It’s 2017 and the year is already starting to show some promise in terms of video games. Big releases like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Mass Effect: Andromeda, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are just around the corner. But it’s because of these games looming in the distance that I can’t help but look back at 2016 and consider the games I played and loved. Although many would like to say 2016 was filled with disappointments (I’m looking at you Mighty No.9), you can’t deny that the year still had its fair share of awesome games that came out. It took me a while to really narrow it down, but these are my top five games of 2016 in alphabetical order. Hit the jump to read on!
Dark Souls 3
For weeks and weeks since Dark Souls 3’s launch, I couldn’t put the game down. After playing and getting used to Bloodborne, jumping into Dark Souls 3 felt natural and exciting. I was killed more times than I care to admit, but I never once blamed the game for them because I knew each death was my fault. Even though Dark Souls 3 is the third game in the series, jumping into it felt completely natural after playing Bloodborne. In terms of the story-telling the Souls series is known to be very obtuse, and this is exactly the case in Dark Souls 3. I can’t really tell you what the heck is going on in the game but from what I can gather, there is a special fire that is going out and it needs to be reignited. And the only way to reignite it is to defeat the people that reignited it in the past. Yeah, I don’t really get it either, but boy oh boy does that not matter. The gameplay and the level design alone set Dark Souls 3 above almost every game in 2016. It’s just a shame that this is apparently the last in the series. For now at least.
If you were to tell me that Doom was going to be one of the hottest single player campaigns in ages, I would ask if you knew what year it was. But I played and loved every second of this reimaging of the classic first-person shooter. There’s just something refreshing about a shooter that neither takes itself too seriously nor outstays it’s welcome. Doom hits the perfect balance of over the top shooting action and story-telling. Sure, you could go through the entire game without paying attention to the story at all and still have a great old time. But if you do go that extra mile to listen to the audio logs and explore each map to the fullest, you’re rewarded with a rather large amount of exposition that fleshes out the world of Doom. Playing the game felt natural and fluid. Every bit of the gameplay loop fed into each other seamlessly, from shooting at a distance, closing the gap between you and the enemies, and then finishing them off with glory kills which then gives you more ammo and health to repeat that cycle with the next enemy. The guns in Doom were also familiar and varied, from your unlimited ammo pea-shooter of a pistol to your standard shotgun, all the way to the legendary Bio Force Gun (more affectionately known as the BFG, short for Big F***ing Gun). Each weapon has a time and place to be used, or you could ignore that and use whatever weapon you like the most. The game never punishes you for playing however you want to play, but it also won’t go easy on you (unless you turn down the difficulty that is).
This had to be one of the biggest surprises in 2016. Combining character designs from Afro Samurai artist Takashi Okazaki with a synth-heavy soundtrack not unlike Hotline Miami, Furi was one of the most challenging games I played last year. It’s the type of game that revels in its difficulty, not once offering you a way out of the constant torment of the enemies you face. I should back up a bit, Furi is a third-person action and bullet hell game that puts you in the shoes of an escaped prisoner who must defeat a series of ever increasingly difficult boss fights in order snatch freedom for yourself. However, as you progress through the game it becomes more and more apparent that maybe you shouldn’t escape, maybe the character you play as should be kept locked away. In any case, right at the beginning of the game, you’re taught the four mechanics you’ll need to know to beat the game. With your sword and gun at your side, you must slice, shoot, parry, and dodge your way to victory. You can charge your sword for a stronger attack, charge your gun for a stronger shot, and charge your dash to move you further, the only thing you can’t charge is your parry which is your best defensive move. The timing on the parry is rather strict in that if you try to use it too soon or too late, you’ll instead just take a whole lot of damage. If difficult games are your thing (and they kind of are my thing), then Furi is a game you should definitely check out!
From the makers of Limbo comes Inside a game that is very much like Limbo in that you play as a small child who is trying very hard to go to the right side of the screen. Although Inside felt a bit easier compared to its predecessor, it more than makes up for it in terms of environmental story-telling and a narrative that is both intriguing and mysterious. I wrote about this game after I initially finished it last year but it’s one of those games that just stick with you over time. At this point, I think I’ve settled on an explanation for what happens at the end of the game, which I won’t repeat here because I think this is definitely a game that should be experienced rather than read or told about. What I will say though is that I hope the developers, Play Dead, keep making games like Limbo and Inside and just continue giving us experiences that will keep us coming back for more.
Honestly, who’s at all surprised that this is on the list? Overwatch has consistently been the gift that keeps on giving. Ever since it was released in May of 2016, Overwatch has found a way to keep people talking about it. Granted, it’s not always for the best reasons but the Overwatch team at Blizzard always seems to make up for their every misstep by listening to the players and balancing the game as new characters are released. And now that the game is closing in on its one-year anniversary, it’s showing no signs of slowing down. It’s kind of amazing to see a brand new IP like Overwatch come out and immediately gain a following that’s comparable to fandoms of other well-established franchises. Granted, because Overwatch is a Blizzard title, it’s really no surprise how much the game is resonating with fans of online multiplayer shooters and people who don’t normally like those kinds of games. There are so many things I could say about Overwatch, but if you look at almost any list of best games of 2016, you’ll see Overwatch there. And they’ll all mention how the game is great because of the diversity of the cast, and how the consistent updates keep the game alive, or even how the community surrounding the game is one of the most vocal and dedicated than other well-established titles. Overwatch is definitely an anomaly when it comes to the video game industry. It’s one of the few games that rightly garnered a strong audience before it even came out and managed to maintain that audience. Even if you’re not playing the game, it’s still exciting to see where it might end up in the coming months, or even years.
And there you have it, these are my top 5 games from 2016. I admit it took me much too long to write this, but I really wanted to carefully consider all of the games I played last year. There’s a handful of games I thought about including on this list, but for one reason or another I eventually scratched them off. These five games are each very different from each other and are all games I don’t have anything negative to say about. But of course, this entire list is extremely subjective and shouldn’t be looked at as a definitive list of best games in any way shape or form. But if you are at all interested in these games, I say give them a shot. Maybe they’ll surprise you as they surprised me, or maybe they won’t. In any case, 2017 is here now and it’s time to focus on the games coming out this year. What were your favorite games from last year? Give them a shout out in the comment section below!