1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
A lot of people have said this already, but this really does feel like the culmination of everything every Metal Gear game has promised to players in terms of gameplay. The sheer amount of options you have going in to any situation are insane. I've infiltrated the same base dozens of times through different missions and side ops, and looked forward to going about it differently and doing it better each time.
Not all of it's perfect, the Skulls are bad enemies that seem like they were built to be in a completely different (and much faster moving) game. And Quiet's shit is super gross and dumb and disappointing, as everyone's said a million times. And I don't think anyone could look at the Chapter 2 content without thinking they ran out of time/money to finish the game towards the end, even without knowing about the mission 51 content (which honestly if I didn't know about it I don't think I'd really care, personally). But by the time I got to that I had already played a full game's worth of the best playing, feeling game of the year. And then some.
I've never been the kind of person who enjoys this stuff, but I even had fun with the hard versions of the missions, planning out the best possible route to take to accomplish the goal in the least amount of time. It's still kind of hard to believe that I enjoyed that stuff, but I really did.
Kojima loves throwing curves at fans, and thinking about it, the most off-the-wall, balls-crazy thing Kojima could deliver is a Metal Gear game that's almost devoid of exposition while playing like the most polished, dynamic open world game I've ever seen.
All other stealth games, and really all other open world games, are on notice after this.
From beginning to end, an amazing, nearly flawless game. The things they streamlined and changed from Dark/Demon's Souls make this a game that you can feel comfortable just playing without checking FAQs to make sure you're not screwing yourself royally, while keeping the challenge intact. The focus on fewer weapon types and armor sets makes for a much more polished experience overall.
I'll always love the first Dark Souls more as a pure experience and for its variety in weapons and environments, but for me this is easily the most fun to play Souls game yet.
3. Rocket League
A genuinely great surprise in the middle of the summer. An incredibly well realized, polished sports game that addresses my main problems with the genre. There are no playbook menus to deal with, no prior knowledge of the intricacies of the sport and teams involved is necessary, and most importantly, no out of bounds/fouls/stoppage of play.
These are things that are necessary for real sports because they're being played with real people who can get hurt and get tired. They're not necessary when the players are virtual, and they only serve to slow you down and bore you in video games.
It's a purified, refined version of the sports game that keeps enough of the core concepts there to make it deep while remaining accessible for new players.
4. Batman: Arkham Knight
With all the complaining about the Batmobile sections, I think some people lost perspective on just how great the rest of this game is. The combat is still some of the best in any game, and the stealth is satisfying and has improved considerably as the series continued.
I hung so many dudes from gargoyles in that first game it was basically a joke. By this game they had found ways to punish me for that more effectively, and I had enough tools to move around that I didn't feel as locked to either the ground moving through grates or the rafters on gargoyles as I used to.
That being said, I think they had a really hard problem in trying to add another way to move around in these games considering they basically nailed it the first time around, and they didn't necessarily solve it. I didn't mind the tank fights too much, they added some variety I thought, but the Riddler races were really rough. The controls really aren't precise enough while driving to ask that much out of you, while I think they've honed the grappling and gliding controls to the point where they're second in my mind only to the old Spiderman 2 game in terms of making it fun to just move from place to place in an environment.
Lots of heart in this game. I think it's easy to hear about characters and events in this game and think it's full of "lol so random" crap like so much of the internet.
For example, if I was to say there's a character that's a skeleton named Papyrus and his dialog shows up in the game as the universally reviled font Papyrus, you might think he'd be a quick gag character who shows up for one fight and that's it. You wouldn't think that you could, for example, go on an extended dating-sim-style encounter with him, visit his home, and get a complete picture of his life and his hopes and dreams. And then you also probably wouldn't think he would give you a cell phone and you'd be able to call him throughout the rest of the game.
Things like this are the reason this game is great. A lot of people will talk about how crazy the ending is, and it is pretty great in a lot of ways, but for me I think twist endings in indie games have become a bit of a cliche at this point. I think I might have been more satisfied if the ending had been completely straightforward, if there was no twist or big reveal. I haven't seen all the endings or the "true" ending, so maybe that would change my mind.
I came to the realization that this and Hotline Miami are sort of different takes on the same idea in a weird way. Really cool ideas here and super satisfying, challenging combat, but I think the roguelike nature doesn't quite work for me as well as something like Spelunky (because there don't seem to be nearly as many, if any, secrets) or Rogue Legacy (no lasting unlocks/leveling to keep you going). Could be totally wrong about that, but it's how it appeared to me.
7. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
An incredible world, endless stuff to do and quests to complete, and they're all of way higher quality in terms of production than any other game I've seen of this scale. Great characters, a super interesting world, and an actually satisfying ending (minus the motion comic wrap up, which was actually super disappointing. So maybe not that great of an ending).
...But coming right off of Bloodborne, the controls put me off this game pretty hard. They've fixed the movement (by adding a secondary movement type as if anyone would prefer playing what is basically a medieval Octodad), but the combat remains wildly inferior and incredibly frustrating compared to other games on this list.
8. Nuclear Throne
Just a nice, straightforward fun and challenging game. Few games this year were as instantly enjoyable for me. I've always loved the way Vlambeer's games feel, so rough yet at the same time incredibly well thought out, with controls that hold up and rarely feel frustrating.
Also, Yung Venuz is second only to Greater Dog for best character of the year.
9. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
Not many people seem to have enjoyed this, citing too much similarity to the first game and the encounters being too difficult, but I guess I just enjoy the aesthetic (and the soundtrack, holy shit the soundtrack) enough that it overcame that feeling for me.
And as for the difficulty, all I have to say is: y'all soft
10. Super Mario Maker
I only recently got a Wii U, so I haven't had much time to play this yet, but just watching all the fun Jeff and Dan (and definitely not Patrick) have had playing this is enough for it to make my list.
Even after all the time I've watched other people play this game, it shocked me just how polished the creation tools are.
Super well designed, great controls, lots of polish in the animation and enemy designs. And unlike all the endless run games out there, it actually does feel like it has an ending, something to really accomplish on top of just making progress due to the leveling structure. It's disgusting to me that the one dude who made this (with some help, granted) is only 22 years old. Really one of those things that makes me wonder what I've done with my life.
This game has become a driving reason for me to get a bigger phone. I have yet to make it past 3-2 on my 5S after playing for a couple weeks just about every day, so either I need a bigger screen or an actual controller.
12. Mortal Kombat X
I had a good amount of fun with this, but really was only playing this as a substitute for any Street Fighter action on PS4. The mechanics are well made, but I never found a character I really loved playing. Sub-Zero was fun, but felt too weak to get serious about playing. Basically they took out Smoke, is what I'm saying.
The story mode was pretty fun, though maybe a little disappointing compared to 9's. That's more or less how I feel about this game, a little weak compared to the last game. MK9 felt fresh, like a return to form, and by its very nature this feels like a rehash.
Did I mention they took out Smoke?
Really similar issues to Evolve here, but some super interesting ideas, and an incredibly hardcore approach to a dual stick shooter in a way I've never seen before.
For real, who ever thought needing to remember to reload and having friendly fire on in a dual stick shooter would work? But it totally does, and I hope other developers take notice for future entries in the genre.
14. You Must Build A Boat
I really enjoyed this game while I was playing it, but in retrospect, I hate what this game did to me. I felt what Jeff always talks about with his clicker games, and I didn't like it. It's better than just a clicker I think, there's more to it, but at its core, what drives you is seeing THE NUMBERS ONLY GO UP.
15. Fallout 4
I'm just not feeling it. I think this year I reached my maximum quota for big, 60+ hour long games, and that number is 3. I fully recognize this is a game that has a lot to offer, but I just can't.
16. Her Story