2016 has been a weird year video games. It brought us several nice surprises, plenty of critically acclaimed and daring AAA games, a continuous stream of indie gems, and of course the record breaking, history making Pokemon Go. It however was also the year in which the AAA games market started to really deteriorate. In an industry as unpredictable as the video games industry, who knows if that trend will continue, but we personally expect some big changes in the next few years. What those will be is anyones guess. When it comes to 2017, we look forward to the Nintendo Switch, to finding out if consumer VR will make it after all and if incremental consoles will actually become a real thing, and of course to playing some great new games. For now though, let's take a minute to look at back at our favorite games of 2016.
1. Mafia 3 (Xbox One)
Mafia 3 is a special game. It was rightfully applauded and criticized for how it tackled racial and broader political tensions in the American South of 60s. It was also applauded and criticized for its mission design and gameplay. Some people said it was repetitive and lazy, while some (most notably Far Cray 2 fans) enjoyed its potential for randomness and chaos. I, for what it's worth, loved it. It reminded me a lot of Assassin's Creed Syndicate's open world and mission design, which is great. It had great writing, great characters, some beautifull vistas and amazing gunplay (which, even 10 years after Gears of War, is apparently not a given). It might not have been a critical darling (shoutout to Waypoint's Austin Walker and Danielle Riendeau for riding hard for Mafia 3), but it is our favorite game of the year 2016.
2. Tokyo Mirage Sessions (WiiU)
Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a Persona-like JRPG made by Atlus, set in the Japanese idol scene, only that scene is being invaded by demons that feed on artistry and talent and you have to fight them by summoning characters from Nintendo's Fire Emblem series - unless you'd rather walk around in a colorful version of Tokyo and eat bagels of course, because you can do that too. If that isn't enough for you to understand why it is easily one of the best games of 2016, I don't know how to help you. Just look at this video of an actual attack move in the game, I guess.
3. Fire Emblem Fates (3DS)
I have to be honest, even after playing countless of hours of both Birthright and Revelations (two of the three different games released under the name Fire Emblem Fates), I'm not sure I actually know how to play Fire Emblem. I guess I'm just bad at strategy games. That doesn't change the fact that the gameplay is strangely addicting, the writing is great and the cutscenes are beautiful. Thank God for Phoenix Mode.
4. Pokemon Sun/Moon (3DS)
Some people, both critics and random people, will tell you that this is the game that significantly changed the Pokemon formula. Those people, most of which appear to be people brought back to the series by Pokemon Go, are wrong. Yes, they made some changes (in my humble opinion, mostly bad ones - where the fuck is Super Training?!?), but it's still very much a fairly traditional Pokemon game. That just means that it is another entry in what might just secretly be the best and most consistent video game franchise of all time though, so we'll take it.
5. Gears Of War 4 (Xbox One)
Gear of War 4 is a return to form for the series after the disappointment that was Judgement (although even that entry still had better shooting mechanics than most other games - get it together, developers). It's really what you'd expect from a Gears Of War game, only this time with millennials in it (do they have millennials in the Gears universe?!). It's still the mechanically best third person shooter series on the market, it still has great split screen co-op, and the competitive multiplayer is still comically brutal and hard as hell.
6. Battlefield 1 (Xbox One)
Unlike many AAA games this year (including this year's Call Of Duty), Battlefield 1 outperformed publisher expectations. I give it a lot of credit to DICE and EA for realizing that the future warfare trend is a sinking ship. The fact that Battlefield 1 is set in World War 1, with its rudimentary machinery and basic guns, makes it feel weirdly fresh compared to the fast paced shooters that have dominated the last few years. It also has the best Battlefield multiplayer since Bad Company 2, meaning it's absolutely amazing.
7. Steep (Xbox One)
If the idea of a somewhat realistic feeling snowboarding/skiing (the rest is fun but whatever) game with a beautiful open world appeals to you, Steep is the game for you. If not, I imagine it is boring as hell. The beautiful open world, based on the alps, is largely about discovering drop points (which let you fast travel) and being able to just ride for a long time. Just driving down the mountain with no particular goal in mind delivered some of my favorite gaming moments of 2016. The missions are more of a menu-based thing, although you can start one just by driving through a circle if it happens to be on your path. It's all very seamless. Once you started a mission and fuck up you can press Y and instantly respawn, old school Tony Hawk style. Steep is a criminally overlooked gem and we're still amazed and thankfull that Ubisoft released a AAA winter sports game in 2016. We'd love to see more games like it.
8. Firewatch (Xbox One)
Firewatch is what some would call a "walking simulator", but if you ask me, it's a narrative driven adventure game. The game and its mysterious story are set in a beautifully rendered national park, which is really the main draw of Firewatch. It allows you to get lost in the moment, even if you don't follow the story. The fact that it was made by some of our favorite people in the video game industry makes it even better.
9. Dishonored 2 (Xbox One)
Dishonored 2, a steampunk first person stealth game, is a lot like Dishonored 1. In some ways that is too bad, because we would have liked to seen more from a next gent Dishonored, but Dishonored 1 was was also a really, really good game, and this one might be even better. What really stands out about this series is how it allows you to solve problem in a multitude of ways. The amount of stuff you can do in this game is sometimes overwhelming, but always worth exploring. Also, the world building is some of the best in the industry. Don't sleep on Dishonored 2.
10. Dragon Quest 7 (3DS)
Dragon Quest 7 for the Nintendo 3DS is a remake of the original Dragon Quest 7 for the PS1, one of the more unpopular entries in the series. The 3DS version still does not magically turn it into one of the best Dragon Quest games, but it heavily improved the game regardless. It's fun, it's charming, it's deep, it's occasionally annoyingly tough and grindy, and it is long as shit. What I'm trying to say is that it is a Dragon Quest game and I'll always want another Dragon Quest game.
Stardew Valley, which I've only started playing last week, is pretty damn good, but I still think it's a little too blatant in its copying of Harvest Moon. Rune Factory 4, a game made by the actual minds behind the Harvest Moon (now Story Of Seasons) series, came out several years ago, but I played and enjoyed it a lot in 2016. I also played a lot of Tony Hawk's Underground for the GameCube, a game from 2003, and it's still better than pretty much every game on our list.
That's it for 2016. Thanks for riding with us.
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