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It’s that time of year again. Time to celebrate the best games I had the pleasure of playing this year. I must say there are some caveats. Of course I haven’t played everything but I mostly got a chance to play the games that caught my eye. A few notable exceptions of games that may have made the list had I played them yet include Watch Dogs 2, Mafia 3, Battlefield 1, The Last Guardian and Dead Rising 4. I also have barely touched Hitman. And finally I only just got PlayStation VR last week and don’t feel comfortable including anything I’ve played this late. However Headmaster is my absolute favorite experience so far. Love that game. Also games that I enjoyed but not enough to make the list include Quantum Break, Pony Island, Slayaway Camp & Unravel.
Right, let’s get straight to it!
This is the only game on the list I haven’t either finished or put at least 50 hours into. I’m not sure what happened but I bought this game at launch. I played the first few levels and absolutely loved it, but then stopped playing for some reason. Something must have sidetracked me but even the little amount I did play was enough to warrant a place on this list. Had I played it more it could have even been higher but for now it opens the list.
I have very little experience with this series, but what grabbed me straight away was the speed. Most FPS games these days have a similar pace which I enjoy. This double speed compared to most and that frenetic pace was matched by the brutal gameplay. You probably know by now why this game is awesome and just thinking about it now reminds me I really must play it more. DOOM also has the best soundtrack of the year.
9) Batman: The Telltale Series
Telltale seemed to be a very divisive company these days, but I am still a big fan of most of their work. I loved The Walking Dead Season One and The Wolf Among Us. Season Two of TWD was OK. I completely skipped Game of Thrones, Tales from the Borderlands and Minecraft Story Mode which I think was a good thing as I haven’t felt the fatigue that many feel from their output. This season I thought was really well done and nailed a lot of things I enjoy about the character. Having an awareness of many of the characters going in certainly helped and made choosing who I liked or disliked early on a fun experience.
They also mess around with a lot of different Batman mythology keeping things fresh throughout the season. When characters were presented a certain way I reacted based on prior knowledge and not how they were shown; as if I knew they’d eventually come round to what they usually do. But they really stuck by their guns and ultimately forced me to rethink how I viewed some of Gotham’s citizens. Being a detective was also fun and I really liked the story that was told as it wasn’t the run of the mill Batman story.
Inside is easily my favorite short game experience of the year. I sat down and played it all in about two hours and doubt I’ll ever play it again. But within that two hours I was completely enamoured. I really like puzzle platformers as it is, and did enjoy Limbo but found it kinda frustrating at times. Inside struck a balance perfectly for me in terms of clever gameplay and puzzles without ever becoming too difficult. Everything felt intuitive and the natural progression of the mechanics built up perfectly to a wonderful end sequence.
The game looks amazing and has one of the more memorable tones of a game I’ve played all year. It is kinda basic which is why it doesn’t feature higher. While I had two fantastic hours with Inside, it’s hard to compare to the hours of fun I’ve had with others. But as I find myself having less time for games; to be able to fully enjoy a whole experience where everything felt perfectly put together in one sitting is just wonderful.
7) Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Once again I am super surprised that a Call of Duty game features in my top ten, but I really enjoyed Infinite Warfare’s campaign. To me it is my favorite since Modern Warfare. I wasn’t that looking forward to the leap to space, but I thought the setting worked wonders in the usual Call of Duty framework. There was a nice variety of missions, the gadgets felt cool, I really enjoyed a lot of the characters and the story was well done.
I totally get the fatigue with the franchise, but going in I was in the mood for a good COD campaign and it completely delivered. Also I haven’t really seen the over the top campaign style of a Call of Duty game applied in a sci-fi setting. It was great seeing the usual tropes play out in new ways. I haven’t really touched the other modes but for a campaign I got everything I wanted out of this game and then some.
6) Pokémon Go
By far the hardest game to talk about is Pokémon Go because so much has been said already. What I will say is this game has done so many things right that I’ve never experienced before. Going around the real world and catching Pokémon is a concept that would have absolutely blown the mind of 9-year-old me back when the initial craze started. The level of nostalgia I get from playing this game is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. With all of that I’m still addicted to this day. When everyone stopped playing this game a long time ago, I’m still standing.
Sure this game has an insane amount of issues. Niantic seems like a fairly awful company and I don’t say that very lightly. It completely misses the mark on many aspects of what makes Pokémon great. But it does completely nail one thing which is catching Pokémon. It has become the first and still only mobile game that not only do I play but have to check whenever I’m out. Having a work commute also makes a massive difference to my enjoyment as I would have stopped long ago without it. Even with it’s flaws I hope they sort out the problems. Hopefully they bring a lot of people back because this game was way more fun when more people were playing it.
5) Life is Strange
Obviously I’m a fan of decision based narrative games and this one might be the best one I’ve ever played. They really did out Telltale, Telltale. I shouldn’t have really cared about a female photography student the way I cared about Max but that is credit to how wonderfully written all the characters are. So many decisions have a real effect on me while playing this one and it’s something I thought about for a while after playing.
The time mechanic was the perfect twist on this genre and it finally gave you the power you wanted. To be able to see what both choices would give you and then choose accordingly. But of course it wouldn’t be that simple. The way the story twists and turns was fantastic (even if I totally called who the bad guy was from Episode 1) and made me feel like I really was the character I was playing as. If you are remotely into story based games then Life is Strange would be the first game I recommend to anyone going forward.
4) Gears of War 4
This is still a weird one for me. Gears of War was absolutely my favorite franchise last generation. Gameplay first but also story; I adored the trilogy and after it was done felt completely happy with it closing on a high note. So going into Gears of War 4 I was curious but wouldn’t really say excited. Haven’t now played it I certainly feel higher on them continuing it than I did before.
The campaign was really great. I wish it didn’t feel so much like the start of a trilogy instead of a standalone game. So many obvious story threads were left unanswered which is frustrating. But I guess that’s just how these things work now. Story wise I thought they did some very clever thing to explain why we are still playing these games after ending so well in Gears of War 3. The general moment to moment gameplay is still just awesome which is why I’ll keep playing these games going forward. I liked the introduction of more scripted Uncharted-esque moments. For me; the sillier the better. The ending sequence I thought was just perfect and one of the best things I’ve played in the franchise.
A competitive online multiplayer shooter is not something that should feature so highly on my list. But damn it Overwatch you are so bloody good. I don’t really know how Blizzard pulled this one off. To be able to take a competitive game but somehow make it seem accessible to a casual player like myself is remarkable. Usually within a couple of months of release, any online multiplayer become only playable to the people who only play that game. But still seven months after release I can jump into a game of Overwatch and really make a contribution to the team.
It’s certainly in the different mix of characters is where the magic happened. There really is so many ways to help the team win that doesn’t involve your shooting skills. Playing healer actually feels cool which again is something I never would’ve imagined and learning all the different moves is so rewarding and fun. I still really only play three or four characters for the most part (Mercy and D.Va for ever) but I really want to learn more and once I get bored with my current selection. There’s always plenty more to choose from. Overwatch is somehow a simple game and a complicated game at the same time and that is barely achieved by any games at all. I will hopefully still play Overwatch for a long time to come.
2) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Boy is Uncharted 4 good. I somehow wasn’t that excited for this game when it got to it’s release earlier this year. I had no doubt it would be good, but just thought that with two amazing Uncharted games already I didn’t think they could up the ante once again and make it feel exciting like the previous games. But was I wrong. Uncharted 4 may even be better than Uncharted 2.
The conclusion to the saga feels like the perfect time to end things for both the characters and the creators themselves. The ‘one last adventure’ vibe was the ideal setting for Drake’s last hurrah. Seeing all the old faces again was also a joy. I also thought gameplay wise it was the best Uncharted to date. I loved the new grappling hook too. The new somewhat open areas really added to the experience and made it feel just that bit more epic. The vistas are stunning and it was great to see Uncharted done on new hardware. Another series that really got the best ending it could have. It’s great to see franchises you love go out on top.
1) The Witness
The Witness to me is puzzling perfection. The simple idea of line puzzles and that building upon that one idea to build an entire game is something that I find to be truly incredible. It made me feel like a genius and a fool. I wrote countless notes on pages and pages and when the next puzzle clicked; it felt like nothing else I experience all year. That feeling started to feel like an addiction to me as I couldn’t stop exploring the island in hopes of finding that next buzz. To be able to present a simple concept in some truly mind-blowing ways is just a really special thing to find in games.
That’s not even mentioning how amazing it is to explore this beautiful island and slowly piece together how each puzzle is linked to the next. The Witness is everything I love about games boiled down into something that I wish I could play again and again. I hope that I’ll forget most of the solutions so I’ll be able to play this game again soon. What I’d pay to have my memory wiped just to be able to experience it all again. A truly wonderful, unique experience that is my game of the year by a fairly big margin.
So another year in the books. Definitely not one of the strongest years in recent memory, but certainly not the weakest either. If shooters were your thing then you definitely had a great year with so many to choose from. Also the first proper year of VR headsets on the market. After so many years of VR talk it’s great to see it finally out there. Hopefully it takes off in some interesting ways.
One thing I did feel was a disappointment this year was Nintendo. They obviously have lots coming soon, mainly with the release of the Nintendo Switch. But as a 3DS and Wii U owner, to not see any of their games make my top 10 I find to be absolutely crazy. Here’s hoping 2017 is their year. Anyway, same time next year eh?