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To me, 2016 in gaming was just okay. It wasn’t as amazing as 2015, but it wasn’t as horrible as 2014. There were a lot of great experiences big and small, but there was no Splatoon or Witcher III-style game that just blew me out of the water. I also didn’t play a lot of games from this year. I played some of the bigger releases, but that was it. It was yet another transitional year, where there was a huge push for VR gaming when it’s not even ready yet, Nintendo announcing their new console, and PlayStation and Microsoft pushing their new powerful upgraded consoles, and in my opinion, there were more middling releases than amazing releases. Still, I played enough to make a list of my favorite games. The rules apply to this year like every other year I have done this. No remasters, so that means no Day of the Tentacle Remastered, which I really loved, and if I didn’t play it, I’m not putting it on the list. That means I’m skipping Final Fantasy XV until a “complete” version comes out. I’m also not putting them in any order. Oh, and two honorable mentions go to King’s Quest and Stikbold since I want to spend more time with them before I review them. Now then, let’s get started!
The Banner Saga 2
How do you top a great, if repetitive, tactical RPG? You make a sequel, and improve and tweak the experience. While it might not be a sequel that changes up a huge amount, it tweaks the gameplay and adds in new classes and characters. The story is still gripping, and the 2D animation of, well, everything is fantastic. I am so glad I got into this franchise and genre of game, because The Banner Saga has easily been my favorite indie tactical RPG series. I’ll make sure to get into the first two games in a massive review at some point.
This is probably one of the safest choices, in terms of what would be my favorite game on this list. The conclusion to Drake’s story is fantastic, touching, and engaging. The gameplay where you could switch between stealth and guns blazing felt balanced, the graphics were incredibly beautiful, and it was just a fun adventure. I didn’t care much for what they did with the multiplayer, and really don’t think they needed microtransactions, but if you want to try out a third-person shooter from 2016 that is actually good from beginning to end and feels satisfying, Uncharted 4 is your third-person shooter to play.
This is probably the biggest surprise in terms of the triple A games from last year. After a pretty dismal multiplayer beta reception, and not a whole lot of focus on the single-player portion of the game, everyone was surprised at how amazing the game ended up being. It was a super aggressive and incredibly fun shooter that has retro game design, but updated in the right way to be enjoyable. I had so much fun goring through demon after demon, and while the story and multiplayer were meh, Doom is a game any shooter fan should play and enjoy.
Unfortunately, one of the few Wii U releases of the year, Pokken Tournament, was my favorite fighting game of the year, but it had a really disappointing list of fighters. Street Fighter V kind of tanked, due to the crummy business decisions Capcom decided to pull. Pokken Tournament might have been on a console that is about to be put to rest, but it was easy to get into, and had a more complex system to its fighting engine. I liked the different fighters and how they played very differently. It felt like a complete package, and I hope they can make a sequel or some kind of enhanced port for the upcoming Switch, because more people need to play this fighter.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
If I put these titles in order of favorites, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE would have been tied with Uncharted 4 and Doom for my favorite game of the year. Yeah, it might not do too much different from other RPGs, but it felt like they had fun making it. It is a modern day JRPG, with Japanese popstars fighting monsters. I mean, you have to have a bit of fun with that premise. I liked the characters and the colorful graphical style. It was just a great RPG that I hope can be built upon more, with a sequel or an enhanced port on the Switch.
World of Final Fantasy
This was yet another RPG that was just fun to play in 2016. Sure, the story took a bit to get going, and one of the characters has a very annoying speaking pattern, but I personally found the game super-charming. I easily grasped how the combat works, and found a lot of entertainment out of stacking different monsters for battle, or capturing them. I also got a kick out of the summons being iconic Final Fantasy characters. I can understand if not everyone falls for this game, but I love it.
Dragon Quest Builders
Hey, look, it’s a Minecraft-style game that is quite possibly better than Minecraft. As much as I enjoyed Minecraft a few years back, I really have had no reason to pick it back up. Unlike Minecraft , Dragon Quest Builders gives me a reason to build, survive, and finish the game. It also has a lot more personality due to being attached to the Dragon Quest franchise.
Star Fox Zero
Yeah, yeah, I know this is the game that people love to punch and beat up on, but I’m not sorry that I really enjoyed the game. Maybe you couldn’t get into the controls, or you did, but don’t like the game. I can respect and understand both, but for me, I enjoyed it. Granted I wish they had an option to play the game without the motion controls, just because not everyone likes them, but I found myself loving the game, just like I did when I enjoyed the Nintendo 64 version. I like the bosses, the transforming vehicles, and it had a lot of the personality that the original had. I respect that this won’t be everyone’s favorite game, but if you can respect that it’s one of mine, then we will be cool as cucumbers.
Epistory – Typing Chronicles
Who knew you could make a current day typing game fun. If you grew up at any time, and played those old, but fun edutainment titles, then you will love this. It’s an RPG with an engrossing story where you type out words to kill monsters. It’s easily the new fun edutainment game to check out, and best yet, it’s a great game on its own merit.
I honestly almost forgot to put this one the list, but I remembered how much I loved this narrative-driven adventure game. I know the term “walking simulator” is brought up with games like this, but this is probably my favorite example of these kinds of games done right. You get a rather emotional and gripping story with two very interesting characters in a beautiful and atmospheric environment. Sure, the ending might annoy a few people, but definitely try this game out if you already haven’t for some reason.
Since there was an original Double Fine Productions game released this year that wasn’t a remastered one, and I really liked it, I decided to add it to this list. This was just a humorous 70s-inspired side-scrolling action game with a very creative premise that was taken full advantage of. I wish there were a few more bosses, but the overall experience was hilarious, action-packed, and groovy.
Salt & Sanctuary
While it could have been more original than copying so many of the elements from Dark Souls, I just loved this 2D action RPG, and that’s weird because I don’t find myself fond of the games Salt & Sanctuary is inspired by. I love the gothic atmosphere, the satisfying combat, the Lovecraftian horrors that you encounter, and I adore the fact you can play this game with a friend. Like I said, I wish it wasn’t so copy-and-paste with elements from Dark Souls, and I do wish there were some additions, like a map and a less tough mode, but if you love Dark Souls or Bloodborne, you should definitely check out this awesome game.
Probably the most calming game on this list, ABZU was a majestic and awe-inspiring experience, in terms of being a game in this niche genre. The bright vibrant colors made the ocean world feel alive, and it was a soothing experience. Yeah, it might not hit all the right spots Journey did, but it’s still a very beautiful game that any fan of Journey should check out.
I really loved Guacamelee, but was disappointed at first when the developers’ newest game was going to a console I didn’t own. Once it hit the Wii U, I bought it day one, and fell in love with this first-person dungeon crawler. The developers used their great art style once more for a visually pleasing world with grotesque monsters and fun interactive first-person combat. It also has a great customization and level system that makes the combat engaging, and you will want to keep fighting all the monsters. Sure, you will probably be looking at the lower screen if you got the Wii U version, but you can also pick this awesome game up on the Vita or Ipad.
What a surprise. The promise of a fast-paced and challenging boss rush game was pleasantly fulfilled with this incredible action game. I wish the story was focused on a bit more, since there is no real reason to feel attached to any of the bosses you fight, but at least it’s there to give the game some substance. The controls were tight, and the bosses were all varied and fun. It might be short, and the only replay value given to you is another difficulty mode, but if fast-action games with a focus on bosses fit your action game preferences, then Furi is one indie gem that everyone should check out.
Yes, the last third makes the game a huge chore to play through, and yes, it does rely on difficulty too much at times due to the randomized nature of the game, but I’m still going to say Darkest Dungeon was one of my favorites. I loved the overall design of the game, with its turn-based combat, its 2D exploration, its strategic and challenging battles, the vast majority of characters, the grizzly art style, and the depressing and hopeless atmosphere. It might be flawed, but luckily, they are going to update the late game stuff, so go check this game out if you like hard RPGs.
Minecraft: Story Mode
And finally, we have one of the weirdest games that I have seen, Minecraft: Story Mode. Talk about a game that came out of nowhere and became one of the most enjoyable experiences from the creators of Tales from the Borderland and Telltale’s The Walking Dead. It took a world that doesn’t really have much to it, and gave it life, with incredibly likable characters, an extremely good voice cast, and some decent combat. I was hooked from beginning to end, and while I was not fond of having to pay for a different season pass for the additional episodes that continue the story, I didn’t mind buying the biggest of the season passes to get the entire experience, due to how well done the overall experience is. Who knew Telltale Games could make a great story mode out of a game with no end game?