2016 was a great year for games. When you compare it to the many letdowns of 2015, I thought almost all of the big games delivered solid products, all except the ones that rhyme with “Snow Pan’s Guy.” Coming up with a list of top games means that there would be seriously great game that would miss my list if I only did five. Therefore I, like Addam, have to expand my list to ten to truly show the love to the many amazing games this past year.
I am a huge fanboy of the original Mafia, one of my favorite games of that generation. Mafia 2, on the other hand, was a bit of a letdown. The story and characters were solid but the gameplay left something to be desired. Mafia 3 comes really close to being able to pull everything together and delivered a very memorable experience. The revenge story of Lincoln Clay is pretty straightforward but an entertaining cast of side characters and two very hate-able bad guys make the entire campaign compelling. The actual gameplay features fun, over-the-top action and pretty solid stealth mechanics. Moreover the actual style of the game, with documentary style cutscenes and amazing music from the era, make for a enjoyable, murderous romp through New Bordeux.
Final Fantasy XV
The only reason that Final Fantasy sits here in honorable mentions instead of on my actual list is simply due to the fact that I haven’t had enough time to actually finish the game. Everything I have played so far has been great, with fresh combat mechanics and a cool, unique world. I simply love the idea of a road trip movie set in the Final Fantasy equivalent of the American Midwest, although viewed from a delightfully quirky Japanese point of view. I cannot wait to jump back in and play more.
10. X-COM 2
X-COM: Enemy Unknown was a brilliant return for the long dormant franchise and X-COM 2 iterates in all the right places. It provides an experience that feels familiar while still offering plenty new to bring to a difficult, yet incredibly satisfying, campaign.
9. The Division
I said on last year’s Game of the Year show that The Division was the game I was most excited for. This came mostly because I saw a game with the potential to be the next Destiny, a title I can go back to several times throughout the year and get continuous enjoyment out of. It didn’t quite hit that mark but The Division was still a great co-op shooter that I was completely fulfilled by on my way to max level.
Not an overly long experience but from start to finish Inside is purely captivating. It’s horrifying and sad to follow this unnamed boy travel through many puzzles and trials towards his ultimate goal. The conclusion (no spoilers) is unforgettable and simultaneously both bizarre and touching.
7. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Some would take the fourth Uncharted game for granted, what with the high quality that we have had so far in the series. To overlook A Thief’s End would be a shame, because Uncharted 4 shows humanity and emotion that we simply aren’t used to seeing in video games. On top of that, it also offers the best combat so far in the series that has mostly marred with mediocre shooting mechanics.
6. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
The true genius of the Deus Ex games lies in their level design. The intricacy and complexity of each environment lends itself to multiple play styles, allowing you to truly play the game how you feel and it’s more than just lethal versus nonlethal. Do you use your amazing hacking ability to bypass security? Do you use the environment to reach ledges or more objects to find hidden paths? Do you just knock out every enemy and roam free? The choice is truly yours.
When it was announced that Hitman was changing to an episodic release, I thought for sure the series, one of my favorites, was doomed. Man I could not have been more wrong. Hitman ended up as a perfect version of the open-ended assassination game. With wide open maps designed with replayability and experimentation in mind, this new Hitman delivers the best game so far in the series. I cannot wait for Season 2.
After the revitalization of Wolfenstein with The New Order back in 2014, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the next Bethesda published reboot of a classic shooter came out great. However no one could have imagined just how great DOOM ended up. id Software has crafted an action game unlike any other (running at a solid 60FPS no less), with great weapons that reward you for switching on the fly by constantly giving you ammo, rather than saving your best weapons for only the toughest enemies. Add onto that the pure attitude of the Doom Slayer and his singular goal of killing everything and you have a fantastic title.
3. Titanfall 2
I was already a big fan of the multiplayer-only Titanfall 1 and the sequel delivered by adding more of everything while also promising great (and free) support going forward. What I could never have anticipated was how great of a campaign that Respawn was able to create. Each level offers a unique experience with many great sequences that stick with you, like the plant that is manufacturing houses and the time-shift mechanic of Effect and Cause. Plus it created an actual relationship between pilot and titan that was surprisingly effective.
2. Dishonored 2
I had high expectations for Dishonored 2 after loving the original. It met those expectations and then some. The introduction of Emily as a new playable protagonist invites new and interesting powers to tackle the game’s sandbox levels with. Even more impressive is the differences in tone between each level. One moment you are stalking through a dilapidated asylum hunting the vicious “Crown Killer,” while the next you visit the wonderous Clockwork Mansion filled with walls and floors that shift and change with the pull of a level. Similar to Titanfall 2, the levels almost feel like self-contained vignettes, yet still they are well stitched together through the ultimate goal of unraveling the conspiracy surrounding Delilah and her group of usurpers. Perhaps my favorite part of Dishonored 2 comes from the rewards for exploring the levels. In many games the difference between lethal and nonlethal is mostly just a button press; in Dishonored you have to work extra to find creative ways to pacify the game’s antagonists without bloodshed. Doing so, and in turn usually exploring every inch of each level along the way, is one of the most interesting and rewarding experiences I’ve had this year.
For a long time I have fallen off of competitive multiplayer games. Sure I have dabbled with games here and there, the most recent being the original Titanfall, but they don’t usually capture my attention for more than a month. This is only part of the reason why I was, and still am, surprised by just how much I love Overwatch. Naturally I, like many, had heard the ravings from early alphas and betas about just how much fun Overwatch was to play but I assumed, just like many games, that this would be another multiplayer game that I could probably enjoy but not stick to. I could have never been more wrong. The gameplay and competitiveness of each match is simply addicting, and the wide cast of characters means that you can go into every match with a new face and an entirely new experience from the last. Overwatch is a game that just feels good to play. It’s bright and colorful, the action is fast and rewarding, and the game spends its time building you up by focusing on your strengths rather than plastering the screen with kill/death ratios. It’s a game that is almost always a positive experience, even when you are losing.
On top of all of that you have an amazing amount of post-release support (no surprise coming from Blizzard) with new characters and maps being added for free and surely more to come. On top of that there have been three interesting, unique events that have brought out new game modes and an array of new goodies to unlock in game in the form of skins, poses and the like. Sure there are some questions about the efficacy in how Blizzard implements their free-to-play-esque Loot Boxes but for the most part I find the carrot on the stick to still be plenty enticing every time I pick up the game, which I’m still doing even eight months later. I still know that I can pick it up now, or again in six months and that fantastic experience will be there waiting for me, with probably something new to check out on top of that.