Rec's Game of the Year 2016

2016 is one of the best years in awhile as far as games go. I feel like it's harder to play everything I wanted that came out this year, but I feel good about what I did play, I hit everything I really wanted to. This year is the swan song for the Vita and the WiiU, since I dropped those two systems this year. And since I went back to school it's just been tough keeping up with stuff. Thankfully I had all of December to catch up.

I had about 25 games that I started with, and cut things down to about 18 before things got really hard. A few honorable mentions: Yo-kai Watch 2 is a real slow start, but picks up and puts the first game to shame, wish I could've put more time into it. Inside is a cool experience that has great set pieces and is really memorable, everyone talks about the ending but there are many other moments that were just as good (shockwaves). Street Fighter V was a mess when it launched, and they've slowly been trying to crawl out of the hole it started in, but the game play is so good. I've mained a charge character for the first time since Street Fighter 2. Those were the last few edge cases, now onto my top ten of 2016!

10. Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV's cast of characters is great, love the conversations they have regarding dumb side quests like this.
Final Fantasy XV's cast of characters is great, love the conversations they have regarding dumb side quests like this.

I mentioned this a bit in my SOTY blog, but the wait for this game was something else. As someone who thought Versus XIII looked way better than regular XIII, this game getting forgotten was a shame. Then when it got re-revealed a few years ago things were all right again. The game actually came out, and to be honest I'm only about 15 hours in on chapter 3, and I know that the game has some issues near the end that I haven't reached yet, but I really don't care. There is just a sense of personality in this game that many other games in general, much less JRPGs tackle. The little animations during fights like helping each other do team attacks, the little cutscenes of your team hanging out when calling it a night, and even the little quips that have already become a little irritating. This game just feels more alive than other games. The combat is fine, the story is also fine so far, but it's just the little things that make this game stand out. I guess that's what happens when a game takes 10 years to come out, but I hope some of these things rub off on other games.

9. The Witness

I remember solving this one, such a great time doing that thing with the thing.
I remember solving this one, such a great time doing that thing with the thing.

I put about 40 hours into The Witness before I quit on it. Yes, I never finished the game. There came to be a point where I decided enough was enough, and would rather walk away while we were still on good terms than forcing myself to see it through to the end. I don't regret it, and I certainly will not go back to it any time soon. The island is a beautiful place, and the puzzles are amazing. Discovering new areas and figuring out what made each one tick was a great experience, time and time again. Everyone remembers where they got their first +1, and how great that was. The "world building" stuff fit in perfectly, even if none of it stuck with me. Even though I never made it to the end, the time I spent in that world is still one of my favorite things I've played this year.

8. Zero Time Dilemma

What he said.
What he said.

At the beginning of the game, you call a coin flip. If you choose correctly, your captive lets you go, and credits roll. Just another day in Zero Escape. The end of the trilogy was always going to be a rough ride considering all of the events they had to tie up, and boy do they resolve things in the stupidest manner sometimes. When it comes to killing each others and solving puzzles though, they deliver in spades. This game has some of the most powerful moments in the entire trilogy, and I appreciated the Metal Gear Solid 2-style shift where the game throws its own premise away and turns into something else, something I know many other folks hated. This is definitely the most inconsistent game in my top ten, but for every moment I groaned or laughed at, there was another equally fantastic moment. A great end to the trilogy.

7. Firewatch

Firewatch nails discomfort and tension better than a lot of horror games do, that's quite the achievement.
Firewatch nails discomfort and tension better than a lot of horror games do, that's quite the achievement.

In my middle school and early high school years, my family lived in a small town in central Minnesota that was surrounded by woods. Once in awhile, me and my friends would explore the woods and Firewatch did a great job of nailing that feeling of just being surrounded by trees and nothing else. Even better, the game managed to recreate the severe sense of unease and powerlessness one can get when in the woods. In our case we were less afraid of people and more of bears, but still, exploring the woods is definitely not for everyone. It certainly isn't for me. The big moment that shifts the tone of that game happened to me while I was playing at 3 in the morning. And yeah, that stuck with me. Having a pretty good story with great characters was just a bonus. Firewatch is a grim reminder that the woods are terrifying when paired with the human mind.

6. VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

Streaming-chan is the realest. Hands down.
Streaming-chan is the realest. Hands down.

Speaking of great characters and fantastic dialogue, VA-11 HALL-A is a game that felt great to play. It oozes style and charm, and you meet some characters in that game. Sure, you mix drinks for people and learn about their lives, and that's great. But the thing that stands out to me is the world that game exists in. Through little details such as message board and news site equivalents, it manages to feel like a much bigger and fleshed out world, and in turn, that just makes your little bar even more of a home. I definitely appreciated the love (and deserved ridicule) the developer shows towards wrestling fans. I don't think any other game in 2016 was as comfortable to play as VA-11 HALL-A, if that makes sense. Also has one of the strongest soundtracks of the year.

5. Doom

Just give me a room full of enemies with enough shotgun ammo and I'll almost reach transcendence. I love the Super Shotgun.
Just give me a room full of enemies with enough shotgun ammo and I'll almost reach transcendence. I love the Super Shotgun.

I have no reverence for the series, and a lot of the story nods and tone kinda went over my head. That really doesn't matter though, because this game was a blast to play. The gameplay sequence was a complete breath of fresh air to the other shooters I played this year. Killing demon after demon in a smooth chain of events felt so damn good. I want to dig deeper into the game to find all of the secrets, codec entries, and little doomguys, and I never do that in games.

4. Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice

The rebellion in the kingdom of Khura'in feels like it's going to be a throwaway story line but ties into the main game really well, and is responsible for some memorable characters.
The rebellion in the kingdom of Khura'in feels like it's going to be a throwaway story line but ties into the main game really well, and is responsible for some memorable characters.

After Apollo Justice, Ace Attorney, I was worried that the series was past its prime. Then the 5th game was a strong comeback, and Spirit of Justice, the 6th main entry, absolutely nails it. The game has struggled with juggling main characters and telling an overarching story, but Spirit of Justice manages to do both really well, better than most games in the series. The game does lean a bit too hard on plot points previously used in the series (having Maya Fey show up for the first time in years only to be immediately accused of another murder was just stupid), but when it's not doing that, it is amazing. Another thing I give this game credit for is the writing finally evolving and using your thinking against you. After so many games, the logic in the games was predictable, and while there were surprises, they felt more like gotcha moments than subverting your thought process. This game's final trial is one of the best written in the series, from start to finish it completely caught me off guard in ways I appreciated.

3. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Call of Duty was so great this year. The campaign was my favorite one since Modern Warfare 2, with memorable characters, some pretty good set pieces, and enough cheese to keep the spirit of the old games intact (MARS AETERNUM!). Something I didn't expect from the campaign was its ability to absolutely crush me by murdering folks off like it was a horror movie. At the end of the game, my first thought was "Imagine if Mass Effect 2's suicide mission had the guts to do things like Infinite Warfare did." I admit, that's sort of a silly thought, considering you get way more time to get attached to those characters, but I felt like this campaign was a major step up compared to previous efforts and I like most of those campaigns. It's still a Call of Duty campaign deep down, and that's what makes me like it so much.

For a game that tries to be a lot more serious about its story, I can understand why folks think this one dimensional character is out of place. On the other hand: DEATH IS NO DISGRACE, MARS AETERNUM!
For a game that tries to be a lot more serious about its story, I can understand why folks think this one dimensional character is out of place. On the other hand: DEATH IS NO DISGRACE, MARS AETERNUM!

I also got hooked on the multiplayer for the first time since Black Ops 2, I bought the game on a Wednesday and managed to get to first prestige by the following Tuesday. The new gun system is pretty neat, and some of the dual function weapons are great too. The assault rifle that splits into two machine pistols makes no sense but is awesome! My only gripe is that the kill streaks are severely toned down, but after the rolling death balls from Black Ops 2, I don't blame them. It's still Call of Duty, but I really like Call of Duty, and this was a great one of those. (Sorry zombies, still don't care about you.)

2. Let It Die

This game is really cool. You can kill folks with an Apocalyptic Hockey Stick, a gauntlet fashioned out of a motorcycle called a Motor Psycho, or an Iron. You fight enemies known as Haters, there is a grim reaper dude named Uncle Death who skateboards, and this is all in an video game on a system known as the Death Drive 128.

Shotgun, check. Longsword, check. Tactical armor, check. Stylish execution, GORETASTIC!
Shotgun, check. Longsword, check. Tactical armor, check. Stylish execution, GORETASTIC!

Okay, to take a step back, there is something really fun about exploring the tower and finding new weapons, blueprints, enemies and more. It's technically a roguelike, but with an arcade like USE CREDIT TO CONTINUE system that I really dig. The bosses are horrifying monsters, or horrifying people, but they have their own cool backstories told through comic pages scattered within the world. Even bouncing out of the game has it's own great moments. The girl behind the counter, Naomi, is one of the most fun characters of 2016, and Uncle Death is there, and he's cool too!

There wasn't a game this year that hooked me like Let It Die did. The more I played, the more I found to love about it. It has an amazing cast of weird characters, and it plays really well, which is not something I expected from something with Suda's name plastered on it. The fact that this game is free is absolutely insane for the depth it provides, and it hits an RPG style grinding wall way before it hits the Free-to-play wall. There's also base building if that's your thing. The soundtrack is the best of the year, combining Akira Yamaoka's work with a lot of popular Japanese bands. This game is really, really cool.

1. Overwatch

Overwatch was going to be my game of the year when I first played it back in November of 2015. That's all there was to it. The cast of characters is varied as far as playstyle and personality, and everyone has their favorites, but the game encourages you to dig past that, and it is increasingly rewarding learning more characters. It feels sort of like a fighting game, where certain match-ups work in your favor, and how you have to adapt your strategy to counter your opponent. I started the game as a big fan of using D.va, Symmetra, and Reaper, and by the end of this year I can say I feel good enough with every character to be competent with them. Learning new characters was satisfying and it was really great to be able to do things like destroy a back line with Tracer, or be able to use Mei's terrible terrible abilities for good rather than evil. The sound design being the best of the year in how it conveys information to you, and the way the game hides the usual shooter scorekeeping does wonders for perpetual scoresheet watchers like myself. The game does have its frustrating moments, but that blame goes on the people, not the game itself.

Another major thing that kept Overwatch at the top of my list for so long was the amount of support Blizzard gave it over the year, more skins baby! Really though, the seasonal modes were fun diversions. Junkenstein's Revenge is a nice template for a story if they ever go that route, Mei's Snowball Offensive is a tight experience that balances everyone in a way that game doesn't normally do. But the biggest edition was the arcade mode, adding modes like 3v3 elimination and permanently adding the mystery hero mode. As someone who stopped playing regular Overwatch, the arcade brought me back in a big way. It's great bouncing from regular Overwatch games to arcade stuff to keep things fresh.

And while it doesn't technically count because it's not in the game, things like the character shorts and comics do a great job of continuing to build those characters and that world, the future of Overwatch looks great! And it's one game I'll continue to play and support as time goes on.

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