This year had a ton of fantastic games that, unfortunately, I didn’t play enough of. Between some serious changes in my work and juggling a personal life beyond video games, I really wish I had gotten through more than what I did. While narrowing down this list was difficult, I was able to come up with a list of my favorite games of 2016.
Games not on my Top 10, but I still wanted to give a shout out to because they’re awesome.
Batman: Arkham VR
Batman: Arkham VR might only be a tech demo, but it’s easily one of the most accessible tech demos on the PlayStation VR. My future father-in-law, who doesn’t play video games and had never been in VR got exactly that Arkham VR was going for. That’s something that so few other VR titles can say. Add to that a weird, fun side story in the Arkham universe, and it’s easily one of the most well crafted VR games I played this year.
For every game I understand right away, there’s a Glittermitten Grove. Resembling a RTS, there just isn’t a ton of depth on the surface. Other than faries, I couldn’t figure this one out. Getting my buildings set up in the trees only a part of my struggle.
From the start of the game, I felt like there wasn’t much direction. Remember: this is supposed to be a fairy game. Add to that, there being some serious difficulty. Can I even make it one season without losing everything? Turns out, nope! I normally love these kinds of games, but I was just not getting it. Only after a lot of time, did I learn that it’s a much deeper game than anyone expects. Now, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. Seriously, you only get a fraction of the experience at the top of the trees.
2 times played, but I beat it after hours of play.
I played through Pony Island knowing only a little bit about it. I knew it was one of those “subversive” games. But by the end I was in a hacking battle with Satan. While it was only 2 hours long, it felt like the perfect length. I still haven’t done absolutely everything I can with it, but I really want to get back to it some point soon.
American Truck Simulator
Yes, it’s a re-skin of Euro Truck Simulator 2, but I really like that game and playing it in America, even if that’s only in 3 states.
Now for My Full Top 10
Inside is a lot like Limbo but meatier. Not as in “there’s more content” but as in “the game feels like there’s a lot of actual meat in it.” It’s grotesque and weighty in a way that Limbo only hinted at…yes, Limbo, that dark as shit game, was only a taste of what Inside was. By the end of the game, things happen in a way that make you disgusted and far more depressed. It’s an incredible experience.
I backed SUPERHOT after playing the short demo that was made around the concept. Even after playing that, I was amazed at what SUPERHOT became. The game does things in a way you simply do not expect it to. By the end, it’s the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.
8. Stardew Valley
I have never played a Harvest Moon game. I had not heard anything about Stardew Valley and decided to try it on a whim. It was absolute surprise to me how good it turned out to be. Getting up to harvest my crops, explore the dungeon and go fishing became routine for a solid 30 hours. While eventually it got somewhat boring for me, that first 30 hours was incredible to experience.
7. Titanfall 2
Having played some of the original Titanfall while the player base was low, I knew that I liked the multiplayer. Turns out, I like the multiplayer in Titanfall 2, as well. The 3D movement is insanely fun, albeit somewhat slower than in the original, and the combat is as good as could be expected from the guys who pioneered the Call of Duty franchise. The added campaign is good, but it leaves a bit to be expected.
If nothing else, it got me to buy Mountain Dew…which in retrospect was probably not the smartest moment of mine.
6. Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour
Yes, it is technically a demo but it’s my list and if you don’t like it, make your own list. Also, it’s a self-contained story so it technically is it’s own thing.
Ever since P.T. and the Silent Hills disaster, I’ve been waiting for a game to capture what P.T. did. While the Resident Evil 7 demo slowly dripped bits and pieces in over the year, when the so-called “Midnight” update hit, I was all over it. I played through it, got all of the endings, played it in VR. The thing that this demo does so well is capture horror in a way that Resident Evil has not in years. Sure it might be more like Outlast than Resident Evil 4, but the Resident Evil series has always survived off of changing things up. This demo makes me more excited for the series than I have in years.
5. Dark Souls 3
This might be heresy to some people, but I really think that Dark Souls 3 is the best game in the series. The game plays smoothly and explains just enough while keeping mysteries for devout players that it feels like the perfect introduction to the series. And with a PC port that ran, for me at least, at a smooth 60 FPS, Dark Souls has never felt better…
Even if that one boss is a total dickhead.
4. Pokemon Moon
It’s been years since I’ve really dug into a Pokemon game. Even when I tried, there were just so many minor annoyances that they just felt impossible to get into. Pokemon, while not fixing all of these annoyances, gets it better than almost any other game in the series. They streamline the systems incredibly well and by adding variations on the familiar formula of “beat every gym”, they make it feel much fresher than it has in a long time.
Add to that the ridiculous new variants of classic Pokemon and you have a game that appeals to old and new fans.
The fact that I’ve invested not only a ton of time but also a lot of money into Overwatch is actually amazing to me. Having not played much competitive multiplayer in years, the fact that Overwatch gets me hooked is a miracle. The thing about Overwatch, though, is that it knows how to highlight you instead of everyone else. The game never tells you how bad you are doing, but instead highlights your strengths. Moveover, the game plays incredibly well and there really are no “bad” characters. Games are fast and even if you play poorly once, you can easily bounce back.
The one big problem, though, is that extra investment that the game asks of you. I’ve spent well over $100 this year on Loot Boxes because the system is based so heavily on gambling. Even if these are “optional”, the minimal amount of in-game currency the game doles out with duplicates is worthless. I’d rather just outright buy the skins or, better yet, have a guarantee that the money I spend won’t be wasted on duplicates.
However, the game is still good enough that I don’t feel terrible about it. I want to continue to support this game however I can, even if that is in a highly consumer un-friendly way.
Prior to 2016’s Hitman, I had only played a little bit of Hitman 2 on the original Xbox. And, in short, I hated it. It didn’t give you any real direction, I felt, and became too frustrating too fast. Now, fast forward to 2016. The new Hitman gets announced as an episodic game after a tumultuous development cycle. I decided to pre-order the first episode, just to get a little taste to see if I enjoyed it and here we are with it being the game of 2016 I just can’t stop thinking about.
Every time I play an episode, I spend literally over an hour just exploring the world and seeing what I can do. Exploring every nook and cranny just to get set-up for the big kill. Going episodic worked way better than it should have for Hitman, as well, creating an experience that can keep you coming back again and again and again and again.
This is also easily the most accessible Hitman game yet, allowing you to toggle multiple switches to make the game easier or more difficult. You can track kill opportnities, or turn off nearly every option to force you to think deeply about what your plan is. I would spend nights wondering if I could set up a kill in a certain way and discover that, yes I absolutely can. It’s absorbing in a way that no other game was this year.
The one fault, though, is the fact that the elusive targets are specifically timed out. If you decided to wait, those targets are gone forever. Hopefully Square Enix can get those targets back in Season 2, but there are kills I will never be able to do because I waited on the remainder of the season.
Hitman should not have worked as well as it did for me. However, it’s so good that it makes me consider going back to the prior games. That’s something I would have never expected.
I have a severe love for Doom. Even Doom 3, which a number of people hated, I enjoyed. So, when the first footage of Doom 4 leaked years ago, I was torn. The game was set on Earth and seemed to be more focused on character development than on shooting demons. Years went by and nothing was heard. I expected if we ever saw a new Doom, I would just play it out of obligation. Then last year we caught footage at E3 of a newly rebooted DOOM and…well, yeah that feeling deepened. The glory kills looked slow and the game just looked bland.
Then there was the multiplayer beta and, yup, I’m just playing this game out of obligation. The beta was boring, slow and just felt wrong. It didn’t feel like Doom or Quake or any of the other tremendous first person shooters that id had in it’s past. And, oh yeah, review copies aren’t going out until the day before launch. This game is going to suck.
So I’ll just rent it. And then, five minutes in and it’s the most insane shooter I’ve played in years. Literally, everything from the start to the end of the game is way more fast paced than any other shooter on the triple A market. The game is running at 60 FPS and looking gorgeous. The shooting feels like the full realization of a 3D Doom. The glory kills almost allow you to chain together kills, creating an arcade like experience without any scores.
DOOM gets Doom in a way that no one else has. The “story” is taken as a joke by the Doom Slayer, but there are so many characters who want it to be taken seriously. These people try to create an extended universe but the Doom Slayer is just like, “Yo, I’m here to fuck up demons. Are you with the demons? Then I’m going to fuck you up too.” There is something so absolutely amazing about how DOOM handles itself, in light of all of the history of the game, in light of the fact that it’s a triple A shooter in a world of Call of Duty’s. It is the perfect FPS campaign.
Sure there’s a not great multiplayer, but everything about the rest of the game is so good that you can easily ignore it all. DOOM does what Duke Nukem Forever was trying to do but failed so miserably at. It’s proof that even after years of development hell, you can create a near perfect game.