This list is also my own personal top five, which might not be the same as your own top five, or even close to the top five chosen by other outlets. It would be boring if everyone’s were the same, and if your favourite game of the past year is absent from this article then just remember that it’s still
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac
Release Date: 19th of January
It might be bottom of the list, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be regarded as something special. Darkest Dungeon wasn’t just one of the best games of this past year, it’s also hands down one of the best games I’ve ever played. It had something of a rough time upon initial release with how it played, but some post-release love and support from developers, Red Hook, saw this game flourish like a terrifying, putrid eldritch flower.
Players take the role of heir to an eccentric, occultist, and dead-but-creepily-lingering ancestor that dabbled just a little too far into realms that mortal men should fear to tread. Now, as sole controller of his estate, the heir must fix up the decaying village that’s been left behind, and finish their ancestor’s work. This means hiring on a cavalcade of mercenaries that come pouring into the area, leading them on expeditions into the same places your ancestor frequented in search of treasure and heirlooms. Putting down the occasional unholy uprising from denizens of these locations is just part of the fun.
Gameplay is split between town management, keeping your mercenaries safe and sane, while tackling combat and exploration via a great spin on side-scrolling, and turn-based mechanics. Punishingly hard with rewarding gameplay for those that persevere, Darkest Dungeon will hold you down and strip away your sanity, piece by piece, in the most exquisite of fashions.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac
Release Date: 5th of February
One couldn’t have asked for a better sequel to XCOM: Enemy Unknown, itself a re-imagining of the XCOM games of old. I’m a sucker for turn-based strategy games of this style, and XCOM 2 is one of the best out there. I felt like a few issues were surrounding missing or absent plot threads left over from EU, however, these weren’t entirely vital to the plot of XCOM 2 and didn’t impact gameplay.
Following the events of EU, the aliens have transitioned from an invasion to a full-blown occupation. Far from eradicating or enslaving humanity, the aliens integrated themselves into Earth’s society, portraying themselves to be benevolent, and caring leaders to mankind. At least, that’s how it appears on the surface. On the fringes of the newly forged civilisation are the hold-outs that have seen the price of accepting their new alien overlords, and have declared, “we’re good, thanks.” Among them are the remnants of XCOM, now a resistance force rather than Earth’s last line of defence, who fight to discover the truth behind their apparently generous alien benefactors. Here’s a hint: It’s probably not good.
Firaxis did something with XCOM 2 that few developers do these days when creating a sequel, which is to say they didn’t try to fix something that wasn’t broken. Not a whole lot changed in combat design between the first and the second game. It uses the same style of turn-based strategy combat that the first game all but perfected while massaging the kinks and adding some QoL improvements. What did change was the base management side of things, simplifying the facilities construction, while making global expansion more flexible and rewarding. The difference in how you approached encounters, as opposed to the encounters themselves, was a smart decision that made this an easy pick for the top five of 2016.
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: 16th of July
I’m a big fan of Monster Hunter, and Generations delivered on the kind of gameplay I’ve come to love from the series in a big way. It was missing the drive of narrative that I really think made MH4U shine but what was lacking in a story was more than made up for in improved mechanics and overall design.
Much like XCOM 2, Monster Hunter doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel with every iteration, instead refining and building upon what worked in its previous entries. Generations introduced a set of new “hunter styles” and “hunter arts,” altering character stats and abilities to suit the various ways in which people already played. A number of mechanics were also adjusted to make playing easier, like collecting from resource points by holding the face buttons down instead of constantly mashing them. Collecting resources, which was kind of a chore in previous games, was made a whole lot easier with use of the newly added delivery palico, Prowler Mode, and the Meownster Hunters. Basically, palicos are much more than irritating pun-machines now.
Generations was also a love letter to the series as a whole, with lots of monsters, locales, characters, and challenges from previous games making a return. If you’re a fan of the series then it was hard not to love this game, and I was quite happy to sink a few hundred hours into it since it released. One can only hope that Monster Hunter Double Cross, this game’s version of “Ultimate,” makes its way to the west.
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: 29th of November
It might sound a tad pretentious but I love Final Fantasy XV less for what it was, and more for the potential in the FF series that it represents. Viewing the game as a whole, it’s easily described as a “flawed masterpiece.” Incredibly enthralling open-world gameplay, engaging real-time combat, excellent world design in general, and an intriguing but poorly executed narrative. Like, really poorly executed. I was so confused at the end, and not just because it was Final Fantasy.
There was a point during my time with the game where I basically stopped doing anything related to the story, buggering off into the wider world to hunt monsters, ride Chocobos, and hang with my in-game broskis. The game didn’t punish me for this, if anything it rewarded me in excess. I was so powerful that I blitzed through the rest of the main storyline in a little under ten hours. (For those not acquainted with the FF series in general, that’s what most might consider to be pretty quick.) To be honest, I was fine with that. While it may sound like a negative point against the game, I had way more fun with the open world than I did with the main plot anyway.
The four main characters of Noctis, Ignis, Gladio and Prompto, were very easy to love, not just as individuals but as a group. Their interactions and the genuinely heart-warming relationships between them made FFXV feel like so much more than hours upon hours of grinding. It shows that Square-Enix still have what it takes to pull a ground-breaking game together, and if they can do it again without the shackles of having to salvage a ten-year-old project then colour me excited.
Platform: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One
Release Date: 23rd of May
At the beginning of the year, I did not expect Overwatch to take the top spot. I had such high hopes for Battleborn to be my GOTY, and to say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. Overwatch filled the void that was left in my heart to the point where I play it pretty much daily at this stage.
It should be noted that I’ve never been one for online shooters, and was only really excited for Battleborn because it seemed like an online PvP version of Borderlands. When it was released, I felt like Overwatch had something of a similar shtick but I couldn’t have been more wrong. At its core, Overwatch is like a ‘roided up, decked out improvement of TF2’s FPS style. The different levels are so easy to become familiar with, and offer an edge to those that are willing to explore and experiment. While characters can be clearly grouped into different class areas, every one of them feels significantly different from one another, and mastering them takes more than just a couple of matches. There’s also so much background lore for players who are into that kind of thing (i.e. people like me), which has thus far been excellently written, and released without over-saturating things. I’ve never had so many feels about a robot before.
Blizzard should also be commended for the way that they’ve handled the online community. They spend a lot of time working on fixes and balances in response to criticisms or comments from players, constantly improving whatever they can. Players enjoy extra content like levels, characters, and events – for free – that have all been tested as thoroughly as the base game. Things haven’t been perfect, it can’t be said that Blizzard has been entirely faultless from the moment of release, this much is true. But to give credit where it’s due, they’ve done a stellar job considering that this is their first FPS, and an online PvP FPS at that.
Written by Patrick Waring