Unfortunately, I barely got to play any new games this year. Why, you ask? Because almost every game that I did play was a huge time sink, so I missed out on the overwhelming majority of the year’s new releases. Between that and a two-month long addiction to Don't Starve Together, I spent a ton of time on less than two dozen games. Next year's "Favorite Game Released Before 2017, Played in 2017" category is going to have a bunch of candidates. Nevertheless, there were a few highlights in the year.
Favorite Game Released Before 2016, Played in 2016: Don't Starve Together
My Steam Library currently shows "228 hrs on record" for Don't Starve Together. That's a lot of time that I poured into this brutally unforgiving roguelike that is a perfect co-op experience. I hated the original Don't Starve when I first played it, but the experience gradually grew on me, and the addition of co-op to the game was a perfect excuse to jump back into it. Some games are built to facilitate sharing and teamwork, and Don't Starve is one of those experiences. Whether you are teaming up to take down the fearsome Deerclops or just going out together to gather a few resources, every moment that you spend with your friend(s) in Don't Starve Together is a memorable one.
It's lovely and it's colorful. It's addictive, albeit a little too repetitive. Crashlands is an entertaining mixture of resource collection and action/RPG combat that should interest you if you enjoy either Diablo-style top down action or the crafting gameplay of games like Don't Starve or Minecraft. Each of its elements lacks the depth of those other titles, but the package, as a whole, is a quality one.
4. This is the Police
This is the Police is the runaway winner in the category of "Least Uplifting Game of 2016". In this game you take on the role of Police Chief in a small corrupt town, where simply surviving six months until retirement is the only goal that is worth achieving. The mayor wants to stay in power, the mafia wants to run the town, and social agitators want social justice. Trying to balance all of these competing interests while maintaining law and order would be a challenge under perfect conditions. With a police force composed largely of alcoholics and incompetent nincompoops, it's darn near impossible.
3. Demetrios: The Big Cynical Adventure
When you start up Demetrios: The Big Cynical Adventure, remember to check your maturity at the door. The humor in this point-and-click adventure is as low brow as it gets. With that said, the game has a few other things going for it, like a fantastic soundtrack, great artwork, and a host of entertaining ways in which to kill yourself. My favorite gaming moment of the year occurred when I decided to take a leak on a houseplant in the police station. Suffice it to say, it did not end well. This game was easily my favorite guilty pleasure of the year.
It's not often that an epic party-based RPG just sneaks up on you out of nowhere, but that is essentially what happened with Tyranny. Fresh off of the smashing success of Pillars of Eternity, Obsidian announced this game at GDC and then released later in the year to little fanfare. The game may have disappointed people who were expecting a pure repeat of Pillars of Eternity, but that isn't what it was intended to be. Tyranny feels like a video game experiment, and it succeeds in many ways. The game takes a lot of chances and it while it comes up short in a few areas, its characters and dialog make up for them in a lot of ways.
1. Ratchet and Clank
I would be okay with a Ratchet and Clank game coming out every six months. (As a side note, I would not be okay with another Ratchet and Clank movie coming out -- ever). I love this series and the 2016 reboot was just about everything that I hoped it would be. It had the beautiful, colorful visuals, the wacky weapons, the quirky characters, and the wonderful combination of platforming and frenetic action that the series is known for. Insomniac has successfully branched out onto other platforms lately. I hope that they will always come back to what they do best at least once every few years.
Honorable Mention: Soul Axiom