2016 has been a crazy year. If you had told me at the beginning of the year that many iconic and respected famous people would die, that we would grieve over a gorilla, Leonardo Dicaprio would finally win an Oscar and then Donald Trump would become the next President of the United States, I would have called you crazy. But it happened.
But despite all the crazy happenings in our world, 2016 was an excellent year in the world of video games. Many great games came out in a whole swath of genres. There’s definitely a little something for everyone this year.
For people that don’t know me that well. I’m the kind of gamer that dabbles in just about everything. From competitive fighting games to casual mobile games, from the AAA games that everyone knows to the obscure Japanese Visual Novels no one’s ever heard of, I like to dip my toes into just about everything. My list of games is probably gonna be a little weird, but I hope you find something you might not have considered and try it out.
Final Fantasy XIV
This game didn’t come out in 2016, the expansion didn’t come out in 2016, but not including this game in a list of games I played in 2016 would be a grave error. There is no game that even came close to rivaling the number of hours I spent playing this game in 2016. The expansion for FFXIV (Heavensward) launched in June of 2015 and it came out with a rough start. A lot of the community unanimously agrees that 3.0 – 3.1 of the game was a rather bumpy section of the game’s life. However in February of 2016, Patch 3.2 came out and that started the real golden age of Heavensward. FFXIV is probably the best MMO I’ve ever played, it’s game that when I’m in the deep end, I can pull off 18 hour sessions and have the first thing I want to do the next morning is get back into the game. You can be confident that the second expansion for the game (Stormblood) coming out next year will certainly be featured in 2017’s list.
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier
The only reason this game isn’t on my list is because the other episodes aren’t out. I really enjoyed the newest iteration of Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Does it change the formula greatly? No, but I didn’t expect it to. This game won’t change your mind if you’ve never liked the games that Telltale makes. However, A New Frontier is certainly shaping up to be a very solid entry in Telltale’s vast collection of adventure games. If you’re invested in the previous Walking Dead games by Telltale, this one is a no brainer.
Overcooked only doesn’t make the list because it really needs other people to play with to unlock it’s potential. While single player is an option in the game, it’s definitely not where the game shines. Throw in even just a single other person playing with you and game is given an entirely new life. While many other couch multiplayer games focus on the competitive aspect, it was really nice to see one that had an emphasis on cooperation. If you’ve got the friends to play it with, Overcooked is a game I can recommend without hesitation.
10. The King of Fighters XIV
The King of Fighters has been a classic fighting game series for over a decade now and it for a while, it seemed like it was finished with XIII back in 2010. However, in XIV the series came back with a vengeance with a very competent entry. It retains the great, classic gameplay that made the series unique, while introducing a few new elements to keep things fresh. The King of Fighters XIV signals a revival for SNK, and I look forward to what else they’ll bring in the future.
Overwatch is an incredibly well-made class based shooter. There’s not a lot more I can say that’s hasn’t already been said. The only reason it’s not any higher is because I’ve already sunk hundreds of hours into Team Fortress 2 and Overwatch for me feels like a lot of retreading on similar territory. I’ve already spent an ungodly amount of hours years ago telling people to get on the point or push the kart. Overwatch is a phenomenal game, but for me it’s one where I can’t shake off a vague sense of déjà vu when playing it.
8. Dark Souls III
Dark Souls III for me a return to form for the Souls franchise. Due to not having a PS4 and thus never having played Bloodbourne, the last Souls game I had played was Dark Souls II. While Dark Souls II wasn’t a bad game by any means, I feel like it kind of lost the soul of the series (pun intended). While it technically had all the parts that you would think of in a Souls game, it seemed to be missing the secret sauce that brought everything together. Dark Souls III was without a doubt a rebound for the series for me. It captured all the things I loved about the Souls series and continued the legacy of difficult but rewarding gameplay in a mysterious and interesting world.
If you took the tensest moments of an action game and distilled it into it’s purest form, you would get Furi. Furi is a game that had a single goal in mind and executed it immaculately. This game definitely isn’t for everyone. It’s challenging, it’s punishing and definitely could make you break a controller. But the thrill of success when you overcome a challenge in Furi is almost euphoric. Furi was made with a very deliberate and specific audience in mind. It didn’t mind alienating other audiences in order to be the game it wanted to be (achievements are straight up disabled if you play on easy). But because of that unwavering conviction in their ideals, they managed to produce a very striking and unique game.
If I could only choose one game on this list I would want to see other people play, it’s this one. OneShot is the epitome of why I love smaller indie titles. They have the freedom to try crazy things that would never see the light of day in a AAA release. Honestly, the less you know about this game the better off you will be. If you want a charming game that pulls out some pretty wacky tricks. OneShot should be at the top of your list.
5. Blazblue: Central Fiction
I like fighting games. I like anime. Blazblue is both of those things. I’ll keep this short because you probably already know if you like this series or not. Central Fiction refines the Blazblue formula and is a fantastic entry in the series. It won’t change your mind if you’ve never liked it, but if you want more Blazblue action, this is where it’s at.
4. The Witness
If you like puzzle games, play The Witness. That’s it.
The Witness is a game that in most circumstances shouldn’t exist. The developer’s previous game Braid was one that made him a sizable fortune and was comfortable enough to live on for a respectable chunk of time. However instead of doing that, he spent that fortune and then some to make the game that he really wanted to make.
The Witness is a game about learning and understanding. When you start the game, you have no concept of the language of the Witness. But by the end of the game, you’ll leave essentially fluent. The Witness encapsulates the feeling of struggling with a problem for a long time, then giving you a flash of brilliance that arms you with a tool that helps you tackle the rest of the area.
If you enjoy puzzles or other mental challenges, The Witness is a game you need to try.
3. Titanfall 2
The original Titanfall was a game that almost had everything right, but just was missing a few small touches that could have really elevated it. Titanfall 2 is the game that Titanfall 1 should have been.
The shooting feels good and once you’ve mastered the movement system in Titanfall 2, it’s hard to go back to almost any other FPS. The freedom and mobility you have access to in Titanfall 2 is really unlike any other game and it feels incredible to chain wallruns into slides, etc and parkour your way across the map.
Add onto this a very competent single player campaign with a variety of setpiece moments, and you have what I consider to be the best FPS to come out this year in a year of killer FPSs.
I never really got into the Hitman series before, but when I heard everyone raving about the newest entry into the Hitman series, I knew I had to give it a try myself.
HITMAN is a textbook example of great level design in video games. There are tons of different ways your objective can be accomplished, there are tons of different tools and disguises available and how you want to tackle something is completely up to you.
It’s shocking how many times I can replay a level and continually discover new things I never knew were in the level. I had a friend play a level I thought I knew down pat and he discovered a passageway I’ve never seen before.
The amount of effort and care that’s poured into each level of HITMAN is out of this world. Add onto the fact that they risked using an episodic model that worked splendidly alongside core mechanics that are a blast to interact with, if I wasn’t a crazy person, HITMAN should be my game of the year.
But it turns out, I’ve got a few screws loose.
I told you this list would get weird.
Shadowverse is a F2P card game made by Cygames (Rage of Bahamut, Granblue Fantasy) that was released on Android/iOS in June and then on Steam in October.
But let’s just get the elephant in the room out of the way. Why should you play this over Hearthstone?
First off, less bullshit RNG. I know when I played well and I know when I played poorly. In Hearthstone, if my opponent played Tuskarr Totemic and it summoned a Totem Golem, did I play poorly? Was there anything I could have really done in that scenario? The game just became so frustrating to play because there were so many factors out of your control that at times games it felt likes games just came down to a coin flip. Games felt like they would come to a point where one of us would play an RNG card and depending on the outcome, that would snowball into a win. I simply got tired of that, and that’s come from the person who reviewed Hearthstone on TAY. Starting with Goblins vs. Gnomes, Blizzard started to steer Hearthstone in a way that I just didn’t enjoy.
Second, the evolve mechanic. Shadowverse has a mechanic that lets you “evolve” a follower that usually increases their stats and lets them attack other minions the turn that they’re played. This makes the game much more dynamic, as there are way more ways to interact with the board due to this mechanic. In Hearthstone, you play a guy and if they don’t have removal, it will live to the next turn. In Shadowverse, you almost always have the option to remove something if you’re willing to spend an evolution for it. Smartly using your evolves to either get a tempo advantage or otherwise improve your gameplan is a smart addition that greatly spices up the game.
Third, generosity. You get can get a ton of free packs/etc without even spending a penny. Complete the tutorial and get a whole bunch of packs. If you finish story mode for each of the classes, you’ll get a bunch of stuff (gold, arena tickets, cards, etc). For each elite AI you beat, that’s 200 gold (2 packs). If they have to extend maintenance, that’s free packs. For every 1 million downloads of the game, that’s free packs (ie. When we break 7 million, everyone gets 7 packs.) When the new expansion launches (we get an expansion every 3 months) this Thursday, you get 10 free expansion packs. I’m more than happy to pay for stuff in this game because the support from the devs is phenomenal.
Next, better card design. Take at look at two similar cards in both games and I’ll show you why Shadowverse’s version is much better. Take a look at Night Horde in Shadowverse and Imp-losion in Hearthstone. Imp-losion was a card you just put in your deck because whatever, it summons some tokens and it can act as removal. But the power of the card can be so drastically different. The difference between deal 2 damage, summon 2 imps and deal 4 damage, summon 4 imps is huge. If you want to kill something that has 4 health, it’s pretty much just pray and hope it hits for 4. If it works you might just win the game off of that, but if not, I guess you lose. Additionally, imps don’t really do anything other than be a body in Hearthstone, while there is potential demon synergy, Blizzard doesn’t really print cards that make that synergy interesting or effective.
While you look at Night Horde and that card, generally speaking isn’t that great. Under normal circumstances, it’s always deal 2 damage, summon 2 bats. For 4 mana, that’s not a great card. However, Cygames has made enough cards such that bat synergy is a valid deck type. In that case, it’s not uncommon to have bats on the field and thus you know how much damage it’s going to do before hand. There’s no hoping and praying, you can play other bat cards such as Summon Bloodkin to guarantee the damage. Cards like Vania or Vampiric Fortress to deal face damage. Or try to setup the field to buff them with Midnight Vampire. Night Horde eliminates the RNG associated with a card like Imp-losion while at the same time generating tokens that are actually important to your gameplay and not just disposable 1/1s.
I could honestly write an entire article about this, but I’ll keep it simple. If you like collectible card games like Hearthstone, don’t mind the anime aesthetic, and are tired of the way Blizzard is handling the game. I highly recommend checking out Shadowverse.
2016 has really been a fabulous year for games. There are still many games that came out this year that I never really got a chance to dig into and I hope to get to them in the future. But at the same time, more games are coming in 2017 and we’ll just have to see if they can compete with the games that came out this year.