Wow… I think the list demonstrates that whilst 2016 was a poor year for the world, it was pretty darn good for games. Obviously the first game listed is best by default, Pony Island. I’ve gone Hottest 100 on this and shortlisted my top 10, before declaring a winner. In no particular order:
Ratchet & Clank. I never played the original having joined the series during the Tools of Destruction PS3 era. This remake is heaps of fun and the whole family is enamoured with it. Spectacular visuals, never slowing down despite the craziness on screen. Joy.
Witcher 3: Blood and Wine. Technically DLC but with more content than most full games. Great sendoff for Geralt with the beautiful location of Toussaint refreshing after the war-torn Velen. Plot is engaging, Regis one of the best NPCs in gaming and so many neat Easter eggs:
The Witness. One of the few games the whole family worked through together. My wife and I spent way too many nights thinking through each and every puzzle, never once looking up an answer (what’s the point). Blown away how the devs got it all working together.
XCOM 2. Because, XCOM.
Firewatch. Like playing through an engaging indie film. Loved the location, the isolation and the voice acting. Was worried the story was heading in one direction for it to end more subtly (to some peoples annoyance).
Abzû. I like to be underwater. Not nearly as good as Journey, but excellent none-the-less. Another great score by Austin Wintory and you have a very therapeutic experience, at least for me.
Thumper. I played both Rez Infinite and Thumper in VR this year. I know that Rez has a following (and Area X was fun), but Thumper is an insanely good rhythm game. I started playing in 4K but switched to VR after a couple of levels and the improvement to my ability was substantial. Timing is vastly easy in VR, despite the drop in sharpness. This game gets difficult fast, so you’ll need to be on your game. Ignore the stick prompts, d-pad is the only way to play.
Titanfall 2. I never expected to have an FPS on my list. I still play them occasionally, but nothing has felt original for donkey’s years. Titanfall 2 has a short but sweet campaign involving some fun platforming that sets itself apart from the usual spawn fests (COD). Movement is fluid whether on foot or in your mech BT-7274. I’ve poured more hours into the multiplayer than I care to say. Can’t believe this was given away at $35 so soon after release.
Batman: Arkham VR. So good that it gave me hope for whole adventure games made this way. For a single moment, nothing beats descending from Wayne Manor, suiting up and entering the Batcave. Looked decent on the PS4 and even better on the Pro. Reasonably priced compared to the majority of VR games and their “VR tax”.
and my winner is:
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Best send off I could have hoped for characters I love. It probably wouldn’t work as well if played out of context with the other games, kind of like Rogue One in that respect. The story is both epic and deeply personal, concentrating on what make Nathan Drake who he is (overlooking his genocidal tendencies). Naughty Dog are masters of environmental storytelling (the loft sequence in Drake’s house for example) and subtle interactions between the characters. Stunning locations, epic set-pieces and it has a dive sequence (there is a pattern here). Love it.
I’ve yet to play Dishonored 2 (just finished the first), Doom and Battlefield 1 (both sitting under my tree), but my biggest disappointment was Rise of the Tomb Raider. It’s plot was a pretty close rehash of the original reboot and pretty tepid. All characters except Lara, were blandly animated and acting was wooden. Gameplay was solid, with some neat new mechanics, but without any growth to Lara as a character, I just wasn’t as interested as I thought I would be. I hope CD can improve their storytelling for the next installment because the reboot was exactly what the franchise needed.