This was tough.
2016 had so, so many stellar games that almost any list would essentially leave out a few favorites. However, we combed through our personal gaming archives, had several heated discussions over email and in person, swapped a lot of skeptical hippo memes and finally managed to narrow it down to a select few candidates.
Without further ado, here are our 2nd article for our picks for the absolute best games of 2016. You can read over the first part of the best video games of 2016.
There may be a lot of first-person shooters. But there’s only one Doom. The game that literally created the genre all those years ago returned in 2016, and it was like being transported to the awe and wonder you felt all those years ago, when 3D games were a novelty. 2016’s Doom had impossibly high expectations to live up to. And we were grinning from ear to ear when we saw that this game blew all of them away. A throwback to the good old run-and-gun days of shooters, Doom is a glorious, gory masterpiece. It is like the Doom you imagined when you dreamt of a world without pixelated graphics and jagged sprites.
If you’ve played Limbo (if you haven’t, pick it up immediately) you would know why developer Playdead is so highly regarded in the industry. Inside is another haunting classic from the Danish wizards. It’s immediately similar to Limbo in certain aspects – it’s gloomy, haunting, eerie and creepy. But it takes every aspect of what made Limbo great to another level. You will have several moments where you let go of the controls and just stare at the visuals on screen because they’re so beautiful. The puzzles are innovative, complex and satisfying. Inside will get under your skin and stay there for a long, long time. In a good way.
Let’s be honest – no one expected Battlefield 1 to be as good as it is. The game is an outstanding technical achievement and its depictions of full-scale wars, explosions, fire and brimstone are breathtaking. Plowing through enemy soldiers in a tank, on a zeppelin or behind a flimsy piece of cover is exciting and nerve-wracking. Battlefield 1 tells its story through a bunch of shorter stories, which is a great way to offer some diverse landscapes and mission types. The multiplayer is excellent, as has become standard for the series. Fighting alongside dozens of players on massive, dynamic maps is more fun than ever. Battlefield 1 is DICE’s shining hour.
When the first game in a series is such a massive critical and commercial success, the temptation to play it safe is strong. XCOM 2, however, breaks the mold and makes some fundamental changes to the gameplay formula of the original that makes things much more exciting, tense and satisfying. The turn-based combat system is now more refined and supplementing your combatants with base building is crucial. By offering you the choice to make several big-picture decisions, XCOM 2 gives you the freedom to chart your own path to victory. It also underscores the importance of each of your choices. Seemingly innocuous choices like researching plasma rifles over alien technology or vice versa have a significant impact on the course of your battles. It’s not easy, but it wouldn’t be XCOM if it was.
The Witness comes from developer Jonathan Blow, whom you might know from the fantastic Braid. Myst-like in its setup – you’re on a mysterious island with no clues and lots of puzzles to solve – The Witness stretches the limits of your cognition with its puzzles. Ingeniously designed riddles and incremental reveals of different mechanics makes roaming around the island absolutely fascinating. The game doesn’t put a convenient plot-exposition NPC on the island to guide you along. There are no guidelines. You’re free to roam the island and solve puzzles in whatever order you may want to. And that’s the best part about it – slowly peeling back the mysteries of the island, layer by layer, piece by piece.
The Last Guardian
Nearly a decade after it was announced, The Last Guardian finally arrived in 2016. And it is worth the wait. The Last Guardian is an achingly beautiful fairytale. And Trico, well. Let’s just say you will come away from the game wishing, praying that you had a Trico of your own. Someone who could hoist you on their back and fly you away to magical castles and secret places, encountering adventure and wonder along the way. If you own a pet, Trico will make you cry. AS one of the most believable depictions of an animal companion in gaming, Trico is the heart of The Last Guardian. You’ll solve puzzles, fight suits of armor and giddily jump across ledges, all the while marveling at how amazing and dreamlike everything looks.
Titanfall had a lot of great ideas, but the finished product didn’t take advantage of all of them. The developers listened, and Titanfall 2 is a grander, more refined and improved take on the Titanfall formula. The single-player campaign is memorable, throwing you into the middle of some hair-raising setpieces and combat situations. But multiplayer is where it’s really at. There are now six additional Titans you can choose from, each with their unique strengths and weaknesses. The diversity of these hulking mechs makes combat much more nuanced and dynamic, requiring pinpoint accuracy and clever strategy to come out on top. When you’re fluidly traversing the environment, shooting enemies, jumping into and out of Titans, Titanfall 2 is an unmatched experience.
Overwatch is as close to multiplayer shooter perfection as you can get. Based on the wildly-popular MOBA format, Overwatch brings to the table an eccentric and amazing cast of playable characters, smooth controls and balanced, tactical gameplay that must be experienced to believe. It hits the “one more game” mark perfectly, making it a great choice for quick breaks and marathon gaming sessions alike.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Uncharted 4 takes the already bombastic nature of Drake’s adventures and gives it a massive nitrous boost. In Drake’s greatest outing yet, developers Naughty Dog blend jaw-dropping set-pieces and quiet, emotional moments to create a rollicking 1-2 punch of gaming goodness. To say that some of the action in this game is over-the-top is a massive understatement. It’s a surprisingly emotional game that also manages to thrill and amaze.
Dishonored was one of the most innovative first-person games in years when it came out. The gritty setting, memorable characters and truly spectacular gameplay made it an instant hit. Dishonored 2 takes this already high bar and sets it even higher, giving you even more abilities, weapons and tools to unleash your inner assassin. The number of different ways you can approach any given situation is truly unique and will make you come back to this game long after you’ve finished it the first time. It’s an improvement upon its predecessor in every way, and that makes it an absolute must-play.
So, there we have it. A look back at one of the best years in gaming – 2016.