This year has been a little crazy thus far for game releases. A few years ago, we were very back heavy with the Holiday and Black Friday period dictating where the most important games fell, (plus awards happening around then didn’t hurt either). However, over the last few years, with the ever rising of indie games scene and AAA companies willing to spread out their releases over a broader period of time, we have a much more constant stream of quality video games throughout the year.
As if to illustrate that, 2016’s been pretty stellar so far, and we are only four months in. I’ve already got 25 games on my ‘game of the year’ of the shortlist, so I thought I’d share that list with you. These aren’t in any kind of order, and I’ve not even mused on which is my favorite yet. However, one thing I believe is that 2016 has had one of the most action packed and quality filled first halfs compared to any year in my recent memory. So let me take you on a brief trip of games you should check out that are already out this year. There’s a lot of awesome stuff here.
Superhot is an impeccably titled game, because it can act as an entire review for a game. It simply is super hot. It’s a First person shooter, but actually functions closer to a puzzle title, as time slows when you aren’t moving. Putting you in bullet time the entire time you are playing, its up to you to figure out
Hyper Light Drifter
Hyper Light Drifter is absolutely gorgeous. The serene techno pixelated artwork is beautiful to look at, and there is a harrowing. It’s got fast paced combat against all kinds of nasties, and a rich little world to explore. If you want something that feels a little different, have at it. Also, some of the cinematic work is just gorgeous pixel art.
Pokken Tournament has been making a name for itself in the fighting game tournament scene, which is pretty rare for a new franchise. The Pokemon spin off takes place in a larger 3D space than others in its genre, but it’s a solid fighting game none the less.
Dark Souls 3
Dark Souls 3 is From Software’s swan song for the series if recent claims are to be believed, and it is a hell of a note to leave it on. It showcases some of the best the series has to offer, is absolutely gorgeous and twisted in equal measure, and the weapon system is much deeper than in previous games in the franchise. Seriously, don’t sleep on this one if you like the gameplay at all.
Far Cry Primal
Far Cry Primal brought the series to a rather unique place, bringing all the gameplay that makes Far Cry Far Cry into the stoneage. It had a much bigger focus on the use of wildlife in previous games, as you got to command the beasts of the world. Nothing like commanding a Sabertooth to murder a man.
The Division has a tone to it, and it is one that takes place in a beautiful but ravaged New York. It’s an interesting premise and location experience, wrapped in Destiny type play. It’s big, messy, complicated and interesting. From the Stellar Dark Zone mode, to the loot chase, there is plenty to admire.
While I am on the record for having significant problems with Quantum Break, it’s hard not to admire large portions of it. The game has neat combat mechanics and a fully fledged TV show running through out it. It’s a bodacious experiment, and even while I don’t think it holds together, the game has proven very popular.
Unravel is EA’s attempt to really get into harvesting indie games. They are a company synonymous with huge titles, but the little platformer proves they can have heart to. Coming as a very personal project, which it certainly has its faults, it’s hard to not to enjoy the intimacy on display here
Adr1ft, especially as a VR title, is quite the experience. Mixing Gravity with Gone Home, this most certainly is an FPX, more about exploration and story rather than skillful gameplay, but it’s a heck of a journey. As you float, looking for the next oxygen canister on a ravaged ship, it is hard to not enjoy the game despite some of its moments of tedium.
I am not really a mobile game guy, and I certainly am not a big Clash a Clans guy, but Supercell have knocked it out the park with Clash Royale. The free-to-play game can get a little eager for your money, but it’s hard to put down, creating a simplified moba more or less. It’s fast, addictive and well worth your time.
I don’t even know how to sell Devil Daggers. It’s sort of like an endless Doom. Kinda? Quake-ish? You are pitted into a hellish arena, shooting energy from your hand to kills monstrous creations. It’s dark, dingy, and rounds often only last a minute or so. It’s really unique.
Oxenfree coasts on its brilliant atmosphere. It’s creepy coming of age story is disconcerting at times, and it tells a lovely little character driven tale of a group of teenagers on a beach, complete with a spooky abandoned and a stellar art direction, there is a lot to fall in love with here.
The Witness isn’t like much you’ve played in the last few years. It’s a collection of logic puzzles, that start off simple and really, really escalate. That would be interesting enough, but the island it takes place on is vibrant and full of mystery. It’s really quite special.
Stardew Valley has quickly taken over a huge portion of the gaming. It’s become a Twitch and YouTube darling and it is not hard to see why. Taking cues from Harvest Moon, the survival game is just a pleasant trip into a lovely little town. It’s hard to dislike it, when really the whole thing is so lovely.
Hitman is obviously not a full game yet, but there are two episodes out thus far and they are quite excellent. This is everything that has ever been great about Hitman focused on big levels with loads of replayabillity. It rewards creativity, and has proven to be remarkably strong thus far.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown took the industry by storm when it came out back in 2011. XCOM 2 is just a wonderful realisation of everything great about that game though. Staking the odds higher against the organisation, and adding depth to nearly everything in the game, it’s a very easy game to recommend.
Darkest Dungeon has been kicking around for a while now. The game has been in Early Access for a while now, but finally got its full launch early this year. The fantasy dungeon crawler, twists genre convention by adding things like madness and ‘less desirable’ traits to your characters, making them timebombs ready to explode. It’s creepy, foreboding and well worth a look.
This is one of the most beautiful FPXs I’ve ever played. Set in a national park, there is a lot of space to explore here. It’s not just a walk in one direction. There is real orienteering skills needed here. I also quite enjoyed the character interactions, and large parts of the story too. If you like the genre, it’s a must.
Street Fighter V
There is a lot wrong with Street Fighter V. It’s missing really key features, especially those focused on single player content. However, the game is slowly adding those it needs, month by month, and there hasn’t been many who have complained about the actual core gameplay here. Hopefully by year’s end, it will be a fantastic fighting game.
Plants Vs Zomibies: Garden Warfare 2
Plants vs. Zombie: Garden Warfare was a good game, that always felt just shy of reaching the potential of its online shooting take on the franchise. The sequel, which came out earlier this year realises a lot of that potential. It’s wacky, has a surprising amount of depth, and at the end of the day, is just a ton of fun to play around in.
There had to be at least one VR game on here, and The Lab is one of the coolest standalone VR title. Coming straight from Valve, this is a collection of Mini-games that show off the power and potential of the Vive in exciting ways. From Dota, to Portal, Virtual tourism and a very cool archery game, nothing shows off the power of the tech, better than The Lab thus far.
Ratchet And Clank
What a beautiful surprise. Insomniac have brought Ratchet and Clank roaring back to popularity, with one of the most visually arresting games this generation. For a $40 title, everything about this screams premium quality. It’s a steal, and well worth your time.
Salt and Sanctuary
Dark Souls is one of the biggest phenomenons to happen in gaming in the last five years. It’s spawned a few clones since then, but few are as well regarded as Salt and Sanctuary. It takes place on a 2D plane with a grungy cartoon aesthetic, but don’t be mistaken, it wears its influence on its sleeve. If the idea of a re-contextualized Dark Souls sounds up your alley, get on this.
The Banner Saga 2
The Banner Saga was a stoic top down tactical RPG game, that grew quite the cult following for its punishing play, but utter beauty. Banner Sage 2? It’s more of the same from what little I’ve seen, but that is a great thing. If you like the genre, you should be all over this!
So, Miitomo is odd. It’s not really a ‘game’, but Nintendo’s first foray into the mobile market is a cute and bizarre little social media machine. It’s charm isn’t long lasting, but if you have a solid online network, there can be quite a few chuckles in the creativity of having your Mii quote Kafka to your friends. Is it a game? I don’t really know, but I dug it for a few days at least.
There are a few honorable mentions on here, that either I just haven’t played, or I’ve only dabbled in the beta and it isn’t out yet.
Fire Emblem Fates – It’s not yet hit my shores, but word is promising from the US.
Battleborn – I still need to be convinced, but there is certainly fun to be had in there. It’s out today though!
Overwatch – I’ve played a fair bit of Overwatch and it is brilliant, but it isn’t around until later this month.
And that’s not even it for big releases before we reach the half way point of the year. No Man’s Sky, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, Homefront: The Revolution and Uncharted 4 will all be here before we hit July, not to mention any little gems. Strap in. It’s going to be a wonderful year for games.