2015 was apparently such a forgettable year for games that I didn’t even bother writing a top ten list for it. It would have been Life is Strange, followed by Super Mario Maker. 2016 though, I still have a lengthy list of titles I haven’t finished or haven’t even started that I desperately want to get around to trying. Looking at my list, I easily could have done a top 30 and still felt good about the games that were being included. With a child on the way ready to consume all of my free time, I’m glad I was able to ignore my friends and loved ones in favour of great games one last time! These are the ones that made me feel the best about it.
10. Quantum Break
I love Remedy and adored Alan Wake. It seems a sequel to that one is not likely any time soon, so a new IP from them will have to do. This one doesn’t seem to be getting any love these days but it really stuck with me. The live action “episodes” between chapters didn’t always work but they were at the very least an interesting idea that was executed well enough. The game play is what did it for me, featuring a variety of fun to use time powers and a near constant barrage of impressive set pieces. It’s one I wanted to revisit one more time before the year ended but alas, time didn’t allow it. I feel I should do a time pun here….nah I’m not gonna.
9. The Witness
The only reason this isn’t higher is for the shameful reason that I haven’t actually finished the game. I’m now ready to completely start over as I fear there is no way I can simply jump right back into it. I still put about 15-20 hours into it though and wow. When you hear “it’s a game full of line puzzles” it feels easy to dismiss but the amount of creativity invested in these puzzles is remarkable. You’re never given clear directions as to what to do next, which is likely to turn many people off but for me it made those moments where something clicks all the more satisfying.
Unfairly dismissed by many as a “walking simulator”, Firewatch is an early 2016 release that managed to stick with me all these months later. The story of a man who spends his days alone in the woods looking for fires is made captivating by great writing and character work, as well as a surprisingly suspenseful story that wrings a tremendous amount of tension out of your surroundings. It’s likely a one and done experience for me, but its an experience I would recommend everyone have.
7. Titanfall 2
While the multiplayer in Titanfall 2 remains a great deal of fun, it’s the single player campaign that earned it such a high spot on my list. I expected a rushed campaign that pitted you against bots in the same environments you see in multiplayer. Instead, I got a campaign that was never satisfied to settle into a routine. New mechanics are introduced and promptly discarded in the very next mission in order to pave the way for the next new thing. I played through all of the campaign in two sittings as I couldn’t wait to see what weird and wonderful thing they were going to throw at me next. The whole thing just feels great to play and runs at a breakneck pace that has no interest in resting for a moment.
6. Final Fantasy XV
Another game where I have to admit that I haven’t actually made it to the end. I’ve played for 40 hours however and am eagerly ready to sink more in so I feel ok about putting it this high in the list. Final Fantasy XV is a thing of insane beauty. You and your buddies drive around in a car and do side quests for people named Dave, more than one of which involve feeding a hungry cat. Also, you cook modern looking dishes, occasionally one of the characters will sing the classic battle victory music after a fight, and you can buy an MP3 player that allows you to listen to the soundtracks of past Final Fantasy games. It’s a bit of a mess but it’s an impressive mess that has pulled me back into the series in a way no entry has been able to do since FFX.
LIMBO is a tough act to follow and my early impressions of Inside led me to believe the studio was going to crank out more of the same. While Inside definitely follows in the mold of being a side scrolling puzzle platformer, it is very much its own incredible thing. The puzzles themselves are relatively straight forward but it was the visuals, set pieces and story which kept me going. It also features perhaps the best third act in the history of video games.
4. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
I love the Uncharted series. The second one remains my favourite and is the one of the best examples of a sequel improving on the original that I can think of (Assassin’s Creed II may remain the reigning champion there). Uncharted 4 can’t quite top the second one as it does largely offer more of what you expect from the series, but at this point Naughty Dog have perfected their craft and continue to deliver some of the best presentation video games have to offer. Amazing visuals, performances and character work that are second to none, topped with perhaps the best action sequence I’ve played in a game in years, would have made this a terrific end to the series until I remembered there is a standalone game coming out this year. If this is truly the end of Nathan Drake however, it’s the best send off the character could have asked for.
Well, I certainly wouldn’t have predicted this at the start of 2016. All signs pointed to Doom being a disaster. The game had a well publicized troubled production history and when people finally got their hands on the multiplayer beta, nobody seemed impressed. Then when it was announced no reviews would hit until launch day, it seemed wise to write this one off. Then something happened. I’ll never forget the morning it launched and seeing the word of mouth spread. “No guys, it’s good. Like, really really really good.” Hey everyone guess what? Doom IS good. Like, really really really good. Honestly, I didn’t really touch much outside of the campaign but since it’s one of the best shooter campaigns ever made, that doesn’t make me feel too bad. Doom is a lengthy game that still manages to never let up. It remains fresh and fun right up until the end and I was honestly a bit bummed out to see the credits roll.
2. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
I never would have expected to put nearly 100 hours into a JRPG where you play a bunch of aspiring Japanese pop idols. Though maybe I should have because even reading that sentence makes the game seem amazing. Mirage sessions has a fun battle system at its core, but it was the characters and tremendous sense of overall style that had me doing every side quest possible, looking to stretch out the experience any way I could.
Harvest Moon 64 is one of my favourite games of all time and one of my fonder video game memories from growing up. I tried to play many subsequent games in the series and none could capture the feeling I got from the 64 version. Stardew Valley came out of nowhere and took me right back to those times. It uses the same central concept of running a farm, befriending the locals and finding romance, but I feel it improves on the Harvest Moon formula in nearly every way. This is the ultimate relaxation game and it just makes me so god damn happy every time I play it. I sank 70 hours into the PC version and am waiting for some free time so I can do the same on the PS4.