when he stares at you his eyes are full of a soulfulness. I sound crazy, but watch my play through of the first half hour and tell me I’m wrong. Unless you don’t have a heart or have never owned a pet, then you won’t. The game and story are full of mystery and the environment is breathtaking. I stood in awe and watched Trico’a feathers react to the wind while the trees blew and the grass rustled in the wind. Maybe adding this game is a cop out since I haven’t beaten it yet but I don’t care. It makes me feel feelings.
There are so many times when a long awaited reboot comes along and does everything wrong. Sometimes it relies too much on nostalgia. Sometimes it tries to force modern day mechanics down your throat. Sometimes that reboot should aborted with a coat hanger before it even made the shelf.
Doom avoided all of these problems.
Bethesda did everything right with Doom’s 2016 return. Start with a pinch of Fast paced combat, a variety of insane weapons, crazy enemies. Set it all to equal parts dirty hard-rock soundtrack and self awareness and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a spicy sequel deserving of your time.
The best thing about Doom, is not only does it give you a fantastic and fun tool kit to annihilate demons from hell, it makes you feel like a complete bad ass while doing so.
I was told these lists weren’t going in any particular order. If it were, this would be at the top. Overwatch is hands down, the most important game to release in 2016. The 6v6 objective shooter might have borrowed mechanics from everyone else on the planet, but it’s a perfect example of Blizzard doing what they do best: Perfecting the formula.
The colorful characters with unique personalities grab your interest and refuse to let go. That alone makes this game worth checking out. But Overwatch did something way more important; it made me care about shooters again.
For so long now, competitive shooters have relied solely on progressive unlocks and EXP to try and give the illusion that you HAVE to stay involved. If you stop playing, you’ll lose the pack and that’s it. Playing games like Halo and Call of Duty became more of a chore than a fun past time. Overwatch spits a roadhog sized lougee in the face of that strategy and says, “Hey man, come have fun. This game is about more than just your kill count. It’s about engaging with your team and having fun.”
Pokémon Sun and Moon
For a long time now, Pokemon’s formula has been the same. While there is still an amazing game inside of the previous few, you have to admit it’s become a tad bit stale. Thankfully, at the helm of a new director, Pokemon Sun and Moon make refreshing changes that make the game loads of fun again. The focus is no longer on the grind, the meta has been simplified, and the gameplay has been streamlined. On top of that, the region is actually genuine fun to explore. The story might not be the greatest, and team skill is absolutely repugnant, but Sun and Moon show why Pokemon is fun and proves that the loveable battle slaves are here to stay.
Picross 3D: Round 2
Simple sudoku style puzzles might not sound like a lot of fun. But this colorful 3D puzzler and it’s process of elimination method have kept me busy on the train almost every day since it released. The new mechanics keep the game fresh, adding an entire second layer of puzzle solving. I wish I had more to say about why this is a fantastic game, but it’s so simple and easy to grasp, that you should just check it out yourself. Trust me, DON’T miss out on Picross 3D: Round 2. It runs alongside the greatest on the console with ease.
Animal Crossing: Welcome Amiibo
Okay, I’ll admit this one is a stretch. Animal Crossing: New Leaf came out in 2013. Dammit though, let me have this. Animal Crossing is great, and the Welcome Amiibo update added more than enough to keep me revisiting my village almost every day. Not even for the Amiibo Support, but the inclusion of an entire puzzle quest game give this game a facelift worthy of Dolly Parton’s approval. GO PLAY IT!
Rise of the Tomb Raider
First, it needs to be said that I love this game. I bought it on launch and enjoyed every second of my 34 hours of gameplay. I loved the most recent reboot, and was excited to try this one after seeing the trailer. It’s easy to overlook this one since it dropped so early in the year, but I very happily feel that it deserves a spot on my top 5 list for the year. The story was well crafted, the level design exciting and interesting, puzzles that were difficult but not obnoxious and most importantly, that oh so illusive “tomb raider” feel. I felt immersed in the world of Laura Croft once again. The girl keeps going through hell and somehow continues to be the badass heartthrob of my youth each time I play. Then they released the DLC’s. I bought all of them. Baba Yaga was an exciting expansion to the main story, and was strange and terrifying in such a great way. The survivalist DLC was exactly what I was missing from the main game. A hardcore version where the game is not forgiving at all about the elements. It’s what I would have hoped a mod would bring to the game if I were playing on PC. I cannot recommend this game enough, and If you haven’t played it, you should. I’m going to play it right after posting this article.
Dark Souls III
Ok, I know I wrote like 4000 words about this game back when it released. I still feel that way. Did I beat the game? Absolutely not. However, I played a solid 22 hours and got about half-way through the game. Having said that, DarkSouls III is beautiful. It’s a well designed slog through hell and for those out there who like a challenge, it’s great. Similar to DarkSouls 2, I’ll go back and beat it on a sick day or holiday, and I’ll enjoy it then too. The thing about DarkSouls is that it’s supposed to make you feel weak and insignificant. It’s supposed to make you feel like you are an ant, crawling around among giants and gods, and then you shoving your sword into places that don’t typically accept that form of payment and leaving a mark. It’s about proving your worth. This game makes you feel F#ing AWESOME when you fell a demon. Let me tell you. Very few games that I have EVER played in my years have made me feel quite so goddamn good as the DarkSouls games. I have raged, I have cried and I have laughed with joy at the feeling of being the biggest baddest Mo-Fo in the land of the dead. It’s amazing. And it’s not for everyone. You know what? I might play DarkSouls instead of Tomb Raider tonight.
This game is just super cool. I haven’t experienced another game like this. It’s horrifying and interesting and really well done for an indie game. I wrote a full review on the game here, but the short and sweet: You’re a drone tech operator on a vessel that is in need of some serious repairs, looking for survivors or other people in a graveyard of ships. Using your superior knowledge of MSDOS, you give commands to your drones with your keyboard and send them out to explore the ships. Your eyes and ears are your drones, and there’s no telling what might greet you on the other side of the bulkhead when you dock with a ship spinning in the black. This game is REALLY well done, and as each game the ships are randomly generated, you get a fresh experience each time you play. How long will you survive? At first glance, this game may not look like the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it is exceptionally well executed and good for many hours of fun. If you’re into exploration, meta games and rouge-like space thrillers, this is the game for you. Absolutely deserving of my top 5 spot.
I realize it’s almost silly that I need to justify having this on my list, as very likely every other site will include this game. Having said that, I think it deserves some recognition beyond “it sold really well and continues to sell well”. Overwatch is pretty much the best MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) I have ever played. I loved TF2 for its time, played a smattering of counterstrike until I learned about my mom too many times. Overwatch has completely captured my attention with this type of game. It’s Incredibly well designed, has ongoing updates that are and will continue to be free, backstory that is continually developed and in-game purchases that do absolutely NOTHING to aid you in gameplay (only skins and emotes). The game is good for a 15 minute match, or several hours of blasting through competitive mode as your favorite hero. The music is well made and is great for feeling like a hero while doing laundry as well, which is worth something in my book. Lastly, it is FUN! The game continues to be fun 4 months later! I still want to log in and play all the time, which is a big deal for someone with a short attention span. If you haven’t had a chance to experience this game, I highly encourage you do so. Holiday season is approaching swiftly…
Perhaps surprisingly, I’m adding Pokemon Go to my list. No, I’m not still playing it. No I didn’t spend any money on it. No I don’t care you have a CP level 1billion Pikachu (albeit hilarious). I’m adding this because for a short period of time, people in New York City were connecting with strangers on the subway and in the parks in a way I’ve never seen before. Strangers would come up to you and ask if you caught the Snorlax by the fountain. People would announce when they were dropping a lure to the benefit of everyone around them. People would head OUTSIDE to play with other people from all walks of life and age. I went on a poke-safari in the Central Park Zoo with my friend Daney because at the time, it was super cool! We caught a huge number of Pokemon and had a blast. We knew it might be short-lived, but we had fun anyway. Pokemon Go was the perfect revival for Pokemon fans of all ages. Whether or not you played the card game, started with Gameboy, or only very recently started getting into Pokemon with your 3DS, EVERYONE came together to play this game. It was an experience, and it was epic. For that, it deserves a spot on my shelf for 2016 top 5.
AND THAT’S IT FOLKS! If you have any other favorites for 2016, please let us know in the comments below! See you in 2017!