This year has been something else hasn’t it? I’m gonna try to keep it easy peezy (Even though it’s hard to keep it easy peezy with the looming prospect of our human rights being threatened by a racist, bigote–EASY PEEZY, EASY PEEZY) because aye yo, games are pretty fun. And this year’s games were pretty fun too. It was an exceptional year in the game industry and there were a lot games that came out of the woodwork to make quite the impact on me. With that said, here are my Top 10 games of 2016
Honorable Mentions: Doom, Darkest Dungeon
10. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
I thought the Persona/Fire Emblem crossover was going to be the kind of weeaboo game that appealed to me on the most basic level because of my infatuation with J-Pop. While I did get that (in spades), what I also got was one of the best JRPG’s I’ve played in a good long while as well as, in my opinion, the best JRPG of the year. Being more of a fan of the turn-based rather than the “action” when it comes to JRPGs, I felt right at home in the Persona combat system and appreciated the sprinkling of Fire Emblem’s influences from the Mirages you summon to the weaknesses in battle being parallel to the famous strategy game’s. What really put the game over the top for me was the game’s gleeful appreciation and reverence of the Japanese pop industry and you can feel it in every nook and cranny of this game. I came for the J-Pop but I stayed for the endearing characters and fantastic combat system. It’s one of my favorite games on the Wii-U.
9. Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 1 wasn’t very good. It was missed potential with a bland, brooding main character, a frankly inaccurate geographical presentation of Chicago and the motherfucking thing blue-screened my computer so many times I literally lost count. So you can understand why I was less than excited going in to Watch Dogs 2. But the fact of the matter is Watch Dogs 2 fixed just about every single annoyance and complaint I had with the first game. Its portrayal of San Francisco felt very lively and, according to Brian, frighteningly authentic. The main character Marcus was much more relate-able and just flat out more fun to be around than Aiden Pierce in the first game, and the tools at your disposal gave you a staggering amount of flexibility in how you approached missions from kicking in the door in and doing dirt to leveraging the power of your drone and remote-controlled car to hack into terminals without having to set foot on the premises. This along with how surprisingly introspective they can be from Big Brother, to Election Rigging, to its too-close-to-home musings on being African-American in the predominately Caucasian tech industry, Watch Dogs 2 might be one of my biggest surprises of the year. This is the game the first one should’ve been.
8. Titanfall 2
I love Titanfall 1. It is one of my favorite shooters of all time. I didn’t mind the campaign amounted to what was essentially a radio play because the multiplayer and movement was such a breath of fresh air to the genre. Titanfall 2 is everything I love about the first game but simply better. The campaign was a very tight experience with some really great sequences (with one in particular being especially outstanding) which should be expected from the same people who created Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 1 and 2. The multiplayer was refined even more with pilot abilities being built into the kits rather than one-off burn cards and a MUCH larger variety of Titan classes, abilities, and customization at your disposal. With some surprisingly touching story beats and shooting controls and movement that may be the best in the industry, Titanfall 2 took an incredible game and simply made it better.
I like Limbo though I wasn’t as much of a fan of it like everyone else. I loved its art style and appreciated its sadism towards the player but the puzzles really weren’t my cup of tea. Inside though, I like that shit. PlayDead figured out how to use more colors other than black, grey, and greenish-blackish-grey and this show of vibrancy (comparatively) really makes the look of Inside pop and allows its world to feel more lively while somehow not undermining the miserable tone the game presents. It’s an impressive feat. This mixed with puzzles that were incredibly engaging and fair (rather than being profoundly difficult and tricky for no reason) and an ending sequence that will stay with me for a good long time, all wrapped up in a neat 3-4 hour package, Inside is a game that deserves to be played. Because it’s pretty fucking good at what it does.
6. NBA 2K17
The best sports game ever made.
5. Dishonored 2
Going into 2016 I was not a big fan of Dishonored. I bought it the year it came out but bounced off of it almost immediately due to its lack of communicating enemy sight lines and the mounting resentment I felt everytime I found myself in open combat due to the game basically stating “If you kill people, you’ll get the bad end.” I played it early in the year and giving myself over to the Bad End Gods by stabbing my way through the game I found that the mechanics, movement, and tools provided allowed me a impressive amount of avenues to approach any encounter, leading to a grudging appreciation of the series as a whole. With Dishonored 2, everything seemed to click into place and before I knew it it was one of my top 5 games of the year. The difference in abilities between Corvo and Emily led to very different play-styles depending on who you picked at the beginning of the game and Emily’s redemption story gave it a cohesiveness not seen in the first game. The abilities seemed more refined and fluid and I found myself completely immersed in the game world during the entirety of my (mostly) non-lethal playthrough that garnered a very satisfying ending. Top to bottom, Dishonored 2 is a better game then its predecessor in almost every possible way. This game managed to out-Thief Thief.
I thought the episodic approach for Hitman amounted to some sort of declaration of surrender. I thought they were sending it out to die because they had no idea what to do with the series after the middling Absolution. I was wrong. I’m a dumbass and I was wrong. Hitman is the best entry in the long, storied series and is legitimately one of the best games of the year. It wore its episodic format better than I could’ve possibly hoped because it infused each of its massive levels with a jaw-dropping amount of detail and interactivity. It’s one of the rare games where the more you play a level, the more it opens up and shows you options you didn’t remotely consider the previous time. The number of ways you can approach killing your target in an environment is breath-taking and shows off the staggering amount of work and craft that went into each and every level in this game. Everything seems very thought-out rather thrown in for its own sake. It feels curated but somehow on an immense scale. Not to mention the sheer amount of, I can’t think of a more eloquent way to put this, bonkers dumb shit you can get up to in these levels has to really be seen to be believed ranging from tricking a guy into testing a plane’s ejector seat in closed airplane hanger, to posing as a famous supermodel and walking the runway before making your way to your target, to killing a target with an exploding golf ball, to teaching your target yoga before spartan kicking them off a cliff, to making your target believe the ghost of his dead mother his haunting him to…play this game. Play this motherfucking game. There is literally nothing else like it.
3. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
I was very curious to see how Uncharted 4 would fare after several key players left Naughty Dog at the conclusion of The Last of Us, in my opinion the best game of the last generation. As it turns out, Naughty Dog is still masters at creating video games and Uncharted 4, while not their magnum opus, is not that far off from it in terms of quality. This is the best entry in the series with its storyline wrapping up Nathan Drake’s tale in very succinct, definitive fashion (the mythical Quadrilogy, ladies and gentlemen) while managing to one-up itself in terms of explosive set-pieces and dynamic combat encounters all the while keeping the frame rate a steady 30 FPS on Playstation 4 (which, if I’m using the technical term, is black magic voodoo). The men and women at Naughty Dog are wizards. They are wizards that reaffirmed that they are some of the best in the world at what they do and Uncharted 4 shows that their A-game is crafting one of the finest Action-Adventure experiences ever made.
2. The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine
The Witcher 3 was not my game of the year in 2015. That distinction went to Metal Gear Solid 5. After I played Blood and Wine, I found myself questioning my decision. There’s no way around it, Witcher 3, in my eyes, surpassed The Elder Scrolls V as the Best Role-Playing Game Ever Made Period (or the BRPGEMP which I dunno, I think is catchy). Blood and Wine took the lessons from Heart of Stone and continued to sand down a lot of the stickier edges of Witcher 3 all the while crafting a full game’s worth of content into a DLC that rivals any other full release in 2016. The land of Toussaint feels much more vibrant then anything I saw in Witcher 3 and the game puts its incredible writing through its paces and tells another gripping tale that felt like a definitive and frankly powerful end to Geralt’s story that personally moved me more than I expected. Only one game in 2016 prevented me from putting this as my best game of the year. But when it’s all said and done, it will probably get the lifetime achievement award.
Going into 2016 I thought my favorite game of the year would be Overwatch. By the end of 2016, my favorite game of the year was Overwatch. It’s actually rare that it happens like that for me but here we are. Overwatch was the most fun I had with any game all year and it’s almost unfair how good Blizzard is at making video games. Every single pixel of this game feels polished to a mirror shine from the look, to the incredible characters, to the sound effects, to the ambient dialogue to how different roles and abilities are able to play off of one another to create a cohesive chaos that is frankly addictive and should probably be put on the banned substance list. Blizzard repeatedly takes well worn genres and refine them down to their purest essence and builds an entire game around that and Overwatch, knowing full well what they’ve done with with World of Warcraft, may be their most impressive feat to date. The game just….feels good. How it celebrates players’ successes while blinding them from their failures to prevent the resentment and poor feelings that tend to crop up in any competitive online game is absolutely fucking sinister and undeniably brilliant. This game created a phenomenon, took Battleborn behind the woodshed, and dominated millions of people’s playtime from the second it was released to this very moment as we speak in a way not seen since, frankly, World of Warcraft, all in the same calendar year. This is a game that’s going to be around for a long, long, long and rightly so; they made the best character fighter/class-based/hobby-grade/magical/addictive shooter of all time that enslaves the free time of players and they happily submit to it. They made the best game of the year.