With the midway point of the year now firmly behind us we have decided to look back and pick which of the games we have played so far have had any impact on us. With the annual crush of AAA games just around the corner we wanted to list out some of our favorites so that we don't forget them at the end of the year. Keep in mind that not everyone has played every game that has come out this year so if your favorite game of the year isn't listed please leave us a note in the comments with why you think it deserves consideration.
Growing up, I never forgot the first schoolyard beating I ever got. I was prepared to handle shoving matches. I wasn’t prepared, however, for a roundhouse in my ribs and a front kick to my gut. That third grader was apparently a martial artist. I repeated that underestimating mistake when I tussled with Tharsis. I expected a shoving match. Instead, I took a beating from the physics-based dice and cold-as-outer-space strategic choices. Tharsis reminded me of how succinct, apathetic, and brutal dice can be. I knew nothing going into this mission to Mars, but I came out transformed, pumping my fist at finally besting odds that had bested me so many times before. Tharsis made me take a mental note for real life, though: Forget going into space—it's not worth it.
2D paperdoll cutouts. Fading-into-a-coma camera filters. Dank, sewer-stinking architecture. No real hope in sight. And lists of psychosis that operate with the subtlety of an X-Acto knife in the eyeball. I loved Darkest Dungeon long before I ever played it. Every step is a struggle. Every swing of the sword an inner and outer battle. Every mission spent in those darkest dungeons feels like 40 days and 40 nights. Even though I have to definitely be in the right mood to keep firing up Darkest Dungeon, I can’t shake its mentally imploding imagery and teeth-clenching fear factors.
Few, if any, adventure games capture the romantic idealism of the great outdoors like Firewatch. At the same time, no other adventure game deconstructs that romanticism and exposes its hollow core in quite the same way. Firewatch slowly raises the temperature on the messy lives of a couple squirrelly adults. It’s a singular tale; more short-fiction than big-sky epic. It’s a story where two people, both running away from their problems and into the wilderness, found each other, and found that the answers to life’s problems were nowhere to be found in each other or out there. For lovers of measurable character growth, neatly tied dovetails, and happy endings: Avoid Firewatch at all costs.
Dark Souls 3
There is a reason some gamers shy away when it comes to Dark Souls. Previous Soul games were brutal, cunning and unforgiving. Dark Souls 3 was no different. I didn’t think it held the same charm as Dark Souls, but it was definitely more polished than Dark Souls II. Each weapon class has its own weapon art, the armour design is amazing and the level design is superb. It really does feel like the player is journeying through a dark fairy tale. The multiplayer community is frankly the most enjoyable I’ve encountered. When you 1v1 another player, make sure you research the rules and etiquettes involved. ESPECIALLY if you wonder into a fight club. No estus chugging dudes. If you’re struggling, as we all once did, check out the subreddit r/DarkSouls3. That awesome community will answer most of your questions on mechanics, gear, play style and lore. Don’t be afraid to take the jump and try a Souls game, just Prepare to Die.
Hearts of Iron IV
Not only is this game reasonably pretty, but the depth of each campaign is staggering. The historical accuracy is immense. During my campaigns I commanded T-34’s, Panzer Tigers, Mustangs, Yaks, Migs and so much more. While the player doesn’t control the battles, they do control every other aspect of their military. These include infrastructure, supply, weapons, war plans, air and land support. The game doesn’t force the AI to repeat the same steps, so stay on your toes and plan accordingly. Check out our review for full details on this class leading strategy game.
Paradox are really bringing the pain this year with Hearts of Iron IV and Stellaris. As a strategy game Stellaris has a slower tempo compared to its peers. I loved how the game delivers its lore through research projects and exploration. You come across primitive races, advanced races and even fallen civilizations. What you do with these creatures is your own choice. I gave a primitive civilization weapons and they went a wee bit blood thirsty. My bad. The maps are huge and full of loot and space monsters. If you’re not at war and the UI bricks it over an unidentified object traveling within your systems, it’s probably a space whale.
I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record about Doom but it really is just that good. That is to say, thecampaign is that good. I loved Doom 3 and its focus on moody horror, but after waiting 12 years for a sequel I was beginning to think it was impossible for id Software to recapture the white-knuckle adrenaline of the original games. That the new Doom not only brings that action roaring back, but also recreates it for a new generation and sustains it for a 15 hour campaign, is nothing short of a Satanic miracle. Would that the multiplayer were as addictive and balanced, instead of a mishmash of Halo and Call of Duty. It would also be nice to get some SnapMap updates that actually let me make serviceable levels and campaigns, but as it stands I think we’re lucky for getting a great new Doom game at all.
Far Cry Primal
Is it another copy-paste of assets, mechanics and entire sections of map from previous Far Cry games? Absolutely. Ubisoft is definitely guilty of just jogging in place when it comes to its biggest franchises. But Far Cry Primal is also the closest we’ve ever gotten to a roughly historically accurate caveman game, and I think that deserves special recognition. The effort it took to recreate the proto-into-European language, walk it back to an even more primitive time and fashion it into three distinct dialects, is pretty mind-blowing all on its own. I also appreciate how Ubisoft Montreal subtly tweaked the established Far Cry formula to create something much more brutal and intimidating than even Rooke Island. The experience of wandering through the pitch black night, and seeing a predator’s eyes glint at you out of the dark, really plucks an atavistic nerve like no other game can. I have an admiration and fascination for our distant ancestors, and despite Far Cry Primal’s frustrating similarities to previous entries, it feels like the first video game that respects these ancient peoples and wants to understand them as much as I do.
Kirby Planet Robobot
Kirby games just make me happy. They possess this wonderful combination of simple pleasure and deceptively complex gameplay. You can burn through them with little effort, but a more thoughtful player will discovery layers of nuance, secrets and charm. Planet Robobot is no different, except this time Kirby can drive a mech suit! The series’ trademark friendliness and adorable character are in fine form and the gameplay is just as joyfully addictive as ever. It’s hard to put into words, so I’d recommend that 3DS owners just go out and pick up this game; you won’t regret it. Kirby never fails to remind me that sometimes, it’s ok to feel like a little kid again. In today’s game industry, I think that is more valuable than most people realize.
After picking up the HTC Vive, I've just been spending all my time in VR world. The Lab, while more of a tech demo, shows off what VR can do even in its infancy. The various ways you can interact with the environments and types of gameplay available make The Lab one of the best games I've played so far. And Valve is constantly updating it as well and best of all, it's free if you pick up a Vive.
MLB The Show 16
Yeah, I'm always a sucker for the MLB series and the latest one has been getting a lot of traction in my household. The in game action is great and there are features galor for those who want to dig deep into running a team. MLB The Show 16 just delivers quality baseball in a variety of ways to satsify both the casual fan and the hardcore ones too.
Pool Nation VR
Yes another VR game on my list. It doesn't seem like a pool game would be one of the most fun I've had this year, but it is. Being able to freely move around a table, setup multiple shots, seeing realistic pool physics, and the ability to just destroy objects in the pool hall make this a real fun game to play. Playing with a friend was even more of a blast and the online component worked really well. The game's also getting a good steady stream of updates as you can play Darts and Air Hockey just appeared in the latest beta.
I had low expectations going into Remedy's latest which was a huge mistake as the company delivered a game that delivered a new gameplay experience and was a ton of fun to play. Sure, the mix of live action video and gameplay takes some getting used to but once you adjust you discover that Quantum Break is an interesting twist on gaming.
Witcher 3: Blood and Wine
It would have been easy for CD Projekt Red to lazily crank out one more batch of DLC for the Witcher 3 knowing that gamers would eat it up but instead they delivered one long goodbye letter to their signature franchise. This DLC package delivers more than 30 hours of content which is more than most modern games deliver for their original campaign. Blood and Wine takes the franchise out on near perfect note which an ending that wraps up the game perfectly.
Never has one publisher done so much with so little dialog. Playdead's follow-up to Limbo manages to avoid the sophomore slump and deliver a game that is as interesting and innovative as it's first game. Inside is brutal, beautiful, and perfectly executed.
Va-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartending Action
One of my favorite games so far this year is a small little indie title about serving drinks to racist corgis, robot sex workers, brains in jars, and a bunch of other characters in what is affectionately known as Valhalla. The bartending isn't terribly deep and the story is full of internet references, it's still an endearing tale of being miserable and alone while surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and finding solace at the bottom of a bottle.
Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir
One of my favorite games in 2007 is back in 2016 with all the lessons learned from past Vanillaware games. It features a much deeper combat system, better menus, and cleans up the framerate problem of the original. I still love this game and being able to play it on the Vita is the perfect way to enjoy this one, playing it on PS4 is great and all, but the mobile experience is just as good!
I'm utterly in love with Overwatch and it's becoming a bit of a problem. The gameplay is a ton of fun, and having friends to play with makes it that much more of a joy. The characters all feel unique and the game is full of life and vigor, I'm a-mei-zed at how I went from no hype to full blown fanatic on this one. If you haven't tried it yet, make sure you pick it up whenever you can.
Far Cry: Primal
Rarely has a game completely captivated me as much as this one did. I absolutely loved the experience of a modern-first person shooter where you didn't do a lot of shooting (if that makes any sense). The raw and primitive approach to combat with spears and arrows made for a nice change of pace in the world of the FPS. Plus, it was such an engaging and beautiful world that I found myself getting lost just exploring. This is probably my favorite game of 2016 so far.
Drake went out in such a suitable manner. The final chapter of Nathan Drake's adventures was everything that I had hoped it would be. The story was perfect and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. While the game didn't exactly break any boundaries or set any new benchmarks, it did provide a polished adventure of the likes that only Naughty Dog could deliver.
Breathtaking. That is the only word that I can think of when asked about my experience with Firewatch. I was not supposed to enjoy this game; it is everything that I dislike in a video game. I need action and adventure. Firewatch had none of that. However, I found myself completely wrapped up in the story and touched by it on a personal level. Sure it is a "glorified walking simulator", but it is also one that will suck you completely into its world and make you forget that it is just a game.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
When Nintendo’s E3 treehouse event was going on, I was kind of watching it and kind of playing Borderlands 2. On one of the moments I was watching I caught the end of the trailer for Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE and thought that the game looked pretty good, possibly something I might pick up down the road. I then got the opportunity to review it and I’m glad I did. I’ve never played any of the Shin Megami Tensei games, but playing TMS makes me want to check them out. Taking the classic turn-based RPG format and mixing in other elements such as the session combos along with an interesting story and plenty of "dungeon" exploring makes this one of my top games so far of 2016.
I was never a huge fan of Tekken, or any 3D fighting game for that matter. I consider myself doing pretty good if I win the occasional Street Fighter or Marvel vs. Capcom match, but put me into a 3D arena and I’m an easy target. With Pokken being a mix of 2D and 3D fighting, I can kind of put that behind me. Now I’m not great at the game by any means as I get completely trashed online, but the offline play is pretty good, if not a little repetitive and drawn out. Still, with the game making appearances at the Pokemon National Championships and EVO 2016, it’s doing pretty good in the short time it’s been out. I’m hoping for some form of DLC down the road to maybe give us a few more characters to play as, but for now this is probably my second best fighter behind Street Fighter.
Kirby: Planet Robobot
What can I say, it’s the classic Kirby formula with some new things added in. I haven’t finished it yet but the new robot suits and the couple new abilities I’ve used to far have been pretty fun, if not somewhat broken at times. The psychic ability that basically turns you into Ness from Earthbound is probably my new favorite ability so far, but I’ve also used it to pretty much shred bosses without many problems. Granted the Kirby games aren’t really the most difficult games in existence (for crying in the mud, you can’t even die in Kirby’s Epic Yarn), a game doesn’t have to be challenging to be fun, and as long as the Kirby games remain fun to play, I’ll keep picking them up.
There you have it. Feel free to leave any comments on our selections or picks of your own that we overlooked.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom. I was a Microsoft Xbox MVP from 2009 to 2014. I currently own stock in Microsoft, AMD, and nVidia.