2016 has been, well, let’s not beat around the bush here, 2016 has been a bit shite. I won’t list the reasons (I’m sure you’re all well aware), but unless you are Donald Trump (seems unlikely), chances are, 2016 won’t go down as one of your favourite years on record.
Still, while 2016 has been a bit of a stinker on most fronts, one area in which it has arguably excelled is video games. It’s unlikely to go down as one of the best years of all time, but it has certainly been a good one with a very decent mix of top quality triple-A fare and no shortage of extremely enjoyable indies (a very decent B+ if you will). There have been plenty of disappointments along the way of course, but I think the majority would agree that 2016 has been pretty decent when it comes to video games.
So, with that in mind, and with the year drawing rapidly to a close, now seems as good a time as any to take a look back at the best that 2016 had to offer.
Oh, before we do, please note that this is a personal list of my ‘favourite’ games of the year rather than a definitive ‘best of’. I appreciate that the list is specifically called, ‘The Top 5 Video Games of 2016’, but come on, what am I supposed to call it, ‘My Favourite Video Games of 2016’? Shit, I’m not ranking colours here.
Anyway, hope you enjoy the list and please, do let us know your own favourite / best games of the year in the comments below.
5) Gone Home
I know, I know. Wasn’t Gone Home released on PC way back in 2013? Well, yes it was. But you know what, PC gaming can do one. I don’t have the time or patience for PC gaming and steer well clear of that time consuming mess of a platform (apologies for my horrendous ignorance PC gamers). Subsequently, I didn’t actually play Gone Home until the Console Edition which, believe it or not, was released in January of this year. With updated visuals and controls, Gone Home Console Edition certainly doesn’t look out of place on current gen consoles with its technical reliability allowing the games’ mood and characterisation to come to the forefront of the experience.
It’s not for everyone of course, and some will dismiss it as an overly emotional walking simulator, but for those with whom the experience clicks, Gone Home delivered one of the most memorable video game narratives of recent times and a welcome reminder that, in the case of a story as delicate as this, sometimes less is more. The interaction might be limited, but I stick to my argument that this would not have worked in any other medium. It might not be dexterously challenging, but Gone Home’s unforgettable story of young love is as much about the slow burn discovery as it is about the writing and delivery.
4) Uncharted 4
Edging out Microsoft’s brilliant Gears of War 4, Uncharted pips it to the post on the strength of its endearingly likeable cast of characters and its genuinely moving and perfectly fitting epilogue. Sure, the gunplay continues to be good rather than great, and yes, the last few chapters do drag on a bit, but for the most part, Uncharted 4 represents one of the industry’s finest developers firing on all cylinders. From its gorgeous vistas and exemplary writing to its sublime set pieces and unforgettable cast, Uncharted 4 delivers everything one would expect from an Uncharted game while providing the perfect send of for the eminently likeable, Nathan Drake.
Playdead’s exemplary follow up to the excellent Limbo successfully cemented this small Danish development team as one of the most exciting and unique in the industry. Structurally and mechanically similar to Limbo, Inside nonetheless delivered a more thoughtful, technically ambitious and visually impressive experience than its already outstanding predecessor.
A puzzle-platformer at heart, Inside is so much more than its admittedly rock solid mechanics. As great as the core gameplay might be (and it is great), it is arguably its bleak dystopian world and its array of dark and disturbing secrets that ultimately steal the show. Mesmerising from beginning to end and imbued with one of the most thought provoking denouements in video game history, Inside proved one of the year’s most mysterious and spectacularly disturbing experiences.
2) Titanfall 2
Criminally put out to die (or at least underachieve) by EA, Respawn’s, Titanfall 2 is a game that deserves to be played by more than EA’s insane release schedule has allowed. A spectacular follow up to an already brilliant original, Titanfall 2 took everything that was great about its predecessor and successfully built upon it to create one of the finest first person shooters of the generation.
With its brilliantly fast-paced multiplayer continuing to out-Call of Duty Call of Duty and its single player campaign proving one of the most enjoyable in recent memory, Titanfall 2 successfully delivers the depth that its predecessor famously lacked with its array of refinements and subtle improvements cementing it as arguably the most technically impressive shooter on the market.
Where the hell (no pun intended) did this come from? Doom was not on my radar coming into 2016….like, at all. I was never a particularly big fan of the original Doom or its much celebrated sequel and, well, I should probably whisper this, but I much preferred the slower paced Doom 3 if truth be told. So, with this long gestating remake (reimagining?) promising a return to the high speed mayhem of the original, I found myself less than interested at the prospect of returning to hell on Mars. Heck, even the trailers didn’t do it for me. Sure, it all looked cool enough, but surely this was going to get boring after an hour or two, right?
Well, no, turns out it didn’t get boring. If anything, thanks to the games’ brilliantly paced drip feeding of new weapons and abilities, Doom arguably got better the further you progressed into the game. A perfect combination of exemplary core mechanics and fantastic level design, Doom delivers one of the most intense and outrageously addictive gameplay loops of all time with its relatively small stages delivering just enough in the way of basic exploration and platforming to break-up the brutally intense shooting mechanics. The multiplayer might have been a little bit underwhelming, but when the single player is as good as it is here, such minor disappointments hardly register.
Gears of War 4 – a brilliant return to what remains the most mechanically impressive third-person shooter on the market. It doesn’t have the wow factor that the original did back in 2006, but it is a game that reveals its technical and artistic brilliance as you progress further into the game.
Overwatch – an undoubtedly fantastic team based first-person shooter, Overwatch just misses out on my top 5 due to the commitment required to get the best from it.
Quantum Break – disappointingly overlooked at launch, Remedy Entertainment’s outstanding third-person shooter somehow managed to successfully combine a top quality video game with a surprisingly enjoyable (albeit somewhat hokey) TV show. With criminally underrated mechanics and fantastic performances across the board, this Microsoft exclusive deserved better.
Forza Horizon 3 – a tad too similar to its predecessors to make the top 5, Forza Horizon 3 nonetheless delivers the finest racer of the year at an absolute canter and arguably the most enjoyable, visually impressive and content rich racer of the generation.
Dark Souls III – if this is the last that we see of the infamously unforgiving Dark Souls series, this proves a brilliantly fitting finale.
No Man’s Sky – sure, Hello Games ultimately promised too much and subsequently set expectations far too high, but what this relatively small development team achieved should not be overlooked. It might have its technical issues, but the unparalleled scale of No Man’s Sky remains something to behold.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 – Easily the best football game of 2016 (sorry FIFA) and arguably the best in the series to date, Pro Evo 2017 improves on its already brilliant predecessor in just about every way. Yes, it’s still missing a lot of licences and yes, the commentary is still horrible, but out on the pitch, Konami’s latest is in a different league to its more illustrious opposition.
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