With another year of gaming behind us, and one just as promising in its infancy, I wanted to reflect on the year that was and pick out some of the games I enjoyed playing the most. This is not a Top 10 list or a compilation of the best games that were released in 2016. This is a list of the games that I had the most fun with this year, no matter how the public at large perceived them to be or when they were first released.
I started by identifying which games I actually played. I made sure to select those I had devoted enough time to where I got a good feel for the mechanics and at least a general idea of where the story/plot/gameplay was headed. After weeding through all the mess I identified 29 games that fit the criteria. Since that is just too many titles to expect you to read my opinions on, I cut the list in half, separated them by platform and alphabetized them.
So, without further ado, here are my Favorite 15 Games of 2016!
I love the Souls series. They check off just about every box on my list of things I like about games. Intriguing premise – check. Enveloping world – double check. Difficult but fair – triple check. As long as the geniuses at FromSoftware continue to crank out these magnificent works of art I will continue to buy them and enjoy them. Was Dark Souls III a perfect game? Of course not. But this was one I found myself clawing against the rigors of daily life to find time to play, so it definitely makes the list. I also wrote a review about it, which you can read here.
Yes, I have more than once found myself addicted to Destiny. I really can’t help myself. Every time an expansion releases I am not-so-reluctantly dragged back into the only first-person shooter I have posted a positive kill-to-death ratio in PvP. Aside from the competitive multiplayer, this game has content bursting at its seams. Yes, it took some time to get there, and the main story is about as coherent as Skip Bayless’ arguments, but I have enjoyed the years’ long journey it has been. Any game that can make me justify staying up until 4am on a Wednesday morning so I can conquer a raid for the twelfth time must be doing something right.
I eagerly awaited this game for a decade. I can’t ever remember waiting that long for something I knew I was going to take part in the moment it was available. Given the arduous development cycle, the fact Final Fantasy XV even saw the light of day is a minor miracle. And thank goodness it did! Admittedly I haven’t been able to finish the game yet, but after putting nearly 30 hours in I feel comfortable with my opinion that Square Enix has done me a solid. Also, Astral summons – wow.
The game that no doubt takes the cake for most divisive title released in 2016, No Man’s Sky was met largely with weeping and teeth-gnashing. Many screamed about unfulfilled promises and waves of uninspired repetition, which I won’t completely disagree with, but I chose to take NMS for what it was, not what some savvy marketing people said it would be. And what it was for me was a zen-like journey through an impossibly large universe, more like floating down a lazy river than jet setting across the stars. Still curious? Check out my review.
Many have proclaimed 2016 to be the Year of the Remaster. While that could certainly be true, Ratchet & Clank was more of a reimagining than a simple remaster. A revamped story (to coincide with the duo’s silver screen debut) and new planets to explore (then blow to pieces) gave this series a shot in the arm that I hope ends in another installment of this amazing franchise. I wrote a review for this one too – even did a video!
I don’t know if there is a game I suck at more that I enjoy as much as Rocket League. By all accounts, a game about souped-up vehicles playing a balls-to-the-wall soccer match should be an absurd mess filled with mayhem and frustration. The strange thing is, that’s exactly what Rocket League turned out to be, except it’s charming and tactical instead of boorish and thoughtless. Watching expert level players command the action – after struggling through your own two hour play session featuring your inability to hit the ball straight – is enough to make you tear your hair out, but the destructive symphony that exists is simply a blast regardless.
I feel like there shouldn’t have to be a whole lot of explanation done here. What was largely declared as the greatest game of the PS3 era was given a fresh coat of paint and brought to the PS4. This is a game that really challenges me. Not because it is extremely difficult, but because I can only handle it in small doses. Unlike a game like Final Fantasy XV, I can’t play The Last of Us for hours on end. But when I do play it, it’s mesmerizing.
If we played a round of “Which Game Does Not Belong”, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 would probably be the most obvious choice. Fortunately this is my list and I don’t really have to care about all that. The best thing about this game making its way to the PS4 was the drastic decrease in load times. Seriously, there are barely any. This series of fighting games have always brought me immense joy, despite my actual lack of skill in the genre. However, that one time I managed an extremely technical 64-hit combo that spanned all three of my characters made me feel like a god amongst men.
Nathan Drake’s final (presumably) adventure was everything I wanted it to be. A globe-trotting, action-packed, emotional affair that made me question, on multiple occasions, whether I actually wanted to finish the game. Maybe if I didn’t that dashing rogue’s charm would live on forever. The characters were as realistic as ever, thanks to incredible work by the actors behind them, and my heart wrenched this way and that to the rhythm of the game’s story beats. As the credits rolled though, I felt at peace – serene. That is how I wanted my time with Drake to end.
This episodic teen drama caught me off guard. Half Donnie Darko, half Sixteen Candles, Life is Strange put me in the scuffed-up shoes of Max, an aspiring photographer who just so happens to be able to manipulate time. The detail put into every element of the game, from Max’s journal to the side conversations taking place around Max, really helped to envelope me in the Pacific Northwest and deliver a thoughtful experience I count among one of my most pleasantly surprising of the last year.
Just one more turn! Seriously, after this turn I will absolutely save my game and walk away from the computer. Oh look, I finished researching three skills. Let me quickly reassign those towns with new ones. Ok, done. Now just click End Turn and … What?! No, I don’t want to form an alliance with you Genghis Khan, you punk. You ransacked one of my towns 17 turns ago. *sigh* 2 a.m. Alright, now I can save and finally get to bed. Wow! I was named chair of the Global Council. Let me just set up the UN’s strategy for the next few years and… Yeah, you get the point.
I dedicated more time to Hearthstone than any other game this past year. Not because I would sit down and play it for hours on end, but because there was rarely a day that would go by that I didn’t play at least once. Ten minutes here, thirty minutes there. Hey, it’s on my phone, I’ll play it during lunch. A new expansion with more cards you say? Of course I want to dedicate hours of my time watching YouTube videos and Twitch streams to find out the best new ways to build my decks. You can see my feeble attempts at Hearthstone supremacy right here.
A simple game on the surface about swiping either left or right (you Tinder folks would love it), Reigns was all about trying to maintain your perch on the throne of a kingdom while a bevy of people bring you problems that you have to deal with. For instance, the castle is on fire and you can save either the garrison or the treasury. Your choice affects your standing with one of four indicators – The Church, The People, The Army, and The Treasury. If any of them gets too much or too little power, the whole system is thrown out of balance and you’re out of a job, usually because you’ve been assassinated. A built-in roguelike system keeps the action moving swiftly.
While the cost of the game was a bit prohibitive, the game itself is massively addictive. Just like any good mobile game, it’s very easy to spend five or ten minutes playing before getting back to something else. It turns out there is a great deal of fun to be had in jumping around and collecting coins. Nintendo was apparently on to something all those years ago when the beloved plumber first made his debut.
And there you have it folks, my Favorite Games of 2016. Here’s to hoping 2017 is just as wonderful!
Be sure to leave your comments below on which games you enjoyed this past year and what you’re looking forward to in 2017.