I found this chipper young lad from early 2016 discussing some of 2015s best games. 2016 sure was a year that happened, but on the positive side lots of great video games came out and so my wife and I signed our lives away to buy a house so that I would have a basement to play them in. Over time I’m hoping it becomes Bottled Fuchsia HQ for recording and streaming. So while that is a work in progress here are a bunch of words to read about video games!
First up, the awards.
Most Feels: The Last Guardian
This game was adorable at times and frustrating at times, but I’m glad I saw the story through to the end.
Biggest Disappointment: Pokemon Sun/Moon
After playing Omega Ruby and “classic” Red earlier in the year I was excited to play Moon. The removal of improvements and the addition of some questionable features meant I didn’t finish 3 Pokemon games in 2016.
Funniest: Jackbox Party Pack 3
Over the past few years Jackbox Games’ games has been the center of most parties. This year the new addition of Tee K.O. proved that drawing anything with no prompt is really hard and silly!
The underwater followup to Journey is simply beautiful and the most zen game I played all year. I mean, there’s a button to meditate.
Most Addicting: Final Fantasy XV
As December was winding down, I knew I needed to cram in a bunch of 2016 releases before creating this list. Then I sunk an extra 20 hours road tripping and side-questing before finishing Final Fantasy XV. More on this later!
Best Early Access Game: Space Pirate Trainer
This was the first game Nanners had me try in VR. This arcade-ish wave based shooter is a great introduction to VR and just fun to play. I’m curious to see what they add over time.
The One That Got Away: Dishonored 2
Dishonored got away. Dishonored 2 got away. I’m going to go ahead and pencil in Dishonored 3 for getting away in 2020. I should really play this franchise.
Of Course I’ll Rebuy That!: Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection
2016 was the year I fell in love with the Uncharted games. Turns out everyone was right. They’re really good.
Shame: Super Mario Run
It isn’t awful, but it didn’t justify the number of hours I ended up putting in to purchase every item in the Mushroom Kingdom.
That Beat Tho’: Hyper Light Drifter by Disasterpeace
This was a hard choice for me this year. Shout out to Doom for it’s use of music, but Disasterpeace’s soundtrack for Hyper Light Drifter is top notch. The haunting digital tones create an ambiance that fits the world perfectly. I wrote this whole list while listening to the soundtrack. It’s pretty good for writing, as well as questing to find the cure for a heart disease.
Multitasker: Destiny / Final Fantasy XV
For the past several years Destiny has been my game for mindlessly running bounties while catching up on podcasts, wrestling, or pretty much anything else. Final Fantasy XV snuck in at the end of the year and stole that role. Long car rides, and load times, gave me plenty of time to multitask.
The Future Is Bright: Persona 5
Japan already has Persona 5. Japan is the future.
On to the list!
Honorable Mentions: It’s my list and I’ll add honorable mentions if I want to!
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Spirit of Justice – OBJECTION! How did this not make the top 10?! Phoenix Wright visits a country full of mysticism where there are no defense attorneys!
- Oxenfree – My wife is a big fan of horror movies so I convinced her to play through this with me. More paranormal than horror, we both enjoyed it quite a bit.
- The Witness – This is a game that I thought I would love, but ended up bouncing off after several hours. I did enjoy it and I’ll get back to it one day.
- Firewatch – 2016 is the year we learned what Firewatch was. Pretty good as it turns out.
- Gears of War 4 – I don’t know how things work in Stardew Valley, but do not mess up Marcus Fenix’s fucking tomatoes!
Hitman was on this list before I played Hitman. Thanks to the crew over at Giant Bomb creating HOURS of enjoyable Hitman content, I knew this was one of my favorite games of the year. There was no doubt in my mind and this was based on just WATCHING others play Hitman, and discussing it with friends who had played. The rules of these lists are more like rough guidelines, but I still thought hard about if I should include Hitman. I think it’s a very interesting case, and a statement on how we currently consume video games. Not only are a lot of us playing games, but we’re watching videos and streams of strangers and forming judgements having never picked up the controller. I believe that the evolution of video based content for video games has created a very interesting environment. Not only is it entertainment, but also one of the purest ways to get eyes on a game without purchasing or playing yourself. Regardless of the words being spoken by the presenter, you get to see a slice of a game and make a decision about it. Sorry for wandering off topic a tad, but I find this topic interesting and really look forward to the future of games media. Back on topic for real. The Hitman franchise was one I would jump in and out of, but I don’t recall ever getting so much enjoyment out of any of them in the past. What other game in 2016 can say that a can of spaghetti sauce is the superior weapon choice to a gun? As of this writing I have played the training missions of Hitman, and I can safely say that if I had more time to invest in Hitman it would be higher on my list. I mean, I ejected a man out of a jet as the solution to an “impossible” test mission.
9. Ultimate Chicken Horse
What if you took Mario Maker but had 4 people try to build the course to the finish all at once? The goal is simple, pick items to build a level and then platform your favorite cartoony animal to the finish and dance. It can’t be too easy though, if everyone makes it to the goal no one gets points so why don’t we add in some traps and terrible things that come flying at you like say, hockey pucks. Games of Ultimate Chicken Horse can turn into nightmares quickly, but when you manage to find that one sneaky path that no one else thought about, it’s just the best. Ultimate Chicken Horse is a couch competitive level building platformer, my favorite early access game last year, and thus should be no surprise that it appears on my list the year it released in it’s final state. Like most couch co-op or competitive games, it relies on a simple concept. The cycle of each game is: 1.Build the level. 2.Platform to the finish. 3.Repeat. The chaos caused by the traps is only topped by the awful things the players do to each other and this all just ensures that the game doesn’t get boring. The adjustments to the scoring Clever Endeavor made during it’s path from early access to release only helped make a more balanced game. Providing bonus points for getting a trap kill or to the underdog who has the fewest points only help to keep everyone involved. Did I mention there is a dance button? More games should have dance buttons. We need it.
8. Watch_Dogs 2
Watch_Dogs was a marketing monster, and then released to a collective “meh.” It was a case of marketing overselling what the game was. What it ended up being was a fairly bland open world game where the protagonist could occasionally do some hacker things to get further in his quest for generic revenge. I personally didn’t think it was bad, it was just kind of a boring with a lot of wasted potential. What it did do was create some good bones for Watch_Dogs 2 because that sure is a way better game. Ubisoft turned the style meter to 11 and it’s exactly what a hacker game needs. Watch_Dogs 2 embraces nerd culture in an affectionate way without beating you over the head with it. Moving the setting to San Fransisco was a wise move. If you want you have a game filled with technical nonsense, put it in the land of nonsense tech startups. It just makes sense. My only gripe with Watch_Dogs 2 is that the gameplay can feel a bit against the narrative. The hacker group objective is essentially to take down big data and the selling of the people’s information. The game starts you with a stun gun and honestly it’s the only weapon that feels right to me. Sure you could 3D print your own guns, but why? The group mission is to protect and save the masses, so why would I want to shoot them? It feels a bit lazy to include real guns just because it’s an open-world game even though they don’t fit the narrative. I get that Ubisoft want to let the player make those kinds of choices and play their way, but it seems like a missed opportunity to try something new. This doesn’t make it a bad game, it is in fact, a very good game.
7. SUPERHOT / SUPERHOT VR
I may have played things a bit backwards. I played SUPERHOT VR first, so I’ll discuss it first since I’m combining them in this ranking. SUPERHOT VR is THE COOLEST thing I have done in VR. A somewhat simplified version of SUPERHOT, the VR version uses the same mechanic of the world and enemies moving only when you do, but provides a more satisfying way to play. I’ve never played a game that made me feel like such a badass. Fighting through each level is essentially a puzzle. Throwing random objects, deflecting bullets with whatever, punching and grabbing guns from enemies, I mean this may as well be Neo Simulator 2016. From what I gather the story is lighter in the VR version and it lacks normal speed replays, but that’s fine because we have SUPERHOT for both of those things! SUPERHOT provides the same gameplay except with more traditional shooter controls, which honestly is a perfectly fine way to play. SUPERHOT feels like a more complete package to me with it’s story outside the game in addition to it’s gameplay. Both versions of SUPERHOT are examples a mechanic that could feel tiresome if it weren’t handled so well. As I alluded to earlier, every level is constructed like a puzzle, with quick restarts allowing you to learn and quickly apply a new strategy to fight your way to SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. Perhaps I’ve said too much about SUPERHOT. Forget all of that and just remember…SUPERHOT is the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.
6. Titanfall 2
Two years ago I put Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare above Titanfall in my top 10 list. I still think about that choice and question it. I really enjoyed the multiplayer in both and I believe because Call of Duty had a story, any story really, made me feel like it was a more complete game and thus the slight nudge. Titanfall 2 has course corrected in a huge way. In many first person shooters that have a multiplayer focus the recent trend is that the single player story mode is often used as an extended tutorial with some story slapped together. Titanfall 2 did something different. Respawn took a hard look at their game and picked out what makes Titanfall different and fun. They took those pieces, and knit a campaign out of it. While many of the levels do feel very different, it works in Titanfall 2’s favor. Each level is something new and highlights just what is so awesome about Titanfall 2. The story bridges the chapters, which is needed since at times the levels feel like different games. The interaction between regular soldier guy and unlikely pilot Jack and his sudden titan partner BT is well done. It makes sense that Jack, a normal soldier with minimal pilot training, would treat BT as a fellow soldier and friend, not as a weapon. The multiplayer has added new titans, weapons, classes and all of these things level up individually in addition to your pilot level. These are all pretty standard things you would expect from a second iteration of a multiplayer shooter. Titanfall 2’s online play is very fast paced and takes some getting used to, but even though I felt like I was playing poorly, I was having a good time playing. I think one of the most interesting additions is Networks. These are essentially clans, however you can join multiple which encourages playing with groups. To be able to simply fire up the game and alert any other players in the network that you are looking for a group to get a match started is smart. It made for a much better online experience knowing that most folks are at least loosely tied together by their Network. Networks can also set a happy hour where the first game played during this time will produce double experience so it gives many networks a prime time with max users on. I wouldn’t be shocked to see other games take the lead from this and integrate some form of it. Online multiplayer games and their communities seem to have only become more toxic as the years have gone on, but a simple thing like this may help with some of that. Or at least I can hope.
5. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
If we had an award of “Series of the Year” I would give it Uncharted. I mean I suppose I could make one up…
Series of the Year: Uncharted
There we go. This was the year that I finally dove into the Uncharted series. I started Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune on PS3 some years ago but bounced off. Knowing that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was coming out this year, I decided to pick up the Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection and finally give it a go since it seemed like the best way to currently experience the previous 3 games. I can confirm officially, the Uncharted games are awesome. Uncharted 4 continues that trend. Nathan Drake finds himself on yet another journey of climbing, shooting, and set piece action sequences, which is really nothing to complain about since these core features had produced 3 very successful games. For the first time in the series, I felt like the game was more about the characters and their relationships than the treasure. Several chapters are used exclusively used to expand on these relationships and the missions where not a single shot is fired are some of the most powerful in the game. We see kind-hearted wise-cracking (yeah I know, he murders a lot of people…) Nathan Drake mistreat those closest too him and his guilt is an ongoing theme throughout the game. In terms of gameplay itself, the shooting can feel a little clunky for how much of it you’re doing, but it’s by no means bad. Uncharted is known for flowing in and out of cut scenes and which creates an experience where you never want to set the controller down. Naughty Dog seems to just understand Sony hardware in a way that many other developers don’t and seem to squeeze every bit of power out of it which ends up creating very visually impressive games, no exception here. When I finished Uncharted 3 I had concerns about the need for a 4th title in the Uncharted series. When I finished Uncharted 4, I was very glad we got to go on one last adventure with Drake. I said LAST. Don’t do it again! We’re good here. Move on to the next story please Naughty Dog and I will be happy.
4. Hyper Light Drifter
I don’t think any game this year grabbed me as quickly and as hard as Heart Machine’s Hyper Light Drifter. I started the game on a Friday afternoon and was done by Sunday. All year I have had a very hard time putting words to just why Hyper Light Drifter is so good, so I’m just going to brain dump some thoughts and hope it all makes sense in the end. On the topic of “no words” there are none spoken or written through the entire game, leaving the player to interpret cut scenes and interactions with other characters. You play as The Drifter, or at least that’s how I will refer to the player controlled protagonist because there are in fact many drifters who seem to be kind of knights or adventures of the world. The Drifter has some interaction with the big digital shadow evil of the game and is left with a heart condition which the game makes very clear by having The Drifter often stumble and cough up blood. Find the big evil, and hope for a cure. That’s the story as I understood it. The game has a 3/4th perspective, has scrolling from screen to screen, even plays similarly to Zelda: A Link to the Past. Heart Machine’s goal of making a game that emulates the experience of a SNES is right in my wheelhouse so I may be a bit bias but I think they nailed it. The map includes 4 major zones, which include top worlds and a large interconnected underworld. Again, the player is left to figure out what the purpose of these zones are, and that’s where I’ll stop with story beats and explanation. It’s best to simply venture out into the world for yourself. Exploration and learning is all part of what makes Hyper Light Drifter an exciting experience. The combat of the game is punishing, but I never felt the frustration that I often do with Dark Souls-ish games. I never felt like the game was unfair, I simply had to do it better next time. Boss battles usually require multiple attempts to learn patterns and the proper way to approach them. The controls feel tight which is a requirement of any game with this level of combat difficulty. There’s a freedom in Hyper Light Drifter that many games don’t have. Three out of the four areas can be explored first, there is no set order, which also means that any experience SHOULD be able to be beaten regardless of upgrades. This fact powered me through much of the game, knowing that it was designed in such a way that I COULD get through it. Since there is no spoken dialogue or written text, the atmosphere and tone of the game relies heavily on it’s music, and as you likely read above, I consider the best of 2016. Since release Heart Machine have continued work on the game and added things like a 60 fps mode, which looks and feels great, as well as a co-op mode. I have played the co-op a few times with Aaron and it really does change the game. For a game that relies very much on enemy attacks, dodging, and anticipating, having a 2nd drifter running around changes some of these interactions to create a new experience and way of playing. I hope I did Hyper Light Drifter justice and this gets you to play it, because it really is a game to be experienced. The fact that this game is #4 on my list only proves how strong of a year 2016 was.
3. Final Fantasy XV
What even is a Final Fantasy game in 2016? Well to quote myself from a stream Final Fantasy is, “riding around with your homeboys, uh, killing whatever diner men tell you to”. I mean there is a bit more too it than that, like an evil empire killing Noctis’ father and the quest to reclaim the throne, but mostly about helping other people. I was always excited for this game, even back to when it was titled FF vs XIII, since it was supposed to be the action RPG alternative to the more traditional FFXIII. About 10 years later, I had to know what the outcome was and I wasn’t disappointed. Final Fantasy XV is a game I could have finished in about 35 hours but instead finished at 55 and that was only after creating some arbitrary end goals for myself so I could move on to other games since the end of 2016 was fast approaching. I am often a sucker for open world games with a plethora of side-quests, because I’m always going to do them, or at least the ones I deem important enough. It’s probably my collection mentality that keeps me going and thinking, “well this quest is only 2 minutes away so I’ll go do that quick.” I’ll repeat this process over and over if it’s a game I enjoy. The thing I enjoyed most about Final Fantasy XV, the thing that kept me going for 55 hours, was really it’s combat system. I have no issues with the more traditional turn-based battle systems in other Final Fantasy games, but I really prefer a more active battle system. It’s why I like the Kingdom Hearts and Tales games. The systems in Final Fantasy can go deep, or you can keep them fairly simple. I made it through the entire game without giving my party members a second skill. Probably dumb on my part, but I was focused on using the skill points to power up Noctis. The rest of the party consists of Ignis (the driver chef), Gladiolus (the muscle mullet), and Prompto (the photographer with a gun). Together the boys like to camp using Coleman gear and eat lots of Cup Noodle around the fire. Sometimes they explore dungeons and find swords of the previous kings that will help Noctis defeat the empire and take back his homeland, but mostly driving, camping, and cooking. Final Fantasy XV has plenty of flaws, but I had a really good time with it and that’s why it’s so very high on my list. It’s not a game for everyone, but it’s a game that works really well for me.
Having Overwatch near the top of my list isn’t very exciting, but it’s really where it belongs. Blizzard took a failed project, shined it up real nice, and…released one of the most enjoyable well-balanced multiplayer game I’ve ever played. It’s rare for me to play an online multiplayer game alone. Overwatch got me to do it. I would say about 50% of my play time was without a party, because I was just trying to play as often as I could. Everything about Overwatch feels near perfect. Whatever your play style, Overwatch has you covered and with several different choices. It’s a credit to the game that I feel comfortable selecting any hero in the game, and even if I’m not doing well, I feel like I’m helping. One of the smartest things Overwatch does is highlight your achievements during a match. Most games you look at your Kill:Death ratio and decide if your round was good or bad. Since that ratio doesn’t matter for some types of heroes like support or defense, it will instead highlight amount healed or damaged blocked and then let your team show their appreciation by voting for that. Overwatch is constantly showing you the things you did well, when you set new records, and that has a huge impact on a players mood while playing any game. As players earn levels they earn loot boxes (or they can be paid for) which will provide cosmetic items and currency because outfits. Again, the excitement of working toward and opening a loot box propels a player forward and encourages them to keep playing. Features like, the weekly brawl which adjusts a game mechanic or restricts to certain characters, add to the variety of game modes. They created and entirely “new” game type with Lucio Ball. I mean it was basically Rocket League, but it was at least something different to play. Blizzard’s has the uncanny ability to step into a new genre and succeed. The amount of polish, care, and continued support they put into their games is truly amazing shows in the final product. Overwatch has the capabilities to be a powerhouse in the multiplayer scene for a long time, and I honestly don’t see it going away for years to come.
DOOM in 2016 should not work, but it does and I knew right from the get go. Within the first several minutes we have:
- DOOM Marine waking up from a tomb with demons all around him.
- Finding the classic but slightly updated DOOM Marine armor.
- A giant warning flashing “Demonic Invasion In Progress” as to say, “yeah we kind of thought this might happen so we prepared an alert for it.
- A robot scientist named Samuel Hayden (S.Hayden…Sat…OH! NOW I GET IT!) explaining that fracking Hell for it’s energy didn’t quite go as planned.
- DOOM Marine physically throwing and breaking monitors that are spouting exposition at him.
- An elevator ride which concludes with cocking a shotgun in time with the end of the At DOOM’s Gate music.
DOOM sets it’s tone very early, and that tone is ridiculous. The best kind of ridiculous. At the end of that opening sequence I laughed and said out lout to no one, “Oh man! Alright DOOM, let’s do this.” No game made me feel like DOOM did. I played on the Ultra-Violence setting to ensure I was challenged and every time that music kicked up for an encounter, I got psyched up. In a nutshell, that feeling repeated over and over is why I enjoyed this DOOM so much. It’s a game about moving fast and killing demons…all the demons. DOOM Marine really hates demons. Hell even has a whole tale about the DOOM Slayer and how the DOOM Slayer slaughtered so so many demons. And that’s the brilliance of DOOM. There is a mythology and story to uncover, and while the DOOM Marine can’t really be bothered with it, the player can if they want. There are secrets to find, codex to read, a world to explore and figure out what exactly is going on. Or just tear demon’s appendages off and shove them places. On that note, the glory kills are fun, but I mainly viewed them as a tool to replenish health. If I had to complain I’d say they get a bit repetitive, but it’s not a big issue. I can’t really speak to DOOM’s multiplayer or SnapMap features since I didn’t spend a lot of time with them. That said, the single player story was enough to make it my #1 game of 2016.
That’s the list. The best games released in 2016 for this specific guy named Jon! Thank you all for a great 2016 and I look forward to 2017 and doing this all again.