With 2016 in the rearview mirror, it's time to look back at the games that came out last year and talk through which ones stuck with us. Over the next two weeks we'll discuss the games that really stood out in 2016—for good and bad reasons.
Today we reveal the games we liked the most in 2016 that weren't Overwatch. We eliminated Overwatch as the game was the top pick of almost everyone in the industry, and we wanted to make sure that the other big games of 2016 got some well-deserved attention.
Gears of War 4 and Titanfall 2 - 2016 didn’t have many games that stood out to me, or ones that I couldn’t stop playing. But two sequels, Gears of War 4 and Titanfall 2, were the ones that I had the most fun with. Gears of War 4 wasn’t anything new, but it did bring back some familiar characters as well as introduce some new ones. What I enjoyed most in the past few games, and what I played the most, was the Horde mode. It’s always fun to team up with a few people to try and survive as many waves of enemies as possible.
Titanfall 2 surprised me at how much fun the single-player game was. It’s very, very short, but there are many well-done levels, such as the time-traveling portion. The interaction with your Titan was solid and I enjoyed a great deal of the single-player campaign. Respawn Entertainment did a great job on the follow up to their first hit. It’s too bad it’s reportedly not selling as well as it should.
Doom - I probably sound like a broken record at this point but, hands down, Doom is my top game of 2016. I’ve been a fan of the Doom series since forever, and to see id Software give its flagship franchise such a glorious return to form was eminently satisfying. It’s difficult to put into words, but 2016’s Doom feels like the perfect way to update a groundbreaking but comparatively simple game. The action and violence is as frenetic as ever but tempered with an addictive glory kill system that establishes a balanced, demon-murdering rhythm. The upgrade and leveling system, rather than feeling superfluous as it does in so many shooters, just feeds back into making you a more powerful, efficient demon-killing machine. This is one of the few games I’ve played recently that has a noticeable, effortless upgrade track that makes you feel like you’re getting significantly stronger and more dangerous as the game progresses. Rounding out the whole package is stellar production design that fuses old-school Doom aesthetics with cutting edge rendering technology, specifically the smart use of the Vulkan API. The only drawback is that the multiplayer was rather disappointing before it got some serious balancing and content, and the SnapMap level editor was difficult to get into. That said, Doom is one of the few games that is worth $60 for the campaign alone. It is far and away my favorite game of 2016.
Battlefield 1 - It feels weird to admit it, but I think it has to be Battlefield 1. I have't really enjoyed multiplayer shooters for a couple years at this point, but I was just swept away by Battlefield 1. I think the World War I setting has a lot to do with it; like many, I have had some serious era fatigue with the endless droves of near-future games of the last few years. I was so ready for a change of pace. But even besides that, it's just such an unbelievably solid, well-balanced, and purely fun game.
Doom - If I had to put together a list of my favorite games of all time, the original Doom would be number one. In my opinion, it is the perfect video game with endless replay value. I have played through Doom literally around 100 times. It never gets old. I still haven't beaten the game on Nightmare difficulty. That said, the reboot of Doom is something I have been waiting years for. I was really disappointed with Doom 3 as it just didn't feel like the original Doom games. I had tears in my eyes playing the new Doom because it's everything I wanted and more. Bethesda did an amazing job of capturing exactly what made the original Doom so great and added so much more. The combat is so fluid, so intense, and so much fun that I played through levels numerous times over. I cannot wait for Doom 2.
Axiom Verge - This one I'm going to kind of cheat as it wasn't initially released in 2016, but it did come out for the Wii U in 2016. I played through the PC version on Steam around the time it initially came out. I really enjoyed it. It's obvious that the game draws a lot of inspiration from the Metroid series, from the look and sound to the gameplay itself. When I had the opportunity to review it on the Wii U, I was excited to play back through the game again and see how the developers took advantage of the functionality of the Wii U. Overall, Thomas Happ Games did a great job with the Wii U port. I definitely recommend it to anyone who's a fan of the Metroid series, especially the original and Super Metroid.
Dark Souls III - It is difficult for a fan of the series to not put Dark Souls III on the top. It's got amazingly brutal gameplay. It creates surreal atmospheres and environments that can humble you as a player quicker than you can explain the game's narrative. There are so many ways to replay the game once the first NG is complete, different weapon styles and tactics, and, lest we forget, the fashion souls! There is one constant which follows players from NG to NG. Death. That is something I really like about the series. It fits the story superbly. I love how by giving up on the game you effectively turn Hollow. The decision is ultimately yours to make, and the game designers know that, which makes it even more annoying. Do you give up and go Hollow like other casuals before you? Or do you return to the last bonfire you rested at and regroup. Gah, what an experience.
Battlefield 1 - History is awesome. Oh, you don't think so? Play a few rounds of BF1 and let's discuss. Battlefield 1 recreates the grande expedition of WWI that so many people imagined it to be. A battle between superpowers for control of lands, resources, and finances. The soundtrack is fantastic and the sound design even better. It's as pretty as they come and the engine from which the game is built on is delicious. Shrapnel and chunks of brick and earth spew across the screen during battle. My main reasoning for choosing BF1 as one of my favorite games this year is because of the humility it delivers. Yeah, people back home thought the war was a grande notion, but veterans of the game will remember the howling mortar shells, the blimps' guns battering at your cover, and the chaos of trench warfare. Not to mention the cold dread that clenches a person's stomach when they hear the flame troopers gas spew forth and ignite the world around them. That feeling of helplessness. Oh the lessons to be learned. Battlefield 1 is, at its core, a fun game. You can fly prop planes, drive the granddaddy of tanks, the English Mark IV, or captain the last of the super heavy battleships to obliterate a coastline. The weapons in the game are super balanced, too. No one weapon has total dominance over the battlefield. Awesome.
VA-11 Hall-A - It has a weird name—and an even weirder premise. You're pouring drinks for the wounded and weary of Glitch City. More a visual novel than a game, VA-11 Hall-A is all about the story and the world that Sukeban Games has created, and it is utterly enchanting. I fell in love with this game from start to finish, and it's so much deeper than it appears on the surface. Sure you could just go through the motions and pour the drinks as requested, or you can get your patrons plastered and see the truth exposed. But it's the heart that this game possesses, and the story of Jill Stingray, that ultimately captivated me.
The other game that I played from start to finish, and almost to completion, was Final Fantasy XV. This game is the perfect example of a flawed gem. The story falls apart near the end, and can draw a few too many comparisons to Final Fantasy VI, but it's the journey that's ultimately more important than the destination. And Prince Noctis' journey with Prompto, Gladio, and Ignis is full of quests, dungeons, and challenges that made this game a blast to play. It's the least conventional Final Fantasy game yet, and that's what makes it such a triumph. I'm waiting impatiently for that season pass content, which is also a rarity for me as well.
Honorable mentions: Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, Pony Island, Uncharted 4
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition - I had a huge soft spot for it since it was the first video game I ever played (on console, that is). So, when Bethesda confirmed the rumors of a remastered edition, I pretty much knew what I was going to be doing for the last couple months of 2016. Though this is my favorite mainly because of nostalgia, the fact remains that Skyrim is a timeless classic with stunning music, a uniquely replayable premise, and (now) vastly improved graphics that make the game even more enjoyable to play. After all, who doesn't enjoy shoving NPCs off of cliffs just by screaming at them?
Destiny - I could try and reach here for some game that actually came out this year but, for me, my favorite game was Destiny. My experience with the game only began this year when I got back from last year's holidays in early January. I was still knee deep in last year's game of the year, Fallout 4, and just wanted some casual multiplayer. I had purchased Destiny during a Christmas sale, with all the expansions, for around $30. I jumped in. The gameplay dragged me in immediately. Truth be told, I haven't picked Fallout 4 back up after starting Destiny (I still have a Fallout 4 save sitting there near the very end of the game waiting to be completed). I played through original single-player content in Destiny fairly quickly, enjoying the ride immensely, and found some partners on the100.io to tackle the early raids. Before I knew it, through the GN staff and some friends from a Tottenham blog, I was deep in a rewarding clan, playing daily, raiding weekly, and taking full advantage of the end game PvE content before switching gears and spending a decent bit of time going into PvP as well. There are times when certain balancing updates have infuriated me and drove me away. But the great community of players, steady trickle of content, and solid gameplay keep bringing me back.
Firewatch - No adventure game in 2016 captures the romanticism 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 squirrely 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, found each other, and found that the answers to their problems were nowhere to be found in the wilderness. It’s not for everyone, but I love it for that. To clarify, people that need measurable character growth, neatly tied dovetails, and happy endings should avoid Firewatch altogether. For those that need stunted characters, red herrings, and stunning, cut-to-black endings, then Firewatch will give you exactly that, while still surprising you with its slow-burn environments and landscaped storytelling.
The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine - Ending a franchise is hard. You have to wrap up all of the loose ends and give the player (who has invested hundreds of hours into the game) a satisfying conclusion. With the Blood and Wine DLC, the team at CD Projekt sent Geralt into the sunset in grand fashion. They wrapped up the series in a nearly perfect way. The player not only gets to wrap up this game, but they get to wrap up the entire franchise in one easy bow. Along the way the game also incorporates a lot of interesting themes and gameplay mechanics in a nearly effortless manner.
Quantum Break - I was a bit worried that Remedy's mixture of video and video games would go off the tracks. But they were able to deliver something new and different while telling an original story—and delivering on some great gameplay. Sure, the video was a little hokey in spots, but this was one of the more original games of the year and hopefully the start of a new franchise.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.