What better way to really get the ball rolling on this blog than by doing a bit of a Game Of The Year post to talk about all the lovely games that came out in 2016?!
There were lots that I didn't get a chance to play, but there were a few that blew me away and made me sit back and appreciate everything video games. For a full list of all the (new) games I played from last year, check out the bottom of this post.
Let's kick it off with the big one: my 2016 GOTY has to go to Virginia. I'm surprised that it was left off a lot of lists that I've read, because it was such a strong experience for me in 2016 that I couldn't go past it when considering potential GOTYs. I won't go into it too much here, because I wrote a whole post about how much I love this game, but it had to win because nothing else I played from 2016 stayed with me as powerfully as Virginia. It is a master class on narrative storytelling, pacing, editing, aesthetic; and is well worth your time.
For the number one spot I was tossing up between Virginia, Doom, and Inside; all for vastly different reasons. It's kind of why I don't even consider a single GOTY to be valid - I mean, how can you actually compare a narrative mystery like Virginia to a blockbuster action powerhouse like Doom? In the end it came down to which game had the largest impact on me, which is why Virginia took the spot.
Equally though, Doom is up there for its return to form game-play of fast and violent action that made the original Doom so appealing. Everything from the original has been updated and improved for this latest iteration, but the best bits are echoed beautifully.
The sprawling level design is tight and reminds me why we all thought the corridors of CoD and MoH were so offensively simplistic. The enemies have that updated sheen of grotesque and goofy models that are at the same time ridiculous and intense. There's no reloading, you can carry all the weapons you want, health won't regenerate… its everything a classic shooter should be - except it's a big modern gorgeous game that doesn't have to rely on nostalgia to put a smile on your face.
On another plane of existence is Inside, the follow up to the dark indie darling Limbo. Inside is my third pick for GOTY because of how well it has iterated on its predecessor and sucked me into another dark and surreal world.
There's a real juxtaposition at play between the butter smooth animations breathing life and personality into the characters, and the bleak yet beautifully dark world you move through. I love stories that provoke the consequences of power and humanity, which is dripping all over Inside's passive story telling. The pieces are there to put together, but there's nothing to stop you ignoring it all and escaping fate.
Other games of note that I played and will not surprise anyone for including here are:
VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartending Action, which surprised me at how quickly it drew me into the story and characters. There's a lot more depth to this one than you might think.
Reigns has taken over my phone gaming time for being a highly entertaining RPG of sorts where it's as fun to discover more of the world as it is to see how it will kill you.
Watch Dogs 2 really made good on the hype of the first game and should be applauded for shifting gear dramatically enough to embrace what makes this series fun. I'm super happy that they didn't can it after the mixed reception of the first.
Wheels Of Aurelia is basically unlike any other game I've played in the way that it deliverd its story and gameplay. It's a really unique and interesting game that gives you more every time you play it.
Stories: The Path Of Destinies surprised me greatly at how much I want to go back and discover every branching path of its story. Sure it's the point of the game, but I'm rarely all that eager to replay games just in case it changes a little.
There are also the final group of games that didn't really get high on the list because I was expecting them to be as good as they are. For example, FIFA 17 was my first FIFA game and I really enjoyed it, but I didn't expect anything different from the biggest football game franchise in the world.
Similarly Obduction was basically a new Myst game by the folks that made Myst and it was intended to be just that. See my complete lack of surprise to find out that I really like a new Myst game by the folks who made Myst.
I would have loved to put Steep higher in the world of 2016 GOTYs, but for every pro there's a con that evens it all out. I've loved exploring the snowy mountains and perfecting my skills in each discipline, but the soundtrack sucks, the characters are obnoxious, and the world feels incredibly empty. Here's hoping that Steep 2 will have a killer soundtrack, character customisation, and some sort of living NPC population to fill out the world.
Overall I thought 2016 was a great year for games. There were a bunch of great ones that I didn't play, so they didn't make the list, but the sample I had was mostly stellar. I'll probably be writing some more in depth words about each of the games mentioned above in the near future so stay tuned for more.
Here's to more awesome games in 2017!
This is the list of games released in 2016 that I have actually played (including what I played them on):
The Witness (PC)
Hitman GO: Definitive Edition (PC)
Stardew Valley (PC)
Day Of The Tentacle Remastered (PC)
Hyper Light Drifter (PC)
Dead Star (PS4)
Stories: The Path Of Destinies (PS4)
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4)
VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartending Action (PC)
Tricky Towers (PS4)
Reigns (PC + Android)
No Man's Sky (PC)
Wheels Of Aurelia (PC)
FIFA 17 (PS4)
Mantis Burn Racing (PS4)
Watch Dogs 2 (PS4)
Shenzen I/O (PC)
Let It Die (PS4)
All dates sourced from this Wikipedia page:
Of course I played a bunch of other games, but they weren't released in 2016 silly!