Funke’s Top 5 Games of 2016

2016 felt like finding an old lamp, rubbing it, and then getting a really uncool genie. The kinda guy that just wasn’t trying to help you at all. Like if you wished that Pokémon was real he would grant your wish, but he’d only make that garbage Pokémon real. Basically, it was a year full of bad stuff which made a lot of people hate it. But under the shroud of unfortunate and horrible events that formed around 2016, there were a few really cool games.

The last year made me realize how dumb, heartfelt, and genuinely fun video games can be, and I’m happy for that. Each game on this list spoke to me in a way unlike any other game I’ve played. I can vividly remember times I had with them where I was majorly stressed out at a difficult challenge, laughing until i could feel my ribs hurt, or even crying along at some super sad parts.

Anyways, this is my list of the top 5 games of 2016.

5. Overwatch

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I’m not the biggest fan of first-person shooters. A lot of them are just too gritty and serious for me, or the experience is tied too closely to the player’s individual skill level. So I’ve kept my distance from the genre for a little while because I’m not trying to play a game that makes me feel bad for being bad. But in doing that, I’ve noticed that there is a certain thrill that comes with good first-person shooters, something you can’t get anywhere else.

It’s that oddly relieving feeling when you’re losing a match so devastatingly badly, that you should be disheartened, but it doesn’t even matter because you’re having fun. It’s the perpetual smile on your face while you’re playing a round with your friends. The sense of reward and accomplishment you get when you combine all of your strongest abilities with your team to win a game right at the last possible nanosecond. Overwatch has all of those feelings packed together with gorgeous maps and eccentric characters that manage to create a fresh and shiny shooter with a welcoming glow.

You don’t have to be good at shooters to play Overwatch and that’s what I love about it. The objective of each game mode is fairly straightforward and the hero pool is amazingly diverse, so diverse that it never lets you feel bored. Each match is different because you never know what characters you’re going to be playing with or against, and it becomes a battle of who can adapt the quickest. So many variables makes it practically endless fun.

Overwatch filled the bullet-hole in my heart in a way most first-person shooters couldn’t. If you’ve strayed away from shooters the past couple of years, definitely give this cartoon-y game a try.

4. Virginia

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I love video games that get people asking “Is this even a game?” Which is exactly what Virginia does. It takes notes on composition, suspense, and plot from shows like The X-Files and Twin Peaks and blends them together to make a profoundly personal story.

The narrative is so strong in Virginia, and not one word is spoken the entire time. It’s all told through characters’ facial gestures, symbolism, and little things in the environment. You play as an FBI agent who has to solve a mystery about a missing boy. Sounds easy, right? But it turns into a a situation that’s morally and supernaturally twisted.

All in all, Virginia’s story is mystic and confounding – yet it works. It’s unapologetically linear, and forces the player to watch as the story unravels around them. It gives the player a sort of “narrative leash” that’s just long enough the player doesn’t feel restricted while exploring the mysterious town. The bare minimum of interaction you get is cool and movie-like. The unknown motives and unusual metaphors had me scratching my head for a good chunk of the game. I don’t even know entirely what happened with the ending, but that’s actually fine. It was a great journey, and it’s a game I’ll be thinking about for a while.

Virginia’s many perplexing aspects may be up for interpretation, but it’s a fact that Virginia is a high quality experience. It combines the cinematography of a short film with the intimacy of playing a video game to create an original, yet familiar experience everyone should have.

3. Hyper Light Drifter

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I never got the hype with the Dark Souls games, probably because I like having fun when I play something. They’re so grueling and mentally taxing to play, and I’ve tried to get into them so many times. It just doesn’t click with me. A lot of people just say something like “git gud” after I tell them that, but I’ve tried, my man. I have tried. From Bloodborne to Dark Souls 3, I just couldn’t do it. I honestly don’t believe that games need to be that difficult to be satisfying. Hyper Light Drifter proves my point, and it’s the antidote to everything I dislike about Dark Souls.

Hyper Light Drifter‘s motif is so unique. It’s the only time I’ve seen pixel art used in a dark, yet vibrant way. From the moment you start the game, you can see that there is a specific aesthetic that developer Heart Machine planned out for it. And it works super well. Everything is so crisp and refined, and combined with an original soundtrack that perfectly matches the vibe makes it a great world to get lost in.

There are a few basic mechanics in the game, and it’s easy to understand, but it takes time to master. You have a gun, a sword, and you can dash. You also have the option to upgrade each of those abilities, but you have to find a lot of collectibles in-game to do so.

Hyper Light Drifter forces you to learn the intricacies of its combat while pushing you to the limit. It also does it in a way that doesn’t make you feel like you’re getting cyber-bullied by a video game. It’s gorgeous, and I recommend this if you want a challenge but you don’t like that morbid vibe of Dark Souls.

2. Overcooked

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I picked this game up on a rainy day while my girlfriend and I were looking for a fun co-op game to play. We found Overcooked and expected to kill a couple of hours with it, but we didn’t know it was gonna consume our whole weekend. The game uses very simple mechanics to make you and your friends stressed to the maximum.

Overcooked is couch co-op only. There is a single-player mode too, but that’s not where the heart and soul of Overcooked lies. The crux of the game is that you’re in a room with your friends yelling orders at each other. It feels like you’re simultaneously on every cooking TV show at once, and all of your friends are the judges.

There are orders at the top of the screen and you and your team of cooks have to cook and serve them with lightning-fast speed. It’s not that hard to complete each level, but the thing that kept me coming back was the gold stars. You’re awarded up to 3 upon the completion of a level, and your “star level” is decided by how many orders you deliver and how fast you deliver them.

The animation style is very charming and the game is easy to pick up and jump into. There’s a bunch of quirky characters to pick from and each map you play on is really different. You have to change your strategy and synergize with your friends’ playstyles if you want to get those ever-so rewarding 3 golden stars.

There aren’t many couch co-op games these days so if you’ve missed playing games in the same room as your friends, Overcooked is a must-buy. It’s a fast-paced, team-building, and friendship destroying game that brings out the Gordon Ramsey in everyone.

1. Oxenfree

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When I told my friend I was playing Oxenfree he called it “walking with your brother simulator.” After beating it, I realized he wasn’t wrong, but it’s also so much more than that.

A quick rundown of the plot is that you go on a teen camping trip that goes supernaturally wrong, and the only way you can fix it is by using a radio. It’s a game that’s best if you go in without knowing anything about it, so I’ll be careful in my praise to make sure I don’t spoil it.

In a way, this is another game like Virginia in the sense that it stretches the boundaries of gaming. It’s all about the relationships, dialogue, and narrative – my favorite aspects of video games. There are some light puzzle mechanics, but nothing too challenging. It really hinges on your decisions and you get to see the story that matters specifically to you. It’s personal and emotional, and a lot of that is due to the superb writing and voice acting. It sounds like how teens talk, which is odd because most of the time in games teen dialogue sounds like what it actually is: a bunch of 30 year old dudes trying to sound like teens. But it’s believable in Oxenfree, and it positively adds to the emotional impact it has on you.

The art style is interdisciplinary and uses a lot of different techniques to make Oxenfree look as special as it does. The top-notch synth tunes of the soundtrack add to the whole eerie atmosphere that this game has. It’s just a game that you wanna keep playing, and every aspect of it keeps sucking me back into it’s world.

There are also tons of different endings depending on your interactions and it makes me want to keep playing it until I get each and every one. The collectibles add to the lore in a way that isn’t tacky or forced. You can choose to access them, or just walk right by them without consequence — something a lot of games should learn from. I’m not a completionist, but Oxenfree is so rich with content that I want to understand it more than I usually would for a game.

If you want a well-crafted, creative, and weirdly realistic experience about teens that doesn’t make you cringe, play Oxenfree. You won’t regret it.

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