2016 was a pretty good year for video games. Unfortunately, I didn’t have nearly as much disposable income to buy games as I had in years past, and the end result is that a lot of the biggest games of the year, I haven’t played. I also, don’t own a PlayStation 4, so I haven’t played games like Uncharted 4 or The Last Guardian. But, I was still able to come up with a list of ten games that I played this year. It’s probably pretty different from most of the lists you’ve seen on other sites.
Before I get started though, I’d like to list three honorable mentions. All three are games that I played a lot of in 2016, but actually came out in other years.
Easily, the game that I need to bring up the most is Xenoblade Chronicles X. If you read this blog regularly, then you know that I wrote a whole series about my experiences playing this game. I’m not going to spend too much of your time gushing about what makes that game great, since you can find that elsewhere on the blog, but Xenoblade Chronicles X is legitimately one of my favorite games of all time. If it had come out just one month later, it would have been my game of the year.
Xenoblade is a massive, open-world RPG with tons of side quests and hidden characters. In a lot of ways, it feels like a single player MMORPG. There’s so much to see and do in the game, that there’s almost no way that other people will have the same experience that I had with it. Even after finishing the main story, there’s so much more for me to do. I’m not the kind of person who usually gets too involved with side quests, but I really want to jump back into Xenoblade and see everything there is to see.
The next honorable mention is Rise of the Tomb Raider. I actually debated including this one on my main list, since its PC and PS4 releases were both in 2016. However, I ultimately decided that it made more sense to leave it off. The game did come in 2015, and I was even playing the Xbox One version.
Like the previous Tomb Raider, Rise is an action-adventure with open-world elements. You play through an action-packed story and level up Lara Croft throughout your journey, but there’s also side quests to pick up, and you can backtrack to ones that you’ve missed. While the game isn’t as unique as the first one, it’s a beautiful and fun experience that’s well worth your time.
And finally, I want to bring up Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Earlier this year, New Leaf received a massive update that added in new features, including Amiibo support. Tthe o my surprise, this resulted in me falling back into Animal Crossing in a big way. Suddenly I was playing every night, trying out Amiibos to see what kind of items they would give me, and earning tons of bells to maybe finally finish paying off my house. Animal Crossing is a great game, and I’m really glad that I was given a reason to jump back in.
Alright, it’s time for my ten favorite games of 2016
#10: Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go is not a great game. There’s very little actually going on in it, besides catching Pokemon. Sure, you can capture gyms for your team, but there’s not in real reason to do so. And as much fun as catching Pokemon is, the only goals are set by yourself. There is no “winning” Pokemon Go.
All that aside, however, I will never forget how amazing of a social experience Pokemon Go was at the start of its life. There were giant crowds hanging out downtown everyday. I’ll always remember the day that I was sitting in one of those crowds, and suddenly a wild Vaporeon appeared. Everyone went nuts. And later, a Muk showed up on the “nearby Pokemon” menu and everyone helped each other try to find it. The actual game is not very good, but playing it was an incredible and unique experience.
#9: Metroid Prime: Federation Force
Around the time Metroid Prime 2 came out, it really felt like Metroid was back and was here to stay. The first Prime was beloved and came out right around the same time as Metroid Fusion, an amazing new 2D Metroid game. I couldn’t imagine the series ever going dormant, and in fact, I wanted to see it expanded on. I had an idea for an action focused spinoff starring the Federation Troopers that were featured in Prime 2’s story. Well, it took way too many years, but that finally happened.
Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out exactly how I would have liked. Federation Force is not a bad game, but it’s average at best. I believe that the amount of hate thrown at the game is completely unwarranted, however, with the lack of mainline Metroid games lately, I can understand where it’s coming from. It’s a shame though, as there aren’t exactly a lot of co-op shooters on the 3DS, and Federation Force is a perfectly acceptable one. Not amazing, but much better than the internet would have you believe.
#8: Pac-Man Championship Edition 2
I haven’t had a ton of time to check out Pac-Man Championship Edition 2, but so far I’m really digging it. It’s considerably different from the original Championship Edition and CEDX. While it takes some getting used to the new style of play, once you get the hang of it, it’s unique and rewarding.
The basics are still the same. Run around a maze, eat the dots, watch out for ghosts. But, running into a ghost doesn’t automatically kill you. Instead, it makes them angry, at which point, then they are capable of killing you. They’re also picking up smaller ghosts, forming large trains. When you eat a power-pellet, you then get to eat tons of ghosts. Unlike CEDX, the ghost trains don’t line-up for you. When you eat that pellet, they run and are pretty tough to catch. Pac-Man CE2 is a really neat game that I plan on spending a lot more time with.
7. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
Twilight Princess was never my favorite Zelda, and this HD update doesn’t change that. It does make the game a lot better, however. I always felt that Twilight Princess’ style was too drab, especially following The Windwaker. In HD, the game looks much nicer. Everything really pops, and the characters, which once looked boring and too realistic, now feel more uniquely styled.
If you’ve only ever played the Wii version of Twilight Princess, this is worth picking up for the controls alone. Now, I don’t hate the motion controls as much as some people, but it’s really obvious that the game was originally intended to played with standard controls. The HD version also adds Amiibo support, which while it isn’t anything special, does allow for a pretty cool challenge dungeon and some cheats.
#6: Star Fox Zero
Star Fox Zero was the first modern game that I wrote a review for on this blog, and my feelings for it are unchanged. It’s a fantastic game that absolutely holds up compared to Star Fox 64. The controls, while challenging at first, actually lead to being able to pull off some pretty cool techniques once you get the hang of them.
The big issue with Star Fox Zero is its price. A game with the same scope as Star Fox 64 simply doesn’t make sense in 2016. I didn’t hold that against the game when I made this list however. The game is outstanding and needed to be represented. But I can understand why someone would choose not to buy it or feel cheated if they did. The game really should have been a $20 downloadable title.
#5: Pocket Card Jockey
Here’s a game that genuinely surprised me. Pocket Card Jockey seemingly came out of nowhere and had a concept unlike anything I had ever heard before. You’re a jockey, who gets killed, but is brought back by an angel. Now, you try to make a name for yourself by winning horse races. And how do you do that? By playing solitaire, of course!
Pocket Card Jockey was the time-waster that I kept coming back to this year. It’s weird concept and easy to pick up and put down gameplay made it stand out among the smaller portable titles. My one big gripe with the game is that you occasionally will end up in races that there just doesn’t seem to be any way to win. Either you get dealt unlucky hands or your horse stats simply aren’t up to snuff. This can be incredibly frustrating. Thankfully, races are over quickly, and after you’ve had a bad once, it can be easy to bounce back next time.
#4: Pokemon Sun and Moon
I love the Pokemon games, but they’ve become pretty repetitious. You start at home, catch some monsters, win some gym battles, beat the bad guys, and catch the legendary Pokemon. Sun and Moon doesn’t completely shed that away, but it does try to mix things up a bit. Gyms are gone, replaced by trials. These can be very different activities, like spotting differences in photos or taking pictures of ghosts in a haunted supermarket.
Unfortunately, the scope of the game feels much smaller than past games. This may be due to there always being a marker on your map to make sure you always know exactly where you’re headed. This was pretty nice when I would come back from a long break of having not played the game, but most of the time it was more annoying than helpful. But, that’s not enough to stop me from recommending the game. It’s super fun and more than worthy of the Pokemon legacy.
#3: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
Like Xenoblade Chronicles X, this is another game that I’ve already talked about in great detail on the blog. In recent years, I’ve had something of a falling out with the JRPG genre. They all felt so samey and generic. And then along comes Tokyo Mirage Sessions, a bright and colorful game that takes place in modern-day Japan and follows the story of pop stars trying to save the world from an otherworldly threat.
I know that the Persona series did a lot of these concepts first, and a lot of people would say better. I haven’t actually played those games, a side effect of my unwillingness to give JRPGs another shot. But Tokyo Mirage Sessions upbeat attitude and catchy music were more than enough to keep me going. It’s also profoundly stupid, but in a way I can totally get behind. Not every game needs to be serious. Sometimes, it’s nice to play one where a grown man dresses up in a dog costume for a music video.
#2: Final Fantasy XV
The Final Fantasy series has been in kind of a rough spot lately. Final Fantasy XIII, despite being a game that I enjoyed, is not well liked among fans. It was extremely linear and it’s story was not very interesting. Following that, Final Fantasy XIV had an absolutely disastrous launch. Thankfully, it’s mostly recovered from it, but it’s been easy to not have any faith in the sereis. Thankfully, Final Fantasy XV is amazing.
Like Xenoblade Chronicles X, FFXV went with an open-world style. While technically a new concept for the Final Fantasy series, it actually helps the game feel more like the classic games in the series. Up until X, the games had large overworlds. While these were mostly used just to get from one place to the next, it offered up a bigger sense of scale and the possibility for exploration. XV brings that back in a big way. I know people who spent more time than I did playing through the story just taking care of side quests along the way.
The game isn’t perfect, however. Unfortunately, it’s story is a bit of a mess. Unlike XIII, there is a good story hidden in there somewhere. The problem is that it isn’t told very well. I’m hopeful that the new cutscenes that Square-Enix has said are coming will do a lot to fix that. As it stands, I don’t think that’s enough to deter anyone from playing. It’s a great game that both fans of the previous games and newcomers should check out.
Doom had everything going against it. It had a long development cycle, which caused a lot of people to lose faith in it. On top of that, there was an extremely underwhelming multiplayer beta. And as the final kicker, Bethesda didn’t send out review copies until the day before release, a sign that usually signifies that the game is bad and the publisher knows it.
Surprisingly, Doom has the best first-person shooter campaign I’ve ever played. It’s fast paced and gory, but still requires skill. You can’t just go in shooting every which way and expect to come out alright. Every gun has an upgrade path, allowing you to customize the weapons that you like using the most. I stuck with the shotgun for most of the game, and maxed out its upgrades as early as possible.
While the game is very much focused on being a great gameplay experience, id still took the time to make a good story around it. It’s surprisingly funny, casting the “Doom Guy”, now called the “Doom Slayer” as this huge jerk who just wants to kill every demon he comes across. He doesn’t have time to slow down and take instructions, he just needs to keep moving and keep blowing faces off.
As I said at the beginning of this post, I didn’t have a ton of spending money this year, and decided to take a chance with Doom because I liked what I saw at Bethesda’s E3 conference in 2015. I’m really glad I did, because Doom is far and away the best game I played that released in 2016.
And that’s my list. What were your guys’ favorite games? Did I miss out by not playing Overwatch and Hitman? Let me know in the comments. I look forward to playing and writing about more games this year, and I hope you look forward to reading what I have to say.