No joke, I listen to the Uncharted theme while walking by myself fairly regularly, because I like to pretend I’m off on an epic adventure. Needless to say, I have some feelings for this particular series. If you’d asked me at the end of Uncharted 3 that there was any way they could successfully make another Uncharted game without messing it up badly, I would’ve been hard pressed to take the leap. Thankfully, the team over at Naughty Dog managed to stick the landing on Nathan Drake’s final adventure for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Focused on delivering a narratively driven final chapter, the game makes good on developing Nathan Drake as a character and shines in some of the quieter moments just as much as the beautiful set pieces.
The one PC game that has always held a special place in my heart is Doom. After such a lengthy development cycle, I was on the fence about getting it at all. In the end, id Software made it worth the wait and the new Doom is a phenomenal game. Channeling just about everything that made the original Doom games great, it updates the formula perfectly and brings a classic game into a new generation just as well as the likes of Ocarina of Time. Frankly, it was all out war between Doom and my number one game, with the deciding factor being that I got side-tracked and haven’t finished the entire Doom campaign. Even still, this game well deserves as high a spot as it got on my list.
Developing some of the toughest and most rewarding games out there, From Software hit another one of out of the park with Dark Souls III. Using the same engine from Bloodborne, this game shines on both the PC and consoles. This game ticked off every box I was looking for in a new Dark Souls game. Containing a dark and gorgeous world filled with some of the toughest bosses I’ve faced thus far, I’m looking at you Nameless King you bastard, this is easily the game I sank the most time into this year.
Effective games always invoke a strong response from the player, whether positive or negative. Virtual reality has the added benefit of total immersion, which really ramps up any of those feelings. The game thus far that had the biggest effect on me has easily been Thumper. Hurtling the player down the lane at breakneck speeds, this trippy rhythm violence game succeeds at feeling immensely oppressive. The speed of the game feels equally impressive, especially with the VR headset strapped to your face.
If I’ve learned anything from playing video games over the years, it’s that I would make a terrible assassin. Translating being a badass contract killer into gameplay is very difficult and I had bounced off of nearly every Hitman game to date. As such, I didn’t have high hopes when the new Hitman was announced. This is one of those rare instances where I’m not even quite sure what to tell you they did right this time. Something about the formula in this particular entry clicked with me in a way it just hasn’t before lending to one of the best stealth games out there.
Looking back at my list from 2014, I actually gave the top spot on my list to a demo. This Playable Teaser, or P.T. if you will, featured some innovative ideas about horror games that left me reeling when the full game was eventually cancelled. A few games have attempted to live up to the promise of what Silent Hills was going for and the best among them thus far is Layers of Fear. Taking the similar concept of traversing similar areas and applying its own brand of mind-bending visuals, Layers of Fear is full of the right kinds of scares.
Virtual reality platforms saw their first major retail releases in 2016 and they were plenty of excellent games to try out with the new hardware. Job Simulator was one of the most universally loved titles amongst those released. It is almost always the first thing I boot up to show off virtual reality to someone new to the concept.The approachable nature of this game is second only to the humor that it exudes in every level. Job Simulator takes the mundane concepts of working a boring job and makes them hilarious by reinterpreting them from the perspective of a computer who has only read about what they’re like. The result is so deftly executed that you can’t help but laugh out loud at every job.
An outside observer might have expected Overwatch to be significantly higher on my game of the year list. The actual truth is that this game existing on my list at all is a testament to how well it does its job. I can count on one hand the number of multiplayer-focused games I’ve gotten into over the years. Blizzard takes any concept they work on and polish it to a high sheen and Overwatch is no exception. Not only are the characters tons of fun to see and play with, but the whole game feels a lot more friendly and inclusive than others of its kind. It’s easy to get into, difficult to master and celebrates all of the players without putting anyone down in the process.
One of the most impressive things about my number nine game of the year is that it almost didn’t happen at all. One of my personal favorite visual novel series, the Zero Escape series to be exact, left at a bit of a cliffhanger at the end of its second entry. Frantically wondering when I would get to know the conclusion, I searched only to find that they may not have the funding to release the finale. Thankfully, with a combined effort from Aksys Games and Spike Chunsoft, Zero Time Dilemma was released this year and it was fantastic. Doubling down on the narrative hooks that made Virtue’s Last Reward so interesting, this game had me hooked from start to finish.
One of the first games I ever backed on Kickstarter, Superhot was definitely one of the hottest games of 2016 for me. I was sold based on the premise alone, easily spotting an awesome gameplay mechanic from its earliest stages. Other games on this list have a clear edge with time spent playing, but the statement that Superhot is able to make in the short time it takes to complete makes it well worth recognizing. Coming up with a truly original idea in a sea of remakes and sequels, Superhot shines in almost every category and is a true crowd-funding success story.