Tom’s Favorite Games of 2016

Tom’s Favorite Games of 2016

It’s that time again! The holidays are over, the new year has begun, and it’s once again time to look back at our favorite games of the year. Usually we’re supposed to write about our favorite five or so games here, but because I played so much and am awful at following directions, here’s my ten favorite games of 2016.

10. Overwatch

Overwatch is remarkable for making me care about a multiplayer-only online competitive shooter for the first time since Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. For the better part of a decade I couldn’t have cared less about this type of game, and more character-specific team shooters like Team Fortress 2, Evolve and Left 4 Dead never really appealed to me much. Overwatch, though, hooked me like nothing else.

I quickly found myself interested in learning the different play styles of the varying heroes and figuring out what team builds and strategies worked best, and had fun, even when doing it, which is a credit to the game’s choice of only showing you how you compare to yourself, rather than comparing you to everyone else. It’s a smart, fun, and incredibly deep game that I really do foresee myself going back to a lot over the next year.

9. Firewatch

It’s really easy to mess up a narrative-focused gaming experience, but Firewatch succeeded in making one of the best to date. The game’s ability to depict a character’s sense of guilt, depression, and growing paranoia while alone in the wilderness is amazing to experience. The writing is sharp, and despite the gameplay being threadbare, I was so into it that I finished it in a single sitting.

All of that’s not even to touch on the look of it, which, I’ll be up front with it: I love Olly Moss. As I write this, I’m sitting between two framed screen prints of his. I never would have imagined that his art style would translate to a video game, but boy howdy, did it ever. Firewatch is one of the most beautiful games I’ve seen in a long time. As time of day and environmental conditions change, so does the world, and not just in lighting, but things switch to whole other color palettes. It’s a real sight to behold.

8. Final Fantasy XV

Best Cup Noodle advertisement of 2016, hands down.

As far as I was concerned when Final Fantasy XV finally released, it had everything working against it. I’m more of a Final Fantasy purist, I guess? The sixth and ninth entries are far and away my favorites in the franchise, and I’m not at all a fan of the spiky hair and zipper-covered costumes that the series has become synonymous with in the last 20 years of so. In all honesty, I haven’t actually finished a Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy X in 2001. I fully expected to pick it up, play for an hour, and never think about it again, which wasn’t the case at all.

I finished Final Fantasy XV. I never thought I would, but I spent about two weeks of near sleepless nights grinding away and doing countless hunts and fetch quests with Prince Noctis and his merry band of lovable idiots on their bachelor party gone terribly wrong, and when I finished, I went right back in for the optional dungeons. It definitely falls apart in the back third, story-wise, but it was so fun and light I honestly didn’t care.

7.  Oxenfree

Half young adult, shitty teen drama fiction, half creepy, dimension-spanning ghost story, I’m all about what Oxenfree is putting down. Everything jives together incredibly well. The teens feel real and shitty in all the right ways, and the ghosts are effectively spooky. If you like adventure games even a little bit, definitely give it a look. If you’ve grown tired of the Telltale Games formula, even better.



SUPERHOT is fucking radical. There’s no real good way to describe the rush and badass feeling you get when, in a matter of seconds, you have a room of dudes rushing at you, so you grab a bottle, throw it at one of them, he shudders, drops his gun, you pick it up, kill three dudes with it, throw the empty gun at another guy and punch him to death while all of them shatter and fall to pieces on the floor upon death. It’s smart, it’s well designed, and it’s stylish as fuck.


5. Watch_Dogs 2

Watch_Dogs was a hot mess with some neat ideas. Watch_Dogs 2 improves on that foundation in almost every way. From the implementation of its systems, to the scale and feel of its world, to the characterization of its cast, everything is just a joy to experience. They even manage to make a dude with an emoji mask, who seemed cringe-worthy pre-release, be one of my favorite parts of the whole thing and one of my favorite new characters this year. The writing and interplay between the characters is great, and I was legitimately bummed out when I wrapped the story.

4.  DOOM

DOOM is remarkable. The game somehow manages to avoid being a rehash and pure nostalgia trip for the source material and is all the better for it. It’s not overly-referential and doesn’t feel like the developers are nudging you and saying “Hey! Remember this from old DOOM? Please say yes.”

Instead, the game manages to evoke the feeling of DOOM. There’s no regenerating health, overshields, iron sights, fall damage or other modern characteristics of the genre, so one would think it would come off feeling clunky, hokey, or dated. Instead, iD manages to craft a tight, fast, incredibly well executed first-person experience with sharp, precise controls and intense combat worthy of that DOOM legacy. They even managed to wrap a story about it that is so dumb in all of the best ways that I honestly can’t wait to see what’s next.


I wasn’t as bothered by Hitman: Absolution as much as some people were, and I sure as hell didn’t hate it. However, there was no denying that it was a departure from what the series was, and I was a bit concerned about where it was headed. When HITMAN was announced, I was skeptical, sure. The messaging was weird, they changed their release strategy and issued refunds, which was more than a little off-putting. Once that first episode came out, though, I was completely on board.

HITMAN is everything I would ever want from a modern iteration of that game. The levels are intricate, detailed, and endlessly fascinating puzzles and marvels of modern game design. The different ways you can take out your targets, the incredibly strange and convoluted, at times cartoonish scenarios you can lure people into if you’re willing to put the work in is equal parts baffling and incredible, and I’ve taken my time to revisit all of the game’s locations to complete the challenges and increase my mastery, which isn’t something I really do with games. HITMAN, though, is something special.

2. Titanfall 2

I can honestly say without a drop of irony that Titanfall 2 has the best first-person shooter campaign that I have played in the better part of a decade. The campaign, which I don’t think anyone really expected anything from, is crafted and presented in an almost Valve-like way. The entire thing is just them throwing a bunch of crazy, interesting ideas at you just long enough to get a taste, and then throwing the concept away and moving on to the next thing, and has some of the coolest sequences I’ve played in a game of its type in a long time, and it sees a sense of speed and fluidity of motion that isn’t seen much and is a great inclusion.

1. Stardew Valley

I’ve probably spent more time with Stardew Valley than I have with any other game in 2016. For months it was my go-to game to decompress with after a long work day. I’d regularly dip in with the mentality of “Oh I’ll just play one or two days before I go to bed” and next thing I knew it was 3AM and I don’t regret a second of it. New developer Concerned Ape managed to take the old and tired Harvest Moon formula, injected a bit of animal crossing and made my absolute favorite game of 2016. It works on both PC and Mac, and as of December it’s also on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 as well as Vita, so if you haven’t checked it out yet, you really have no excuse.