2016 brought about a huge change for me, namely the introduction of a PS4 into my life, opening up a brave new world of video games. It was an exceptional year for games, with great game after great game being released and not nearly enough time to play them all. Amidst everything else going on in 2016, I poured hundreds of hours, and found solace in a handful of incredible games.
Here are my 5 favorite games of 2016.
Honorable mentions: Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, Fire Emblem Fates, Gravity Rush Remastered
Incredible, old games that I played in 2016: Bloodborne, Final Fantasy XIV
5. Hyper Light Drifter (Heart Machine)
Drawing inspiration from series such as The Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls, Hyper Light Drifter manages to establish its own distinct vibe, specifically through its pixelated art style, which stands apart thanks to its bright yet stark color palette, as well as its ambient, dystopic soundtrack.
The quick, fluid combat is complemented by a variety of ways to customize your character’s weapon set, allowing you to approach each encounter with different strategies. Even with this impressive arsenal, however, the open-ended nature of the game, as well as the feeling of loneliness that pervades the text-less world of Hyper Light Drifter, creates this sense of overwhelming that makes it exciting to overcome.
4. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Atlus)
Combining two of my favorite series, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE whips up a perfect storm of ideas, marrying the characters of Fire Emblem with the combat found in recent Persona games. While the characters you meet aren’t necessarily all that complex, joining the cast in their rise to stardom in the Japanese entertainment industry is a set-up we rarely see in video games.
From the new designs of familiar Fire Emblem heroes, like Marth and Tharja, to the burst of color that comes with each successful session attack in battle, TMS#FE offers a stylish experience that’s unique, not only to the Wii U, but really to anything this generation and acts as a solid warm-up for the highly anticipated Persona 5 in April.
3. Pokémon Sun & Moon (Game Freak)
The 7th generation of Pokémon brings about very purposeful changes, such as the exclusion of HMs and gyms, and succeeds in making a 20 year-old franchise feel fresh, even for someone, like me, who has been around for every single generation.
The Alola region feels much more realized than Kalos did, from the tropical music to the vibrant locales, and the creature creativity continues shine through as fan favorite Pokémon like Rowlet and Mimikyu are introduced into the pantheon. More than anything though, I think Sun & Moon nails the sense of camaraderie that forms between you, Lillie, Hau, and Gladion, as you explore the cozy islands of Alola.
2. Overwatch (Blizzard)
Unlike many of my friends, I grew up without a gaming PC nor an Xbox, which meant that first-person shooters were nary to be found within my video game library. I thought I’d never get into an FPS, but Overwatch is a game that allows players with all sorts of video game backgrounds to easily pick it up, learn its characters and mechanics, and have a good time.
Every single character not only has wildly different personalities and designs, but each possesses skills that are so unique, it actually feels like each hero is pulled from his or her own game (not unlike Super Smash Bros.). Despite being multiplayer only, Overwatch is so well-designed and is so dynamic within each match, that it never, ever gets old.
1. Final Fantasy XV (Square Enix)
A complicated game will breed complicated thoughts. Yet in the end, past the troubled development and all of the what-ifs, Final Fantasy XV brought me on an adventure unlike any I had experienced before. The cast, particularly the four heroes, feel wonderfully real from their moments of annoyance to their moments of triumph. The music, by veritable goddess Yoko Shimomura, paints the whimsical, wide world of Eos with its dreamlike radiance. And, despite the learning curve that comes with being effective in combat, it’s simply fun running around and exploring the world, warp-striking the unsuspecting beasts that inhabit it.
Thinking about the rough edges that surround Final Fantasy XV, I was initially going to pick Overwatch as my Game of the Year, but the more I thought about which game meant more to me, it quickly became clear that I would easily trade the 100 or so hours I’ve put into Overwatch this year just to ride along side Noctis, in his journey to reclaim the throne, once more.