What could have been a year that suffered from the many delays, 2016 turned out to be one of the strongest years in video games for quite some time. While there might not be the standout landslide victory, many games deserve the title "Game of the Year." Let's see which games made the cut for us!
BEST GAME OF 2016: Oxenfree
In 2015, Rocket League won our “Game of the Year” award based on its incredibly addictive and polished gameplay. Oxenfree has some pacing issues, and isn’t particularly fun to “play,” but it provides one of the best stories to ever be told in the medium. Much of the excitement comes from plot-heavy twists and turns, but what really makes the game shine are the moments where you get to unwrap the backstories of these characters. While we have experienced game changing dialogue trees in games before, Oxenfree’s dialogue decisions feel varied, yet true to the characters and tone. There are multiple ways for the game to end, and what may even be more mind blowing than the game itself, is when you play the game a second time. Not only do you experience deja vu, your character Alex does as well. Your familiarity with the game and Alex’s familiarity with the game opens some interesting new options.
Oxenfree is an excellent coming of age tale set to the background of the paranormal. It’s beautiful in sound, art, style, concept, writing, and execution, that is easily accessible to gamers of all experience levels.
THE BEST GAMES OF 2016
I’ve never thought more about a game in my entire life. Playing The Witness is less like playing a game, but more like learning a new language. The puzzles are simple enough to start with, but as you explore the island and attempt to unlock its mysteries, you will find yourself scratching your head, completely stumped multiple times. That’s not because the puzzles are harder. Mechanically, every puzzle works the same, but over time, the puzzles will throw in new rules with no explanations. You can technically finish the “hardest” puzzle in the game at the very start, but only if you understand the “language.” The Witness took over my thoughts during my time playing it. It got to the point where I was dreaming about these puzzles. It sounds completely insane, and that’s because it sort of is insane. The Witness isn’t a puzzle game; it’s Rosetta Stone on a mission.
No game in 2016 offers a better sandbox than the newest entry into the Hitman series. This series has always been known for giving players a slew of options to assassinate their targets in the way that best suits their play style.The previous installment was much more linear and action friendly than most other Hitman titles. So getting large open environments that are nearly impossible to shoot your way out of, is an excellent treat for fans of the series and newcomers alike.
What makes Hitman (2016) extremely interesting was how it was released. While many episodic games, like Telltale’s The Walking Dead, seemed to release episodes quite sporadically with no clear timeline, Hitman released levels, objectives, and more content at a consistent rate. Developer IO Interactive has also stated that they will continue to use Hitman as a platform to release multiple seasons of content. Sign us up for that!
Naughty Dog continues to prove that they are one of, if not the best studio in the video game industry. Uncharted 4 takes a slightly more serious turn compared to previous entries in the series, but it still has the fun campiness, characters, and action sequences that made us fall in love with the series in the first place. The environments, narrative, character models, performances, performance capture, and animations, are something to behold. The love and effort put behind Uncharted 4 makes it a worthy end to the Nathan Drake story.
Inside is the newest game from Limbo developer, Playdead. Much like Limbo, Inside places our young protagonist in a dark environment and in a dire situation that continues to unravel as you play. What Playdead was able to achieve in Limbo was incredible and deserving of all the accolades it received, but Inside achieves almost all of those same things, and improves on them. Inside is a masterpiece in terms of mechanics and animation, and that all blends with a story that may leave some players wanting. Inside is a piece of art that we will be talking about for years.
You won’t play a better multiplayer game in 2016. While the mechanics of franchises like Call of Duty and Battlefield get deeper and more complex; Overcooked offers an experience that is accessible to gamers of all experience levels, but also provides a challenge that can frustrate even the most seasoned veterans. That’s because Overcooked is a game that is completely reliant on communication and team work. The frustration that you may have with your fellow chefs is oddly satisfying. While other games have you screaming because you are on the verge of death, Overcooked will have you screaming because somebody forgot to wash the dishes. The game is incredibly charming, and one of the rare games that can be enjoyed by the entire family together.
Batman: A Telltale Series
On a storytelling and narrative front, Batman: A Telltale Series belongs at the very top of this list. This is easily the best Batman narrative in this medium since Batman: Arkham Asylum, and might even be better. Telltale Games takes some interesting risks with this beloved franchise and its characters. While their are some new takes on characters and lore, it never seems to betray the spirit of Batman. The most exciting aspect may be the emphasis on being Bruce Wayne, who is just as compelling as his alter ego.
While the narrative ramps up with each episode, so do the technical bugs. Throughout my time with the game, I had at least one crash for each of the five episodes. There are also frame rate dips which and delayed cuts that will have you questioning what is even happening on screen. Batman: A Telltale Series is a DC Comic fan's dream come true, but it is also a nightmare on the technical side of things. Which is a darn shame.
I don't have anything bad to say about DOOM. It should be on the list, and the fact that its not shows you how great of a year it has actually been for video games. DOOM is fast, fun, irreverent, and just absolutely insane. It's rock n'roll. It's where many of us were expecting video games to go, but they never did. It's crushing the skulls of demons. It's punching the only communication you have with a friend in the face. It's rising up from the grave, just to fill it with another body. It doesn't have to be on our list, because it probably wouldn't care to be.