Is the Noid really the villain this time? Or is he the true hero we all need?
GREETINGS TRAVELER. If you are reading this, you’re either from the future or from the past with an extremely advanced Cyber-Rig. The is a definitive catalog of the top ten games of the year 2016. Please read at your leisure, unless your reasons for reading this list are of dire importance.
I feel like a real normcore cockhole because it’s been a strange strange year for your bud Scott. I moved out of my house into a new apartment and started making way more money than I usually do, so my focus was more on big AAA releases than usual. I’ve also had way less time to play games and, for the most part, spent most my time playing known quantity games that are good for when you need to unwind and listen to some pods (short for podcast). On top of that, one of my roommates is a big fan of spending money, so I wound up with more big budget games than I typically would have played.
I wanna make some honorable mentions of Life is Strange and Tales from the Borderlands, which I both played this year and absolutely loved. However, since they didn’t come out this year or have any major updates or DLC, they didn’t feel appropriate on this list. I also started games like VA-11 HALL-A, Final Fantasy XV, Pokemon Sun, and Let It Die that I just haven’t had time to sink my teeth in and make a definitive judgment on them despite being so very my shit. And I, uh, also spent a lot of time playing WWE 2K17 and I feel really bad about that but that you can’t change me baby. Sorry John.
10. Watch Dogs 2
The second half of this game, especially the ending, is just plain lame. Not lame in the way that the over the top hacker aesthetic the game covers itself in is so lame that it’s endearing. It kinda just ends on a wet fart, but the first half of Watch Dogs 2. It’s so rich with silly situations, great character moments, and bold commentary on gentrification in San Francisco. Marcus’ facial animations and comic timing make him feel so likeable, especially given that outside cutscenes he’s basically a walking gun with neat toys to play with. They do such a good job of getting you attached to a crew of wisecracking, follower obsessed millennials that it’s hard for me to let this game go unrecognized.
9. Fallout 4
I spent a lot of time this year building settlements. Like, A LOT of time. I’m probably considered an expert and am qualified to teach classes on the subject. With mods on PS4 finally being a thing, albeit a limited thing compared to competitors, I’m able now to remove even more trash from my settlements and make even cooler looking towns. I don’t know why I’ve dumped so many hours into it. They aren’t the best set of tools for building and they’re not in the best game for it, but it’s hard to find something more satisfying than laying down, puttin’ on a pod or two, and building a nice little town on Abernathy Farm. I think the idea of making something stable for all the people who live in a fucked up world is positive for me.
Typing this now, I’m finding it hard to find what exactly to write about DOOM other than “It’s a fun game! It’s a fun game to play. I love to play games.” To me it was a satisfying, mindless experience where I ripped a lot of demons in half. It does an incredible job of evoking the heavy metal aesthetic and the sheer hatred that the Doom Guy feels towards demons. It’s a really endearing, well made game. It would probably be higher up on the list if there was something more than just gameplay though. The story didn’t do much for me, the final boss battle is a flop, and the ending didn’t get me excited for a DOOM 2 or DOOM FOREVER or whatever.
7. Final Fantasy Brave Exvius
While I’ve really fallen off this game lately to make way for more Pokemon in my life, Brave Exvius is a real gem anyone with a phone should try. It’s a Final Fantasy twist on Brave Frontier, and the ways it’s referential to old Final Fantasy games is really refreshing, especially if you’re already in deep with Final Fantasy Record Keeper. They include characters from more medieval themed games like 3, 6, 9, Tactics and 12 while excluding characters from more modern, popular Final Fantasy games like 7, 8 and 10. The battles get really tough after a while and require you to think outside the box for team composition. Anyone that can apply status effects or buffs is just as valuable as a really good black mage. It also does a good job of not making the paid currency stuff crucial to the game in major ways and rewarding it frequently. They’re constantly giving out gifts to players just because and running interesting events. You should really try it for yourself if you’re into JRPGs.
6. Titanfall 2
This game not getting recognized is such a tragedy. EA mishandled it’s release by putting it right between two juggernauts. While it’s a relatively short eight hour campaign, they manage to pack in so many totally rad set piece moments and fun dialogue between you and your robot pal. It manages to make platforming feel totally natural, even without prior experience with the first game. Climbing inside a giant tank that’s also your friend has so much style and gravitas to it. Taking out enemy mechs, even little, shitty ones, always feels fun to me. There’s so many good sequences in this game that’s hard to pick out a favorite moment, but I think anyone who’s played the game can guess. While it suffers from the same sequel syndrome that a lot of other games are facing with their endings lately, this one still manages to end its campaign with real finality and a massive bang. I still haven’t had a chance to touch the multiplayer, but this is absolutely one of my favorite experiences this year. It’d be a real shame if we didn’t see more Titanfall.
Overwatch gets it. Blizzard figured out how to take the class based competitive framework of Team Fortress 2 and condense it into bite sized, action packed chunks. It takes the language and design of TF2 and some familiar concepts (like Torbjorn’s turret, or Pharah’s flight and rockets) and rolls them up into a unique package. The gameplay loop of playing until you get a higher rank and some more cosmetic items seems hollow at first, but ultimately rewarding considering how cool the designs of the characters are. Everything just works exactly how it feels like it should which is an impressive feat.
4. Hyper Light Drifter
This game is beautiful. The incredible landscapes set to a somber, electronic score made for some of the most memorable moments I’ve ever experienced in a video game. It’s tough and it forces you to learn how to play better to overcome it’s obstacles (my shit my shit my shit my shit). All the sword swings have the right amount of crunch to them and the guns feel really satisfying once you learn how to use them properly. It feels a lot like the much harder and darker sequel to Link to the Past I never knew I wanted.
3. Dark Souls 3
These games have been on a yearly cycle since Dark Souls 2 hit, and while they’ve absolutely lost their luster a bit, I don’t enjoy playing them any less. Dark Souls is back, baby! It’s good again. Yes, I would love to see more experiences like Bloodborne that expand the Souls format and apply them in really unique ways, but also I just enjoy playing these games. We’re getting to the point where Souls clones or Souls-likes are popping up now, but very few of them feel just right. It’s totally possible that we will never see another proper Souls game again, but I’d still be very down to play more games in this same format.
What a good god damn game. What a good god damn game that dropped totally for free on PS Plus when it was released. While you may be hard pressed to find it for the very reasonable price of zero bucks now, this game is still worth checking out. It’s a tight experience with fantastic visuals, an amazing soundtrack that feels super 80s, and boss battles that are tough to master but so so so satisfying to finish. The gameplay is such a clever mix of the dodge, parry and attack style of character action games alongside heavy shoot-em-up sections. I’ve never felt anywhere near as anime as I have playing this game, and you should get to feel anime too.
I don’t know what it says about me now that this was my favorite game this year. I typically tend to judge things based on how I react to them emotionally. Most games don’t do it for me. Firewatch extremely did it for me. It’s a story about getting away from your problems and living a fantasy, and all of the central characters are just as guilty of it as Henry. The only difference is we get to see what Henry is running from. The pairing of Rich Sommer and Cissy Jones as Henry and Delilah is absolutely magnificent. Their dialogue tends to feel a little flat and poorly placed early in the game, but it’s in the exact same way that talking into a walkie talkie sounds. Their rapport as the game progresses not only gets better, but you can feel the emotional weight between them bearing down on your shoulders as you’re forced to make tough decisions that may completely and drastically change the lives of the characters. I’ve heard a lot of complaints towards the Firewatch’s ending. That it’s too dry, it ends on a flat note, and you’re left with a feeling that nothing much has really changed. But to me, that’s the point. Nothing has changed. Plot threads that begin end very abruptly, in the same way they would end in real life. Life goes on and you need to confront with the problems in your life that you’ve put off for so long. You can’t live in your fantasy forever, you have to put the game down and take responsibility for your life. I feel like I made a lot of progress this year as a person. Playing Firewatch, even so early in the year in February, probably didn’t inform any of that directly, realistically. But in the fantasy world where we’re all inspired directly by the fantastical adventures that we embark on, I’d like to think that it absolutely did.