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I’m so very proud of Chooch. This year, we grew exponentially, welcomed new faces to the fray, and got into E3 all by ourselves. I see nothing but a bright future ahead of us, and if 2017 is half as good as 2016’s game lineup was, we’ll be riding high.
My honorable mentions are Digimon Story, which just barely doesn’t make it even though it’s a solid JRPG and the best Digimon game ever, SUPERHOT, which is the most innovative shooter I played all year (not really, jokes), and Let It Die, which I enjoy but haven’t played enough of to give it a slot.
See you next year, Chooch fans, and thank you.
10. Uncharted 4
Bombastic AAA games are winding down, at least if the collective oversight most folks online seem to have for Uncharted 4 is anything to go by. I’ve seen so many Tweets wondering if anyone remembered playing the grand finale to the Uncharted series. Don’t worry everyone, I’m here to remind you that it was awesome and you just played a ton of other great games this year. Uncharted 4 doesn’t do much different gameplay-wise from its predecessors, but its writing and performances are some of the strongest I’ve seen in a long time. Naughty Dog has nailed motion capture and voice acting, and if there’s a game that signifies the importance of good voice acting, it’s this one. Uncharted left us in a good way; let’s just hope The Last of Us follows in its path.
9.The King of Fighters XIV
Get ready to see a lot of fighting games on this list. SNK shocked the world when they announced King of Fighters was returning, and even though it looked like a complete mess for a while, KoF XIV turned out just fine. The game leans more into the hardcore fighting game enthusiast’s side of things, but there’s enough character variety and fun story mode endings to satisfy the rest of us. Learning KoF is satisfying, the art style is great, and there’s plenty to look forward to in the next year of this game’s life.
8. Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice
I feel like I don’t talk about Ace Attorney enough, especially since it’s one of my favorite game series of all time. The series was, admittedly, going on a bit of a downward slope recently, but with Spirit of Justice, I can safely say Ace Attorney is on the path to greatness once more. Strong character development and a rousing soundtrack are all I need to enjoy a game, but there’s more to it than that. The graphics have evolved from awkward 3D models to detailed polygons that accurately portray the layered characters and rival the sprites of past entries. The story’s through line was well-implemented, unlike the last few games, and that gave Spirit of Justice the kick in the ass it needed to be great.
7. Melty Blood
Sometimes you fall in love with a game because of the surprise. Melty Blood was exactly that. I wasn’t exactly expecting to be wowed by a nearly fifteen-year-old fighting game mostly known for being played on laptops or in anime convention hallways, but I was. Before you use its age as an argument that it shouldn’t be in this list, this year was its first official US release, so it counts! Its story is impenetrable, its roster is overwhelming, and everyone you meet who knows about this game is already better at it than you’d ever dream of being, but I implore you to try Melty Blood just to see how weird and fun it can be. Play it outside for maximum effect, perhaps in front of the Eiffel Tower?
6. Pokken Tournament
Pokken is the best fighting game of the year. If you’re reading this wondering “where’s Street Fighter?” you should think about how poorly that game was handled from its release until now, then look at how Pokken Tournament came out. A full, balanced roster of fighters, an interesting take on Arcade mode, and the best tutorial I’ve ever played. The training mode goes over every character’s moveset with you, then shows you bread and butter combos so you don’t have to scrounge through Youtube for videos commentated by mumbly guys. I didn’t even mention that it’s a Pokemon fighting game in the style of Tekken. How can you be better than that? KoF and Melty are fantastic games, but Pokken is a fighter without rival.
Overwatch is team-based FPS perfection. Every time Blizzard does something to this game, whether it be a character nerf/buff, a costume, or a new mode, I say to myself “that’s smart, and exactly what they needed to do.” I’ve had so much fun this year just hanging out on Skype, playing some of that dirty, dirty Overwatch with my friends, racking up kills as D. Va, and getting yelled at when I switch to any other class. Overwatch is a game that will last years and years to come, and I’m happy about that- just as long as they don’t nerf any of my favorites.
I’m a DOOM-noob. I played maybe an hour of the first DOOM and that’s it. But after playing the demo of this new entry (and later picking it up for $20, chuh-ching!), I definitely want to go back and play the old ones. DOOM feels like a return to a time long-gone, where shooters weren’t about who could hoorah the loudest, or cry about a dead wife or daughter the longest. It’s all about getting so mad at demons that you go to Hell itself to rip them in twain, and I respect that far more. DOOM is all gameplay, and thankfully it delivers without a hitch. It’s never felt better to waltz into a room and clear it out with some swift thinking and an array of fun weapons. Plus, if a game has a shotgun I actually like to use, that’s an achievement all its own.
3. Blue Revolver
Arcades may be dead, but the experience they provided isn’t. Blue Revolver is a game designed to be played how you want, with options to flip the screen, change the music, and allow free play so your friends can take turns in a party setting. Even beyond the customization, Blue Revolver is a fantastic SHMUP with tight controls and challenging patterns. The art is adorable, and adds more personality to an already charming game. If you’ve ever enjoyed a SHMUP, Blue Revolver will make you fall back in love with the genre, and its gameplay options will help you introduce it to your friends.
2. Pokemon Sun/Moon
Pokemon’s big step forward was one of 2016’s shining moments for me. I’ve loved nearly every Pokemon game since its release, but it’s been far too long since I’ve been able to recommend an entry without caveats. This is Pokemon with a story worth giving a damn about, battle mechanics that you don’t need a guide open to understand, and a vibrant region that feels actually lived in. I’m still playing it today, trying to catch all the Pokemon so I can read Rotom’s creepy Pokedex entries for all of them. Did you know Drifloon SCREAMS when it pops? Why is that real?
1. VA-11 HALL-A
VA-11 HALL-A is such a John Michonski game. It focuses on story, it has the best soundtrack of the year and some cute anime girls. But, I don’t want to only talk about the looks of the cast of characters you booze up as Jill. Everyone (well, mostly the women) who stumbles into your bar also stumbles into your life, and seeing Jill’s relationships grow and develop and unraveling the reason why she’s not ready to open up is enthralling. So often VA-11 HALL-A flirts with going too deep into anime tropes, but instead plays with them in actually interesting ways. Cyberpunk often features bombastic events that shape the entire world, but what happens to the rest of the world while buildings are exploding and corporations are running rampant? Humanity would survive, and they’d want a drink to get them through it.