Game of the Year 2016

It's only 3 months late, but for my own posterity let's talk about the best games of 2016.

List items

  • Another year, another GotY for Kiseki. Aside from both being my favorite games of their respective years, Cold Steel 2 shares little with Sky SC. While SC focuses on creating an exciting and emotional conclusion for the story of its main cast, Cold Steel 2 has much loftier goals. It's a game much more focused on telling the story of the Kiseki world rather than just focus on its main cast and on that point it largely succeeds.

    That isn't to say its cast is pushed to the side with little growth, Class VII managed to endear itself even more to me over the course of this game, but it also is a middle chapter in their tales rather than a conclusion. It isn't the conclusion of their story, just the closure of an important chapter of it. The game still manages to squeeze as much emotion as possible over the farewell to the school life of Class VII and left me eagerly awaiting the 3rd (and final?) entry in this tale of Erebonia.

  • Fire Emblem was left in a strange place for me post Awakening. Yes, the franchise was more popular than ever and secured itself the future which was perpetually in doubt prior, but seemingly lost was the deep interesting strategy combat that made games like Fire Emblem 7 my favorite games of all time.

    Then in comes Fire Emblem Fates. By creating multiple versions, it allowed Intelligent Systems to balance the new fanbase it created with Awakening with the people that had supported them for decades prior. Conquest is perhaps the best IS has ever been on a mechanical design level. The unit balance and beautifully intricate map design create a satisfying strategy experience, the kind I haven't had since I played my first Fire Emblem back in 2003. Sure, the game is let down by some absolutely inane and terrible writing, but that is a minuscule percentage of the time and enjoyment I got out of the experience.

  • If you told me at the beginning of 2016 that I would even want to play a new DOOM, let alone that it would make my Top 3 games of the year, I would call you insane. What ID managed to deliver with DOOM is nothing short of a minor miracle. They managed to capture the fast pace, frenetic combat that the original helped pioneer, but at the same time modernize it with clever new mechanical additions and witty writing. Pair all that with some fantastic level design and you've got a shooter campaign that even I, someone who really doesn't enjoy shooters that much, can find just pure enjoyment out of.

  • Generations is a perfection of formulas introduced in Monster Hunter 4U. It introduces changes to the franchise I didn't even know I needed while at the same time it tweaks existing systems to just generally make a more interesting and playable experience. It's how to understate how interesting and big a change the Hunting Style system is. Weapons are now given tons of new niches to fill, breathing new life into weapons that needed it while at the same time making it easier to fill the roles you'd need for an ideal hunting team. No longer are you required to find an Insect Glaive user for your team to make mounting monsters manageable as weapons like the Switch Axe in Aerial Style can now fill those roles.

    This doesn't even mention the fact the game has perhaps the best cast of monsters ever put in a MH game. Generations ends up being a little held back by the lack of a G-level progression and the ticket system for Deviant Hunts, but once again Capcom proves why MonHun is at the king of the Hunting genre and sets a path for the game to continue to be amazing for many years to come.

  • If Pokemon X and Y were a new Generation 1 for 3D pokemon games, Sun and Moon are a Generation 2 style perfection of that groundwork. GameFreak did an expert job creating a new pokemon adventure that felt fresh and different in a way that the franchise hasn't in years, but still keeps the core sense of adventure and deceptively deep combat systems that makes these games last. On the more nerdy side, GF finally fixed the one problem that kept me away from competitive pokemon. They put in a way to upgrade IVs on non-breedable pokemon. Now I finally feel like I can play the game competitively without being forced to hack together teams to stay current, and that's a change I've been waiting generations for.

  • I don't think I can think of a game in recent years as purely relaxing as Stardew Valley. There's really something to be said about the pure joy of sitting down and exploring the idyllic, quiet life of the world the game creates. Whatever was going on in my life, I knew I could come back to Stardew and sit down for a few hours without worrying about anything else, and it's an experience I'm really happy to have had.

  • After being left feeling cold by Uncharted 3, I can't say I particularly wanted to see NaughtyDog use their talents on yet another Nathan Drake adventure. Luckily, UC4 didn't turn out to be just another Drake treasure quest. The work of the Last of Us team is really blatantly visible in just how well written and interesting the story of UC4 turned out to be. Not only that, but Naughty Dog managed to refresh the combat with the addition of some more stealth style combat. With all these changes, they still managed to make a game that felt true to Nathan Drake as a character and ended up creating a far more worthy farewell to this cast than UC3.

  • Final Fantasy XV is a game that I have....complicated feelings about. So much of the turmoil of the games development life directly shows in the final product. It is in many ways a mess and incomplete product that barely pieces itself together into a full experience. But, on quite a few occasions, some amazing things pop up and pushed the problems of the rest of the game to the back of my mind. I can't deny that the game had one of the most emotional scenes I experienced in a video game that year. When the game focuses on its main cast, it's able to create a real emotional bond in a way I kind of haven't seen in a Final Fantasy before. It's just a shame all that is hidden beneath an absolute mess of a plot the game ham-fistedly tries to tell.

  • If there was a 'game that would rank higher if I played it more award' it would probably go here. Unfortunately, I haven't given it the time it deserves yet. Still, from what I've played VA-11 Hall-A has presented a stylish and interesting world with cool characters that I do want to return to and get to see the full breadth of.

  • HONORABLE MENTION:

    Hey, FFIX got a PC release in 2016. I might have played it on Vita, but that counts right?

    That aside, this year I finally went and checked out the last of the PS1 generation of FF games. Having been really put off by my extreme distaste of FF7 and FF8, I had no expectations for 9 delivering. I had just assumed that this era of Square Soft wasn't for me.

    Turns out, FF9 truly is something very different and far greater than its PS1 brethren. With one of the most endearing casts in FF history and a really fun and interesting world, FF9 managed to worm its way into my heart despite its weird overarching story, bland combat and awful loadtimes.

  • HONORABLE MENTION:

    SG0 would 100% be on my list had I gotten a chance to sit and play it this year. Knowing what I know about that game, there is no doubt in my mind. I'm sad I'm not able to fully give it its due, but by putting it here I can at least acknowledge it deserved to make the top 10 of 2016 whether I played it or not.