Another year is almost over. It’s certainly been one of plentiful low points, from the loss of great artists to bizarre political upheavals, with many folks eager to put it behind them and get on with 2017. For gaming however, it’s been a year of pleasant surprises – sure, we’ve had the new iterations of annual franchises like Call of Duty and Fifa, but we’ve also seen the release of games we once thought would never see the light of day. Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian both launched to decent critical acclaim despite their lengthy and tortured development cycle, and Nintendo finally swallowed their pride to release Super Mario Run, the mobile Mario title that many fans clamoured for.
For me personally, it’s been a great year for games. I’ve consciously tried to break away from my usual gaming habits to try out new experiences in the digital space, and in doing so I’ve discovered some wonderful indie gems that have deservedly made this list. So without further ado, here are my favourite games of 2016.
Enter the Gungeon
Dodge Roll’s debut title is a roguelike dungeon crawler with bullet hell gameplay mixed in to create a truly unique experience. No session is ever the same as you discover new weaponry, from the near-useless Klobbe to the destrucive Raider Coil. The game is packed with hidden secrets only discoverable through multiple playthroughs, and with varied and addictive gameplay, it’s hard to put the controller down as you learn to adapt to and conquer every dungeon floor.
Occasionally, a game will come along that you just know will stick with you for years to come. Released early in February, Firewatch was the first game of 2016 to really speak to me. Though criticised by many for its ending, its true success was how it built a convincing relationship between the main characters Henry and Delilah through the simple use of a walkie talkie. After completing the storyline, I wanted to go right back to the start and experience the sights and sounds of Shoshone National Forest once more.
Following the success of Limbo, Playdead needed to prove to the world that they weren’t a one-trick pony. With Inside, they succeeded in ways no one thought possible, by releasing a game that not only builds on the foundation of the original, but transcends it in every way to create an unforgettable experience. Its story is told without the need for dialogue as you traverse treacherous hazards and flee nightmarish creatures, heading towards an ending that manages to be both repulsive and liberating.
Ratchet and Clank
Rebooted from the ground up for PS4, our favourite platforming duo Ratchet and Clank have never looked better. Packed with bonkers weaponry both old and new, there’s loads to do here as you hop from planet to planet to stop the dastardly Nefarious from unleashing the Deplanetizer. Every level has a brilliantly unique aesthetic, from luscious green fields to molten lava lakes, with plenty of varied enemies to dispatch in multiple ways. This is a platformer that kids and adults can all enjoy!
Drinkbox Games proved once and for all that touchscreen gaming can be done right with the PS Vita title Severed. You explore abstract dungeons in the first person, utilising swiping gestures to defeat a multitude of vicious enemies. It’s easy to pick up and fiendishly hard to master, but where the average touchscreen game fails to hold the player’s attention, Severed is a joy to play from start to finish.
The original Titanfall was the perfect example of a game falling victim to its own hype. Whilst an enjoyable multiplayer experience, it failed to keep the attention of gamers for very long. Titanfall 2 fixes this with one of the strongest FPS campaigns in recent memory, making full use of both Pilot and Titan gameplay to create a fluid, intense experience. Throw in a brilliantly clever time-travel mechanic, and you have easily the best shooter of 2016.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Nathan Drake’s final chapter in the Uncharted series brings back familiar old faces and a brand new one in the form of Sam Drake – Nate’s long lost brother. What follows is a more thoughtful adventure as you explore the Scottish Highlands and Madagascar, before discovering the lost city of Libertalia. Some of the more subtle character moments may be lost on those new to the series, but A Thief’s End is a graphically beautiful game with intense gameplay that fans and newcomers can all appreciate.
Watch Dogs 2
The original Watch Dogs failed to resonate with me. I tried it for a few days, but the dull characters and underwhelming hacking mechanics forced me to shelve it. Watch Dogs 2 rectifies all of the first game’s shortcomings and builds on everything it got right. The cast of characters is varied and likeable, and there’s just so much to do in the beautifully recreated city of San Fransisco. You could completely forego the main storyline for a good while and still find plenty of side quests and collectibles to keep you occupied.
Game of the Year – Inside