2016 was an interesting year for video games as for the most part this year was pretty lacking when it came to most games that saw the light of day. Thankfully we still had some really notable releases across all the platforms. It was tough to narrow down this list as to which would garner top honors and the hardest part was determining how minor the flaws in the top titles would hold them back. A lot of these titles also boiled down to personal experience and as such are reflective of how I personally viewed the titles listed and are not the overall opinion of us here at CORe. Only one can be considered the best game of the year for 2016 though, but I can assure you that all the games represented here are the best of the best for this year.
I’m a sucker for a good ghost story, and Oxenfree delivers that and more in its adventure game pretext. Following teenagers as they travel to a strange island, mysteries and a coming of age story unfold with fantastic dialogue and in-game choices that feel true to life. The game then throws in the monkey wrench of ghostly audio crackling through the radios, time loops that warp the environment and reset conversations and those same choices affect who you wind up with, who lives and who dies. A wonderful experience from beginning to end and a great showcase on how dialogue narrative can keep a simple game premise enticing and interesting.
Once in a while I tend to enjoy a game that can be similar to a good book. Video games, much like any good novel allow you to escape the outside world and put you in the shoes of another character and experience something different. Firewatch is exactly that in a nutshell, and comes packaged with a brilliant script, stunning art direction and a gripping story that has you guessing right up until the very end. Without spoiling anything, the story and its ending are all about expectation versus reality and how sometimes even escaping our mundane lives only means we eventually will have to get back to it.
8) Titanfall 2
It’s a great thing when a sequel surpasses the original game in everything it delivers and it’s an even better thing when said sequel says to heck with the original and does its own thing despite slapping a “2” on its title. Titanfall 2’s campaign is a high octane action rush from start to finish albeit a bit predictable at times. The multiplayer is also serviceable and does a great job of taking elements from the single player campaign and turning them into things to do while blasting opponents in the face. It’s a damn shame that this game is being outsold by the game’s it unfortunately got sandwiched in between because as a whole it is a much better product than Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.
7) Final Fantasy XV
It’s a funny feeling when one considers a game with the name Final Fantasy as an underdog title being released but that was exactly the case with Square Enix’s latest in the revered franchise. In and out of development hell for the better part of 10 years, Final Fantasy XV started out as a Final Fantasy XIII spin-off and then thankfully evolved into its own game after some time. We got a fully packaged experience that mixes the old with the new, complete with a fantastic cast of characters and everything we could ever want from a Final Fantasy game. Only marred by weird story choices and pacing towards the end, Final Fantasy XV stands as a true test of time, showcasing that Square Enix still has what it takes to put forth the experiences we’ve known them for and deliver a product with great production value from music to cut-scene to gameplay.
Much like Journey before it, Abzu is more about the experience than it is the actual game. Thankfully what is both played through and experienced in it is a fantastic moving piece of art in an underwater setting. If you’ve played Journey then you already know what to expect from this game as the series art director worked on both, but that doesn’t hinder the experience nor the message Abzu delivers with vibrant level and creature design. A wonderful musical score accentuates the message the game conveys and its mystery and atmosphere all work in tandem to deliver a gaming experience like no other.
5) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
I know a few close personal friends would have expected this to be my Game of the Year but that honestly would have been the easy way out. That doesn’t mean Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End isn’t worthy of praise though. In fact, that is exactly what is delivered in Naughty Dog’s latest and final chapter in the franchise (At least for Nathan Drake, we do have a spin-off game coming up). What I loved best about this game was its overarching theme of learning from the past as the game tells that story of maturation and growth from one of the most nonsensical main characters in gaming. Seeing Nathan Drake essentially grow up over the course of the game was great and made better by how Naughty Dog metaphorically delivered it with their own personal growth by including a Crash Bandicoot easter egg in the game, showcasing not just the series growth but their own.
You know a story is good when it can be delivered with no dialogue whatsoever. Coming from the minds that gave us Limbo, Inside stars a lone boy on the run in a puzzle platformer that conveys a deep and stark message as you progress through it. The game does a wonderful job being a metaphor about the illusion of the video game player and player control.
I bounced between this game and our number 2 title and if what I wound placing in our number 2 slot is the future of the multiplayer essence of First Person Shooters, then Doom is the end all be all of how the FPS genre must remain going forward when it comes to the single player experience. Taking the old and mixing it with the new is nothing new to games, but it’s important to take notice of it when a game does it right and damn near perfect. Every FPS game going forward will have to live up to this single player experience going forward and much like how Devil May Cry on the PlayStation 2 solidified how action games need to be going forward (and honestly to this day has still yet to be surpassed), Doom ushers in on how the FPS genre has evolved. While the multiplayer isn’t perfect, it too offers a nice change of pace from the standard shooter fare we’ve come to know. Evolving past Call of Duty and coming close to the buttery smooth gunplay found in games like Destiny, Doom is the Mad Max: Fury Road of the FPS genre, and I seriously doubt any shooter going forward is going to top this in regards to the single player experience as a whole.
The world needs heroes and if 2016 was any indication we need them in real life now more than ever. For the time being though, we can have fun in playing as our favorite hero (or villain) and escort payloads that our teammates will never get on or capture control points that our teammates will also never get on. Overwatch is mechanically sound, has a sleek animation style, diverse cast of characters and offers a first person shooter experience like no other, only being marred down by balance issues and the oft debatable notion that it is seemingly impossible to enjoy this game solo thanks in part to 90% of the players out there just not knowing how to play this game on a basic fundamental level. There is so much depth and skill needed in this game and today’s audience is definitely more casual than when shooters of old were making their mark. However, when you do get that squad that does know what they are doing, Overwatch flows like water and it becomes easy to see why this game has garnered the accolades it has from gamers everywhere. I personally have a love/hate relationship with it, but it would be insane for me to not acknowledge how good the game is even on a basic level, and how much the game has fired up and reignited my competitive gaming spirit.
Game of the Year
Video games are almost always a personal experience. A large portion of the enjoyment for a video game like Overwatch or Doom or even something like Destiny is the other people you play with. You’ll note that both Overwatch and Doom took the top 3 in my list if that can be any indication to where I hold those titles in my mind and heart. Now while I did and still do enjoy those games there are many other issues that I have with them both that prevent me from personally feeling like they are the overall best game of the year. Again this is for me personally and has no baring or weight on any major scale.
I want to let it be known that this wasn’t easy. I debated with myself and others about giving the following game the honor of being called my personal Game of the Year and it almost didn’t get it until I realized that so far I’ve been talking about my own time with the various games listed, and if my review for it is any indication then you will know that I sat through this title with my heart racing in my throat, my eyes watery with emotion as the game delivered a tale so heartfelt and endearing that it’d be criminal for me to not acknowledge that it was the best thing I played through in 2016. I know full well that the game isn’t perfect, but what game on my list was? Every game had an issue whether minor or major and that’s exactly the thing when it comes to any video game. They are all personal experiences that we get to live and breathe for the time we put into them as individuals. Only one game gave me an experience that had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end and at the same time delivered an emotional and investing story.
So for personal experience, for a game that I waited for and felt it delivered on everything I wanted from it I can only give this award to one game. The final award and my personal Game of the Year 2016 goes to…
The Last Guardian