Games of the year: 2016

If you’re interested in seeing the list from 2015, you can read it here. Also, I sat down with the boys from Turn Based Attack for their Game of the Year episode. Give it a listen.

3.) Firewatch (PC)

From a design perspective alone, Firewatch is a must play. While arguably the most gorgeous game in recent memory, thanks in large part to the work of acclaimed designer Olly Moss, Firewatch doesn’t simply win points for looking great. The game has a one of the most engaging storylines that jumps between genres from suspense and horror, to comedy and more. There’s a sad, dark undertone to what appears to be a bright and poppy game that few big-budget titles successfully achieve, let alone indie titles.

The voice acting and sound design mesh perfectly with the aesthetics of the world and really help drive the narrative in a consistently compelling way from start to finish. The work by the team to create a relationship between the player, as the main character Hank, and his co-worker Delilah is really incredible considering how much of their interaction is done over radio and not in-person. By the end of the game, I can’t imagine someone not rooting for the two of them in some way.

I’ve played a ton of games recently that seemed to feel like they needed to clock in at a higher playtime to justify the game to players. Coming in at roughly 3–4 hour total gameplay time, Firewatch provides just the right amount of exploration and puzzle solving without overstaying its welcome.

This is Campo Santo’s first title and it’s great one. I can’t wait to see what else the team has for us in the years to come.

2.) Batman: The Telltale Series (PS4)

Without question, Telltale’s idea of a Batman game is the best, most compelling Batman video game experience to date (yes, it’s better than the Arkham series in my opinion). The game moves at a good pace and builds an entirely new canon than what we’ve seen previously in a Batman comic, movie, etc.

Bruce Wayne and Batman are pitted against not only Gotham City itself but also a growing gallery of rogues. Many classic Batman foes and other familiar faces from the comic books make appearances in the five-part series including The Penguin, Two-Face, Joker, and more. Each villain is reworked, some more than others, often with a fresh look and more new details added to their background. This ensures that almost everything about the game world feels new for Batman fans new and old.

Visually, the game isn’t much different than the previous Telltale releases, with its cell-shaded characters and environments. This obviously lends itself well to a story based on a comic book, essentially giving the game a look similar to what you might see in a motion comic.

Some minor bugs aside, Telltale’s Batman game is not only one of the best things I played last year but likely the best game Telltale has released to date. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for season 2.

1.) Dark Souls III (PS4)

The original Dark Souls changed the way I thought about games. It was the bar I used for a long time to measure other games I played and planned to play. Dark Souls II was a pretty big letdown, I found the mechanics too complicated and the world less connected than the original game. So, it goes without saying that my expectations for this game were pretty high.

With refined combat mechanics, incredible graphics, and terrifying new enemies, Dark Souls III is a true tour de force and features some of the most memorable and difficult fights ever seen in a Souls game. From your first battle against Iudex Gundyr as he transforms into something completely otherworldly to the seemingly impossible fight against the Nameless King in the closing hours of the game, Dark Souls III grabs hold quickly and stays with you long after you finish the game. Like the games before it, it’s both the most frustrating and satisfying game you’ll likely ever play.

While Dark Souls II felt like a sequel for sequels sake, From Software’s third installment is a love letter to fans of the series and is every bit as amazing as I’d hoped it would be. Revisiting locations and meeting characters from the previous games really makes the third game feel like a proper end cap to the series. By bringing back so many elements that made the original game so great, correcting many of the mistakes of the second game, and borrowing many things from Bloodborne, Dark Souls III is an unforgettable nightmare of a game that forges its own path while honouring everything fans have come to love about the Souls series.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Quantum Break
This was a bold move by Remedy (famous for Max Payne, Alan Wake) to essentially transform part of the game into a TV show and it works for the most part. The story is interesting, the game is visually stunning, but fairly generic third-person combat takes away from this otherwise great game.

Stardew Valley
Stardew Valley is a classic farming sim, and the Harvest Moon game Natsume wishes they could still make. ‘Nuff said.

The Witcher III: Blood & Wine
Technically not a game per se but it would be a crime not to include this amazing DLC from any Game of the Year list in some way. Blood & Wine features a beautiful new environment, guest-appearances by classic Witcher characters, and roughly 30–40 hours of quality content that some full games only dream of. Also a perfect ending to the Witcher series.

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