The Top Ten Games of 2016
10. Destiny: The Rise of Iron
Destiny sits at the very top of this list for one reason: it’s a hard game to love. I could go on at length about how each new update, expansion and event add something new and good to the overall Destiny experience. The fact of the matter however is that those things only feel significant to a long time player like myself. If you jumped into Destiny as it stands today you’d be jumping into the best version of Destiny there’s ever been. If you’re jumping in alone, you might find it hard to stick with, and you wouldn’t be wrong. The fact remains that Destiny is still some of the most fun I’ve had with friends playing games all year. Destiny sits at number 10 because to this day I cannot recommend this game without any caveats or qualifiers.
9. Pocket Card Jockey
I’m double-dipping into the Gamefreak pool, but I would be doing a disservice by not talking about one of the most addictive and unique games of the year. It’s also one of the most easily ignored games of 2016, as it was released on the 3DS eShop with very little marketing outside of a couple of tweets and a spot in a Nintendo Direct. The premise is simple: you’re a jockey who’s bad at horseracing so you play solitaire to make your horse run faster and win horse races. There’s a surprising amount of depth to all of this (to be expected when it comes to Gamefreak) and once you learn the basics there’s a ton more to master. Pocket Card Jockey went unfortunately unnoticed this year but that’s not for lack of quality.
8. Ratchet & Clank
Call it a reboot, remaster or reimagining, Ratchet & Clank is absolutely one thing: amazing. Ratchet & Clanks answers the question “Do 3rd person action-platformers still work in 2016?” The answer is a resounding yes. Oddly enough, this version of Ratchet & Clank is based off of the recent animated movie, which was in turn based on the original Ratchet & Clank. Everything this game does to expand upon the original is great, the new areas to explore, the new weapons and the redesigned levels are all just plain fun. That’s really the gist of it, Ratchet & Clank is one of the most fun games I’ve played all year. This game is content with being an update of the original, and it succeeds at breathing new life into this genre. Ratchet & Clank is, simply put, a really good time.
7. Hyper Light Drifter
When I first played and reviewed Hyper Light Drifter, I thought it to be little more than a difficult action game with a good sense of style and world-building. Over time and a couple of quality-of-life updates later I’m returning to this game as one of the definitive video game experiences or 2016. Hyper Light Drifter took me a few playthroughs to really sink in, but I’ve come to appreciate the attention to detail and surprisingly deep world. On the Venn diagram that has Dark Souls on one side and The Legend of Zelda on the other, this game sits staunchly in the middle. So much of the world is presented without a single word, but the game conveys so well everything it tries to tell you. This goes without mentioning the fantastic combat system. This game is hard, but combat is so fast and fun that I found myself banging my head against even the most difficult encounters without a second thought. If you haven’t already, check out Hyper Light Drifter.
Dark Souls, Hyper Light Drifter, Pocket Card Jockey and now Furi, 2016 is the year of difficult games. Challenging yet rewarding all the same, Furi is a game that’s all about boss fights. Boss fights and walking from one boss arena to the next. Despite this bare bones approach Furi oozes style. From its cel-shaded graphics and character design by Takashi Okazaki to its synth-heavy soundtrack, Furi is top-to-bottom rad. Boss fights are a test of skill and reflex since Furi emphasizes learning and adapting to different mechanics, rather than starting simple and ramping up the difficulty from there. There’s also a surprisingly interesting story behind the melodramatic one-liners the bosses love spouting at you. Furi is a game I definitely won’t forget anytime soon.
5. Dark Souls 3
Oddly enough, Dark Souls 3 is a sequel that is better suited for newcomers than long time fans of the series. What I mean by that is that someone coming from Bloodborne or looking to try a ‘Souls’ game might come away from this game more satisfied than someone who’s played the first 2 Dark Souls games. Dark Souls is full of plenty of things that cater to fans of the series, perhaps to a fault. Despite the empty fanservice and the almost non-existent Dark Souls 2 acknowledgement, Dark Souls 3 is one of my favorite games this year. The perfect marriage of Bloodborne’s combat engine and Dark Souls world and storytelling, or lack thereof. Dark Souls has some of my favorite moments in any souls game, despite it feeling like the shortest 40-hour RPG I’ve ever played.
Of course, you knew it would be somewhere on this list. Blizzard’s been on a roll with its last few games, mainly due to their accessibility and welcoming aesthetic. Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm and now Overwatch have reshaped the multiplayer landscape for the better, and introduced millions of players to genres they may never have given a second thought. Just about every single design choice in Overwatch is smart. From the way it encourages new players by displaying positive stats above all else, and the constant game re-balancing intended to make just about every character viable. Of course, these things seem miniscule but they add to what makes Overwatch a game worth coming back to alone or with friends, and one that I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone.
3. Pokemon Sun/Moon
For the first time in my life, I can say that a Pokemon game is one of the best games of the year, without the qualifier “it’s good for a Pokemon game”. Pokemon Sun and Moon are fantastic RPGs that brings some much welcome changes to the tried, true and admittedly stale formula. There’s a fully formed and engaging plot, with characters I actually grew to care about. It might seem at first that a lot of the praise this game has received is from fans shouting “finally!” at a franchise that seemed to be complacent with just updating the list of Pokemon with each new installment and little else. There’s more here than just a game that’s great because it’s not just another Pokemon game. The Alola region, its characters and Pokemon, are all great. Pokemon Sun and Moon are without a doubt wonderful.
2. The Witness
I puzzled over this game (no pun intended) for so long after beating it the first time. The Witness is one of the most difficult, frustrating, beautiful and thought-provoking games I’ve ever played. I still return to this game just to find things I missed or see how much I can remember without looking anything up. The Witness is painfully simple, you solve puzzle panels with different rulesets to unlock new areas and solve more puzzles. It’s that simplicity, and silence, housed in a strikingly gorgeous package that makes this game so memorable. After a few hours of solving different line puzzles I’d find myself seeing the same shapes and patterns in real life, and once I delved deeper into the game and the messages it contains I realized why. No spoilers, if you haven’t already you should play The Witness.
I never thought I’d be sitting here writing in Hitman as my game of the year, but here we are. Hitman has had the luxury of being a constantly updating and evolving experience throughout 2016, always staying fresh in my mind. That however is part of what makes it so good. Every chapter and area is filled to the brim with content, but it’s how the game is structured that really pushes this game into becoming something memorable. HItman has been released episodically throughout the year, and in doing so has allowed each chapter to shine and become a full experience all its own. I haven’t even mentioned the game itself yet. Hitman is a fantastic stealth game that never takes itself too seriously. I’ve never had as much fun or been so invested in getting good at a game since HItman. Hitman is living proof that episodic games work, sometimes better than a full release all together.