2016 was a year of staggering highs and disappointing lows. There weren't as many standout games as last year by a long shot, but I can genuinely say I've discovered a few new gaming obsessions this year. Though there were only a few, each of the strongest games of the year offered enough variety to make this a rewarding year for videogames overall. However, with games like Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Persona 5 being pushed into 2017, I think I will remember this as the year of game delays more than anything else.
Favorite Game Released Before 2016, Played in 2016: Journey
Journey was released a few years back and received glowing reviews from both critics and the community alike. This year, I decided to try it out and found myself enchanted by its short and sweet but impactful story. The game is as minimal as it gets: There is no dialogue, no detailed plot and no real characters. All you know is where you need to go. But that's the beauty of Journey; none of those things matter. It's all about the journey you make for yourself and the discoveries you have along the way. In the end, the destination is irrelevant.
5. Pokemon Sun/Moon
After years of the same formula recycled with slight variations, Pokemon Sun/Moon finally attempts to shake things up. With no more gyms or HMs and a few crucial new features like Z-Moves, Sun/Moon upholds many Pokemon traditions fans have come to know and love while making the series feel fresher than it has in a long time. There is also a stronger emphasis on story and customization, which helped give my journey some essential context and purpose.
4. Battlefield I
It's been so long since I've played a shooter set in the past I almost forgot how fun reliving a previous period of bloody conflict and its unique weapons and vehicles can be. Battlefield I strays from the futuristic sci-fi trend and brings us all the way back to World War I. From the carefully crafted and hauntingly beautiful graphics to the precise and satisfying gameplay to the surprisingly engaging single player mode, Battlefield I was impressive to say the least. The campaign was relatively short, but the multiplayer offers a robust set of modes and maps that will offer hours upon hours of replay value.
3. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Naughty Dog has always put out engaging, beautiful, and thoughtful games, but Uncharted 4 may just top them all. From its first moments to its ambitious final act, Uncharted 4 was one of the single most impressive experiences I've had with a game in a while. The story was complex and exciting, while a fantastic cast of both old and new characters, each with their own motives and conflicts, kept the narrative grounded and relatable. I felt like I was there with Nathan Drake and his companions every step of the way on their treasure hunt across the world, and when the credits finally rolled I couldn't help but feel a genuine connection to the world of Uncharted 4. This may be the last installment in the Uncharted franchise, but it was quite a spectacular sendoff indeed.
2. Dark Souls 3
Before this year, I had never played a game in the Souls series. They seemed too difficult, too slow, and too linear be something I could truly get lost in. I learned how wrong I was when I took a chance and purchased Dark Souls 3. By the first hour, I was hooked. The deep lore, incredibly enemy and boss design, and simple yet addicting combat kept me glued to my screen as I spent hours dying repeatedly. Though each level has a starting and ending point, there were so many hidden pathways, alternate routes, and secret items to discover that the world felt surprisingly open. The punishing difficulty was both hugely frustrating and immensely rewarding as each battle won felt like a hard-earned victory, rather than just another stepping stone to reaching the end.
Overwatch has been out in the world for about half a year and it has already taken up more of my time than any other videogame in my entire life. Lacking any sort of single player component, I was initially very hesitant it would have enough content to be worth the price tag, but thanks to an unparalleled level of polish combined with some of the most addicting and strategic team-based shooter mechanics I have ever encountered, the game is an astounding experience. A host of charming, memorable playable characters, each with unique abilities and weapons meant the possible tactics for winning a game are seemingly endless. But one of the things that surprised me the most about Overwatch was how fleshed out its world and lore are despite the lack of any in-game story. Blizzard has always been known to produce meticulously well-crafted games, but Overwatch is on a completely different level and presents the most fun, challenging, deep and spectacular game I have played all year. I have put hundreds of hours into Overwatch, and with a steady stream of new characters, maps, modes, and items, I don't plan on stopping any time soon.
Honorable Mention: SteamWorld Heist
I am a writer and journalist based in San Francisco. When I'm not getting lost in expansive open-world RPGs, immersive first-person shooters or any other type of game that grabs my interest, I usually spend my time taking photos and playing music. Two of my all-time favorite games are Persona 4 Golden and Metal Gear Solid 3.