This choice is super obvious and there’s probably very little I could write about here that hasn’t already been said. I love the lighthearted feel of the game and I love ridiculous fan art community that has sprung up around it. The incredible number of good design decisions hidden throughout the game are overwhelming at times. I can’t wait to finish this list so I can go back and play it more.
If the Oculus had been more widespread I’m absolutely certain this game would have been on many end-of-year lists. Sadly, I’m willing to be that they did not make their budget back on this. This is too bad, because it is an excellent Zelda-style dungeon crawler. VR makes the whole production feel alive and epic in a way that other games can’t replicate. The art and animation are stellar. The levels require spatial awareness and careful observation from the player, just like classic Zelda dungeons, before the series got too hand-holdy. And with the game’s stationary camera, it’s one of the few VR games that won’t give you motion sickness, so you can actually play it for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Final Fantasy XV
I loved the Final Fantasy series when I was a teenager, but lost interest after X. I never believed I could get into a JRPG ever again, but sure enough, it’s happening. XV weaves strong themes of friendship, camaraderie, and road trips directly into the game mechanics in a way that’s bold and honestly unprecedented. Every part of the game, down to the most minor detail, was built with great care and craftsmanship. I actually care about the characters and don’t mind the often clunky dialog one bit. Final Fantasy is relevant again.
You didn’t think I could get through this list without a roguelike, did you? You pilot drones through derelict spaceships, searching for resources, hoping the whole time that your careful preparations and meticulous planning will let you slip by unnoticed by the horrible things occupying each ship. One of the best examples of incredible atmosphere and verisimilitude, all in a super low-budget game. A great, creepy, tense experience.
Dying Light: The Following
This DLC for my favorite game last year is so huge that it might as well be a whole new game.The drastic change in setting and new mechanics really do make the game feel fresh. The car is actually fun to drive, and speeding away from Volatiles at night is uniquely terrifying. Forcing the player to go out at night to sneak into a Volatile nest is a brilliant design choice.
I CAN’T GET THE MUSIC OUT OF MY HEAD. GOTY.
A wonderfully designed frantic co-op experience. We need more games like this. Even your non-game-playing friends will enjoy this, I promise. Get it and four controllers for your next get-together. It will go over well.
Another game that I can’t really say much about that hasn’t already been said. A fantastic return to form for the now largely unrecognizable id Software. Large, sprawling levels are a high point. Probably my favorite soundtrack of the year. Just get it.
No Man’s Sky
If this was released quietly, without Sony’s relentless hype, it would’ve been remembered as 2016’s most underrated game. Playing it feels like being inside a concept album: a relentlessly curated, laser focused experience, surreal and dreamy. The art and music are the game’s greatest assets.
I really don’t want to say anything about this game. It’s better if you don’t know anything about it when you go in. It’s ridiculously cheap. Just get it and play it with some friends.
Games I played this year that came out in previous years
Wow is this game wonderful. Feels like a proper follow-up to Dark Souls. Mechanics tuned to perfection. Accidentally stumbling into huge new areas is still an amazing experience.
Metal Gear Solid 2
I’m only 15 years late. It still holds up pretty well!
Games of 2016 that I didn’t really get around to but look cool
The Flame in the Flood
A roguelike about traveling the American south? By former BioShock devs? I’m sold.
I’ve only played the first few missions, but I already love the game. Totally absorbing, with many opportunities for creative problem solving, which is my favorite kind of gameplay.
The original Titanfall was my favorite game of 2014, but I’ve been so into Overwatch this year that I just didn’t have room for another multiplayer shooter. These are the kind of problems you want.