Premable: This is a list of games that I played this year and enjoyed the most out of any other. There isn’t a limit to how many games can be on here nor do they have to be published this year. These are experiences that I treasure for a variety of different reasons and I think exemplify the best that the gaming industry has to offer. Generally showcasing great stories, innovative/refined game mechanics or an overall package that I highly recommend.
As for myself, I played the least amount of games this year compared to any prior years. It’s mostly because I’ve quit playing genres that I no longer find fun such as platformers, shoot-em-ups or point and clicks. Plus, there was that whole moving in the middle of the year. What I’ve been trying to do towards the end of the year is focus on obtaining games I want to play, enjoying media that interests me the most rather than drudging through it because I think I’ll enjoy it at some point. So, here’s the top favorites out of this year. The ones I’ll look back on fondly for years to come.
The Room Series. Awarded: Best Mobile Titles.
It’s been a rough year for mobile games but The Room series has impressed me out of the rest. It’s got a very good atmosphere, well done aesthetics for a mobile game and has very interesting puzzles. The puzzles constantly up the ante yet remain logically solvable as you try to figure out how to get inside objects or progress forward. All to solve the mystery of why you’re in this weird world and what’s to discover. Only complaints I have is that it’s a pretty severe battery drain and sometimes puzzles can be a little too obscure to figure out. Also, its save system relies on the cloud which means if you’re not online, you can’t play from your save. Which is a bit of a nuisance. Still, it’s a well crafted puzzle game without any hints of ads or microtransactions which is a breath of fresh air on this platform. I’m curious to see what the developers do next!
Stellaris. Awarded: Criminally Underplayed Title of the Year.
Paradox’s Stellaris is a 4X title that straddles the line between easy to figure out yet mechanically complex enough to keep the players involved without a giant learning curve. It’s a heck of a good looking game with a good UI setup, plenty of races (and custom races) and empires to run. The music is reminiscent of Mass Effect and is fantastic to listen to. I’ve only put in 10 hours but what little I did play of it showed me a game with a lot of potential. 4Xes often have a difficult time figuring out a good balance between interesting or grindy gameplay. I think Stellaris is the closest 4X space title to find the right balance for both casual and hardcore players of the genre. At least, at first glance. At this point, it does seem to grind out some weaknesses in the mechanics that can drag the game down such as combat and how powerful the AI can get compared to human players. As long as this game continues to see good post-release support that Paradox is becoming well known for, I have no doubt Stellaris will do well in the years to come.
Starward Rogue. Read my Review Here.
For all it’s imperfections and lacking storyline, this rogue-lite impressed me. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. I’ve struggled to really get into “traditional” rogue-lite/likes this year but Starward Rogue was one of the breakout hits for me. Its weird mix of rogue-lite, exploration and SHMUP mechanics really work well for itself. It’s quite obvious that this game is a love letter to SHMUPs with its highly detailed boss battles (especially when you up to the difficulties) and nods to them. Alas, as I’m pretty terrible at SHMUPs, I end up dying a lot in this game even on the easier difficulty levels. Which, I’m more than positive is my own terribleness than an overly difficult game. I always think I’m really good/enjoy pure SHMUPs but then I’ll pull out one of them that I do own and get absolutely destroyed playing it. Ah well. Starward Rogue has plenty of content and difficulty for all types of SHMUP/rogue-lite fans and is worth considering this year.
The Oil Blue. Read my Review Here.
This micromanagement simulator title where you drill for as much oil as you can in a day is oddly compelling for me. I’m not sure what that says about me to be honest. The game is not without its imperfections. The game is old and wasn’t designed for current widescreen monitors or OSes. The engine is corrupt so future patches won’t happen and it requires a tool to sync achievements and backup saves to Steam, though it didn’t work very well for me. Still, with all of these imperfections, why does it get a spot in your top favorite games? Because it was so damned compelling for me that I kept playing long after I normally would have. Pushing myself to drill more and more oil as much as I could in a in-game day. That beat and rhythm of keeping multiple machines operating smoothly pushes the right buttons for me and The Oil Blue has plenty of it. The music is pretty good, going with a more laid back electronica mix that’s rather unique. Graphics are starting to age and there’s one little issue that there’s not much of a cost to doing business unless you really mess the day up. Still, if micromanagement games are in your wheelhouse, give The Oil Blue a look.
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt.
I’m nowhere near finished with this game but what I’ve played so far suggests this may be my GOTY in 2017. It would be in 2016 had I played more of it. I’m around 30 hours into the game and I’ve enjoyed the hell out of this game unlike any RPG I’ve played in the past. The narrative, world building, characters (side characters too!), quest diversity and combat has been excellent so far. Yet, I’m pretty sure there’s more to go and I’m not willing to say that this is GOTY material, just yet. But regardless of how it continues to play out, The Witcher 3 is by far the most polished entry in the series and seems to meet the goals that the developers set out to meet all the way back in The Witcher 1. A gritty RPG that tackles tough subjects in a world where characters aren’t necessarily as black and white as they would first appear to be. Even the expansions seem to be substantial content additions to the base game which I’m impressed by.
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin. Currently Streaming. VODs coming soon.
After a long hiatus from Dark Souls: Prepare to Die, I started streaming Dark Souls II towards the end of this year. While I can definitely understand some of the complaints that were leveled towards this game, DSII still holds up as a heck of an enjoyable RPG. The atmosphere, refined combat, much better PC performance & port and new world to explore still remains a pleasure. That being said, there are very obvious flaws. The game’s difficulties relies far too much on throwing multiple enemies at you, leveling up requires you to go to a person who repeats the same dialogue over and over again and other minor little aggravations that really shouldn’t have been present in the sequel do. I’m also playing the updated version that fixed a lot of the initial launch releases so it’s not AS bad as it could have been. So, yea, I’ve been enjoying this entry and I’m looking forward to streaming more of it come 2017.
I played a ton of this game when I moved to North Carolina but it fell off the priority list once my new computer arrived. I’m not done with Darkest Dungeon even after sinking 30 hours into the game, I just haven’t gotten back to it. Darkest Dungeon is a compelling horror RPG/rogue-lite mix of mechanics that punishes and wears not only the party down but the player as well. The music, the atmosphere, the choice of classes for your party are all well executed mechanics. It does get a bit grindy at my point though and suffering from teamwipes is not unheard of. And it’s quite disappointing or annoying when that happens. If nothing else though, this game is one hell of a unique experience that I don’t regret putting time into.
DOOM (2016). Read my review here.
One of the craziest and enjoyable FPS campaigns in a long time. It would probably be Game of the Year if the combat didn’t drag down towards the end of the game and the multiplayer was better. Its multiplayer isn’t exactly bad, it’s actually fine. But that’s the problem, it’s just fine. We now have plenty of compelling multiplayer FPS titles ranging from ultra-realistic military shooters to colorful, zany Hero titles. DOOM’s multiplayer plays a lot like its predecessors of the past but without the community and love for it like those had. I believe there’s a community still playing it and they’ve done a decent amount of post-launch support for it. But, there’s serious doubts in my mind that it’ll survive 2017.
With a nicely paced single player campaign featuring a well combined mix of ideas from the past and current game mechanics, DOOM doesn’t disappoint. Add on an excellent soundtrack, a well fleshed out world and a crazy Sci-Fi journey with bullets and demons everywhere, and DOOM is one hell of an impression. Characters aren’t exactly the deepest or most original though. It also does a good job of establishing itself in the lore of prior DOOM titles. Plus, the upgrade system gives you some fantastic options to change up the wealth of weaponry. Other major complaint has to be the exploration or how I didn’t like it handled. Basically, you can get some upgrades rather quickly on that give you the locations of secrets and objects in the world. So, it just feels like busy work at that point.
Duskers. Awarded: Biggest Surprise of 2016. Watch my first impressions here.
Despite seeing this game early on in its development cycle, I didn’t really gravitate towards it till it came out of beta. Duskers is one of the most unique and tension filled rogue-likes I’ve ever played. You control robots from a top down perspective of a map and with a command window. You have to make deliberate and careful decisions as you go from one derelict ship to the next, conserving resources and preferably not encountering any…problems. Not only are there potential horrors roaming these derelicts, the ships themselves may be falling apart or soon to be collided with by asteroids. So, time is also an invisible problem as well. Duskers is an impressive mix of mechanics and horror elements and definitely one of the biggest surprises for me. I hope to sink into it more in 2017.
The Talos Principle (And DLC). Awarded: The Game of the Year. Read my review here. View Screenshots for this Game.
One of my favorite first person puzzle games in a long time. The mix of philosophy, looks on social, religious and existence topics was just awesomely done. The writing was perfect to be both entertaining, engaging and educational. The puzzles themselves may be slightly reminiscent of other games in this genre, but the entire package is entirely its own thing. The graphics show off how impressive the Serious engine can be in a slow-paced puzzle game and the music is absolutely fantastic as well. Even this many months after playing it, I still contemplate a lot of its life questions that it cleverly brings up. This is a game that can’t be missed. The expansion DLC Road to Gehenna ups the ante even further with more challenging puzzles and a look at social interactions in the current generation. It’s an impressive collection of a game and I highly recommend getting into it.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this look back at the best games of the year. My end of the year update will be coming soon.