10. XCOM 2

Firaxis delivers again with a sequel to their 2012 reboot of the XCOM franchise. With more options for customizing your squadmates, a more varied up set of mission parameters, monstrous aliens to keep you second-guessing your decisions, and a more demanding metagame that has you making hard choices for the survival of Earth, you get a sequel that improves on its predecessor in every meaningful way. But, really, it's on this list for one reason above all else: McDuckyswag. A true hero of the people. 

9. Stephen's Sausage Roll

The best puzzle game nobody played this year. Fair, rewarding, and demanding - it's routinely capable of leaving you stumped for hours on end - and in the case of Ben, days. It's a masterclass in showcasing how you can hide the answer right in front of the player's face, with only the simplest of rule sets, and it's no less deep a puzzle game for it. Instead, it's an example of some brilliant game design. And we like to believe that still has value, because Stephen's Sausage Roll will definitely give you your money's worth.  

8. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

Our group consists of people who dig the Shin Megami Tensei (mostly Persona) series and the Fire Emblem games, so the initial announcement of "Fire Emblem X SMT" had us intrigued; then it turned out to be a J-Pop game. Then when you play it you go, "YEAH, IT'S A J-POP GAME, but it's not really a J-Pop game?" Tokyo Mirage Sessions is this weird blend of Persona's fusing, Fire Emblem's turn based mechanics paired with the battle system found in the likes of Grandia, and concerts where you dance the night away to shoo the monsters away. It's the right blend of cheesy and bizarre that only Atlus can deliver on, the kind that makes you question exactly what you like about the nonsense of video games. It's no Persona 4, but it'll do until Persona 5. 

7. Oxenfree

Video games have had dialogue systems for decades now, and it feels like the only thing we've added to that interaction is turning dialogue choices into a wheel or the part where "Telltale will remember this decision" to make us think our choices matter. Oxenfree, on the other hand, actually does something unique with its system, and actually allows you to play the entire game without ever saying a word. There is also the part where you cut people off, and your choices have more of a significant impact on relationships. Both immediately and long term, that the game has a new game plus that acknowledges the new game plus part also makes this journey genius. The story on its own would have been one of the more enjoyable horror stories in video games, but dialogue system makes it a compelling game to boot. That it also happens to be written so well, and that the studio even wrote in bridges to keep conversations feeling like they are flowing naturally, unlike the jarring transitions found in the works of Telltale Games, Bioware, or even something as exceptionally written as The Witcher 3, speaks volumes of how good Night Trap Games is. Consider us there day 1 for their next game. 

6. Battlefield 1

Who would have thought World War 1 was exactly what the Battlefield franchise needed after the previous entry released a hot, broken mess? But, it allowed DICE to retool the metagame that makes Battlefield go, and rebuild their destruction eningine to its most satisfying incarnation yet. The battlefield itself will be leveled beyond recognition, turning once protective cover into a crater where you'll be left a sitting duck. The game's ability to have this level of detailed destruction and never let it break the map, speaks to how well designed DICE's map designs are. We'd certainly like a few more adjustments (like a more aggressive bullet drop on snipers), but what's here is an absolute delight to play. Operations mode added a new experience to the Battlefield sandbox, reworking Rush mode into grand, all-out warfare that very few franchises could deliver on. Throw in DICE's usual brand of technical mastery, and we'd be hard pressed to believe there was a better looking and sounding game this year. Any way you slice it, Battlefield 1's a success. 

5. Hitman

The first season of the latest Hitman is an achievement on multiple fronts. Its new business model, opportunities system, and challenges allowed IO-Interactive to teach scrubs what was always pretty cool about Hitman, and for series veterans it was a return to form after the abomination that was Hitman Absolution. Tighter controls, a more polished engine, and a variety of locales made for a sandbox that allowed you to plan the perfect hit. The addition of Elusive Targets is absolutely genius, taking advantage of your mastery of a location, giving you a one-shot-or-else approach to heighten the tension, and a revolving door of interesting characters and personality traits that gives Hitman a unique brand of dark comedy. The fact that they one of the targets was a food critic who can't be poisoned because he'll just spit the food out in disgust is genius. The fact that the game is built around mastery over being just a one-and-done, makes it one of the year's best. Bring on Season 2. 

4. DOOM

The latest DOOM wants to behave like first-person shooters stayed good, instead of getting worse over recent years, bringing back a style of gameplay and design that the industry foolishly thought was dated and archaic. It's the right brand of violence-ass violence that made the 1993 classic one of the all time greats, and makes this game simply euphoric to play. The addition of glory kills had us hesitant at first, but it works similarly to how the Zendatsu mechanic works in Metal Gear Rising. It allowed id to have a way for the player to regenerate their health/ammo, but it required them to stay on the offense and maintain a level of aggression. The part where the Doomslayer hates the story as much as we do is a nice touch, but whoever wrote those lore cards should be commended for adding the right brand of silly flavor to a reboot of a classic. DOOM's back, and it's making all the other FPS campaigns we've had the last few years look pathetic. 

3. The Last Guardian

Ueda's latest offering is one of the more unique and creative games on the market. Nothing really quite plays like it except for the other Ueda games, and even then, they are only sort of in the same style. The game genuinely earns the player's bond with Trico and the boy, the music is fantastic, the artstyle is lovely, and that ending? Masterful. Video games have a bad habit of not sticking the landing when it comes to the climax for a variety of reasons, but Ueda's 3 for 3 in that department. That's why it's one of the must play games from this year: it's creative and it knows how to finish strong. One day he'll have better cameras in his games. What? It could happen. You just gotta believe. 

2. The Witness

The uncultured swine in our group aren't ready for a puzzle game to be our Game of the Year just yet, but runner up will have to do. The Witness's panel puzzles are an absolute delight to solve both in how efficiently they can convey a rule to the player and then proceed to expand on it, and because they are challenging. Entire notes were written and puzzles panels were drawn on our free time away from the game to finally solve that one puzzle giving us a ton of trouble. The part where the puzzles translate into a greater mystery about the Island, and the Island itself is a puzzle of its own is absolutely terrific. We would have preferred a more elegant way for the game to tell its story, but when the subject matter is the game attempting to make statements about what it means to live, to learn, to think, and exist, we can't fault it too much. It's a cohesive experience that dares to talk about more thoughtful things then "Hey, lets shoot aliens." Added bonus? The island in the Witness is pretty. Plays well, has interesting things to say, and it looks pretty? What's number 1 again?

1. Overwatch

MOBAs are the rage, and as a result we've got the return of the class-based shooter repackaged as the "hero shooter" (awful name). Overwatch is the cream of the crop right now. Its brand of application over execution game design satiates both a hardcore shooter audience and the more casual players, it's unique in a market that's been thirsty for a successor/competitor for Team Fortress 2, and its roster of 23 heroes can make each match feel like its own distinct game because of how diverse the characters are both in terms of how they play and their personality. Few games have made us hate our teammates quite like Overwatch does, but it's the type of hurt you need to make you feel. That satisfaction when you got the right team in a nice back 'n forth match where the game is won on a timely ult for just the right push is what makes Overwatch the best game of 2016.

 

 

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