2016 was a crazy one, but thankfully it brought a lot of fun and interesting games with it. I played a lot of different titles last year and I could go on for hours about any number of them. However the games bellow stood above the rest to me and will easily go down as some of my favorite games of all time.
This year had a lot of exciting shooters, but I didn’t get a chance to play any of them because Overwatch existed. Expression of character movement is possibly the most important thing when it comes to games for me and Overwatch nails this with its characters. Taking these characters and using them in combination with others makes for some of the most intense and varied combat in a shooter I have ever played. Roles and movesets help open the game up for players who might not be hardcore FPS, giving them ways to feel impactful without needing to be a deadeye shot.
Pair this with an artstyle and sense of identity that doesn’t normally come with a competitive game. Stages, sprays and voicelines help flesh out a world whose backstory is told through CGI movies and webcomics, giving players an option not to engage with any of it or effectively creating a shooter that can be enjoyed without ever once playing a round of it.
I will likely continue playing Overwatch well into 2017, especially if more holiday events, characters and maps continue to be developed for it. Not since Halo 2 have I wanted to keep playing a shooter just to see how I can make myself better at it by learning against others better than me.
Hyper Light Drifter
In my mind, Hyper Light Drifter has one of the best aesthetics of any game ever. It’s muted pastels and declining environments mix perfectly with the sense of dread found in the music, menus and the main character. You are dying and so is the world around you, giving weight to the aggression and sense of urgency needed to succeed in the game’s combat.
Like a musical instrument, Hyper Light Drifter’s combat options give players a way to express themselves while staying in the limitations of what they’re given. Movement plays a huge roll in this, featuring a dash whose style is a defining feature of every aspect of combat and essentially the entire game. Hyper Light Drifter won’t be for everyone, but for me it was the best solitary experience in games I had all year.
We have all had those moments in life where we feel stuck in a rut and need a change to something new. Stardew Valley at it’s heart is about that concept in both story and gameplay. Players leave their corporate jobs to invest in a new life and a community that is hoping to invest in them. Build a farm, be an adventurer, or settle down and raise a family, Stardew Valley allows you to do all of it or none of it depending on how you want to engage with the world around you.
Often farm/life games tend to have a problem with not delivering short term goals to engage players to push for big milestones. Here each aspect of gameplay has little upgrades or story beats in the lead up to those milestones that help pull the player along, making them seem more obtainable. The community in which you play is filled with interesting characters to develop relationships with, but if you never want to talk to them you don’t have to.
Stardew Valley also lends itself to being a great talking piece amongst those who have played it. I learned a lot about what is possible in the game by talking with friends about how they ran their farm or who they got to know in town. If you have ever enjoyed a farming game, business simulation, or a visual novel and are looking for something a little different, you can’t go wrong with Stardew Valley.
It’s hard to talk about Pokemon, especially in a year that brought us Pokemon GO. But it seems rude not to at least highlight some of the improvements Sun and Moon brings to the table for a relapsed fan like myself. Getting into and understanding the series has never been easier, and that’s credit to the game and its UI explaining each pokemon and their moves better. Players also don’t need to get bogged down by needing to have a certain Pokemon to use moves to traverse through the world.
For me Sun and Moon also managed to gain back some of the goofiness I felt the series had lost. Your character never changes their expression, no matter what is going on and the other lead characters seemingly have no idea what is going on in the greater world around them. Pokedex descriptions are appropriately morbid, while characters from other games in the series come to visit the region just to see what the hell is going on.
The new starters and returning Pokemon’s alola forms are adorable and help make the Alola region distinct from the others. It seems that every new Pokemon release is the perfect time to hop back in if you have ever loved the series, but Sun and Moon is different and helpful enough that it is truly something worth exploring.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE was one of the biggest surprises for me last year. It’s essentially an anime about friendship, loyalty, and pop music that plays out through a JRPG. Its styling is amazing and is truly represented through every aspect of the game. It’s just a fun experience that saw friends being friends and lifting each other up in any way they could, something I needed throughout this year.
No knowledge of the Fire Emblem series is actually needed to play this game, but those familiar with the Persona series will feel right at home with its gameplay. The combat is great without requiring too much grinding, while also giving characters cool ways to back each other up with attacks. If you own a Wii U and are looking for something to play, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is probably your best bet.