At a distance, 2016 looks like a lacklustre year for video games. There were fewer big, blockbuster, triple a games in comparison to previous years, but that’s a good thing. The absence of some of these big “event” games has allowed indie games to rise to the forefront. That being said, when I looked at 2016 up close, I was surprised by how many big, triple a games there actually were. 2016 wasn’t all that bad for gamers.
The following is my list of the best games of 2016. This isn’t a countdown, I’m not going to rank the games or declare which one I think is best & the games are presented in no particular order.
I should also note that there’s a difference between ‘best’ and ‘favourite.’ If a game makes it on this list, it doesn’t mean it was one of my favourites, it means I recognise it as something of note. Quantum Break for example is one of my favourite games of the year. I’m having a lot of fun playing it, but for numerous technical reasons, I can’t possibly say it’s one of the best nor can I put it on this list.
Gears of War 4 [Xbox One]
I’ve played all of the previous Gears games in co-op, but for reasons I won’t get into, I played this one on my own. Had I played it in co-op, I’ve no doubt that I would’ve enjoyed it more. That being said, the story, gameplay and characters are all great & I had a lot of fun playing it.
Gears of War 4 does a great job of reviving and rebooting a great franchise. My only minor gripe about the game is that while the gameplay is good, there’s little new in it. Perhaps that’s for the best though. Had the Coalition implemented a major amount of new gameplay features & mechanics, I’d likely have complained about them failing to create a classic gears game.
Hitman is undoubtedly the game I’ve played the most out of in 2016. That’s of course the result of the new episodic release format IO Interactive has taken. Each episode offers a large, open sandbox to explore and experiment in. I found myself playing each of the 6 locations for hours, trying to do the many challenges and to unlock the dozens of rewards. Hitman offers nearly unlimited replay value, unlike many other games.
IO has also demonstrated how to do episodic games right by constantly updating & improving the game. If you were to jump into the game now, for the 1st time, you would get a very different experience than I did, when the 1st episode came out. There are both subtle & major changes that have been made.
The episodic format while good, does come with one big issue. The story is now spread out. This wouldn’t be so bad if there was a lot of story content, but there isn’t. Instead, each episode has 1 cutscene. This means that by the end of the season I was both dissatisfied & slightly confused with the story. I not only didn’t really know what was going on, the little story that there was never really went anywhere or explained itself well.
Firewatch is an unusual game because it’s a game where you never really do much except walk. This may sound boring but it isn’t. The characters and the dialogue are brilliant and the story is interesting and engaging enough to make you forget/ignore how little you’re actually doing.
One of the most enjoyable experiences I had this year was playing firewatch. Looking at the gorgeous artwork, friendly chatting away to someone over a radio and simply exploring and investigating the forest wilderness was a surprisingly relaxing experience.
There are few games like firewatch and it’s certainly not perfect, the ending for example isn’t the best, but it deserves a spot here because the experience and journey I had in the game was very, very engaging.
Inside is simply brilliant. From the art, animation, clever puzzle design, to story; every element of this game is excellent.
Inside is a puzzle game that never makes you feel like an idiot and always makes your success feel gratifying. All of the puzzles in the game are unique and smart. I found myself smiling pleasantly every time I successfully solved a problem.
I don’t want to touch on the story too much because I think it’s up for interpretation & I don’t want to spoil it. Suffice to say, it’s very good & it left me thinking for a long time.
Uncharted 4 was certainly my most anticipated game of the year. It was billed as the final adventure for Nathan Drake and his companions & possibly the final Uncharted game. For those reasons alone, there was much to look forward to. There’s also the fact that Naughty Dog doesn’t seem capable of making a bad game anymore.
Luckily, it lived up to the hype. The story was wrapped up in a highly satisfying manner, the game played well and it was gorgeous (possibly the best looking game ever made.)
The only slightly nagging points of the game are that it’s perhaps too long, gameplay lacks much innovation & the game sometimes placed focus on new characters over some older, familiar faces. These are really minor, nit picky points though.
Job Simulator was my 1st ever foray into VR. I feel the need to point that out. I didn’t expect to like the game. The idea of being in a semi-realistic work environment and doing tedious chores doesn’t sound appealing. However, the gimmick of VR makes it very fun.
I strongly recommend Job Simulator for those of you who’ve yet to try VR. It’s very fun, entertaining and it has an easy learning curve. It’s a great starting point for this new, innovative medium.
The only problem is that once I played through all the jobs & scenarios, I didn’t feel the need to return to the game. It would be good to watch others have a go at it though.
Deus Ex is the kind of game that’s just asking to be played over and over again. The fact that I could play this game again in a completely different way & get a somewhat different story, means this game is good. Level design and variety is really good and on top of that, the game looks pretty, it has a well realised world & a highly intriguing story.
I feel like this game has gotten lost amongst the pile of FPS games this year. Mechanically, it might not be up to the standards of COD or Battlefield, but in many ways it’s doing a hell of a lot more than those games did.
I was debating about putting this game on the list. I don’t think it’s telltale’s best and like previous telltale games, it’s saddled with glitches and frame rate issues.
The reason this game makes the list is because for the 1st time ever, I truly felt like I was Batman and Bruce Wayne. I also admire how telltale told a unique batman story with their own twist on characters and lore from the series. It’s just a shame that I wasn’t keen on all of their unique creative choices.
Like the above game, Arkham VR made me feel like Batman. It’s certainly a must play for anyone with PlayStation VR. The environments and character models are great (even if they’re a bit blurry at times) and there’s an interesting story filled with some cool events. This is less a game & more of an interactive, narrative experience. Also, playing it for the 1st time is quite fun because you actually feel like you’re standing precariously on top of a building.