A top five games list is never an easy undertaking. Games are inherently very personal and what may affect one person, or speak to them, may be completely lost on another. Controversy and disagreements are expected, however, it is all in good fun, so try not to roast me over the coals immediately! 2016 was in many ways a bounce-back year for indie games; after a fairly pedestrian 2015, several indie games brought innovation and substance that really made an impression over some of the more talked about AAA games. With that said, time to get rolling and dive in deep, get that hate mail ready, it’s best of the year time!
Inside is a deceptive game. On the surface it can seem almost like a platforming puzzle game, which would absolutely short sell the game. Much like Limbo, the atmosphere and mood is where it stands above other games. The aesthetics of the game take what would be a rather ordinary style and gives it depth. Those looking for a more traditional game will probably have a little trouble overlooking the more obtuse storytelling style, but if you can allow yourself to embrace the ride, it truly is a masterful achievement. The journey of Inside is fantastic, mixed with clean, simple controls that ask you to come along with it as it reaches its final, rather impressive final twist.
4. The Witness
I thought long and hard about including The Witness on this list, not because it lacked the qualities, but because it felt almost like a dream I even played it. A combination of truly challenging and at times frustrating puzzles and some of the most beautiful environments in a game I have experienced left me in a sort of ethereal mood while playing it. The game itself starts itself as a standard puzzle style game until it becomes apparent that you must gain knowledge, of the island and the puzzles themselves, to further unwrap the mysteries of the game. This sleight of hand plays out wonderfully as the game just opens up the more you play it to the point that upon completion you feel a loss, that the experience is over, and that you can’t go back with fresh eyes to unravel it all again.
3. Final Fantasy XV
Following the adventures of Noctis and his
boy band companions, the game feels like a departure from the often European feel of the series. Driving for long stretches and staying in trailers, or hanging out at greasy diners felt very American. The feel of the environment is echoed as the game itself feels much more of a mix between Eastern and Western RPGs which was a big risk to take, but one that paid off as this entry really stood apart from other games in the series. This pick is absolutely tainted by my love of the series.
Final Fantasy XV is not a perfect game, and at a lot of points felt lacking and disjointed compared to other more polished games in both the series and the genre. That being said, after ten years and numerous delays, it felt wonderful to be back in a Final Fantasy game again. The tweaks to combat felt like a natural evolution for the series that has been living in past glories for so long it made you wonder if they were interested in changing too much of what made the series great to begin with. While the story felt disjointed and missing whole arcs, the end result was something satisfying that was not only bittersweet in the context of the game but also personally to feel like it was already over after such a long wait. Multiple DLC and post-game content feels earned now, we’ve experienced the story, now let’s live in the world for as long as it will have us.
How good does a gimmick have to be to land it this high on the list? Pretty damn good. Superhot is basically a game based around the gimmick that you must clear rooms of enemies where bullets and enemies only move when you do. Superhot takes this and turns it up a notch with the addition of choice, the choice not only on how to deal with each level or room, but also what risks to take. Do you go for a melee kill or go for a gun while dodging projectiles? Creating these branching options and threads gives multiple ways to solve problems without any push toward a “proper” answer. With the addition of SuperhotVR this game became a must own, adding an even more immersive element. The only drawback is that it feels far too short; you’ll be craving more in this world and with these controls, which hopefully means we will be getting more down the line to sate our appetites.
Overwatch is almost an afterthought on these type of lists. It works so well and is such a staple of gaming culture now that it feels like it has been around forever. Blizzard managed to make an online shooter not only fun for hardcore players but welcoming to those who have never before been interested or skillful enough to enjoy them. Launching something of that scale is lined with huge dangers that the developers managed to navigate skillfully. Launching with that much hype and delivering out of the gate is almost unheard of at this point. The weekly communication between developers and the community further strengthened the player base where it felt care and attention was being placed on player concerns for balance issues. The skyrocketing competitive scene of the game has only proved that Overwatch is one of the most enjoyable casual games in the market but also one of the top games around for eSports. It’s rare we can say a game is the complete package that nails every aspect of what an online multiplayer game should be, but it feels like Overwatch is as close as you can get to perfection.