This list is in a strange order. I’ve had a lot of thoughts about gaming this year, and wanted to express why I chose the best games of 2016. Hopefully it’s still readable and interesting.
Not Considered: Final Fantasy XV
I haven’t played Final Fantasy XV yet. This is the first entry in the entire series that I haven’t picked up on release day since 1994. The demo left a bad impression on me. I’m honestly not a huge fan of the “4 dudes wearing black” character designs, nor the road trip stuff. I know I’ll break down at some point and play it, but it wasn’t considered for this list.
I played a decent amount of Overwatch when it first came out. The game is fantastic, and it’s easily the most fun I’ve had playing a first person shooter since GoldenEye in my dorm room on the N64. Don’t get me wrong; I loved Destiny, but Overwatch is more dense with fun.
Blizzard has done an incredible job of using UX and Game Design to inspire teamwork, which is something game companies have had trouble doing for decades. I believe that objectively, Overwatch is probably the best game of 2016. However, it wasn’t my favorite game of the year.
Aside: My Changing Gaming Habits
These lists are never objective. They are based entirely on my opinion, and my gaming desires and habits this year did not fit Overwatch’s fast-paced, 100% attention span required, hardcore PvP roots.
Lately, I’ve preferred playing games that allow me to multi-task. Sometimes this means streaming on Twitch and being able to interact with my viewers. Perhaps I’m listening to music or watching videos on my second monitor. Occasionally I want a single player game that I can pause and resume whenever I feel like it. Sometimes this means I’ll choose a PC title over a console one more often.
Aside: A Filthy Casual
I’ve been a gamer since I could hold a controller. My dad and I played Atari together when I was single-digit age. The Nintendo and Super Nintendo shaped much of my childhood. My Bachelor’s Degree is in Game Art & Design, for heaven’s sake! All that being said, I can’t consider myself a “hardcore gamer” anymore. Not because I’m a casual now, but because of the absurdity that hardcore gaming has become. Hardcore gaming has become all about competition. It’s become a pissing contest, where we derive “fun” from winning rather than playing. It’s become about talking trash to people who like games that aren’t Dark Souls level difficult.
If you can’t have fun losing at a game, then you’re bad at gaming. Being good at gaming means being able to derive pleasure and fun from the activity. Even people who are incredibly good at the least balanced competitive games around still won’t win more than 55-60% of their games over a long enough sample size. That would be an incredibly inefficient use of my gaming time.
I’m an average-skilled player at most games. My win rate in League of Legends (my most-played game over the last 5+ years) is barely above 50%. If I didn’t have fun losing, I’d only enjoy half of the time playing this game that I’ve spent thousands of hours on.
The same goes for super grindy games like Maple Story or most MMORPGs. Friends that try to get me into games like these say things like “Don’t judge the game until level 100” or “It gets good after grinding for two months” and I simply can’t justify that. I’m not someone that can delay my reward centers for playing games until after long periods of work. And make no mistake, “grinding” in games is nothing more than a chore. I work enough.
There are thousands of great games in the world. I’d much rather have fun playing those than suffering through a long grind to a “maybe enjoyable” endgame that I suspect is mostly Stockholm Syndrome and denial based (“All that time I’ve spent not having fun was totally worth it!” *nervous laughter* *eye twitch*)
So, I reiterate: Being good at gaming is entirely based on how much pleasure you can derive from it. If you’re screaming at your TV or your teammates in anger over a game, you suck at games. That guy lecturing other people about how they’re playing the game wrong is a bad gamer. If you want to introduce friends to a game you love, but you won’t let them learn at their own pace and experience love for the game on their own terms, you’re not going to have much success getting them to play.
I’m not a hardcore gamer, but I bet I’m a more successful gamer than most of them.
Street Fighter V
I have a lot of fun getting my ass kicked in Street Fighter V. It is a competitive game that I don’t need to win at to enjoy. The art is fantastic and nostalgic. The balance is really good between the characters. The new characters are sweet ( <3 Laura ). I walked into the game fairly strong with nothing more than my decent footsie experience from all the other Street Fighter games I’ve played since I was a kid.
Then as the tide rose over the weeks and months, I found tips on YouTube and Twitch for improving my game. In particular, Super Couch Fighters have created a huge amount of hilarious and helpful content for Street Fighter V that I’ve really enjoyed. Shows like theirs have escalated my skills and helped me enjoy the game even more over time.
Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight
I first saw someone play Momodora on a speed running event (AGDQ probably) and thought the pixel art and animation were adorable. It looked really fun, and it was on sale for something like $6 one day so I grabbed it. It only took me two days to beat, but I had a lot of fun the entire time. It’s a great value for the price, and I recommend it to anyone that likes female protagonists, cats, and action platformers like Castlevania.
Hyper Light Drifter
I was tempted to name Hyper Light Drifter as the best game of 2016 so I could continue my streak of naming indie games in that spot. From the moment I hit START on this Zelda-esque open world adventure game, I had no fucking clue what was going on. But that mystery combined with the insanely cool art style compelled me to push forward through the just-right-difficulty zones and challenging puzzles to learn more about this insane world.
Anyone who enjoys classic adventure titles like Zelda: A Link to the Past or modern indie titles like Transistor or Fez will adore Hyper Light Drifter. I highly recommend checking it out.
Best Game of 2016 – Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
I love cyberpunk, cyborgs, nanotechnology, and everything in between, so I felt like a kid in a candy store playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution and all its DLC. Mankind Divided took what Human Revolution was great at, and stepped it up another notch. The graphics are beautiful. The combat is fun, flexible, and intuitive. Player actions have real consequences. The story is engaging and interesting. I came back and played through the game two more times after my initial play through, and each time was a different experience. For all of these reasons, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is my pick for best game of 2016.
Anyone who enjoys the Mass Effect series will definitely enjoy these Deus Ex games. I cannot recommend them more highly, and I may even purchase an official Adam Jensen style winter coat. The fashion in Mankind Divided is on point!