2016 was a pretty stellar year for video games. Whether you’re in to it or not, we saw Pokemon Go give Nintendo a strong footing in the mobile market, the mainstream introduction of virtual reality, the Xbox One gain traction with the Xbox One S and their announcement of the Scorpio, the PS4 topping 50 million units sold, both competitors released a mid-generation console upgrade, and we even caught a glimpse at Nintendo’s next entry in the console market, the Switch.
With different strokes for different folks, I’m always interested in reading about the games that stuck with each of you throughout the year. It’s tough to remember everything I’ve played in the last 12 months, especially as a reviewer, but I usually try to narrow down my end-of-year list to 10 favorites. Everything else I enjoyed, as the topic of this post implies, is an honorable mention.
These are mine.
It’s no secret that I play a lot of games, but I wanted to clarify that I’ve yet to play some of this year’s bigger releases (and some of the more niche ones). Watch Dogs 2, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Dishonored 2, Gears of War 4, Uncharted 4, Dead Rising 4, Dark Souls III, Grand Kingdom, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, Fire Emblem Fates, Dragon Quest Builders, Dragon Quest VII, Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD, Hyper Light Drifter, and The Technomancer are all on my to-play list, but I only have so much time.
I think I hit a point earlier in the year where I became a little jaded with the same ol’ same. Whether that be the case or not, I found myself immensely enjoying games within genres that I wouldn’t typically go out of my way to play.
Aside from Rocket League and the MLB The Show series, I rarely, if ever, play sports games. However, I had a great time with FIFA 17–more specifically its new story mode, The Journey. As an American, our soccer/your football has always been a foreign concept. But throw some interesting characters, a touching story, and newbie sliders in to the mix and apparently I’m all in.
I also rented this year’s Madden on a whim and got pretty invested in its Madden Ultimate Team mode. It’s similar to The Show’s Diamond Dynasty mode where you complete challenges, collect a currency, and buy packs of trading cards to craft your own team using the best players inside. It dangled enough of an RPG carrot to lure me along for a bit, but I truly ended up enjoying it in the end. I don’t even care about football.
Forza Horizon 3 is another game that took me by surprise. I only picked it up because of a price error at Target ($20 for a week-old game), but obsessively played it for a week before getting burnt out… no pun intended. Boy, that joke fucking sucked. Anyway, I loved the open-world aspect, the rad paint jobs uploaded by the community, and the fun arcade feel was right up my alley as someone who’s genuinely awful at racing sims. Plus there’s just something hilarious about showing up in the games of other players as a car smothered in scantly clad anime ladies.
There were a few good remasters this year that introduced me to games that I missed out on during the last console cycle, namely God Eater: Resurrection, Batman: Return to Arkham, and Dishonored: Definitive Edition.
Claire: Extended Cut and Risk of Rain are games that I missed out on during their initial runs on PC, but absolutely loved both of their releases on PS4 and Vita this year. Claire scratched an itch that I’ve had for a while as a fan of Silent Hill, and I couldn’t have asked for more in a horror game. Risk of Rain is easily one of my favorite Vita games ever, absolutely nailing the pick-up-and-play rogue-lite and 2D action shooter feel. It’s equally addictive and rewarding and would have been in my top 10 list, had it not been available elsewhere since 2013. Volume is another Vita game that I loved, but released in 2015 on PS4.
However, as much I enjoyed these games, it just doesn’t feel right adding remasters or late console releases to my Game of the Year list. It’s a hard stance to make, but feels fair. Just take note of how much I appreciate them in their linked reviews.
I also had a lot of fun with the fanservicey games Gal*Gun: Double Peace on Vita and Senran Kagura: Estival Versus on PS4, which isn’t uncommon. I typically enjoy these absurd, quirky Japanese games that hide their touching moments (again, no pun intended) under all of the boobs and upskirts. Both games were super fun.
Also on the Japanese side of things, I had a good time with the JRPG Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force on PS4 and I’m hoping to invest a bit more time in to Suda 51’s new free-to-play action RPG Let it Die. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is a great JRPG as well, but I got sidetracked by a review and didn’t get to spend as much time with it as I’d have liked. I had a similar experience with I am Setsuna, where I loved what I played (especially the OST), but ended up blindsided with a review and never went back. Soon, though. Hopefully.
2016 was an awesome year for first-person shooters. I really loved the campaigns for Titanfall 2 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and enjoyed most of Battlefield 1. I’m not ashamed to admit that I usually play the annualized shooters for their campaigns, and over the years my expectations have gotten lower and lower. But hot damn, did they all deliver this year. Titanfall 2’s stellar level design and buddy-cop story, Infinite Warfare’s interesting take on space combat and non-linear side-missions, and Battlefield 1’s various mini-narratives are all standout features that give me a little more confidence in how their respective developers will redirect their focus considering the single player experience moving forward.
Xbox One console exclusive Quantum Break feels a bit odd to include in my honorable mentions list, both because it had all the makings of a top 10 game during most of my experience, and because the lackluster and questionably designed finale put such a sour taste in my mouth that it’s now all I can associate with the game each time I think about it. Worth playing? For sure. But I can’t think of a more poorly designed and uninspired final encounter in just about any other game I’ve played.
I played a lot of Vita stuff this year, but most of it was backlogged from last year. However, I really, really enjoyed Drinkbox’s first-person RPG Severed. It intimately used the Vita’s touch features in an interesting way, accompanied by its brilliant aesthetic and a dark, haunting story.
ABZU is an artsy underwater exploration game that drew heavy comparison to the iconic PlayStation exclusive Journey. I was really intrigued by its world design and the way in which it vaguely told a story without using spoken word as its central language. It didn’t pack quite the same emotional punch as Journey, but it’s still worth mentioning nonetheless.
I’d also be remiss not to mention World of Warcraft: Legion. I love the changes it brought to the MMO, but the expansion came out at such a busy time that I didn’t have the chance to give it the amount of attention I’d have liked. I left my Gnome Mage at level 107 and I’d really like to jump back in and level my Demon Hunter soon.
What about you folks? What are some of the games that you enjoyed this year, but didn’t quite crack your list of favorites?