Top 10 video games of 2016

Top+10+video+games+of+2016

Image courtesy of Blizzard

2016 was filled with huge surprises for the year of video games. Nintendo announced a new console, major franchises received sequels and two games stuck in development for years were finally released. 2016 was a banner year for games, many of which bursting onto the scene as worldwide sensations. This year’s games challenged our preconceived notions as to what the medium can be and have truly raised the bar for developers. Thus, as tradition dictates, we must highlight the best games of the year. As a games enthusiast who has played most of this year’s release, here is my personal top 10 countdown for 2016. Enjoy and play more games!

Honorable Mentions: “The Banner Saga 2,” “The Last Guardian,” “Ratchet & Clank,” “Darkest Dungeon” and “Enter the Gungeon.”

And some games that deserve recognition due to their placement on other lists, but I simply had no time to play them: “Oxenfree,” “Dark Souls 3,” “XCOM 2,” “Civilization VI,” “Titanfall 2,” “Pokémon Sun & Moon,” “Stardew Valley,” and “Battlefield 1.”

Now, onto the list:

10. “Overcooked”

Platforms: Windows, PS4 and Xbox One

By far the weirdest and funniest cooking sim of all time goes to “Overcooked.” Four cooks must master their skills to defeat the Ever Peckish, a being with an insatiable hunger that must eat everything in its sight. Traveling across the country, these chefs must master their skills under the most difficult pressure. Challenges await on slippery ice, moving trucks and rickety galleons.

“Overcooked” is a beautifully realized couch co-op game. Its greatest fault is not having online multiplayer, but in the times when a party calls for a riotous game to be played, “Overcooked” is your best bet. The levels are challenging, but not in a frustrating way. At times, the gameplay is so fun and tongue-in-cheek that you’ll be unable to complete the food orders put in front of you from laughing so hard. The game provides a great deal of fun and laughter for the whole family, or for a game night with friends. Not to mention the revolutionary choice of controls designed around two players using one controller, meaning it isn’t required for you to have all four controllers to have a full team. It’s engaging and incredibly fun.

9. “SUPERHOT”

Platforms: Windows, Linus, OS X and Xbox One

“SUPERHOT” has an incredibly simple story: A new game has just arrived on the market and it’s incredibly addictive. People have been experiencing odd moments where the games seems to be hunting them in real life and they are unable to warn others around them of the impending danger. In fact, the very people in game the player is forced to kill may very well be real people also being tormented by the game.

It’s an average premise that devolves into a pretty interesting and creepy meta-commentary about halfway through, but “SUPERHOT’s” story is not what makes it so good, it’s the gameplay. “SUPERHOT” is one of the most unique shooters on the market this year. Time only moves when your character does. Walking at a normal pace results in time passing at a regular rate, but slow down or stop your movement and time around you does as well. Bullets slowly fly past your head as though you are in “The Matrix.” These amazingly strange mechanics allow you to pull off some of the craziest, most out of the box combos to date. “SUPERHOT” offers an insane amount of difficulty, and the strategy required to win makes for a serious challenge. It’s the kind of game that demands your attention and it is certainly one of the most unique games in recent years.

8. “Thumper”

Platforms: Windows, PS4 and PlayStation VR

Lovingly referred to as a “rhythm-violence” game, “Thumper” is another game of many in this list that feels wholly unique. You play as a mechanical scarab traveling down a track with obstacles designed to stop you in your tracks, but hitting notes and reacting to the tracks’ turns allow you to continue your fast-paced journey.

“Thumper” is an amazing rhythm game. Its soundtrack is visceral and punches you in the gut with its powerful drum beat and heavy electronica. Its music isn’t something you typically see in other games from the same genre; It’s dark and destructive, just like the game. Reacting to the beats on the track requires precise timing and you’ll find yourself getting lost amongst the lights and turns scattered across every track. “Thumper” is an unforgiving game with stunningly beautiful and difficulty levels, as well as a huge re-playability factor.

7. “The Witness”

Platforms: Windows, PS4, Xbox One and iOS

It’s rare to find a game that brings you such immense joy just as much as it’ll make you want to tear your hair out. In “The Witness,” you find yourself stranded on an island covered in lush vegetation, abandoned towns and strange panels with puzzles on them. Having absolutely no direction given to you, the best option left to you is simple: solve all the puzzles and hope you survive.

“The Witness” is incredibly frustrating. The puzzles you are meant to solve, while ingenious and incredibly satisfying to beat, become more and more rage-inducing the further along in the game you progress. As you explore the island, you begin to discover that different areas hold the keys to solving puzzles in separate areas of the map. It’s a clever design element found in most puzzle games, but definitely out of the norm for open-world settings. While solving the puzzles is enough of a fun challenge to make “The Witness” one of this year’s best titles, its opinions and philosophy on the beauty of the human brain make it an even more worthwhile journey than you may expect. “The Witness” is this year’s best puzzle game, and I will never forget the experience of playing it.

6. “Owlboy”

Platforms: Windows

“Owlboy” had been in development for ten years, and it’s easy to see why. This long development had absolutely no adverse effects on the amazing 2D adventure platformer. Playing as a young human-owl hybrid creature known as Otus, you are thrust into a world of fantasy and cities in the sky. After pirates attack Otus’s hometown he and some friends take matters into their own hands to take down the pirates and stop their plans to destroy the world.

Otus himself cannot attack the various enemies you find in the game, but his friends who travel with him can. Each friend is unlocked throughout “Owlboy’s” incredibly well written narrative, and each offers separate ways of fighting enemies. This translates into interesting environments and boss battles that require incredible amounts of dexterity to master. What works best about “Owlboy” are its story and visuals, though. Each character and environment is beautifully realized through hand drawn visuals. It’s an art style rarely seen in games these days, but one that results in an incredibly gorgeous world to explore. “Owlboy’s” story is a beautiful fantasy of unlikely underdogs as its heroes, and speaks powerfully to the idea of heroism, and standing up to adversity despite your weaknesses. It’s an uplifting and powerful story full of nuance and fun characters.

5. “Firewatch”

Platforms: Windows, PS4, Xbox One, OS X and Linux

This game is entirely story-driven, and man is it good at what it does. The gameplay of “Firewatch” is nothing spectacular, but the first-person narrative makes it one of the best interactive experiences of the year. Henry takes a job as a fire lookout in Wyoming in the hopes of finishing his novel and escaping the sadness of his life. He begins to form a friendship with his supervisor Delilah via walkie-talkie. As Henry begins receiving threatening messages left anonymously around his watchtower, he realizes he may have stumbled across a decades-old mystery.

While “Firewatch’s” mystery is certainly well-written and engaging, the game is about so much more. Dipping into themes of forced isolation, mental illness, suicide, alcoholism and environmentalism, the story is a beautiful exploration of the human condition and all the dark things that corrupt us. The environment is beautifully rendered, making every section of Shoshone National Forest an absolute beauty to behold, as well as giving a truly chilling sense of isolation.

4. “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End”

Platforms: PS4

The latest and final installment in the “Uncharted” franchise is the darkest additions yet. Nathan Drake, series protagonist and renowned treasure hunter, in a more relaxed life. Now retired from his treasure-hunting lifestyle and happily married, Nathan seems content- if a little bored. When Sam, his brother previously presumed dead, reenters his life with the promise of the ultimate treasure hunt, Nathan jumps at it. The treasure in question: Captain Henry Avery’s treasure and the location of his secret pirate city, their first treasure-hunting venture they had previously failed at. What ensues is a globe-trotting adventure driving Nathan to rethink who he is and what he wants in life.

Sam is an incredibly interesting and captivating addition to the “Uncharted” lineup of characters. The motion-capture and voice actors are at the top of their game in this chapter of the series, giving the characters an emotional weight never seen before in this series (the flashbacks to Sam and Nathan’s childhood were a nice touch as well). The third act resolves too quickly and makes the emotional heft of the story feel weightless, but not much tops the brilliant writing and acting in the first two acts of this amazing adventure story. The gameplay was also beefed up in this installment, trading in traditional run and gun shooting for isometric stealth levels and improved shooting that makes every fighting section feel fast-paced, dangerous and challenging. “Uncharted 4” is not the best in the franchise, but it is certainly a one of the best games of 2016.

3. “INSIDE”

Platforms: Windows, PS4 and Xbox One

“INSIDE” is a terrifying experience. This short, yet amazing experience, is one of the most terrifying chases I’ve ever experienced in a game. A young boy is hunted by factory workers and police as he runs to escape an unknown fate. During his escape, he comes across people controlled by mind-controlling parasites and a violent underwater siren.

Every single moment of this insane game is terrifying. Its puzzles are not incredibly difficult but will result in brutal deaths. “INSIDE’s” commitment to violence makes it incredibly scary, but the game is much more than just a terrifying experience. It’s about control over people, it’s about the fear of the state and perverting nature for fun. All of this culminates in one of the most insane endings I have ever seen. The last twenty minutes of “INSIDE” floored me. I was flabbergasted at the insanity and odd beauty on the screen. “INSIDE” is about a boy escaping a terrifying fate, and for that it made my heart race and my mind twitch. It’s a game I will never forget, and one that I can’t wait to play over and over again.

2. “Doom”

Platforms: Windows, PS4 and Xbox One

An action-packed, unrelenting first person shooter filled with gore and blood-spattered glory. The game follows a powerful juggernaut designed with the express purpose of destroying Hell. You play as Doomguy after his awakening and subsequent destruction of the hordes of demons that have taken over the Mars-based energy facility that he has been asked to protect. The Marine’s arsenal is incredibly well-designed and the cacophonous heavy metal music echoing throughout the game’s vast array of unique environments makes every second of this game incredibly fun. Its story is average, but it’s enjoyably satirical in this regard.

“Doom” harkens back to a time when games were less about complex narrative and more about unbridled, unstoppable fun. This not only means that “Doom” is a glory-killing good time, but also has some funny and interesting things to say about the nature of video-games in general. No matter what your opinion, you can’t deny that “Doom” is absolutely amazing and the experience will leave you wanting more. I never knew that ripping demons apart with a chainsaw could feel so incredible.

1. “Overwatch”

Platforms: Windows, PS4 and Xbox One

“Overwatch’s” mix of standard first person shooting with multiplayer online battle arena mechanics makes for an incredibly unique game and one that has absorbed much of my free-time. The game doesn’t feature a story mode, instead focusing on multiplayer matches online that takes place in the game’s amazingly designed world. The universe of the games is depicted as a future Earth where a robot vs. human war has ravaged the planet. You have the choice to play as over 20 characters, all with unique personalities and opinions about the world they inhabit.

At times when I should have been examining and playing other games, the call to play “Overwatch” always tugged at the back of my mind. The characters are colorful with unique personas, each one of them having distinctive, interesting styles of play that keeps the game varied. Add on to this the amazingly well-created maps and a constant influx of new content from the game’s developer company Blizzard. It’s a vibrant and diverse game with a competitive learning curve that makes it approachable to all kinds of gamers. Its gameplay doesn’t make some grandiose speech about humanity, but its side material of comics and short films give the characters plenty of nuance and emotion. The end result is a fabulously well-created universe and an incredibly fun and entertaining game. “Overwatch” was the game I was most excited for this year– playing it gave me some of the most challenging and interesting experiences of my gaming career. “Overwatch” brought me plenty of joy in 2016, and it’s sure to bring me even more in the coming years.