The Best (Well… My Favorite) Games of 2016

While I did not take the time to track every game released for console, PC and dedicated portable game systems in 2016, I am fairly confident that the total is over 1,600 and possibly as high as 2,000 (US.) According to research firm, SuperData, the total dollars spent on PC and Console gaming, worldwide, was close to $70 billion. These are some BIG numbers (not completely believable/verifiable… but BIG.) While every gaming website is now in the process of giving you their “Best Of” for the past year, I have always thought that these compilations were bogus. No matter how big the site, they simply can’t cover all of the games released, and those that they do cover are split up among a handful of editors/game reviewers.

So, while they may have fairly educated opinions, they are just that – opinions – based on those games that they did play and ignoring the ones which they did not. So, at the end of the day, what they are really giving you is their list of favorites – not the “Best.” My list is admittedly very personal, but I believe no less educated. While I estimate that I probably played 200 or so of the new games on offer for the various platforms in 2016, I have whittled that down to the 25 that I enjoyed the most in 2016. The list is chronological and not based on any empirical rating system. In addition, there are games, like Civilization VI, that are from genres that I simply do not play – if it has anything to do with “RTS,” “turn-based,” or “world-building,” I am out. So, no matter how great they might be to those that enjoy that particular genre, they are not going to make my list.

They’re what I like, because they’re what I like – no definitive recommendations made and no apologies offered. I am guessing, however, that a number of these can be found on your lists as well.

Rise of the Tomb Raider (PC)

  • Publisher: Square-Enix
  • Developer: Crystal Dynamics/Nixxes

Although released originally in 2015 for Xbox One and Xbox 360 (and my favorite game of 2015), I couldn’t wait to come back to Ms. Croft’s latest adventure when it was released on PC in January. Why? Well, first of all, it’s a great game that deserves to be played more than once. Secondly, Nixxes, the developer responsible for the PC port, was kind enough to patch the game for Stereoscopic 3D. SOLD! You haven’t lived as a gamer until you have experienced ROTTR in breathtaking 3D!

Firewatch (PC)

  • Publisher: Campo Santo
  • Developer: Campo Santo

February saw the release of this compelling Indie title and the story, sense of isolation and developing relationship between your character and the mysterious woman at the other end of your radio combine to make Firewatch one of my most memorable gaming experiences of 2016.

SUPERHOT (PC)

  • Publisher: SUPERHOT Team
  • Developer: SUPERHOT Team

February also saw the release of another one of the more unique gaming experiences to be had in 2016 – the fantastic, strategic, time moves only when you move FPS gameplay of SUPERHOT. Its stark, primarily white and red, color scheme contributed to make this game standout – as did the end of the year update to support motion-controlled VR.

Chronos (PC/Oculus VR)

  • Publisher: Oculus VR
  • Developer: Gunfire Games

Chronos was one of the two Oculus VR games that I spent the most time with. The sense of immersion and scale offered by the 360 degree virtual world and the gameplay challenge combined to make Chronos not just one of the few games that could compare to traditional AAA games, but one that did so quite convincingly.

Lucky’s Tale (PC/Oculus VR)

  • Publisher: Oculus VR/Playful
  • Developer: Playful

The other Oculus VR game that left a lasting impact on me was Playful’s Lucky’s Tale. While a number of gaming sites were lukewarm on this one, I love it and truly believe it is VR’s Mario 64. While I have played dozens of VR games since Oculus’ launch day, this is the one I keep coming back to.

Quantum Break (Xbox One)

  • Publisher: Microsoft
  • Developer: Remedy

The Max Payne/Alan Wake developer contributed to 2016 by releasing my favorite Xbox One console exclusive of the year, Quantum Break. This fascinating episodic television drama/third person shooter/adventure was so good that I actually got my wife to watch all of the episodes! Great acting, a cool story and solid gameplay combined to make the game a very memorable experience and quite unlike any other game released in the year.

The Climb (PC/Oculus)

  • Publisher: Oculus VR
  • Developer: Crytek

While Crytek might be having financial difficulties, they certainly didn’t have any trouble embracing the world of VR. This rock-climbing simulation really shows off the technology and how VR can suspend disbelief when in the hands of skilled crafts-people. Great when using a controller, Crytek took it up a notch when they patched it for Oculus Touch in early December.

Ratchet & Clank (PS4)

  • Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
  • Developer: Insomniac

I have loved all things Ratchet & Clank (well… except “Deadlocked”) since the franchise’s inception. This re-imagining of the original PS2 game is a spectacular showcase for PS4, even if the movie that was marketed alongside it was average, at best. With a variety of things to see, do and collect, a wide variety of play mechanics and a lot of replayability, this one is near the top of my list for 2016.

SEGA 3D Classics Collection (3DS)

  • Publisher: SEGA
  • Developer: M2

With a total of nine games – 6 from SEGA’s classic ’80’s arcade era, the original Sonic the Hedgehog (SEGA Genesis), and two games from the SEGA Master System (one of which, Maze Walker, originally appeared in support of the Master System’s SegaScope 3D) – this collection included a number of the games that made me want to get into the video game industry many years ago. Lovingly remastered in Stereoscopic 3D, the collection’s Power Drift, Thunder Blade and Galaxy Force II, in particular, are even better than the arcade originals. If you have a 3DS and want to find out what made SEGA so great back in the ’80’s and ’90’s, you need look no further.

King’s Quest – Chapters 3-5 (PC)

  • Publisher: Sierra
  • Developer: The Odd Gentlemen

This heart warming episodic adventure (episodes 1-2 were released in 2015) hearkens back to the classic Sierra adventures of yesteryear, but with all of the modern amenities. Thanks to the 3D enthusiasts on the Helix Blog and the 3D vision forums, it is also a joy to play in Stereo 3D – which is why I am partial to the PC version of the game.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PS4)

  • Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
  • Developer: Naughty Dog

SIE’s big game release for 2016 did not disappoint. Nathan Drake’s latest/final (?) adventure was huge in scope and technically brilliant. It also featured a story that allowed for true depth and emotion in the characters’ relationships – something that had been missing from previous entries in the series. While I am not sure which game I would choose if I could only have one – Uncharted 4 or Rise of the Tomb Raider – I know that I am awfully glad I got a chance to play both in 2016.

Doom (PC)

  • Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
  • Developer: id Software

Like King’s Quest, I chose to play the Doom reboot on PC because of a community patch for Stereo 3D. The amazing thing is that I chose to play it at all, after the debacle that was Doom 3. But, this fresh start for the franchise was one of 2016’s biggest surprises. Taking everything that made the original great – pacing, challenge, visceral combat – and bringing the graphic environment and control scheme into the modern FPS era, Doom has reclaimed its legacy and sits comfortably aside the best of the genre.

Shadwen (PC)

  • Publisher: Frozenbyte
  • Developer: Frozenbyte

This medieval third-person stealth game is unlikely to be on many “Best Of” lists, as it was a fairly quiet digital release on PC and Gen 8 consoles back in May. But, I am a big fan of all things Frozenbyte – developers of the Trine series – and Shadwen was yet another fantastic experience that the Finnish developer can point to with pride.

Edge of Nowhere (PC/Oculus)

  • Publisher: Oculus VR
  • Developer: Insomniac

Edge of Nowhere, featuring a third-person action game center with a VR sugar coating, is one of the best VR games of 2016 and one of three (the others being “Feral Rites” and “The Unspoken”) on offer from Ratchet & Clank developer, Insomniac (who had a VERY busy year.) Along, with Lucky’s Tale, Chronos and The Climb, this is one of the VR games that I show to friends and family that want to see what this much-hyped technology is all about.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst (PC/PS4)

  • Publisher: EA
  • Developer: EA DICE

EA and DICE’s second attempt at attracting a large audience with the Mirror’s Edge IP didn’t do much better with consumers than the first – but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great game. I loved the original and this kinda-sorta sequel, but not, makes the original feel like a tech demo. The first-person parkour action is exhilarating and the white-washed and very clean world of Catalyst doesn’t miss the gun combat at all, as the hand-to-hand is very impactful and satisfying. If you haven’t picked it up yet, it can be had on the cheap and is now also part of the EA Access subscription service.

Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens (PC/PS4)

  • Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive
  • Developer: TT Games

As many of you know, I am a fan of all things Lego and Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the pinnacle of the beloved gaming franchise (in terms of standalone games – hard to beat Lego Dimensions.) I have enjoyed this game so much that I have beaten it on two platforms and am going back to achieve 100% completion on both. In addition to the main game, which will easily provide 30+ hours of quality entertainment, there are four DLC levels that fill in gaps in the theatrical story and that are worth every penny. You can have your Battlefront – I”ll take this Lego game over it every day of the week and twice on Sunday!

Inside (Xbox One)

  • Publisher: Playdead
  • Developer: Playdead

This atmospheric, side-scrolling puzzle/platform game, from the developers of Limbo, was on a lot of critics’ best lists in 2016, and with good reason. The game is dark, silent and brooding, and it becomes very apparent, very early on that your character, a boy in a red shirt, is trying to escape a sinister and oppressive world where mind control is prevalent and every scene presents a puzzle/platforming challenge.

Batman: The Telltale Series (PC)

  • Publisher: Telltale Games
  • Developer: Telltale Games

It started out a little shaky (technically.) It continually had PC players irritated at the seemingly difficult time it was having getting each subsequent episode (five in total) published and running properly on Steam (often at least a day after the console versions became available.) And, many of the action sequences (like so many other Telltale games) were underwhelming and simply a matter of checking the boxes. But, the developer’s take on the Batman/Bruce Wayne legend was fresh and compelling and all of the heroes and villains from the Batman universe that we love so much were present and accounted for – if in ways that we have never before experienced. I have played through the five episodes once, but will be returning soon to alter my choices and enjoy the changes in outcome.

Abzu (PC)

  • Publisher: 505 Games
  • Developer: Giant Squid

A short, but powerful, third-person underwater adventure that is extremely beautiful and that grabs you from its first moments and never lets go. I have never been much for the Journey’s and Everyone Has Gone to the Rapture’s of the world, but Abzu is a different animal entirely.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (PC)

  • Publisher: Square-Enix
  • Developer: Eidos Montreal

One of the best action/adventures of 2016, Mankind Divided takes everything that was great about its predecessor, Human Revolution, and makes it even better. While MD will likely lose out when it comes to end of the year awards to Uncharted 4 and Dishonored 2 (no shame there…), the game exists in that same rarefied air.

ReCore (Xbox One)

  • Publisher: Microsoft
  • Developer: Armature/Comcept

ReCore is one of my favorite under-the-radar games of 2016. This third-person action/adventure is a mix of the visual design of the Star Wars films (particularly Tatooine from Ep 4 and Jakku from Ep 7) and the game design of the Metroid series. While the game received a lukewarm reception from the media, and the cold shoulder from the game buying public, I loved it. Although brutally difficult and unbalanced in spots (with no user-defined difficulty levels to be found), ReCore was compelling enough to make me stick with it. While its poor sales performance almost ensures that there will not be a sequel, I hope the Xbox division is confident enough in the developer’s talents to keep them together and building games.

Battlefield 1 (PC)

  • Publisher: EA
  • Developer: EA DICE

I have never been a big fan of the Battlefield series, which has primarily been about the multiplayer action. With Battlefield 1, however, EA DICE created a tremendous single player campaign that focuses on the brutality of WWI, while managing to capture the intimacy of the characters’ stories – which are told through six different chapters. While Battlefield’s main competitor, the Call of Duty franchise, chose to continue on its path of war in the future, to a mixed critical reaction and consumer apathy, EA’s risky bet to strip down Battlefield to its essentials and take the franchise back 100 years seems to have paid off and effectively reset the franchise for years to come.

Titanfall 2 (PC)

  • Publisher: EA
  • Developer: Respawn

Like the Battlefield series, I stayed away from the original Titanfall as it lacked a proper single player campaign. In the sequel, developer Respawn rectified this oversight and delivered a compelling first-person action/adventure that featured a memorable story and very satisfying shooting and traversal.

Dishonored 2 (PC)

  • Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
  • Developer: Arkane Studios

The original Dishonored was my favorite game of 2012. So much so that it is a game I still come back to four years after its original release. The sequel is an even better game – although it will take a few hours of play time before those of us that played the original will discover this. With so many options as to how to play/attack the challenges that each game mission presents, and the ability to play both as Corvo and Emily, Dishonored 2 almost demands that you play through it multiple times, with subsequent play-throughs seemingly as fresh as the first.

Lego Dimensions: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Story Pack (PS4)

  • Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive
  • Developer: TT Games

I have extolled the virtues of the Lego Dimensions platform numerous times on this site, as I consider the entire offering absolute genius in game design. TT has once again delivered the goods in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Story Pack. I had almost as much fun building the MACUSA gateway as I did playing the six movie-based missions and exploring the open world 1920’s era New York City that becomes available once you finish the first mission. I have spent many hours bringing Lego toys to life in Dimensions, but none more entertaining than this wonderful addition to the toy/video game platform.

 

And there you have it – my gaming year in 2016. A year that can be summed up with the words: “too much fun, not enough time!”

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About The Author
David Winding
Dave Winding is a 25 year gaming industry veteran that has been actively involved in sales, marketing, advertising, product development, publishing and communications. While his career has been as a gaming executive and entrepreneur, he is, above all else, a gamer.