Several old staples like Heroes of the Storm and Path of Exile dominated 2016 for me but I managed to play a few other games. Three titles on my Game of the Year list are in all caps. I THINK THAT MEANS IT WAS A GOOD YEAR. Let’s jump right into the top 10 list.
With a more sandbox feel this plays like older Hitman games but with less wonky AI and controls. You get to explore each level to discover new ways of assassinating your targets including a new “opportunities” system. Basically opportunities act like scripted events requiring completion of several tasks to activate and you can even disable them if you’re more of a purist. These opportunities and a healthy list of challenges gave me plenty of reasons to replay missions and the episodic release structure actually worked well.
I went into INSIDE without expecting much but after finishing the 4 hour experience I walked away pleasantly surprised. It thrusts you into the action without explaining the controls or why you’re running which was a refreshing change of pace from “hold forward to move” style tutorials. Being chased always felt intense and it was rather enjoyable to watch your mutilated body parts flop around after falling into some gruesome trap. The puzzles were satisfying to solve but not overly complicated so game progress felt smooth. At first I had mixed feelings about the ending but I’ve come to appreciate the “mic drop” finish.
Time only moving when you’re moving sounds like a simple game mechanic but it led to some incredibly fun gameplay. Throwing a coffee cup at an approaching enemy, grabbing their gun out of mid air to shoot other enemies, dodging bullets, and tossing the now empty gun at yet another baddie made me feel like such a badass. Thanks to Nanners picking up a Vive and having the basement space to dedicate to it I was also able to experience SUPERHOT VR which was really interesting. The VR version is slightly altered but it still achieves the same incredible feeling while playing it.
7. Dragon Quest Builders
As a builder game it has a lot in common with Minecraft but it pulls RPG elements from it’s Dragon Quest roots. It has an story about an epic builder, quests, exploration, crafting, and building. Watching your town evolve and new villagers arrive with quests made sure you always had a purpose and drove the story forward. At first I was concerned about starting over between chapters but the progression felt great after earning new recipes, quests, rooms to build, and areas to explore.
6. Dishonored 2
To me the Dishonored series is one of the best stealth games but I love having the freedom to play however you want. During my first play through as Emily I stuck to the shadows and killed as many guards as I could to take brutal revenge on those involved with overthrowing my kingdom. After finishing the game I immediately fired up New Game Plus (something I rarely do) to play as Corvo. This time I would make amends for my violent past and stuck with a non-lethal approach. Your play style affects certain cut scenes and dialogue options as well as the ending of the game. All the powers felt great and you can choose to focus on the ones that compliment how you want to play. Once you have a healthy arsenal of upgraded powers you start to feel godlike and get ballsier with your actions.
Playing DOOM was pure joy. Instead of trying to emulate other big name shooters they took a step back to focus on what would make a great DOOM game. Brutal demon killing, no reloading, no fall damage and a huge emphasize on run and gun twitch shooting. Even the story was great for a DOOM game and it didn’t fall into the trap of taking itself too serious. Glory kills never got old and it was a great way to gain extra health. When killing demons with the chainsaw they act like glorious ammo pinatas which was a very satisfying way to generate extra ammo.
4. Titanfall 2
I absolutely loved the single player campaign for Titanfall 2. It introduced some really innovative and downright fun mechanics. Probably the most notable mission was “Effect and Cause” where you acquire the ability to switch between time lines and use this ability in platforming puzzles and avoiding obstacles or enemies. I quickly fell in love with BT, the Vanguard class Titan hastily acquired by your character and found the humorous AI dialogue charming. The multiplayer was spot on and expanded on the strong fast paced gameplay established in the first title with new pilot abilities, progression system, and no more burn cards.
At this point it’s been a hot minute since I’ve played Overwatch but for several months after it released I was playing nonstop. Each character was unique and felt great to play. Sure I had my favorites like Junkrat and Reaper but there were no characters I actively avoided playing. Blizzard did an amazing job jumping into the shooter arena and somehow managed to maintain balance with the character and maps. New systems like Play of the Game and Weekly Brawls add to the overall polish and worked so well Blizzard implemented them into other games.
2. Stardew Valley
I never played any Harvest Moon games so I went into this pretty blind. I quickly fell in love with the zen like aspect of the game. Every element from harvesting crops, fighting in the caves, talking to townsfolk, and fishing just feels great and I kept going back for one more day.
1. The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine
The Witcher 3 is probably my favorite game of all time so it makes sense that I fell in love with the DLC. The are of Toussaint was a pleasure to explore and I loved the higher vampire questline. Giving players access to their own Vineyard was a nice touch for a game that I already spent around 200 hours playing. It’s refreshing to see each expansion released by Project CD Red represent some of the best content for the game to date.
Now onto the awards section of this beautiful list.
Most feels: FirewatchFirewatch isn’t my go-to style of game but I found myself getting invested in Henry’s story and the events with his wife that lead to him taking a lookout position in a remote forest of Wyoming. The ongoing dynamic between him and Delilah along with the mystery of the previous lookout definitely had me coming back for more and I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of emotional depth to this “walking simulator” game.
Biggest disappointment: StarboundI’m not saying Starbound is a bad game but I think I played a lot more of it in beta through multiple character wipes. When it released in full I was obsessed for a few days but quickly ran out of quests and found the end game content a little lacking.
Funniest: Job SimulatorThis was great for showing off VR technology but each human job had me laughing as well. A special shout out to the car mechanic radio with Justin Roiland (of Rick and Morty). Apparently I love listening to that guy talk to himself.
Prettiest: The Witcher 3: Blood and WineAll of the Witcher 3 is beautiful but the Toussaint area added in the Blood and Wine DLC was particularly gorgeous with its vivid colors. Many screenshots were taken.
Most addicting: Stardew ValleyFor such a casual and relaxing game I found myself dumping large amounts of time into it. Especially since the game saves after each day I found myself continuously saying “one more day” until the wee morning hours.
Best early access game: Space Pirate TrainerThis was one of the few VR games I wanted to play after the initial 10 minutes were up. For an early access game I feel like it has more content and playability that most VR games and a lot of non-VR games as well.
The one that got away: XCOM 2I’m a big XCOM fan, both the reboot and the original series. For whatever reason I decided to wait for a good sale on XCOM 2 and never got around to actually playing it. I even picked it up recently in the Humble Monthly bundle and installed it but have yet to launch it. Hopefully I can rectify this in 2017.
Shame: Path of ExileThis game manages to suck me back in with each new expansion. This year the Breach expansion dropped and I fell back into it pretty hard. I have to say it’s one of my favorite expansions/leagues they introduced so far. Opening breaches and fighting hordes of enemies was a great balance between challenge and reward.
That Beat Tho: Slain! Back from HellCurt Victor Bryant formerly of the band Celtic Frost did the soundtrack and it fit the game so well. It was metal enough to match the brutality of the game but not crazy enough to distract from it.
Best MultitaskGame: Stardew ValleyI caught up and rewatched a lot of shows while playing Stardew and it was great for podcasts and audiobooks too. The relaxing gameplay just worked so well for multitasking and it was a nice break from the fast paced intense multiplayer action of some other games from 2016.
The Future is Bright: Red Dead Redemption 2The first RDR game is easily my favorite Rockstar game. They haven’t released too many details about RDR 2 yet but I’m super excited for it and hopeful for it to release in 2017.