Here we are, the big one. Game of the Year. 2016 was a pretty great year for video games, with a wide variety of genres seeing top quality releases. With so many great games released last year, naming the best of the best can be a tall order. But here we are with my picks for the top five games of 2016!
But first, let’s give a shoutout to the runners-up, Pokemon Sun and Moon, The Last Guardian, and Dragon Quest Builders. You’re all great! Okay, now for the top five.
5: Stardew Valley
Stardew Valley is exactly the kind of game you can turn to if you just want to experience something that has a more relaxed pace. A modern, indie twist on Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley sees players build up their farm, form relationships, craft items, and simply live a simple life.
It may not sound too exciting, but Stardew Valley is the kind of game that you can spend five minutes or two hours with, and still get a lot done either way. Stardew Valley boasts a surprising amount of depth and content, and depending on how you want to spend your time at your farm, you can do a lot in a short amount of time or a little in a large amount of time. It has so much to offer that it’s downright baffling that it was made by one guy.
If you miss the good old days of Harvest Moon, or long for another Animal Crossing experience in the vein of New Leaf, Stardew Valley is an excellent alternative, with every playthrough bound to be something different, but no less calming.
4: Kirby: Planet Robobot
2016 wasn’t exactly Nintendo’s best year. With their primary focus going towards the (now released) Switch, the Wii U had a quiet final year (oh, how I miss the Wii U’s 2014). The 3DS fared better, but even it only saw a handful of notable releases. Pokemon Sun and Moon is probably the first one that comes to people’s minds, seeing as it broke so many records. But the best was Kirby: Planet Robobot.
Planet Robobot was a fresh twist on the familiar Kirby formula. Kirby could now pilot Robobot suits, which, when combined with one of Kirby’s many copy abilities, transformed into a different hulking monstrosity. It may not be the most radically different Kirby game (like Epic Yarn or Canvas Curse), but it probably was the most fun twist to the traditional Kirby experience since the combined copy abilities of Kirby 64.
It’s one part excellent Kirby platformer, and one part Mega Man X (making it a far superior Mega Man spiritual successor than the devastatingly disappointing Might No. 9). But it’s all fun.
Though the aforementioned games were both great, here’s where the quality really amps up.
Overwatch seemed to win Game of the Year for most people, and although it settles for my number three spot, it’s easy to see why. Overwatch is greatly polished, and insanely fun. It’s undoubtedly the best multiplayer shooter since Team Fortress 2, and its colorful cast of characters only add to the game’s immense appeal.
From the deadly, sexy sniper Widowmaker, to the cute, Frozen-referencing Mei. From the intellectual gorilla Winston to the cartoonish Mad Max-style baddies Junkrat and Roadhog. Overwatch has some of the most personality of any game released the past several years, all thanks to its memorable characters.
Combine that with some of the most fine-tuned FPS gameplay around, and you have a surefire winner that will keep players coming back for years to come.
2: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
I debated amongst myself for a long time what my Game of the Year 2016 would be between two games (hence why I’m just now doing this in March). It was always between two titles (making my number one pick obvious by this point), but make no mistake about it, either one would make for an amazing Game of the Year.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End’s placement at number two is only a testament to how good of a year 2016 was for gaming. In most other years, a game like Uncharted 4 would have taken the cake. It takes everything that made the PS3 Uncharted trilogy great, smoothens out the rough edges, and fine-tunes the things that worked, making for a (nearly) flawless execution of the Uncharted formula.
The action is faster paced, the set pieces are bigger and better, and the story more character driven and developed. It’s an absolutely stunning game through and through, and probably the best testament yet to Naughty Dog’s excellent abilities in the gaming medium.
Nathan Drake, I salute you!
1 (Game of the Year): Dark Souls III
Yep. It’s Dark Souls 3.
I’ve always appreciated and admired the Dark Souls series, but it was after BloodBorne that I truly fell in love with it. The intricate detail to every moment, the tension of every encounter, the flawless sound work, the tight gameplay, the terrifying bosses, everything. While the nature of video games has wildly changed over the years, Dark Souls is a series that feels like the very best elements of the NES era have evolved to the present gaming landscape.
Last year, I stupidly placed BloodBorne in fourth place in my top five games of 2015 (I would retroactively place it second to Undertale), but I’m not making that same mistake again. But Dark Souls III doesn’t nab my Game of the Year 2016 simply out of vindication for myself, but because it feels like a “best of” collection of the entire series, from Demon Souls to BloodBorne.
Dark Souls III is chock-full of memorable moments, some beautiful, most brutal. It’s a game that demands – and rewards – patience and planning, making the entire experience as thoughtful as it is unforgettable. It’s a stunning achievement in video games, and yet another testament to Hidetaka Miyazaki’s mastery of the craft.
Uncharted 4 and Overwatch provided some incredibly stiff competition, but in the end, Dark Souls III emerged as the best game of 2016.