Mike Drucker is a Giant Bomb contributor and co-head writer for “Bill Nye Saves the World,” coming to Netflix in 2017. He's also written for The Tonight Show, Nintendo, The Onion, and SNL. He also co-hosts the podcasts, “How To Be a Person” and “The Room Where It's Happening.” You can follow him on Twitter @mikedrucker and watch him on Twitch under the surprising name “MikeDrucker.”
Is this where I write 2016 was bad? We all know it was bad. And maybe it wasn't even bad for you. Maybe you had a baby and that's what you wanted. Or maybe the election went your way while people like me endlessly talked about it online and our pain was like the sweetest spice in your mouth. Totally understand that; it was a different year for different people.
And--cool news--games had a pretty awesome 2016. Outside of No Man's Sky. Hoo boy. No Man's Sky. Remember that? We were all pretty certain that was going to change the world. That shit got fever pitch, right? People getting death threats for reporting on delays. And then it came out and we were all like, “Oooooooh right. Even a cardboard box counts as an open world if you say you can do anything in that box.”
Good thing almost everything else in games was surprisingly good. Think about how many games we expected to suck but didn't? Seriously. A good third of my list are games I didn't expect to even like that much. While the rest of my list are games I did expect to like. And a few are games I'm not sure I like, but I keep playing because I don't know.
Why am I still writing an intro? None of you are reading this part. Let's go!
10. Final Fantasy XV
I forgot how to enjoy a Final Fantasy game. For the last 10 years, Final Fantasy felt like required reading. You'd buy it when it came out, hate it, remember you're not a kid anymore, and then give up halfway through. But Final Fantasy XV is good? And I don't hate all the characters? And a third thing?
Final Fantasy XV shouldn't be good. Its character designs are lazy, even by recent Final Fantasy standards. Its combat is fun until it yells at you for not being good at the exact thing they expected you to learn by magic. It features sponsorships that don't even make sense (American Express somehow exists in a world that doesn't have America). But the writing and music and mood and the goofy upgrades kept me playing, even if my nickname should be “Finesse Score D.”
I don't see why this game took a decade to make, but it also doesn't feel like homework. That's a bar so low you can step over it.
9. XCOM 2
Remember when everyone in the media was like, “Hillary Clinton has a 92% chance of winning?” and a few of people were like, “Oh, she's definitely losing.”
Those were XCOM players.
I know that's not really a description of why I liked XCOM 2, but you're all gamers. You're reading this list to see if I agree with you, not to find out about hot, new games you might've missed. But here's why XCOM 2 is on my list: Because it's XCOM. And I hate myself. Which is why anyone plays XCOM.
Here's the thing: Am I good at Civilization? Or really bad at Civilization? Is it wrong to want a country where you just build nice things and nobody bothers you? Is that what North Korea wants? Oh my God, am I North Korea? Socially, I don't have a lot of friends. I tend to get really anxious for the wrong reasons. And my father was considered a God King whose words could destroy millions. Maybe.
OH GOD THAT WEIRD WATER GIRL! OH JESUS! OH FUCK! WHY?!
Ah, my annual, “But this isn't a good game!” game. Don't worry, I did a few checks here or there and it's still Street Fighter and I can still have fun with my friends playing it without worrying about frames and shit. I do understand that the launch of this game was terrible, the season pass system is terrible, and playing online is terrible. But that just makes Street Fighter V sound like, oh I dunno, literally any video game.
I enjoyed hitting the “punch them in the face” button and that button worked at punching someone in the face. I don't have a better justification than this.
Who didn't like Stardew Valley? Maybe people who have had actual jobs in their life. I wouldn't know. My entire career involves saying, “Uh... George W. Bush?” and hoping nobody knows I'm a fraud. It's a Forrest Gump life, people. Someone's gonna find out eventually. Then it'll be relying on the ole English Master's degree for work. And that English factory ain't hiring.
Stardew Valley was the most pleasant game of the game of the year. It just felt nice to play it. What a nice world to play and not live in. Living in it would be terrible. It's all farm work and asking out people who don't want you. Man, what a nightmare. Great game, though.
Let's be honest: We just like Harvest Moon done right.
4. Pokémon Moon
Why not Pokémon Sun? BECAUSE I WAS A GOTH KID, AND NIGHT TIME WILL ALWAYS BE THERE MY PEOPLE SHINE. You really think I was gonna get Pokémon Sun? Come on. I want that Pokémon game that makes everything super inconvenient by setting the clock 12 hours ahead.
Pokémon (or, “Pokey Man” if you're garbage) Moon and Sun were the first games in a while to really grab me and keep me playing. Maybe being 32 has that effect. There's a theme in these entries: Games I was excited to actually finish. It feels challenging and casual at the same time, a game you can play while you're bored rather than a game you must return to with every free moment.
Oh, God. Listen to me. I want casual games.
SPEAKING OF WHICH!
I love Firewatch. It depressed me. It made me feel bad. It ended weirdly. It's every relationship I've ever had. I also played it while my long-term relationship was falling apart. Listen, I could lie to you or I could write something real.
Is Firewatch a good game? Or even a game at all? I don't know. And honestly, I don't care that much. I was compelled by the story to keep playing and I felt like my little choices--while not affecting the ending as much as you'd believe--mattered, if only in the moment.
Every moment of Doom works. The combat, the movement, the little Easter Eggs, the protagonist ignoring the shit out of the unreliable guide. It just felt right. The best video games make you feel like you're actually the cool one--that you're transcending being you and really kicking ass.
Doom is the Final Fantasy XV of games where you chainsaw through demons for health.
It's hard to put Overwatch down as my game of the year because everyone is putting down Overwatch for their game of the year. And honestly, it's not even that packed a game. It's deep--nobody's saying it's not deep. But the width of the game is basically, “Shoot stuff. Defend stuff. Get mad at people who can't stay on the payload.”
But Overwatch does everything it wants to do right. It's great for newcomers. The art style is fun and exciting. There's a gorilla with glasses and fictional women who make real people on the internet mad when it turns out they're in committed relationships or something. It's really everything I want in a game.
There should be something else here about sweeping changes to the industry, but nah. Playing as Mercy is fun and it makes me feel needed and wanted, which is very nice. Heroes never die. They do complain a lot. And they don't protect Mercy ever. But they never die.
You can watch movies in a fake movie theater in the Hulu app while drinking whiskey from a cup with a straw. There aren't really any good games out that you must play (although a lot, like I Expect You to Die are really fun for what they are). But donning that dumb VR helmet and sitting in an X-Wing for 15 minutes or playing HoloBall or dancing in front of a mirror as Batman were neat moments.
It's still not worth getting unless you're a very forgiving gamer. But I'm a giant first-adopter sucker and I liked the crap out of it and it allowed me to escape the world for a little while and also show off to people who ranged from thrilled to “why am I standing underwater?”
PSVR has got terrible tracking, often muddled graphics, and a selection of games that feel more like they should cost a quarter at an arcade than 30 bucks to own permanently. But goddamn if I don't feel like I'm living in the future when I put it on. 10/10.