2016 was an amazing year for video games.
So many great titles came out across all platforms - it was hard to keep up.
I had an extremely difficult time putting this list together because I truely enjoyed each of these.
I'm sorry if a game you loved didn't make the list - It's likely that I loved it too, but just couldn't squeeze it on.
#10 Battlefield 1
Battlefield 1 is gorgeous, brutal, terrifying, and an intensely immersive experience from start to finish. EA Dice does a phenomenal job of not only realizing the horrors of WWI, but also honoring those who were involved. I adore this game, and it was really hard to put so low on the list, but this year had some stiff competition. That's not to say this is a bad game - No, no, no, no. Not even a little.
#9 Ratchet & Clank
Ratchet & Clank is a beloved franchise to many people, myself included. The quirky sense of humor, the colorful world, and the unique weapons and upgrades make this third-person action platformer stand apart from so many others. It's one of the most vibrant games I've seen this year, and the simple mechanics are a joy to play. Hopefully the success of this remake will spawn a full reboot because we just don't get many games like this anymore. Please, Insomniac, bring back Ratchet & Clank.
#8 Dark Souls 3
UGH. Dark Souls. I have a love/hate relationship with this game. There are very few games that make demands of the player. This is one of those. Not only does it demand your patience and your skill, it will constantly tell you that you aren't good enough, and destroy any sliver of confidence you may have managed to muster up. Yet it's this struggle that makes the game so damn good. The level of satisfaction you get from clearing a dungeon that has repeatedly destroyed you is intoxicating. Dark Souls III isn’t just good from a gameplay perspective, it’s design is grotesque, gothic, and gorgeous. Each area you navigate is an entirely new, hellish, Lovecraftian nightmare full of horrors that only want you dead. Playing with a friend changes the game in a way that makes certain areas easier, while others more devastating. This game is not for the light of heart, but boy is it worth it.
Overwatch is Blizzard at its finest. It has all the charm and care of any flagship Blizzard franchise, with the look of a Pixar film. This not-MOBA competitive first-person shooter not only looks brilliant, it plays divinely. Each character has been meticulously thought out in design, backstory, and playstyle, and balanced against all other characters as well. There isn’t a single character that is better than the other – this responsibility falls upon the player’s skill level. Blizzard knows how to make a game that has a certain ‘stickiness’ to it, and Overwatch is no exception. Plus, they are constantly fixing bugs, rebalancing characters to adapt to the meta, and providing a bevy of new FREE additions. They treat their fans with respect, and reward your love of the game constantly. Give this game a proper shot and it’ll hook you for good.
Make way for the brutal majesty that is Doom. This gory, brutal, fast-paced first-person shooter might be the best FPS of 2016. This game is fucking metal. Punch, shoot, rip, saw, and crush your way through leagues of demons to shut the gates of hell. Doom plays like a dream. The controls are flawless, the level design is fantastic, and this game is just a ton of fun. id Software has successfully brought back the beloved title, and I can't wait for more in the future. The best part of the game is that it doesn't pretend to be something it's not. It's a game about killing demons. The self-aware nature to the design and storytelling, the fluidity of the fast paced action, and the explorabale levels and upgradable weapons make for a damn near flawless experience that I won't soon forget.
#5 Dishonored 2
Dishonored is a first-person stealth action game that blends a somewhat steampunk aesthetic with that of the Victorian era. Dishonored 2 is a shining example of game design at its finest. Each chapter is a single level that is barred off from the rest of the world, but don’t let that trick you into thinking the gameplay is linear. These levels are large and densely packed playgrounds that put you at the beginning with a goal, and that’s it. How you tackle that goal is entirely up to you. The amount of creative problem solving that Arkane Studios has bestowed upon the player is largely unseen in many games, and the beautiful Victorian world they’ve created has a rich history that will immerse you more and more as you progress through each chapter. The game came in somewhat under the radar, and was just a blip in the games media, but it’s not a title from this year that you want to miss out on.
#4 Stardew Valley
What started in 2011 as a project to brush up on his programming skills, Eric Barone (@ConcernedApe) created a farming simulator that is heavily inspired by Harvest Moon. Stardew Valley was Barone’s answer to years of bad Harvest Moon games; he wanted to take what that series did well (and not so well), and improve upon it. He not only accomplished that goal, he did it all by himself. The amount of detail that he poured into every aspect of the game is astounding. The farming mechanics run deep, and there are tons of different upgrades and farmable materials. There are procedurally generated caves where you can mine for materials, fight monsters, and discover hidden secrets and treasure. All of this and more – This game is a joy to play, extremely charming, and at only $14.99 it’s a must buy.
Inside is a bleak monochromatic puzzle-platformer that will confound, amaze, and horrify while you narrowly escape the perils riddled throughout its dystopic world as the lone boy in red. Playdead is a Danish indie developer whose first game was the critically acclaimed, sensationally depressed Limbo. Inside is, in many ways, a spiritual successor to the studios first success. The game plays very similarly, but the mechanics that made Limbo work so well are made even better with Inside. Dodge masked villians, outrun attack dogs, and crawl, climb, and jump your way through each level that is out to kill you. The less you know about this the better. Get on this game.
#2 Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Uncharted 4 is a fantastic game – it very nearly made the number 1 spot on here. It tells a compelling narrative with well written and complex characters, has smart and simple gameplay mechanics, and is graphically stunning. That said, it’s a game whose greatness heavily relies on the player having experienced the first three games. Similarly to how you wouldn’t watch the last Indiana Jones and come away with the full intended experience, the same rule applies to Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. As a standalone game, it’s great, but as the finale to a beloved series it is phenomenal. After playing the first three games, Uncharted 4 couldn’t have put a close to Nathan Drake’s story with more finesse, and I’ll be coming back to these games for years to come. Much like the Indiana Jones movies, Uncharted will forever be a classic in the video game industry.
WINNER OF THE NAC GAME OF THE YEAR!
#1 The Witness
There is a complex simplicity to The Witness that elevates it beyond all other games to release this year. The game’s world, a gorgeous island composed of contrasting environments such as lush forest, river lands, and desert, can be explored relatively openly, yet the gameplay is quite literally linear.
Scattered throughout the island are a plethora of computer panels, and, on these panels, are line puzzles. You control how the line moves through each puzzles maze of turns and symbols to have it reach the end of the puzzle. Upon the successful completion of one panel, a new puzzle will appear, or a door unlocks, or something will happen to propel you forward.
The thing about these line puzzles is that they incorporate new rules and get more complicated as you progress. Each rule you learn pertains to the next set, and sometimes even contradicts other rules. And the game never once stops itself to teach you how to do this. You are tasked with learning on your own (and through the help of extremely well-paced and thought out level design). It’s like learning a new language, honestly, and the feeling of accomplishment after learning each new rule is beyond the highest highs I’ve felt in any other game this year.
The Witness is not an easy game. It’s the Dark Souls of puzzle games. That said, it’s not for everyone. The game will frustrate, and confound, but all the while intrigue. I had dreams of line puzzles. I began drawing line puzzles on binder paper to attempt to solve them while I was at work. I was obsessed and perplexed, yet following every panel I completed was an unbelievable feeling of accomplishment. The Witness rewards your effort and your intelligence to a degree that no other game came close to achieving this year.
It was difficult coming up with my #1 in a year that was so full of great games, but The Witness is immaculate from start to finish not only as a video game, but also as a work of art.