This was a strong year for strategy games with all the heavy hitters coming out. Xcom, Total War, Civilization, Roller Coaster Tycoon, and some newcomers. All of them were fantastic and delivered fantastic gameplay, but only one could come out on top.
Total War: Warhammer
Warhammer not only gave us the best Total War game but let us fight our favorite factions together and brought together the most detailed Warhammer game to date. We get the strategy of the Dawn of War series and the up-close bloodshed of games elsewhere in the series. With amazing visuals and sound design, there are tons of hours of fun here. I can’t remember the last year we had so many great strategy games since the early 2000s.
The fighting genre was mediocre at best this year. With Mortal Kombat unable to dominate and Street Fighter falling by the wayside, there’s not much to pick from. There were some strong 2D fighters this year as it seems 3D fighters have left us for good.
The King of Fighters XIV
The King of Fighters XIV stands out on top as the best package this year for fighters. My second closest was Guilty Gear, but KoF enhanced it’s gameplay so much and made the fight system so much easier to wield. The game looks amazing, all characters got upgraded, and there are plenty of modes to play through.
PS4 did much better this year however, it still struggles to offer solid exclusives like Xbox One has. The PS4 mainly leaned on PSVR to help sell consoles, but there wasn’t a single killer app to help sell the hardware to the masses. However, PS4 did offer a wider variety of solid exclusives rather than leaning on action blockbusters. We got a decent year out of the PS4, but there’s still nothing that will call the PS4 king of this generation outside of console sales.
Uncharted continues to be a reason to own Sony’s consoles. Uncharted 4 gave us a magnum opus of an ending with fantastic blockbuster set pieces, great characters, a fun story, and some of the best visuals to ever grace this generation. It was a toss-up between this and The Last Guardian, but Uncharted delivered a more solid experience.
The next-generation consoles are struggling more than ever to keep their own personalities. Xbox One and PS4 are the least distinctive consoles out of past iterations. They are not as iconic as they used to be as both have nearly identical features and hardware. The Xbox One did better this year with exclusives thanks to Microsoft’s own game studio pumping money into projects, however, I couldn’t even gather 5 whole games that made the system a must sell. What we did get was pretty good, but here’s to hoping 2017 yields better exclusives.
Forza Horizon 3
Forza Horizon 3 proved to be the best bet on Xbox One thanks to the series new open-world design done right. We get the unique Forza simulation experience in an open world that’s actually interesting to drive in. It’s the best value for your buck and for buying a shiny new Xbox One. It was a toss-up between this and Gears of War 4 which was also great but is something we have seen before. Quantum Break was decent but didn’t deliver the console selling blockbuster Microsoft had hoped.
Reissues, or remasters, or definitive editions, or HD editions, or whatever you want to call them, are growing and becoming more and more popular. Gamers are clamoring at getting their favorite classic franchises on bigger TVs with better textures, better lighting, more frames per second, use multiple graphics cards, multiple monitors, etc. Game companies will oblige as they can make more money off older IPs that are already finished at a fraction of the price. 2016 is the best year so far for these reissues.
Odin Sphere: Lefthriser
Odin Sphere topped out here because it did more than just give us better visuals and higher frame rates. Leifthrasir gave us enhanced gameplay and better balancing. More content and more everything. This is a step up and a true remaster that most games won’t touch. Leifthrasir plays better and feels like the original vision Atlus had. It’s one of the most beautiful games ever created with rich characters and stories. Don’t miss out on this.
There were so many fantastic games this year that it was so difficult to just pick 5. I really had to do a process of elimination here and I still wish I could add more. These 5 represented the best of the best across multiple platforms and delivered fantastic experiences.
This was a tough decision but Overwatch delivered one of the best multiplayer experiences in recent years and it was available to all gamers. Yes, it didn’t have a single-player experience like Dishonored 2 and Battlefield 1, but man is this FPS multiplayer perfected. With iconic characters, excellent balancing, charming visuals, and fantastic gunplay, Overwatch is the best team-based shooter since Team Fortress 2.
The mobile scene was a bit of a dud this year as only a few gems stood out. 2016 continued the trend of heavy-handed microtransactions which is the plague of the gaming industry. There was Pokemon Go, which could have easily won this category, but due to the lack of gameplay and one of the worst game launches in history, it didn’t make the cut.
Deus Ex GO
The Go series from Square Enix is one of the greatest series to grace mobile platforms. There’s something great about an iconic character sliding across maps and using gameplay elements familiar with said series. Deus Ex Go continues this trend and is the best yet in the series. With phenomenal graphics and amazing gameplay that shares that of Deus Ex, you can’t go wrong here. Not a single microtransaction in sight outside of wanting to buy hints. Just a solid $5 game with plenty of great gameplay.
PC really struggled for exclusive games this year as it received mostly console ports and bad indie games. The exclusives that were available offered unique experiences you can only get on PC. This year proved to everyone that the PC is where every genre melds and graphics are pushed to their limits.
Total War: Warhammer
The Total War series has always defined the PC as the go-to system for strategists. It’s an experience you can’t get on consoles, and with the Warhammer license, it’s a perfect marriage. Warhammer allows us to battle our favorite Warhammer factions together in massive epic battles with fantastic visuals and plenty of extra content. Even if you aren’t a Warhammer fan, there’s something in here for the strategist in you.
Fire Emblem has never been stronger on 3DS. Awakening was a huge game to follow up on and Nintendo did it with this three-part trilogy. The large epic scale that Fates create as well as the refined tactical combat, animation, art, characters, and customization helped create the strongest package this year for the 3DS. The games below offered great experiences in all these departments, but Fates did it all in one package.
Fire Emblem: Fates Revelation/Birthright/Conquest
My favorite game composer, Jeremy Soule, may have had only a bit part in the one song, but the score is fantastic nonetheless and brings back the feeling of Morrowind through and through. With sweeping scores for both exploration and combat, TESO continues the trend of The Elder Scrolls having some of the best video game soundtracks ever written.
Here we are, another year another game awards tradition. 2016 was a fantastic year and better than the last few we had. This year was declared the year of the shooters. We had so many amazing shooters from Battlefield 1 being brilliant to Far Cry: Primal being entertaining. The first person shooter has been the ugly step child of the gaming industry since the mid-2000’s and I think this year has redeemed that genre. The shooters this year were smart, entertaining, and some even went back to their roots; right where gamers have wanted them all along. There’s an interesting shift in the industry where we are turning back time as companies have run out of new ideas. They are riding on nostalgia, but some companies are smart and are modernizing their nostalgic formula to create new mega hits.
We also had more disappointments this year than I can ever remember. Mighty No. 9 was the unofficial Mega Man sequel that turned into a turd, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst delivered a fun game, but a poor story and unlikeable characters in a very immersive and unique world. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare continues to steamroll its own legacy by taking players to places and the series to new areas where no one asked. Homefront: The Revolution took the intense narrative and atmosphere of the first game and completely ruined it. Tom Clancy’s The Division turned a potentially revolutionary online shooter into a Destiny clone. But the biggest of all was No Man’s Sky. That was a train wreck like something we have never seen before. Star Fox Zero? Street Fighter V? The list goes on.
I’d also like to add the remission of the Vita and Wii U. There just weren’t enough exclusive games for each console to consider them. The Vita had mediocre JRPGs and the Wii U has been officially discontinued now that the Switch is on its way next year. They were both great while they lasted, and hopefully, their replacements will do even better.
What we are left with is a year full of great shooters and plenty of amazing remasters. Yeah, those are still a thing and they are getting better by the minute. A new trend with PC owners is that if you have the original copies you get the remastered versions for free. I hope this trend continues. And without further delay here are 2016’s best games that you need to play now! Happy Holidays!