Honorable mentions include Hitman, Superhot, and Titanfall 2.
Honorable mentions include Hitman, Superhot, and Titanfall 2.
I don't often obsess over specific video games, but I spent 12 straight hours solving puzzles with my brother the day The Witness came out. I still have an entire photo album worth of screenshots on my iPhone and a notebook filled with frantic sketches. I even got the platinum trophy (I'll never listen to "In the Hall of the Mountain King" the same way again). There's a brilliance to the way The Witness presents players with a series of epiphanies on both a micro and macro level, and that triumph of game design separates it from all other releases I played in 2016.
Hyper Light Drifter is one of the best-looking games of 2016, and it features my favorite soundtrack of the year by a wide margin. But the audiovisual elements don't tell the whole story. In fact, they partially obscure the strengths of its mechanics, which rely on combat and exploration in equal measure. Sure, the game looks and sounds pretty, but the reason I've finished Hyper Light Drifter multiple times is because of the enjoyment I get from exploring its cryptic world and discarding enemies with lethal sword/gun combos. In fact, maybe it's time for another NG+ playthrough...
XCOM 2 takes a step back on the geoscape, but the actual combat is as good as ever. I enjoyed my first playthrough, but my second one on Ironman is when everything clicked. The emotional roller-coaster of a single save file creates so many memorable moments - I mean, sometimes it looks like all hope is lost and then you finish a 56-turn mission with no casualties... on live internet. Good times. Also, I have to give a big shout out to the fantastic mod community for XCOM 2. My second playthrough included quite a few standout mods and made the experience so much better.
First-person shooters place low on my list of favorite genres. I didn't grow up with Doom, Quake, or Wolfenstein, so I don't have any reverence for the classics. There are exceptions here and there though, and DOOM may be the biggest one yet. It's hard for me to describe why I like DOOM so much, at least in great detail. Remember, I don't have any connection to the beloved series. I suppose it boils down to the fact that I love DOOM's attitude and think it feels amazing. I don't know that I'll ever tire of popping demons in the head with a shotgun. Or a plasma rifle. Or a gauss cannon. I guess what I'm saying is the guns in DOOM are pretty good.
A challenging action game comprised entirely of boss fights? Sign me up! I love games that encourage and promote player growth, and I could see myself improving the more and more I played Furi. Let's just take a look at the sequence of events:
I beat the game on the normal (Furi) difficulty
I beat the game on the harder (Furier) difficulty
I beat the game on Furi with an S rank
I beat the game on Furier with an S rank
I completed a speedrun of the game in 68 minutes
I got the platinum trophy
I'd like to point out that beating the game for the first time on Furi difficulty felt like a miracle. Now I'm part of the 0.1% with the Furi platinum trophy. I think that's pretty damn cool.
If Dark Souls III is the series swan song, then it's a hell of a way to go out. Part of me feels like the constant references to the first Dark Souls go too far, but at the same time I recognize Dark Souls III as an impressive combination of the strengths of each game in the Soulsborne franchise. It's got the atmosphere of Demon's Souls, the intricate world design of Dark Souls 1 and 2, and the quickness of Bloodborne. It doesn't set the world on fire in terms of originality, but a great Souls game in 2016 still ends up being one of the best games of the year.
I played Dishonored 2 on PC and some of the technical issues were a real bummer, especially since the game itself is a fantastic sequel. It builds on the foundation of the first game in numerous ways, particularly with its wide selection of abilities across two playable characters. Those abilities compliment the intricate level design wonderfully and make for some crazy gameplay possibilities. I loved creating a doppelganger of Emily, attaching a stun mine to it, and letting it run into a group of enemies. Also, the "Crack in the Slab" mission is one of the best video game moments of 2016. I won't spoil anything, but trust me, it's awesome.
The Persona 5 delays disappointed many, myself included, but I still got my Atlus JRPG fix this year with Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. The crossover of the Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem franchises is a strange one, especially since it focuses on the idol industry, but that doesn't distract from the surprisingly deep combat system and charming cast. I never thought I'd be rooting for characters to become breakout pop stars or actors/actresses in a video game, but here we are.
The past two years have reinvigorated my interest in competitive multiplayer games. Both Rocket League and Splatoon were on my GOTY list last year, and now Overwatch occupies a spot this year. I still have yet to touch the competitive mode and I haven't played the game for hundreds of hours like others. In fact, I think my playtime is around 30 hours. But that's 30 more hours than I'd spend with most competitive shooters. I love the diverse cast of characters - in terms of both visual design and mechanics - and the game is simply a blast to play with friends. I'm not particularly good at the game, but that's doesn't matter. I know when I load up Overwatch, I'm going to have a great time.
Oxenfree is a fun take on a supernatural story, but the characters and voice acting truly carry the experience. There's something remarkably human and natural about the dialogue in the game, and it creates a player/character connection immediately. I cared about Alex and her teenage friends as they explored the creepy Edwards Island, and that journey allows the personal stories of each character to slowly unravel. By the end of the game I felt like I understood the characters on a much deeper level, even the ones I didn't initially like. That's the mark of a great narrative.
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