This is the time of the year when I take a step back to reflect on what a crazy ride 2016 has been for the world, for me personally and most importantly for gaming. There were a lot of good games out this year, so many in fact that I had 5 runner ups to my usual top 10 list, so given the fact that I’m done with this list way earlier this year than I usually am, I feel a bit generous; Here are my favorite 15 games of 2016.
15 – Stardew Valley
Long time fans of the Harvest Moon series have been waiting for a game like Stardew Valley to be made for a long time; with endless charm, loads of content, incredible mod support and things to discover there’s really something for everyone here. This is the type of game in which you could lose yourself for hours as you go through the seasons growing your farm, visiting the village and it’s inhabitants and investigating curious events surrounding you. This feat of a game made by one person is a treat and is definitely among the most memorable experiences of the year.
14 – Super Hot
Super Hot is a real cool mechanic that the game is based on: time only moves when you move. With that key difference a First person shooter is suddenly transformed into a puzzle game. Going through the motion as you figure out the best course of action to make it out of that level alive is a joy and it’s even more rewarding watching it unfold in regular speed.
13 – Blade and Soul
This is by far the game of 2016 that I want to play more of! Having been popular in South Korea for years, Blade and Soul finally saw it’s English release pretty early on in the year. It finally addresses one of my key issues with most MMORPGs which is combat; BnS provides clever mechanics and combos that are vastly different across all races with varied level of challenges that make combat always fun and instantly highlighting PvP as a joy and ultimately one of the best drivers to play more.
12 – Firewatch
Firewatch takes narrative storytelling to new heights. With incredible attention to details the team at Campo Santo create a very believable world out of extraordinary setting, character development and intriguing story line. The game responds to your playstyle in ways narrative games haven’t achieved before; the branching storyline unfolds based on player actions in ways that always feel natural to the world and never forced.
11 – The Last Guardian
Much like it’s spiritual predecessors “Ico” and “Shadow of the Colossus” this game is an instant classic. The unmistakable style of creator Fumito Ueda also present in here was instrumental in pioneering the “games as art” movement and perhaps one of it’s brightest examples. The last guardian highlights the relationship between boy and beast in a remarkable way that is believable but also virtually unachievable in any other medium other than video games. The last guardian has clunky controls, weird camera, but a lot of soul.
10 – Rhythm Heaven Megamix
As an amateur musician I always have a soft spot for rhythm games. The latest entry in the rhythm heaven series is special; it’s massive in content old and new, offers a lot of different levels of challenges and was impossible for me to play the game without a smile on my face. The game constantly surprises you with new ways to visually represent concepts of rhythm from the humorous to the least expected making it an ideal learning tool of rhythm to entry level musicians.
9 – Zero Time Dilemma
I am a big fan of the Zero escape series, 999 and “Virtues Last Reward” are both great games in their own right and have some of the most twisted and interesting narratives in video games (both criminally underrated in my opinion as well). The 3rd and final chapter is no different, and indeed it does follow a lot of the traditions of the series as well as wrap up the story nicely. This game wasn’t gonna happen, it only exists because of a group of passionate fans and a dedicated creator that teamed up to get enough funding to get it out the door.
8 – Overwatch
The team at Blizzard have mastered the art of making video games; this is a studio that have never made a first person shooter before, only to come out with one of the most celebrated releases of the year. With a diverse cast of characters boasting incredible abilities each almost worthy of it’s own game, Overwatch is a game that will be played for years to come. It has presented enough new ideas to welcome back fans of the FPS genre that have lapsed due to it’s standard game modes and have each found a playstyle that suits them the most.
7 – INSIDE
Developer playdead made a reputation for themselves with Limbo, their puzzle platforming titles have a very distinct and strong artistic direction that more than make up for what they lack in terms of team size to give their titles high quality feel. INSIDE was a weird game with many people having different interpretations of what it could mean, but it’s at it’s core a journey that everyone should experience.
6 – Orwell
Orwell is an important video game; the subject matter it’s driving across could not have come at a better time when the very credibility of news sources, topics shared on social networks and opposing opinions on privacy and personal freedom in a time of terror of fear of others. Orwell weaves strong narrative with simple desktop simulation mechanics to give the player the power to make serious decisions at points and drive the plot forward at others. Similar to reading a good book I could not stop playing Orwell until I finished it and still reflect on it’s content long after I moved on.
5 – Street Fighter V
Street Fighter V without a doubt suffered from a troubled launch, it’s timing with the CAPCOM cup and marketing campaign led to the early release of a title that wasn’t entirely complete. The online store was a mess, there was no punishment for rage quitting and single player content was a joke, greatly affecting the game’s sales. The real shame is that underneath it all lies perhaps the strongest core gameplay of a Street Fighter game ever, the animation, balance, depth and emphasis on honest gameplay is unrivaled in the genre and with promised continued support this is a game that is likely to be played by fans for years to come.
4 – Final Fantasy XV
Considering how long Final Fantasy XV has been in development, it’s a miracle it got released at all, let alone it being good. Even after almost a decade FFXV still feels like it would’ve benefited from another year or two, as it clearly shows the ambitions of it’s creators to make a JRPG like no other one that takes big learnings from “A realm reborn” in appealing to western audiences. Final Fantasy XV is a grand adventure that brings back that familiar feeling of older games in the series but isn’t afraid in taking new daring decisions that hit more often than miss.
3 – Overcooked
Overcooked is couch co-op diner dash. It’s chaotic, catastrophic, friendship ending and always a blast to play. It is the go to game to play when you have people over and quickly became a favorite pass time at work. Overcooked sets your expectations than uses clever level design to completely surprise you every single time; watching the madness unfold as people run around like headless chicken yelling instructions at each other is just as fun as watching a group of highly organized individual immediately breakout into their own roles and create the most efficient pipeline for the task at hand. In a year painfully lacking of games releases from the house of Mario, Overcooked comes out as the most unofficially Nintendo feeling game of 2016, and that’s a huge compliment.
2 – Dragon Quest Builders
Many will make the mistake of dismissing this game outright just on how much it wears it’s influences on it’s sleeves. Dragon Quest Builders uses Minecraft mechanics as based but it adds elements that the later lacked, most important of which: Purpose. Dragon Quest builders uses a minecraft world, in a JRPG Dragon Quest setting and flavor and plays like a Zelda game. Charming story line, lovable characters and enough diversity between questing and creativity, Dragon Quest Builders is an amazing game that will consume you if you let it.
1 – Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
If I was trapped on a deserted island with no internet and allowed to take only one video game it’ll be Civ 6; the new changes and tweaks to the classic Civ formula are almost universally welcomed changes. New systems in how districts work, workers, tech trees, government trees, improved AI, much quicker competitive multiplayer to name a few. The game hosts an interlocking web of systems and mechanics that have so much depth that would take players hundreds of hours to untangle, which will be timed enough for new leaders releases, expansions and more. This is game that will be celebrated and played for years to come, and rightfully so.