By MajorMitch 6 Comments
The dust is settling on another year in games, one which I thought to be a pretty good one for our favorite pastime here on Giant Bomb. I, like many others, propped up my own list of my 10 favorite games of the year, which turned out to be a pretty tough exercise this go-around. I ultimately feel very good about that list though, and am confident those are the 10 games I got the most out of in 2016. However, it’s years like that that drive home the fact that there’s well more than 10 games that matter in any given 12 month span. There’s simply a lot of good games out there right now.
Given that fact, along with the fact that I didn’t really do much writing about the other games I played in 2016, I thought I’d have some fun and shake things up with a supplementary list: ranking every single game released in 2016 that I played during the year. I didn’t put quite as much thought into this as my top 10, so I consider it a “rough” ranking. I also touched a whole lot of games from 2016--seriously, way more than I ever expected--and there are still plenty of 2016 games I have yet to get to. So this turned out to be another tough exercise, but I did the best I can with this list as of the time of writing, which is January 5, 2017. I had fun doing it too :) Thanks for reading!
1-10: See my GOTY 2016 list
11. Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. Every year has the “tough” cut. You know, the one game I really want to showcase on my top 10 list, but just can’t fit in. In 2016 that game was SMT4 Apocalypse. This was my first dive into a non-Persona SMT game, and I now see why the series has the clout it does. It’s a very solid dungeon-crawler, my favorite part being the highly tactical (and often tough) battles that demand you consider all your options; this is a JRPG where you can’t blindly mash your way through any encounter, which I appreciate. I also still really like the demon-fusing system, which continues to allow for tons of great customization. The game falls down in two spots for me. First, it’s kind of dry, and the story never grabbed me. Second, it’s simply too long for my tastes, and became a real grind once I passed 40 or 50 hours. Otherwise, I really got into this one.
12. Firewatch. This was also a tough cut for me; Firewatch turned out to have my favorite narrative among every game I played in 2016. Its various themes resonated with me on a personal level substantially more than most games, and the strong writing and voice-work made Henry and Delilah two of my favorite characters of the year. The music is great stuff too. If only there was more to engage with as a game, this would have easily cracked the top 10.
13. Hitman. I’m projecting a little bit here, as I haven’t played but a few measly hours of Hitman so far. But I’m already struck by just how fun it makes engaging with these large, well-crafted clockwork levels. It’s also supremely silly in all the right ways. I’ve never been a fan of stealth games, but I appreciate the way Hitman encourages you to just experiment and play with coming up with your own crazy schemes for taking out your targets. And it also provides enough nudges to get you started if you feel lost. It strikes that smart balance of giving feedback while allowing for creativity, which is something that’s not only critical to a good stealth game, but a useful lesson for games at large. I'm looking forward to playing more.
14. Salt and Sanctuary. Dark Souls is one of my favorite series. It turns out I still like the formula when translated to 2D as well. That’s how Ska Studios described their own Salt and Sanctuary, and that’s more or less what the game is--a positive in my book. I don’t think the level design or combat are always on par with the games that inspired it, and I have my personal gripes with the skill tree and secondary currency. But for the most part, Salt and Sanctuary effectively scratches the same itch as one of my personal favorites, and I had a ton of fun with it.
15. Inside. What a supremely well-crafted game, and holy cow that final segment is one of the most insane things I’ve seen in a video game in a while. Inside is a game you kind of get sucked into, thanks to some truly amazing atmosphere and pacing. I just wished I liked the puzzles more. As someone who generally likes “puzzle platformers,” the ones in Inside turned out to be very straightforward, and rarely grabbed me. Play this one primarily for the presentation.
16. AM2R. This one may or may not technically “count,” but this is a really impressive fan remake of Metroid II. AM2R gets closer to matching the quality of a Nintendo-made 2D Metroid game than it reasonably should, and it doesn’t hurt that Metroid II is the Metroid game that most needed a remake. Nintendo also hasn’t made a proper Metroid game in a long, long time, meaning AM2R fills a big gap for me. There’s nothing particularly profound about it past being a fan project that turned out very well, but if you like 2D Metroid games, this one is worth it.
17. The Banner Saga 2. When it comes to sequels, it doesn’t get any more “sequel” than The Banner Saga 2. Picking up exactly where the first game left off, including carrying over all your choices, character levels, and items, this one keeps running with everything I liked about part one. Stunning art, effective music, a bleak atmosphere, and interesting tactical battles. There’s nothing new or novel here to speak of, but I’m still invested in this cast of characters, and their fight for survival in this oppressive world.
18. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. After Uncharted 3 presumably sent the series off with a lackluster sense of closure, it was a real nice surprise for me to get a follow-up that did give us a wonderful ending to Nathan Drake’s story. Uncharted 4 is, in most ways, “another Uncharted game.” But it also told the best story the series has told yet, with an ending that stuck (mad props to the game’s writers and actors). That makes it probably the best Uncharted game? Even if the otherwise functional gameplay has kind of run its course.
19. Rhythm Heaven Megamix. You know what? Rhythm Heaven is rad. Even if half of Megamix’s minigames came from ones previously released in the US, I still had a blast seeing all the new ones I had never seen before. And playing the old ones again too. I like rhythm games a lot, and this series remains a super charming one I pretty much always enjoy.
20. Overwatch. I’ve never been a fan of class-based shooters, or really competitive shooters in general, but Overwatch surprised me with how easy it is to get into and just have a good time. Perhaps that’s no real surprise given Blizzard’s track record of taking existing genres and polishing the hell out of them. While I’m never going to actually play a ton of Overwatch or take it seriously, I had more fun that I thought I would messing with its diverse and entertaining cast of characters.
21. Thumper. Rhythm games don’t get much more violent than this, and I got pretty entranced by Thumper, all things considered. I think it could use a little more variety somewhere, be it in the mechanics, level design, or perhaps just music. Not entirely sure. I would also prefer the beats to match the actual rhythm of the “music” more often than they do. But it has an amazing audiovisual presentation, and there were a handful of times where it all clicked and I got into that “flow” that the best rhythm games are able to induce. I just wish it could have done it for me more consistently.
22. Picross 3D: Round 2. I mean… it’s more Picross. And Picross is awesome. What more do you want? Actually, 3D Round 2 gains bonus points for being only the second 3D game in the series, and adding a neat new wrinkle with a second color. But really, it’s more Picross done well!
23. Fru. What is this you ask? A good Xbox Kinect game in 2016!? Fru turned out to be one of the biggest surprises of the year for me, and I’m lucky to have a brother who owns a Kinect (because I sure don’t plan on buying one). This is just a really inventive platformer that makes perhaps the best use of Kinect to date, and was a total riot to play. And, uh, it’s a good Xbox Kinect game in 2016!
24. Gears of War 4. It's totally “more Gears.” Take or leave that statement as you will, but it turns out I like Gears enough in the grand scheme of things that I enjoyed this return plenty. The campaign is a fun co-op romp, and the horde mode has some interesting ideas with the different classes. If only it wasn’t so grindy, and full of cards, blind boxes, and microtransactions…
25. Severed. This was a nice little treat on my Vita in 2016. Severed may not be a particularly deep, or a particularly novel game. But it’s a fun dungeon-crawler (a genre I haven’t dabbled in much) that has some good style and interesting touchscreen combat. It kept me happy during some travels over the summer.
26. Owlboy. I didn’t fall in love with Owlboy as much as I had hoped, but this still proved to be a charming and effective tale, one that both looks and sounds great (easily one of my favorite soundtracks of the year). If only the combat and exploration hadn’t been as rote and/or clunky as it often was, this may have even been top 10 material.
27. Stephen's Sausage Roll. I generally consider myself a fan of puzzle games, and Stephen’s Sausage Roll has a lot of extremely well-designed puzzles. They’re also extremely difficult. It doesn’t offer much past its series of puzzles either, which meant I kind of burnt out slamming my head against the wall before I got too far in it. You’ll have to like difficult puzzles to make it in this one, but if you do, it’s a winner. Great name too.
28. Abzu. It may be reductive to call Abzu an “underwater Journey,” but… well, the description works. I enjoyed this melancholy exploration of the ocean, and there’s some wonderful audiovisual splendor on tap here. By following so closely in Journey’s footsteps, it doesn’t feel as impressive or novel as it could, but it's still a neat experience.
29. Overcooked. What a silly but entertaining co-op game. Overcooked was a frantic mess every time I played it, and that’s a big part of its charm. It can be a little too chaotic at times, and it end up being fairly one-note. But man, when the mayhem works, it’s some of the best mayhem you can experience with a friend.
30. Quadrilateral Cowboy. I didn’t like Thirty Flights of Loving at all, but I’m glad I still gave Quadrilateral Cowboy a shot. This is a much more engaging game, with some cool programming themed puzzle ideas. Tossing down your laptop wherever you want to hack into things is pretty rad, and the game puts it to decent use. It doesn’t always take it as far as it could, and the back half lost some steam for me, but I enjoyed it overall.
31. Pokemon Moon. I consider myself a Pokemon guy, but for whatever reason, generation 7 isn’t doing it for me so far. Granted, I’m still in the middle of Moon’s campaign, but it feels a bit… dull so far. Maybe I’ve just played too many Pokemon games at this point, or maybe it will pick up in the post-game. But this one feels like going through the motions more than most, and has left me feeling pretty indifferent.
32. Oxenfree. This one has some neat ideas; or rather, a neat idea. Its attempt at a fluid dialogue system is very interesting, even when it kind of broke for me at times. Otherwise this is an OK tale with some decent story beats, if a bit standard in most other ways. So, yeah, Oxenfree managed to be neat without really standing out much for me.
33. Total War: Warhammer. OK, bear with me on this one, as it’s very personal. Total War: Warhammer may be the best Total War game yet. But it’s also the one that made me realize that maybe I just don't like Total War that much. It’s the third one I’ve played (after Rome and Shogun 2), and where I burnt out on the previous ones before reaching the end of their lengthy campaigns, I thought this would be the one to tie it all together. I played Warhammer growing up after all, and consider myself a fan of strategy games. But after finishing a full campaign in this installment, I think I can safely say the series is not for me. The reasons why are probably too nuanced and complicated to try and dissect right now, but it left me feeling kind of bummed.
34. Final Fantasy XV. The jury’s still mostly out on this one. I’m about 10 hours into Final Fantasy XV at the moment, and so far I’m not sold on it. The world itself is very pretty, and there’s some decent (if generic) music in there, but the rest is a hodgepodge of rote fetch quests, a bare bones plot, and mashy combat that has yet to click with me. I hope it turns around, and of all the games on this list, this is the one where my opinion is most likely to change over the coming weeks/months. I’m just not convinced that it will change for the better...
35. Amplitude. I never played the original Amplitude (or Frequency for that matter), but this reboot seems alright. For whatever reason though, it just didn’t grab me. I think ultimately I may be starting to realize that Harmonix’s brand of rhythm game is not my favorite; I consider myself a fan of rhythm games, but none of theirs rank among my favorites (dissecting why would be a longer tangent). Amplitude joins that tradition.
36. Pocket Card Jockey. Simple, but goofy and kind of fun. You play a version of solitaire while managing your horse-racing career. And… that’s kind of all I have to say about it? Checks the box of a mostly mindless but inoffensive time-filler.
37. Devil Daggers. I’ve never been a “score-chasing” guy, so I didn’t really get into Devil Daggers. But I think it hits what it’s going for pretty well, for those into this sort of thing, and the price tag is on point.
38. That Dragon, Cancer. I really, really appreciate anyone who puts themselves out there, and is willing to share a story as sad and as personal as the one in That Dragon, Cancer. But if I’m being brutally honest, I don't think it's as well-executed as a lot of other story-driven games out there. And seeing as it’s a very short game with virtually nothing to interact with, those story beats need to be completely on point. I’m glad this game exists, but I think it could be much better.
39. Darkest Dungeon. This is easily the game that bummed me out the most in 2016, and that’s not due to its depressing tone and atmosphere; I liked that stuff a lot. It’s because I think there is truly an amazing game hiding in here, but it gets buried under dozens and dozens of hours of repetitive grind. I was initially way into Darkest Dungeon's interesting mechanics, from the cool character classes to the dungeon-crawling to the combat. But after trudging through the meat grinder for 20 hours, only to realize the game was simply going to repeat itself two more times? I couldn't do it. This is one of the best examples I've ever seen of a game wasting its potential through poor structure and pacing. Again, there's an amazing game hiding in here. I just wish it had been realized properly.
40. Furi. I won’t say Furi is a bad game. In fact, I don’t feel like I played a single “bad” game all year if I’m being honest (seriously, it was a strong year). But Furi was one of the very few games I played in 2016 that I did not like, and it was the worst of them. I like the idea of a challenging “boss rush” game as much as anyone, but I also think Furi has some sizable issues. I think the long walking segments in-between boss fights are too dull, and contain poor dialogue, writing, and story beats. I don’t like the structure of the boss fights, in that they require you to play the easy parts over and over when you die to keep trying the hard parts. And I think the control layout (mainly regarding dodging) is problematic. Don’t get me wrong: the soundtrack is great and I had fun with a few boss fights. But the cons far outweighed the pros for me.