Laura Dale's Top 10 Games of the Year 2016A year of new ideas.
Well, 2016 is a year that happened to the human race. There were a lot of reasons to hate this year, enough that hating it became a meme, but it’s all cool because this is the year that brought the world Let’s Play Video Games, so it is clearly the best year in the history of video games ever.
Game of the Year is one of those things that’s sort of expected by a games media outlet, like reviews of character butts and conspiracy theories that Clifford the Big Red Dog is a Titan, so without any further ado, let’s crack on with this.
Honourable Mention - The Division
Joe refused to make me a nice header image unless I acknowledged the existance of The Division here.
Are you happy Joe? I gave a nod to that shooter you like.
Editor’s note: Ecstatic.
#10 - Uncharted 4
It’s far too easy for a big-budget blockbuster franchise that sells consistently well like Uncharted to be afraid to ever end. Endless sequels are created beyond the end of narrative arcs and stories start to lose their appeal.
Uncharted 4 unexpectedly overcame that masterfully. It was an origin story, an introduction of a new character, a send off for the protagonist and a definitive end for a narrative arc that completely justified its own existence.
It was a dumb action adventure, but one with real heart driving it.
Also, Uncharted 4 is a damn technical masterpiece. I can’t fault the level of polish on show in the slightest.
Uncharted 4 was a beautiful send off for Nathan Drake, and a bold move for a successful series to make.
#9 - Firewatch
Firewatch is by no means a perfect game, many found its ending unsatisfying and I honestly understand why. For me, that was kind of the point.
Firewatch, for me, was a game of quiet contemplation. It was a game of exploration, isolation, the paranoia that isolation breeds and. the unfulfilling nature of trying to run away entirely from a lived life.
It was a slow, meandering beauty. It was a journey to find answers which were not there. It was a quiet quest of misunderstood intentions told through a series of interestingly laid-out characters.
It stuck with me enough that I printed out a number of photographs taken on my adventure, which are now framed in my office.
Firewatch was short, but it made a real impact me.
#8 - Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
While it sort of came out a few years back in early access, the full release of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes happened in 2016, so it’s going on my Game of the Year list. Don’t like it? Well tough luck suckers.
KTANE is a VR game that takes advantage of the fact that the VR player, and those around them not wearing the headset, cannot see the same set of information. The headset-wearing player gets to see and interact with a bomb containing numerous different puzzle elements to diffuse, while the non-VR players have a huge physical manual and no view of the bomb.
The aim of the game is to communicate complex visual information using words back and forth in order to work through diffusing the bomb. As the puzzles get more complex and the time limits tighter, completing puzzles becomes a mix of custom shorthand and frantic shouts back and forth that gets very fun, very fast.
Trying to describe a backwards curvy letter H symbol with an inwards curve on the top left leg while checking serial numbers and checking if the time left on the bomb ends in an odd number is stressful as hell, and I enjoyed it immensely.
#7 - Mirror's Edge: Catalyst
I know it’s not the most common opinion, but as a big fan of the original Mirror’s Edge, I actually prefer Catalyst. Sure, from a mechanical standpoint Catalyst undeniably takes longer to open up its full ability set, and at times gives you missions not yet physically completeable, but once you’ve got your full suit of abilities the open-world design of Catalyst won me over with ease.
I love running around Catalyst’s open world just jumping, climbing, aimlessly exploring. It’s a gorgeous fluid playground I found myself just wandering while listening to podcasts for hours and hours.
The protagonist Faith got fleshed out in really interesting ways, but I preferred her supporting cast and I felt like there was a lot more in the way of well justified motivations at play.
I am really happy we got a sequel to Mirror’s Edge, and that it came out as well as it did.
#6 - Superhot
Superhot is one of the only first person shooters I am actually any good at, and that’s mainly because it’s very unlike any other FPS mechanically.
In Superhot, time only moves when you do. This is very good for people like me with poor fine motor skills, poor reaction times and poor coordination. So long as I take things slow, I can basically play this FPS like a turn based strategy game.
The narrative elements in Superhot helped a lot at dragging me in, the use of meta-narrative was better realised than many other attempts this year, and I found myself hooked right until the end.
It’s the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.
#5 - Overwatch
If there’s one thing I usually gel with less than FPS games, it’s online multiplayer only FPS games. Overwatch should be everything I hate. And yet, I found myself falling in love.
I think a lot of my love comes down to the cast of playable characters in Overwatch. While there’s no single player, the cast is fleshed out with comics, short films and dialogue in-game. They’re expressive, diverse, unique and easy to click with.
Also they all have cute faces, hot butts, and the cover girl Tracer is my new lesbian wife.
Apparently all you need to do in order to get me to love a game in a genre I normally hate is fill it with cute waifu ladies with good diverse butts.
Editor’s note: Roadhog 4 lyf.
#4 - Pokemon Sun and Moon
Pokemon Sun and Moon managed to get me back into obsessive collecting of digital monsters. I’ve not been truly hooked like this for years. what was it about Sun and Moon that got me back hardcore on the Pokemon train? Mainly the balanced mix of refreshed nostalgia and fresh surprises.
Pokemon Sun and Moon mixes its endearing cast of new Pokemon designs in with a handful of Pokemon from the early years of the franchise, remixed to have interesting type variations. Rattata is shit, but a new dark type Rattata that stands on its back legs and has a mustache simultaneously feels just familiar enough, while also not being another fucking standard Rattata.
Otherwise the narrative and cast of the game, while weak compared to contemporary RPGs, was stronger and more varied than past entries in the series.
I mainly just love my new Mimikyu. It’s my baby and I want to love it forever.
#3 - Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV’s core plot is weak, poorly explained and convoluted. That’s not why I love the game.
I love driving around the world with my car of emo boyband members, visiting tiny towns, making campfire meals, playing pinball and fighting huge-ass monsters when people who know more than us say it’ll help save the world.
The combat in the game is fluid and frantic, reminding me of a more action-oriented variant of Xenoblade Chronicles X, and kept me engaged in fights with even low-level enemies when surrounded.
I love driving around the country, checking out selfies and listening to classic tunes on the radio.
I love that Final Fantasy XV is a grand adventure made up of simple pleasures and non-standard male bonding.
#2 - Dark Souls 3
Dark Souls 3 took me fifty hours to beat on my first playthrough. That time was spent learning, struggling, fighting, dying, dying, dying, progressing, exploring, dying, dying and dying a little more.
I never felt like the game was to blame for my death. Considering how often I died, that’s a real accomplishment.
Dark Souls 3 is the first From Software game to truly capture me and keep me hooked through three separate playthroughs. The gameplay speed, the world design, the boss patterns and the general flow of combat were incredibly engaging and I just did not want to stop playing for a moment.
Dark Souls 3 has a fascinatingly, beautifully brutal world to explore, and I felt truly accomplished for making it to see its end.
#1 - Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go is an undeniably bad game. Missing numerous features, designed to hook players in to microtransaction purchases and entire design concepts that favour players in large towns over small rural areas in terms of progression.
In spite of those facts, Pokemon Go is by a LONG way my favourite, most played, and most impacting video game of the year.
Pokemon Go was the main thing motivating me to get up, get walking, and push myself further during major surgery recovery this summer. It was the main motivator for making friends in my local area. It was the catalyst for exploring outside of conventions and hotels on foreign work trips.
It had a set number of collectibles for me to hunt down, and made collecting duplicates count as progression towards those aims. It added a little magic and whimsy to the world around me. It brightened up general monotonous errands and made them tiny adventures in their own right.
No game has become as much of a permanent fixture in my life this year as Pokemon Go. For that, it only felt fair to give it my Game of the Year Award. Congrats!
And that’s it, my top ten favourite games of this year. 2016 has been a real roller-coaster on a personal level, but I am honoured I got to spend so much of it here writing about games on LPVG.
Here’s to another twelve months of Let’s Play Video Games being the beautiful mess of journalism and shitposts it has become.