And we are back. Earlier this week we counted from #35 to #18 in the best games of the year, as according to us, but today we get to the really great stuff. While I consider all the gamesfrom 35- 18 very good, today we are getting into ‘ the generation’s best’ territory’. Perhaps even bigger accolades.
So, let’s not waste your time anymore. Here we go…
Firewatch is an excellent achievement in the FPX genre. While quite a lot of the games in the genre resonate with me, Firewatch was an example that really played with gameplay ideas. Exploration as a fire lookout in Yellowstone was at the forefront of the game, and it really did want you to get involved and touch the world it presented to you.
The story it told as well was incredibly raw, and while it faltered on the central mystery, it hung proudly on the game’s two leads Henry and Delilah. Their story was personally affecting and there were really strong moments throughout its playthrough. Add on top of that, just a gorgeous art direction and Firewatch should definitely be on your try list.
I have a very soft spot in my heart for Oxenfree. It is so steeped in teenage adventure, and reminds me a lot of my time with last year’s Life is Strange, which I am very fond of.
Putting you in the shoes of Alex, you find yourself heading to Edward’s Island with a group of friends and a new step-brother. This all takes a turn when the group find themselves wrapped up in spooky goings on and a big mystery to find out what is happening. It really is a delightful reflection in later teenage life and, with some utterly masterful dialogue. The ending is quite rushed, and I wish it went just a little deeper, but what is there is so charming and emotionally nostalgic, I rate it highly.
#15 Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV is a weird ol’ game. It’s story is all over the place, half of it residing in a companion movie, and a ton of your time taking place in a car that you have close to no control over. It’s combat is also a little erratic and some of its mechanics obscured.
I can’t help but be swayed by its charm though. Its ambition is huge, and the spectacle it can sport as you battle amazing and massive monsters is more or less unparalleled. This is before you get to the delightful group of four friends on a fantastical road trip, which is such a smart and elightful hook. The group dynamic had the gaming world talking and comparing the boys for weeks, and even with its oddities, Final Fantasy XV is a seriously impressive achievement technically, but also on a macro and micro scale. It was my first real dive into Final Fantasy, and I really think it is a great jumping off point.
DOOM is almost certainly one of the biggest surprises this year. No one quite knew what to make of the game before it hit, with a low-key marketing campaign, an unimpressive beta and everyone wondering what DOOM would look like in 2016.
It turns out it looks fantastic. A razor sharp blending of old and new, the game felt like the original classic, while still certainly of 2016. The ferocity, pace and sheer glee Id Software put into the game, all in service of making the player feel like a Doomslayer who really only cared about tearing demons limb from limb in a ballerina-like flurry of death is truly, truly awesome.
While for me, over a longer campaign, the game lost me a little, and the multiplayer didn’t take at all, in short bursts, there is nothing quite like the mayhem that DOOM offers.
#13. The Witness
You know in movies when we see a character embroiled in a conspiracy, and they have maps, red yarn and newspaper clippings spread all over a wall? That is kind of what my room looked like after puzzle solving demands of The Witness.
The puzzle game is just such a deeply interesting game. Its world is entirely open to you as you walk onto the serene isle, and the only thing stopping you solving the game really fast and running to the end is a language barrier. A puzzle language barrier to be precise. The game spends the whole time trying to explain you its concepts in order for to solve ever more complex puzzles. It really is like learning the basics of some speech, and that is just utterly fascinating in and of its self.
There is something rare and beautiful about a game that makes you physically draw ideas and cut pieces of paper out in order to solve its mysteries, while also keeping an enthusiasm to play it. The Witness is that.
#12. Planet Coaster
Planet Coaster was another one of my ‘obsession’ games this year. As a fan of Theme Park World when I was younger, this game scratched an itch I didn’t know I had. For around three or four days, it was all I wanted to play with, going to bed with ideas of how to make new and awesome coasters or fixture in my park. That is rare for me.
The tools, physics and breadth of customisation means you can really create theme parks and rides to your very specifications. This will almost certainly remain in my regular rotation for some time, and stands alongside, if not above Theme Park and Rollercoaster Tycoon in my book.
#11. The Last Guardian
The Last Guardian was a long time coming. Thought to be in development for over a decade, and absent from the public eye for around seven, it was a game that had a mythic quality to it. This year, it finally saw the light of day, and personally, I found it quite an affecting little title.
Simply put, Trico is just one of the best realised video game characters of all time, his AI seeming incredibly life like for an animal. He is curious, defiant and caring as you play a boy trying to navigate your way up to ‘the Nest’ in a forboding fantasy world.
It can be ludicrously frustrating sometimes, almost always coming from Trico’s unwillingness to comply, (the water pool part really trying my patience) but as a Team Ico-like game, it certainly hangs with its peers like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. That is no small feat.
Abzu was my Game of the Show for E3 2015. Coming out of a huge show with massive games, loud noises and spectacle, this little relaxing game about exploring the ocean was what caught my eye.
After having played the full game in August, I have no regrets having done that. While not the best game this year, Abzu will remain a real favorite of mine. Being a nameless diver, on a journey to bring a little life back to a massive ocean, there was little I played this year that was quite so zen. With more than a few hints of Journey, the game definitely fits right next to that game. While it was slight, I had a memorable time exploring the deep os this one, and it is something I expect to be back to over the years.
#9. XCOM 2
XCOM: Enemy Unknown was a hell of a revival. Bringing the niche franchise back from the dead and updating it to a 2012 made it a household name once more. With that legacy stated, XCOM 2 is a big improvement. That should say something about how good this game is.
Making the XCOM operation go guerrilla and take a more shock and awe approach to taking on alien overlords was fresh. It was a brilliant little concept, that also really built on what I loved about the first game: your interaction and customisation of your team. In a packed year, it is something that robbed me hours of my life, and something I’d like to keep doing that.
#8. Uncharted 4
I was never much of an ‘Uncharted guy’. Mostly this comes from never having owned a PlayStation 3, but even what little I had played didn’t have me quite as enthralled as I ever wanted.
That changed with Uncharted 4. I didn’t mind coming into the series here because the game acts somewhat as an action-packed prologue to the original trilogy. Sending Drake and his long thought dead brother Sam on a journey to find Pirate gold, this game felt like a huge swan song for the series, tying a bow on the franchise in a story about getting older and leaving glory behind. Also, on a technical level, it is awe-inspiring. It’s hard to put into words just how good the game looks.
#7. Titanfall 2
At one point, I was less than impressed with Titanfall 2. Both at E3 and during the beta, the game just failed to really capture my imagination as much as I wanted it too.
That left me utterly unprepared for just how good the final game was. The multiplayer popped, the gameplay soared and the actual loop of play was exhilarating. That’s before even getting to the game’s brilliant, brilliant single player campaign. It’s so jam-packed with ideas and wonderful execution. Many are still talking about the Effects and Cause mission to this day, and some even putting it alongside some of the greatest FPS levels of all time. It’s just full to the brim with quality from top to bottom. If you are an FPS fan, you have, have, have to play it.
#6. Dark Souls 3
Dark Souls 3 in a lot of ways feels like the coming together of Hidetaka Miyazaki‘s two major successes, Dark Souls and Bloodborne. It is fast like Bloodborne, but broad and deliberate like classic Dark Souls.
For me, this was a fresh and impressive take on the formula, that finally got me into Dark Souls. The breadth of options in weapons and the bizarre and enthralling boss design got me hooked in a way the other hadn’t and I loved trudging my way through this world. While I still have nightmares about the Prince Lothric battle, the game still sticks with me a lot, despite having come out all the way back in March.
And now we get to our time-honored tradition of highlighting the five very best games of this year. Four games will gett the highlight award, and there will be one ultimate winner of Bleeding Cool’s Game of the Year.
So without further ado, these are the five best games this year.
#5 Ark: Survival Evolved*
So, this is a controversial one. The game is still in early access (although a release is expected very soon, and the game is currently buyable on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4). Also, it’s a game with some serious jankiness, and especially for console players, some abysmal tech issues.
However, I’ve personally not played a game more than Ark: Survival Evolved this year. I won’t give an exact hour number on it for fear of my job, but it ranges in a couple hundred. In one year. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever played a game as much as I played Ark this year. In my book, it is the best survival game since the revival of the genre a few years ago, and the fact you get to tame and maintain dinos feeds a kid like wonder. Wildcard have seriously been supporting the game too, with major updates seemingly every few weeks, the game feels like a finished product that is just added on (besides a few needed technical tweaks). It is why I have no problem putting it on a game of the year list, fighting for a spot with finished AAA games.
It’s not going to be for everyone, and finding out how long taming can take is big shocker. However, most of my favorite gaming memories this year come from the game, be it taming our first Spinosaurus, Giganotosaurus and Quetz all ranking alongside some of my favorite gaming memories ever. It is definitely a game to play with friends, but what Wildcard has put together is a game I hold in very high regard.
* I’ve written in the text, but Ark isn’t technically released yet. However, the game feels complete enough from my experiences, it’s out on PlayStation 4 which doesn’t typically allow early access and the game is not far from completion by most reports (even though I don’t believe ‘complete’ will mean updates are done) so I’m more than comfortable putting it on this list.
Hitman as a franchise was in a really strange place when the 2016 game hit. Coming off a terrible movie and divisive previous game, on top of a confusing release schedule that twisted and turned closer to release, it should have been a messy game.
What it was instead was brilliant. It took some time to really reveal the depths of how good the game was, but with each passing episode, and the support IO Interactive provided through things like Elusive Targets, just helped prove what a brilliant, brilliant game Hitman truly was. It is a masterstroke of how to handle and support episodic content and so many developers could learn from IO’s model. Also, it is just a hoot to play.
Add on top of that, it really is the game I most enjoyed watching other people play. In a world of e-sports and let’s plays, that is a bold claim and one I stand behind.
#3. Dishonored 2
Dishonored 2 is excellent. The first game is one of the best debuts for a AAA franchise in a while in my book, and the sequel improves in just so many ways. The level design might well be unmatched this year, with the Clockwork Mansion already being thrown in the conversation for one of the best levels ever made. I might have to reflect on that a little myself, but the fact it is in the conversation is a huge merit.
The abilities that Arkane Studios give you to play with are such a treat too. Emily is such a cool playable character, her domino, shadow walk, far reach and doppelganger powers make her an assassin of nightmares. Corvo is no slouch either, and the game’s design just sets up so many opportunities to feel incredibly powerful, while still being one wrong step away from dying. Dishonored 2 is cemented as a top, top franchise for me now and its future is really quite exciting.
I don’t even know where to begin with Inside, other than to say I gave the game a 10/10. I’ve only done that twice before (more on that later). It is something I stand by too. If Limbo was Playdead’s iconic game, Inside is their magnum opus.
I think Inside might well feel like the most ‘complete’ or ‘deliberate’ game I’ve ever played. It is unmatchably tight with every instant feeling perfectly timed and consciously designed, without ever feeling on auto-pilot. I said in my review at the time, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is another game’s worth of content on the cutting floor just because of how finely tuned the game feels. There is no extra weight here, and nor is there too little.
This is before we even get to the game’s staggering and harrowing world, it’s vistas that go on for days, the tiny details that make it feel excellent. I’m in awe of this game even months after its release, and I don’t expect that will change anytime soon.
Overwatch is “Game of the Year”. While it was a tight run debate between it an Inside, both of which are the only games I’ve ever given 10/10s to, Overwatch embodies the title of ‘Game of the Year’ in every sense. It is a phenomenon in gaming, in geek culture and on top of that is one of the greatest online shooters ever made.
This is Blizzard’s first new property since StarCraft, and a first person shooter genre, something it had never attempted publically before. Add on top of that, it was a hero based game in a market where it seems like everyone is trying to ride the MOBA train by basing games on set heroes, and this game was never a sure thing.
However, nothing, and I mean nothing knocked it out the park so completely. From hero ideas, to balance, to maps, to the way it deals with stats, everything felt like it was tuned to make sure, no matter your skill level or performance, you always felt good about your accomplishments with the game. It’s a title that dares you not to have fun with it designed in its every fiber to make you feel good. It looks great, makes you feel good and under its hood it is designed with such class and precision.
Nothing kept me coming back like Overwatch. Ever since it came out, even in the busiest release schedules, it has remained something I’ll play several times a week and I don’t expect that to change for a long, long time. On this entire list, I don’t think any game is going to have as big of a lasting impact, or potentially still be around and relevant in 10 years other than Overwatch. That is off the back of how good the game, truly, truly is. Nothing in my recent memory quite hits like Overwatch, not just with me, but with the wider audience. Overwatch is here to stay for a long, long time, and I believe it to be the Game of 2016.
And that is your lot. That is 2016 in the year of games. I may have missed some stuff off you loved, (some of which we just didn’t get enough time with (I’m sorry Hyper Light Drifter!), but regardless of what you think of our ranking, I think most will agree it has been a good year for games, a bastion of light in a challenging 12 months. I hope games continue this streak too. In a challenging and difficult world, I truly do believe video games are a great thing and make lives better.
Just to see you off, here is Bleeding Cool’s top 35 games of 2016 in descending order.
35. Watch Dogs 2
33. Devil Daggers
32. The Division
31. Pokemon Go
28. Civilization 6
27. Stardew Valley
25. World of Warcraft: Legion
23. Pokemon Sun and Moon
21. Gears of War 4
20. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
19. Battlefield 1
18. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
15. Final Fantasy XV
13. The Witness
12. Planet Coaster
11. The Last Guardian
9. XCOM 2
8. Uncharted 4
7. Titanfall 2
6. Dark Souls 3
5. Ark: Survival Evolved
3. Dishonored 2