This was year was an “interesting” time to be alive. For better or worse, 2016 will go down in the history books as a year where the improbable happened. The gaming universe was no exception. If I told you a year ago that Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian would come out within a week of each other you would call me crazy, yet here we are. Although I haven’t played everything, I was able to power through some good games during the ups and downs of the year.
If there was a “Best Hidden Gem of the Year” award, I feel Oxenfree would score an easy win. It’s a tale of teenagers on a spooky island who have a radio that can interact with spirits. It’s like one of the modern Scooby-Doo cartoons that doesn’t suck, and I mean that in the best way possible. While the gameplay is simple, it manages to tell a compelling campfire story that keeps your curiosity fully piqued until the end. Throw in a misty watercolor art style and little choices with huge impact, and you have one of my favorite games of the year.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Demo)
All right hear me out. There were a lot of games I didn’t get to play or finish before writing this list, but this isn’t a cop-out entry. (Low key it completely is) I got to play the demo earlier this year at E3 and I’ve been geeked ever since. Every new trailer makes me think back to my short-lived time with Breath of the Wild. How running around doing virtually nothing, and cooking a stew was better than most games I played this year. Not better then the next games on the list though.
3. Pokémon Sun/Moon
As a certified Pokémon master, this is my most played game of the year despite it only coming out in November. I completed my Pokédex and logged in 150 plus hours so far, but that’s not important. What is important is the fact we have a core Pokémon game that broke away from the traditional formula, and it worked out surprisingly well. I was finally able to customize a trainer who looked like me, if I have cornrows, and that feeling of seeing a Pokémon I never seen before was euphoric. Showing you can mix things up without changing the things that make Pokémon great and mysterious.
2. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
I honestly didn’t think Uncharted 4 could live up to the hype, but I’m human so I’m allowed to be wrong from time to time. It took everything I liked about the series and only a few things I hated. The story went beyond excellent, and for the first time in the series, the characters felt grounded and real. The sense of purpose was relatable, the vistas were breathtaking throughout, and the gunplay was an afterthought. I hate taking the easy road and picking the obvious AAA heavy weight, but hey it’s Nathan Drake. And you literally play Crash Bandicoot as Nathan Drake playing Crash Bandicoot on a PlayStation. If this game had a grappling hook I probably say it was better than Pokémon … I’ll let that sink in. (Uncharted 4 has a grappling hook)
Honorable mentions (aka games that would probably be number one or two if I beat them already.)
Dishonored 2– Played a bit, but I want to beat the original first.
Final Fantasy XV– It would have either made the list or just let me down.
Mirrors Edge: Catalyst– Everybody refuses to put respect on its name.
1. Watch Dogs 2
Ubisoft created something special with this original tech playground. Watch Dogs 2 delivers a diverse gaming experience that’s fun and inventive. When I say diverse I mean a game that deals with social issues of color and class in the modern era. The fact that I am black, or a person of color for you politically correct folk out there, really made this game hit home for me. (Italicized mini rant below feel free to skip it)
Man Watch Dogs 2 was on point about facial recognition for all us dark people out here. I know fair skin may be the template, but there is no way you can tell me they can’t fix that. We have cars that can self parallel park, spacecrafts that can navigate through the DARK void of space, and hover boards that don’t hover. Yet you can’t make something to recognize my face? You can miss me with that nonsense.
Even without the socially aware story, there was much to enjoy in sunny San Francisco. The fact that you could hack anything from computers to cars stuck in traffic just made it sweeter.