2016 was not one of my favorite years for games, while it was not as bad as some were making out with interesting additions to the Paper Mario and Star Fox franchises being welcome, there still were not many games that I personally found to be truly noteworthy and to say I absolutely loved them. So picking five games proved to be a task in itself, actually finding five games that stood out amongst the mediocrity of the year was daunting. But eventually a small selection stood out as examples of games that I will look back at 2016 and be happy about, so here are my personal top five games of 2016.
The Xbox One has been a console of mediocrity for me personally with 2016 being particular noteworthy, Gears of War is still stale, ReCore failed to live up to its potential, and Deadrising 4 was more of the same (which is either good or bad depending on who you ask). Though there was one game that truly made me glad that I bought an Xbox One, Quantum Break. From Remedy Entertainment who brought us the much loved Alan Wake game, we saw a new experience come to life that blended interesting elements of gameplay with live action television series delivering something that should not have worked yet somehow did.
TV show and game should not mix together yet this combination worked well to flesh out varying elements of the narrative, being able to see the struggles of the supporting characters and see greater narrative points get shown in a better manner fleshed out this game. In moments where things would have been dull in game terms the television show elements help to carve out the points and develop this world and its turmoil, even showing how different characters had their own motivations.
It was more interesting how the idea of choice played out through this story showing critical paths for how the story could turn, and putting us in the shoes of the villain during these critical junctions weighed more towards the greater narrative and truly creating the story we want to see play out. The gameplay elements were also fascinating with the mixture of varying time based powers blending naturally with the regular shoot outs and time disruptions. Quantum Break was not one of the best games I have played by a long shot, but it’s fascinating design and ideas surrounding its narrative made this an interesting game that is worth playing by all adult Xbox One owners.
2016 acted as a major milestone for the Pokémon series, celebrating twenty years Nintendo and Game Freak had to come out with something big that both celebrated the series long history, but also redeveloped the franchise showing evolution beyond the staples of the past twenty years. What did we get out of this? One of the finest Pokémon experiences to ever be released with Sun and Moon.
Pokémon Sun and Moon acts as a sort of re-imagining of the classic franchise, taking the stronger elements of the franchise that fans loved while changing up the stale segments to create a truly unique adventure that would get fans excited. The combination of Alolan form Pokémon, and Island Trials made this adventure one to remember, being able to see an old favorite return in a big new way was brilliant, and the Trails were an unpredictable breath of fresh air offering some of the toughest challenges with the Totem Pokémon.
There were many great things about Sun and Moon but put simply these will be easily known as the best Pokémon games to arrive in years and will hopefully be remembered for many among 2016’s greatest games. But for me this was easily a worthwhile experience which rewarded my long time fandom of the traditional franchise.
“Walking Simulator’s” get a bad name, people fail to understand the truth depth of these adventure games and often criticize them for not being real games. Despite the brilliance of games in the genre such as Gone Home or Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture from previous years, 2016 finally got many on board with the masterpiece that was Firewatch.
Firewatch was a “Walking Simulator” with a difference, unlike similar games that leave you wondering what everything means and hide the narrative within the confines of the setting, Firewatch put narrative first. This game acted more as an experiment in analyzing how people would bond in isolation which was the core part of this experience, the feeling of escapism that surrounded your journey through the national park, deciding your own honesty, and just how honest could you get with someone you don’t even really know? These burning questions defined Firewatch especially as our bond with fellow Firewatch Delilah developed and we would come to rely on her as the narrative hit tense situations.
The way this game handled so many ideas so well still has me in awe, and the narrative is one of the greatest I have encountered. Despite the apparent flaws in the narratives conclusion which are easily explained away by further narrative deconstruction and paving your own story, Firewatch was unbelievably brilliant. To make one final note the fact this game is still so heavily in my thoughts says a lot about how I personally responded and just how great this game was at least for especially me when paired with the beautiful setting, narrative, and my real life need to simply escape into a world of isolation.
Back in 2012 Arkane Studio’s released the excellent Dishonored which was an immediate success due to the games narrative, as well as gameplay which encouraged players to choose their own style of play. Were you a blood thirsty killer, or a life conciseness man who did not want to create further turmoil in an already dead city?
With how much of a masterpiece Dishonored was the fact that the game received a sequel was simply a joy to hear, and Dishonored 2 didn’t fail to live up to the standards of the original game. Rather than focusing on creating a fresh experience that played with the core mechanics of the original and fail to recognize why people liked it, Arkane simply created a new narrative and crafted the same experience out of this adventure offering an equally brilliant masterpiece.
The slight changes that were made did not fail to advance the experience, the interesting design acted as a nice counterpoint to the rundown and dead set pieces of the original game. With some clever ideas surrounding the option to play as one of two protagonists whether that was the classic Corvo, or Emily Kaldwin. Each character offered their own skillset to master which made it easy to jump back in and enjoy the gripping narrative again, Dishonored 2 is how you make a sequel without trying to take apart and redefine your franchise. In 2016 Dishonored 2 was probably the most fun I had while playing a game where I wanted to think and simply not just act.
After three masterpiece entries in the story of beloved action hero Nathan Drake the prospect of closing up this critical chapter seemed like a terrifying thought. What if Naughty Dog messed up and Uncharted 4 was not going to live up to the high standard that many of us had come to know within this excellent franchise? Yet as Naughty Dog has done so many times before they pulled out all the stops to craft one of the finest closures to a beloved franchise, as well as crafting one of the finest action games ever brought to a video game console.
If Naughty Dog had simply created an adventure that featured the core mechanics of Uncharted 2 and the same narrative strength we would have been happy, but Naughty Dog bettered themselves crafting a narrative that explored the self-destructive relationship of Nathan and Elena, while also further exploring the long missing brother Sam who randomly resurfaces and the trouble that occurs due to their re-connection. The narrative was a finely crafted farewell to the incredible adventures of Nathan Drake, but the gameplay also evolved offering some excellent moments, breathtaking visuals and incredibly fun segments.
With the addition of true stealth mechanics in combat sequences, the grappling hook to make for many intense moments over deep chasms, and simple open world style moments. Uncharted 4 was a tried and true masterpiece which I am proud to say was the best game of 2016 for me, and this game truly cements Nathan Drake with a fitting conclusion to his chapter.