Game of the Year 2016

2016 was definitely a year that I'm glad to see in the rear-view mirror. I never want to talk about basically anything that happened in 2016 ever again (senior-year of college woes), and I'm ready to treat it like an old high school friend you haven't/never will talk to again. That said the video games were pretty awesome, but they always have been and always will be.

2016's 2015 GOTY for me was Bloodborne. I've always loved the Souls series and Bloodborne might be the best since Dark Souls 1.

Haven't played (but am interested): Firewatch, The Division, Inside, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Recore, Forza Horizon 3, Gears of War 4, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

List items

  • Finally got around to playing the game in February and I have to say that this game is probably the best FPS game I've played since Halo: Combat Evolved. The movement builds so much on the formula Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare revolutionized and adds so much more to the final product. I can't remember a game that has ever made me feel as badass as Titanfall 2. The wall-jumping is easy enough to get a handle on but difficult to master, the act of sliding and unloading a full shotgun clip on whatever unlucky human/robot/creature around is pure catharsis, and the game loses hardly any momentum whatsoever when you're in the cockpit of a Titan.

    The campaign has some awe-inducing moments near the back half of the game and by the end really just devolves into some of the most absurd platforming and shooting I've seen. The multiplayer is fantastic no matter what mode you choose either.

    Looking at both Titanfall 2 and Doom, I think 2016 was a banner year for the FPS genre. Doom is the old school shooter nobody thought was ever going to be viable in today's post COD4: Modern Warfare world, and Titanfall 2 is said world's new gold standard in my eyes. The same year? Go figure.

  • I'm also in the camp of those that didn't really think another Uncharted game was something that they'd want. After playing the first 3 games of the series at least twice, I felt pretty sure the series had signed off admirably and run its course. But of course, leave it to Naughty Dog to one up themselves again. I think this is the best Uncharted game of all time. The set pieces are the best they've ever been (falling tower), it's the most gorgeous PS4 game I've ever seen, and the platforming felt better than ever. But, with so much invested in the story of Nate, Elena, and Sully, it was touching to get a game that gave them a tangible ending. I don't know if Naughty Dog will see fit to give Nate another story, but if they don't, Uncharted 4 is as perfect an ending anybody could hope for.

  • I had tried to play the original Doom games when I went through a big MS DOS nostalgia kick when playing some old SCUMM games, but time had caught up to both those games and myself, so coming into Doom I had zero expectations and zero reverence for the series itself. So, I was just as surprised as everyone else when I really got into the game, albeit for different reasons. It was fast paced enough to keep my attention in the earlier levels, which I feel are a bit light in content, but by the time I warped to Hell for the first time, I was hooked.

    So much has been said about how the glory kills and chainsaw kills facilitate the incredible mobility of the game, and I think those kills are the secret to Doom's successful formula, but I loved how in later stages I was just bombarded by hordes of undeniably, intelligent enemies at the same time. I really felt like Hell was throwing everything it had at me. The game's a looker on ultra too, even on my R9 290.

  • Blood and Wine DLC.

    Gone were the muddy, back-asswards flora and fauna of Velen. No longer would I have to brave the stark tundra and barren seas of Skellige. Geralt and I were off to Toussaint, a land that was as gorgeous as I've ever seen in real life let alone a video game. We would meet some of the most intriguing and subtle characters yet such as Regis and Henrietta, craft some of the most badass Witcher armor imaginable (albeit insanely expensive), and as ever, make ethically ambiguous decisions about who and what to kill.

    It's already one of the greatest RPG's of all time, but with the addition of Blood and Wine, it really just puts a bow on the complete package The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt already was, and further raises the bar for which all future RPG's should aspire too.

  • Stardew Valley is the game I played most this year by far (45+ hours and counting). I feel like that's a testament to how addictive and enticing the game is, but it's also a testament to how much the game asks of the player. There is not too much the player can really do in Stardew Valley; farming (both crops and animal products), fishing, mining, and mingling are more or less the sole activities one can perform, but the amount of detail and idiosyncrasies involved in each activity is quite stunning. There's never something you couldn't be doing to make money or money you couldn't be spending to make money. This was the busiest game I've played since Persona 4.

    But the single most impressive facet of Stardew Valley is it's personality. The townspeople are all likable in one way or another. My personal favorite is Abigail and her sense of adventure and wonder. My least favorite is Pam and how much she reminds me of bus drivers from my public school days.

  • I played this before Uncharted 4 and I think that Rise of the Tomb Raider is a better game in the game-play department, but it falls short in terms of its narrative and story-telling. That said the game is rather fantastic and its set pieces are just as incredible as Uncharted 4's.

    I played the Tomb Raider reboot back in 2013 and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would, and I think Rise of the Tomb Raider is even better. I really would like to commend Crystal Dynamics for converting someone that didn't enjoy the original PS1 Tomb Raider games at all into one of today's most fervent Tomb Raider fans.

  • I've had the earlier Hitman games in my Steam library from a previous Humble Bundle purchase and never played them. I still haven't, but I might after playing the latest entry in the series.

    What makes Hitman so enjoyable is how forgiving the base game is with the radical removal of punishing fail states. The generous autosaves, challenges that unlock without completing the entire level, and quick load times all contribute to making Hitman's stealth experience something that can be enjoyed by a much wider audience.

    This would mean jack shit if the game itself wasn't engaging or fun. Some of the scenarios are ludicrous (Helmut Kruger was my favorite) and how the game guides the player through all the possible opportunities is a nice addition (even better that it can be turned off for those who want a more free-form approach). Factor in the escalation missions where the true difficulty lies, and you've got a Hitman game that offers a whole lotta something for everyone.

  • It's a very short game, but it more than makes up for it with how novel and unique the game-play it is. I steam-rolled through the story in about 3 hours and enjoyed it a lot, even if certain levels took some patience (that last one in particular). It always felt like failing these encounters was my fault for not managing my time and the environment itself.

    The small semblance of story in Superhot was pretty awesome too in how it felt like it was making some sort of hybrid pro/anti stance on VR and its possibilities and pitfalls, even if said stance feels vague and subjective all the while. From the awesome command prompt home screen, oodles of post-game content and challenges, and surprisingly, addicting mini-games, Superhot is a wild ass ride.

  • I'm adding this to the list mid-2017, but only because I took a break after blazing through Bloodborne once or twice last Christmas. After a 6-month respite, I jumped right in.

    Firstly though, I have to say I'm not completely in love with Dark Souls III. There are aspects about it such as its hamstrung world design (that feels like a sort of uninspired middle ground between Dark Souls I and II), strange characters quests that are even more deliberately vague as to what one could/should do to progress certain arcs, and it's reliance on cheap deaths. How many chests were actual chests and not mimics? Plus, I think Dancer of the Boreal Valley might be the hardest boss to read in any Souls game.

    But all that aside, there's a familiarity to Dark Souls III that acts as both its best and worst quality. I was consistently wowed by seeing certain regions (one uber high palace was one of the best callbacks in recent gaming history for me), finally besting a particularly troubling section, or beginning to wrap your brain around how one region connects to itself.

    I would say the Souls series is probably my favorite series of games since the original Mass Effect trilogy concluded. I'm not naive enough to think we wont ever see another Souls game one day, but Dark Souls III is well worth one last foray into a land where any and everything is against you.

    Until we meet again my friend.

  • 2016's Undertale GOTY. That sounds reductive and rude, and it might be, but this game reminds me so much of Undertale and it's endgame twist. But speaking on Pony Island's merits itself, I'd say it's the most clever game I've played this year. The platforming sections are tight and the puzzles are clever without making you want to throw in the towel. I only played through once, but after finishing it, I felt like not uninstalling it would be cruel and evil. Weird little game.

  • Another game that I've barely scratched the surface of, but I really like the visual style and the world its set in. The combat seems wonky in spots, but I think it's my ineptitude on display as well.

  • The AI is still either dumber than dog shit or an immobile brick wall, but FIFA 17 is the best FIFA game I've played in what seems like years. I think the new Frostbite engine really helped with the visuals and that along with the fine tuning done to the passing and defense propels it into the same category of soccer games like Winning Eleven 8: International and FIFA 10. I usually get sick of FIFA within the first 2-3 months, but I'll be playing this well into the New Year.

  • I think I like watching others play this more than I do myself, but it's great fun for a quick, 1-2 minute gauntlet of total, fucking craziness.

  • I had a tough time deciding whether or not The Witness was gonna make my list. On one hand, the game is gorgeous, the puzzles are fantastic, and that feeling of relief and exhaustion when you've finally solved a hard puzzle is euphoric.

    But despite how much fun I've had with The Witness, I've also been super frustrated by certain puzzles or lost as to what I should do next a multitude of times. I feel like the game could explain how to solve certain puzzles better and offer a bit more direction as to where one might want to go next. I also think this game teeters on the brink of pretentiousness even more than Braid did.

    But with all of that said, it's to the Witness's credit that it has kept me coming back (even weeks later) no matter how exasperated I've become at a certain puzzle. I've looked online here and there for certain solutions as a last resort, but I don't feel as if I've cheated myself, because otfentimes I still don't see how/why a solution is correct. I don't know if I'll ever beat it, but The Witness is an itch I won't stop scratching.