Another year has come and gone, but 2016 was a stand out for games. Three years after the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One and we are starting to see games and experiences that finally showcase the power of the systems. Take a look at my top ten games of 2016.
Remedy is known for it’s world building and storytelling, and Quantum Break is no exception. The out-of-action moments, and time-bending narrative is what kept me glued to the screen, even if the combat and action fell flat for most of the game.
Best Moment: Seeing time come full circle, exploring some of the early moments from a different POV.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
The Uncharted games have always been good at giving players an Indiana Jones style adventure. In A Thief’s End things manage to be a goofy, over-the-top adventure with some very in-depth character building. The relationship between Nathan Drake and his wife, Elena is explored in a way video games don’t usually explore. That paired with Naughty Dog’s attention to detail and world building had me deeply invested in playing the game for its narrative, getting wrapped up and hooked on every beat of Uncharted 4.
Best Moment: Learning the true motivation behind Drake’s brothers reason for seeking out the hidden treasure.
The mark of exceptional game development is by explaining gameplay and rules of a game without any blatant tutorials or hand holding devices. The Witness teaches all of it’s complicated puzzles to players by playing the game and encouraging environmental observations. The puzzles start out so obviously simple but by the end of things I was pulling my hair, drawing on notepads, taking screenshots and using the tried and true “sleep on it” method. Over and over I would be completly stumped, frustrated to the core and ready to thrown in the towel. Eventually getting to the end, discovering the true secrets of the island had me feeling like a genius.
Best Moment: Leaving a stuck puzzle, coming back hours later and having a “EUREKA!” moment, over and over.
The latest generation of Pokemon refines the series to a point it has never been at before. Pokemon Sun/Moon went down a strange scifi style story, while keeping the familiar formula of the Pokemon franchise. The new region (inspired by Hawaii) with its regional variants of well known Pokemon made for a great sense of discovery while keeping some the older generation creatures to tug at those nostalgia heart strings.
Best Moment: Popplio, stage one clown seal for LIFE.
Another brilliant example of gameplay explaining mechanics, Inside is a game where no text is ever displayed. The simple puzzles act as great pacing guides to keep the tone and cryptic narrative moving. The mystery and dark world stimulated my imagination as I tried to piece together the bigger picture. The game starts weird, and finishes weirder, and is designed in one awesome, seamless world full of subtlety and incredible detail.
Best Moment: That time when you break free and are no longer Inside.
Nintendo’s best franchise is back in its most complete form ever. Rhythm heaven megamix takes almost everyone of the previous songs and games from previous games (including the GBA game which never saw a Western release) and bundles them together with new music, new art and a crazy goofy campaign about helping a creature get back home. It’s simple gameplay combined with hilarious scenarios and colorful, detailed art make this the game I keep going back to, trying to unlock everything.
Best Moment: Watching the credits roll for the first time and discovering there is still plenty more new content to play and unlock.
What is Firewatch? Firewatch is a narrative driven exploration game with a mysterious story. The game opens strong with a choose-your-own-adventure style prologue that doesn’t hold back any punches and setups the tone for the entire game. I was emotionally connected to the setting of Firewatch because of my years spent hiking, camping and exploring the wilderness. Developer Campo Santo manages to capture everything I love about the great outdoors and combine them with the fears of the unknown and being alone in an unfamiliar place. Firewatch is a game that I wish I could forget everything about and play again and again for the first time.
Best Moment: When the paranoia sets in and you can’t trust ANYONE.
That’s it! 2016 is a wrap and 2017 is already shaping up to be the strongest year in gaming. To echo the wise words of one, Vincent Caravella: “There has never been a better time to play video games.”