The best video games of 2016

Looking back at a fine year in gaming, with 10 superb titles and why they’re worth your attention.

Virginia (Variable State)

Virginia (Variable State)

The year has been an absolute travesty in almost every single way. But thankfully, gaming has been one form of entertainment that has given us our sanity, either letting us explore mythical worlds in games like Unravel, or vent our political anger in shooters such as Overwatch. Here are my ten favourite games of the year.

10. Devil Daggers

(Sorath, PC)

(Sorath, PC)

Arena shooters were the necessary evil of 90s gaming. Hardly any stand up by today’s standards but they ushered in the frantic action we’re able to enjoy today in the more imaginative worlds of HaloTitanfall and others. Devil Daggers strips down all the clutter of a modern shooter and gives us an endless first person action game. Your goal is simply to survive as long as possible on a platform, shooting daggers from your hand and avoid hellish monsters from every direction. It’s an achievement in brutal, low-fi gaming artistry.

9. Bound

(Plastic, PS4)

(Plastic, PS4)

Who would have thought ballet dancing through an abstract world would make for not only a unique but a good game too? The striking colours contrast wonderfully with the juggling environment, whilst the haunting music made this an all too real experience. The game oozes style, leaving us with one of the most original looking games ever made. As for whether the game does anything meaningful beyond looking great is entirely up to you, which is part of its achievement and the complexities of video games being an emotional medium.

8. Dark Souls III

(FromSoftware, PC, PS4, XBONE)

(FromSoftware, PC, PS4, XBONE)

Sometimes I don’t understand Dark Souls. It’s hard to fathom how creator Hidetaka Miyazaki and developer FromSoftware have been able to stretch this modern series so successfully. Yet, what roots Dark Souls to have such a following is a throwback to the little gamer inside of us wanting “just one more turn” as the difficulty can be as brutal as the game’s grimy atmosphere.

7. Virginia

(Variable State, PC, PS4, XBONE)

(Variable State, PC, PS4, XBONE)

As newbie FBI special agent Anne Tarver, we follow the story of her first case investigating the whereabouts of a missing boy in rural Virginia. And we absorb this story without any characters uttering a single word. This compelling game is much more nuanced than Firewatch, with Anne’s hallucinations and dreams clearly taking place in a universe neighbouring that of cult TV series Twin Peaks. This mixture of dreams and reality kept me wanting to know more about Anne and the stories of the characters around her. David Lynch would be proud.

6. The Witness

(Thekla Inc, PC, PS4, XBONE)

(Thekla Inc, PC, PS4, XBONE)

The frustrations and dopamine-highs we all experience with our games are condensed to their fundamental powers in this year’s best puzzle game. Onlookers say it’s just a series of line puzzles increasing in obscurity as you progress. But the game’s genius is teaching you how to play through deciphering puzzles and taking notice of the environment around you.

5. Rez Infinite

(Enhance Games, PS4)

(Enhance Games, PS4)

Is it a painful joke that the best VR game is a remastered version of a game released 15 years ago? The beauty and perfection of Rez lies in the fact it could never go out of fashion, each play through feeling new and unique. Tetsuya Mizuguchi remains the primary innovator in melting sounds and music with gameplay. Rez Infinite is a display of what it means to enhance a true timeless classic.

4. Abzû

(Giant Squid, PC, PS4, XBONE)

(Giant Squid, PC, PS4, XBONE)

Giant Squid, the team behind Journey and Flower, have followed through with another incredibly satisfying title. Abzû is a very similar, solitary experience but this time through the depths of the sea. However, you’re never alone thanks to the bustling, colourful wildlife found on our blue planet. It’s rare for a game to show the true marvels of our world but the unique plunge taken by Giant Squid makes Abzû more valuable than others. Besides, it’s quieter underwater.

3. Oxenfree

(Night School Studio, PC, PS4, XBONE)

(Night School Studio, PC, PS4, XBONE)

My biggest annoyances with shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and Gilmore Girls (however enjoyable they may be) is people don’t talk like that. At all. And in a year with 80s throwback Stranger Things dominating Netflix, the similarly supernatural Oxenfree proves it’s possible to tell an engrossing story featuring young, smart and articulate characters. And it’s the flow of conversation, choosing how to react to changing situations that kept me hooked during the story. Oxenfree might be a very mysterious adventure game, but Alex and her friends are all too real.

2. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

(Naughty Dog, PS4)

(Naughty Dog, PS4)

The Uncharted series was arguably Sony’s crown jewel during the last console generation. This fourth and final encounter concludes the story of explorer Nathan Drake with kinetic action and a much bigger playground for his antics. It’s the classic story of a character returning for “one last job” which should never work yet it does here, proving once again the value of excellent gameplay mechanics. Naughty Dog have rarely faltered over the years and Uncharted 4 is a perfect demonstration of this.

1. The Last Guardian

(genDESIGN, SIE Japan Studio, PS4)

(genDESIGN, SIE Japan Studio, PS4)

The aim of the game is to help a young boy escape an abandoned city filled with crumbling infrastructure, with the help of a winged mammal named Trico. The story is told through a narrated flashback, furthering its timeless quality. Following Ico and Shadow of the Colossus was going to be an (almost) impossible task but genDESIGN and Fumito Ueda have managed to make a trilogy of some of the best games ever made. The storytelling is of the highest order, making Guardian the most rewarding game of the year.

Noteworthy titles:

  • Hyper Light Drifter (PC, PS4, XBONE)
  • Firewatch (PC, PS4, XBONE)
  • Inside (PC, PS4, XBONE)
  • Kentucky Route Zero Act IV (PC)
  • Stephen’s Sausage Roll (PC)
  • Overcooked (PC, PS4, XBONE)
  • Pokémon Go (iOS, Android)
  • Klaus (PS4)
  • Overwatch (PC, PS4, XBONE)
  • Hitman (PC, PS4, XBONE)
  • That Dragon, Cancer (PC, iOS)