2016 was a spectacular year for games. Major franchises one-upped themselves with fantastic sequels, long-awaited games delivered on their promises and several indie games absolutely stole the hearts and minds of gamers worldwide.
There’s really no way to objectively score the best games in a particular year, since so much of the player experience is subjective and personal. Even so, we did ourbest and revisited all of the best video games 2016 gave us. Here are our favorites.
Dark Souls III
If this is the way the Dark Souls franchise goes out, bravo. Dark Souls III is an absolutely gut-wrenching, masochistic, beautiful, deep dive into the abyss. The new world of Lothric is absolutely jaw-droppingly beautiful and intricate. There’s a ton of amazing lore and stories to dig into this time. And this is Dark Souls, so there are entirely too many terrifying enemies that can 2-shot you. Good times.
Abzu has been called “Journey, but underwater”. If you’re familiar with Journey, you’ll know that this is very high praise, and Abzu deserves all of it. There’s no fighting. There’s no talking. There’s only you and the infinite beauty of the sea. As you’re diving deeper into the depths of the sea, childlike, exploring the wonders that lie beneath, it’s hard not to smile. It is equal parts meditative, soothing, uplifting and thought provoking. Sometimes you need to put the plasma gun down and just enjoy something beautiful. That thing is Abzu.
Thumper proves once again that a good game is a good game, irrespective of the genre. The rhythm game genre has seen some forgettable entries over the past few years, but Thumper shows there’s life in it yet. The world of Thumper is dark, and you’re controlling a beetle that is absolutely careening down a winding highway. You have to turn, leap or grind according to the music cues that the game throws up. And it’s insanely fast. And insanely good.
What more superlatives need to be heaped on the Civilization series of games? For nearly three decades, Civilization games have been incredible tactical experiences that have provided many joyous hours and days of conquest. In this latest entrant, Civilization goes deeper than ever, making the art of rising from a small settlement to a world dominator more enjoyable and intuitive. There are improvements to nearly all of the franchise’s already stellar mechanics. And a game which suddenly makes you realize that you’ve been playing it for two days deserves special mention.
Hyper Light Drifter
Hyper Light Drifter is a beautiful melding of old-school adventure gameplay and modern technology. The world is drenched in a haunting neon that punctuates your every move. The game reveals what is happening to you slowly, and often indirectly, giving you little clues and visuals that help you put together what might have been. The combat is crisp, smooth and incredibly challenging. It oscillates on the drop of a hat between tranquil exploration and a fight to the death. The game is loosely based on designer Alex Preston’s own struggle with congenital heart disease, and it conveys the message of fighting through the dark times really well.
Total War: Warhammer
Total War: Warhammer poses a simple question right off the bat – Why didn’t someone think of this earlier? It’s amazing how well the two separate franchises mesh into each other to create a grand, sprawling strategy game colored by the wonderful chaos of the Warhammer universe. Longtime fans of either series will be pleased with the attention to detail, the improvements to the interface, and just how epic all the battles look. Like Civilization VI, this is a game that will quickly take over your life.
Final Fantasy XV
After a long and arduous development cycle, FF XV finally arrived in 2016. And thankfully, it was good. Really good. If you ignore all of the backstory that went into making the game, FF XV stands out as a fun open-world role-playing game. It’s also a nice change of pace for the Final Fantasy series. As always, the setting of the game is vast and diverse, offering several secrets and breathtaking visuals to those who dare venture into its depths. The combat is fluid and enjoyable, as you would expect from a Final Fantasy game.
Farming simulators have become somewhat notorious in the wake of Zynga’s Farmville and all of the clones that have followed. Stardew Valley, however, takes you back to what makes virtual farming fun. It’s a simple-looking game that (of course) requires you to plant, upkeep, expand and harvest your farmland. But that’s not all there is to it. There’s also a lot of humor, cute art and wonderful characters to explore in this gem of a game. The fact that it was made by a single developer makes everything even more commendable.
Firewatch is a curious game. On the surface, it is about surviving in an unfamiliar outdoor environment armed only with the most basic of tools and your wits. Delve deeper, however, and Firewatch has a lot of poignant things to say about solitude, loneliness, loss and hope. Through the interactions between the two major characters in the game, Henry and Delilah, Firewatch manages to amuse and tug at your heartstrings. It is a testament to how far narrative-driven games have come.
Owlboy is a love letter to the golden age of gaming. At the outset, you’ll immediately be charmed by it’s wonderful pixelated art style, beautiful soundtrack and stellar production value. Once you play it for a bit though, you’ll fall in love with Otus. A mute, vulnerable hero, Otus faces insurmountable odds with the help of his three friends. And be warned, you’ll need your team to get through the toughest parts of this game. And the boss fights, oh the boss fights. Just play this game.
In the next part of this article, we will take a look at some more games that absolutely blew our minds in 2016. In the meantime, let us know in the comments what you thought of this list. Are there any glaring omissions? Sleeper hits? We’d love to know! What you thought The Best Video Games of 2016 was.