It’s the end of the year and time to choose the ‘best’ game that was released in the last 12 months. So, in spirit of this, here’s a list in no particular order of the games which may not be the best, but which I enjoyed playing the most:
Stardew Valley (Developed by ConcernedApe; Published by Chucklefish Games) I’ve written about Stardew Valley before, so I’m sure it’s no surprise I’m fond of this gem. In case you missed the hype at the time, Stardew Valley is a tiny indie game that rocketed to mainstream acceptance. The farming sim has had one major update since its release, and I think it’s likely we’ll see another. I’ve played this game for over 150 hours so it was guaranteed a spot of my list of favourites from this year.
Play if: You want a relaxing, farming games with a town of mystery and fantastic characters.
Doom (Developed by ID studios; Published by Bethesda) I’ve never actually played the original DOOM games, and I honestly might have passed this title by if it wasn’t for the sheer amount of praise it received. Early looks at the game didn’t signal anything great, but the finished product is an incredible, fun, dumb game. It may not be as subversive as it was in the 90s, but it’s an entertaining time nonetheless. And the soundtrack is killer.
Play if: Killing demons in gratuitously violent ways to heavy mental is your idea of a good time.
Overwatch (Developed and published by Blizzard) Overwatch may not be a perfect game but there is no denying it is a force to be reckoned with. I’m not playing it as much as I was when it first came out, but I do jump back in for seasonal events, and I’m sure I’ll stick with it well into 2017. The characters and art direction is beyond charming, and the gameplay itself is pretty fun. Love it or hate it, everyone must acknowledge Overwatch when reflecting on 2016.
Play if: You like your MOBAs with lots of character and a vibrant community.
Dark Souls III (Developed by FromSoft; Published by Bandai Namco) The third instalment to the Souls franchise was actually my first foray into Miyazaki’s games. So I’m thankful that it acted as my gateway drug into this incredible world. I don’t have as many gripes with this game as veterans of the series, but I do acknowledge that not everyone was as happy with this game as I was. However, this is my GOTY list so I’m gonna say it was a fantastic game with deep themes and beautiful set pieces.
Play if: You’re a SoulsBorne fan or you like beautiful, medieval RPGS with a lot of mystery and quality design work.
Firewatch (Developed and published by Campo Santo) Firewatch appeared right at the beginning of 2016 and has managed to hold onto its claim as one of the most beautiful games of the year. Which is impressive given its competition this year. Firewatch had its issues but it’s making its way to the big screen, proof that what it did well, it did very well.
Play if: Introspective and emotional narratives appeal to you; you don’t think walking simulator is an insult.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Developed by Naughty Dog; Published by Sony) Uncharted is a great movie with some gameplay – it’s an easy joke to make with some truth to it. But long cutscenes are forgivable when they tell an engaging story. Naughty Dog are proving to be some of the best AAA writers and Uncharted 4 really showcases this. Not to mention exciting locations and fun environmental puzzles, this game is more than worthy of a GOTY mention.
Play if: You think Indiana Jones could do with some real emotions and relationships.
Virginia (Developed by Variable State; Published by 505 Games) I gushed about how great I thought Virginia after first playing it, and even now, I’m still thinking about this game. Even if I hated it, I would still have to acknowledge how memorable I found it. Virginia, with its use of symbolism, jump cuts and lack of dialogue, may not be for everyone and that’s okay. But for those who are partial to art games will at the very least find something to mull over in Virginia.
Play if: In your opinion, David Lynch is an artistic genius.
The Witcher 3 – Blood and Wine DLC (Developed and published by CD Projekt RED) Technically The Witcher 3 came out in 2015, but the last DLC Blood and Wine was released this year, making it a valid GOTY entry. The Witcher 3 is one of my favourite games of all time, and Blood and Wine showed what a great DLC can look like. Not a half hearted effort but a fully formed engaging and exciting story and setting all of its own. The original game asked the player to make hard decisions with real outcomes, and Blood and Wine continues this. Just go play this game.
Play if: You like excellent RPGs with a huge world, hundreds of quests, choices impacting the narrative and addictive card games.
Hitman (Developed by IO Interactive; Published by Square Enix) I’ve still not played through all of Hitman’s maps, but only because I’ve been savouring the few I’ve touched. Hitman is challenging but not impossible, expansive but not overwhelming, and exciting but not too serious. Honestly, I’m surprised that I like this game as much as I do, and I think that speaks to how good this game is. Although next season I think I’ll buy each episode as they come out, rather than wait for the collection in order to get the full, intended experience to each release.
Play if: Sneaking around beautiful locations attempting to kill people in elaborate ways sounds like your cup of tea.
Darkest Dungeon (Developed and published by Red Hook Studios) I almost didn’t include this game on my list solely because I feel like this game has been out for years. I don’t mean that in a bad way – Darkest Dungeon has been talked about constantly since it came out, I didn’t realise it was barely a year old. The game’s system of affliction creates a mechanic to represent mental health that fits perfectly in to the game without disrespecting mental health sufferers. Add in some Lovecraftian horror, amazing voice work and incredible art and you’ve got this gem.
Play if: You feel sure that you yourself will not become afflicted while watching your heroes suffer and die in haunted ruins.