My 12 Favourite Games Of 2016: Mark Serrels

2016, a terrible year in general, a superlative year for video games. I honestly can’t remember loving so many games, just in terms of volume. I wanted to make a top 10, but I couldn’t. So I made a top 12 instead. These are the games I honestly fell in love with in 2016.


12. Uncharted 4

Bizarre, but I feel like I have to explain why this is so low on my list, as opposed to explaining why it’s here to begin with.

Uncharted 4 is probably (technically) the most beautiful video game ever made. It’s bogged down by too much combat, and a Scotland section that I’d rather was cut completely, but goddamn that final third.

If any game ever needed a fully developed camera mode it was Uncharted 4. Good thing then, that it does have a fully developed camera mode. Naughty Dog has set a high standard for itself and Uncharted 4 leaps that bar with ease. It might not be the achievement that Uncharted 2 or The Last Of Us was for its time, but it’s almost certainly my favourite blockbuster game of 2016.


11. Tricky Towers

Tricky Towers is an outlier. You might be surprised to see it on my list but the reality: I play this game every weekend. Every. Goddamn. Weekend.

My family loves it, are completely obsessed with it. This game might be stripped back and feature-light, but with four players, it’s an unbelievable amount of fun. It’s Tetris, but not quite. It’s more like a chaotic game of reverse Jenga. I love it.


10. Titanfall 2

Image: Respawn/EA

I can’t even communicate how emphatically bored I am with traditional shooters. I can’t motivate myself to play Battlefield One no matter how good everyone says it is. Not even Conor McGregor can convince me to play Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. These games are both very good, but I’ve been there too many times before.

I felt similarly about Titanfall 2 – before I played.

I couldn’t imagine how it could interest me. How it compel me to play through yet another set-piece driven first-person shooter. Yeah, I was wrong. I am always wrong. Titanfall 2 is special.


9. No Man’s Sky

Image: Kotaku

Strip away the hype, strip away the promises, strip away the backlash and the drama and all the bullshit. No Man’s Sky is just a weird, esoteric, inspiring video game experience. It’s unforgettable.

For the 15 or so hours I spent in that game’s universe, I was enthralled. I explored. I searched for runes. I slowly learned languages. I flew from one planet, into Space and then literally flew to another one and landed on it.

That never got old to me. The exploration element. The scale. How pretty it all was.

No Man’s Sky may have disappointed some, and that’s okay. I was in awe of it.


8. The Last Guardian

Image: Supplied

Someone told me that The Last Guardian feels like a HD remaster of a game that should have been released five years ago.

Yes and no.

Yes, the camera is shonky. Yes you have to fight against the controls. Yes, the frame-rate is a problem.

But.

Jesus Christ this game is spectacular. The world is unique. The architecture is just so wonderfully alien. That goddamn dog-bird is just perfectly animated and adorable and real. I actually enjoy the way it refuses to do my bidding like a stubborn cat.

I want to say something about the way the game controls, the way the movement feels.

So often we want controls to just respond to our inputs. We want controls to disappear into some amorphous blob: all buttons do the same thing in every video game, all movements are precise, simple, accessible. The Last Guardian makes you feel clumsy, The Last Guardian feels imperfect. I love that. Not all video games need to feel the same, not all controls need to be precise. I wish more video games would strive for their own sense of identity in all facets – including the controls. Games that do things a little different, that feel different are always the most memorable.


7. That Dragon, Cancer

Image: Supplied

I’m glad That Dragon, Cancer exists. I’m terribly sad for the circumstances that allowed it to exist, and tremendously sorry for the pain that its creators had to endure. But I’m proud to write about a medium that could express that pain so vividly, and allow Ryan and Amy Green to share the story of their beautiful little boy.


6. Firewatch

Image: Campo Santo

It may sound weird, but I’m always rooting for video games as a medium. I grew up defensive of video games, that’s probably why.

So I love it when video games do things right. Firewatch is video games done right: interesting stories, rich dialogue. The things Firewatch does right are the things video games usually get wrong.

Progress people. Progress. 2016 was a year of progress for video games in general.


5. Overwatch

Image: Blizzard

Everyone knows Overwatch is the goddamn shit.

How does Blizzard do it? Every single time. Overwatch is a slow creeping masterpiece.

I need to play more Overwatch. Probably everyone could do with playing more Overwatch.

Except my brother-in-law. He should probably play a little bit less.

(Hi Ben!)


4. Inside

I’m playing this game thinking, what’s all the fuss about? Yeah it’s pretty good. Cool aesthetic, cool environmental story-telling, incredible atmosphere. Then the ending. Dear God the ending.

Video games are so fucking awesome.


3. Oxenfree

I just love Oxenfree so much.

I love it because it has the coolest dialogue system I’ve ever seen in a video game. If you talk, the conversation is altered but staying silent is also considered a method of communication. You have the choice to stay silent and conversations happen naturally without you.

It’s beautiful. It’s natural. It’s seamless.

Oxenfree has the best teenagers I’ve ever seen in a video game.

That sounds weird.

What I’m trying to say: Oxenfree is a video game featuring brilliantly drawn characters in a compelling story. It’s smart, it has real drama. So often people talk about wanting to play video games ‘to see what happens next in the story’. Oxenfree is one of the few games that’s genuinely made me feel like that.

It’s also criminally underplayed.

Everyone: play Oxenfree.


2. Dark Souls 3

I don’t know how From Software keep doing it.

How they keep making superlative video games one after the other.

How they continue to create these incredible environments and spaces. How they continue to tweak their formula. How it continually feels fresh. It’s incredible.

You could make an argument that Dark Souls 3 is From Software’s best game yet. (I say it goes Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Dark Souls 3, but still…)

It’s almost trite to say, but Dark Souls 3 is a brilliant combination of the best parts of previous Souls games. The world isn’t as tight knit as the original Dark Souls. It feels more sprawling, but never feels like a series of discrete areas like Dark Souls 2. It feels cohesive and natural. And by God is it gorgeous.

By Christ, it’s very hard to not have this be my game of the year.


1. The Witness

I didn’t expect The Witness to be my favourite game of the year. Especially not in the moments when I was completely fucking lost, solving random puzzles. Especially when I sat there trying to figure out the goddamn rules of how anything worked on this fucking island.

I think at one point I just fell in love with how intricate the design was. How the puzzles interacted with one another, how the rules were revealed. How the impossible slowly became possible. How the environment itself was a puzzle. How everything just worked.

The Witness made me feel a lot of things. It made me feel smart, stupid, angry, delighted, giddy, confused, bored, excited. It made me feel awe. I was in awe of it. 2016 was a helluva year for video games, but The Witness takes it. The Witness is my game of the year.


That's just my own, personal list — what are your favourite games of 2016?


Comments

    My name is Batguy and I endorse this list. Especially the top two. The Witness blew my mind, and I just finished Dark Souls 3 last night and can confirm that it's a top-notch game end-to end.

    EDIT: Though I should point out that there is no way I'm playing That Dragon, Cancer. I'm sure it's beautifully made, but no thank you. And I have Tricky Towers from PS Plus but had never played it. Will have to give it a shot!

    Last edited 13/12/16 11:17 am

      That Dragon Cancer...
      I feel pretty conflicted about it. I'm glad it exists but I'm not sure I want to play it. I know I would absolutely bawl my eyes out. But I also want to be able to experience it...

    Hmmm... I would say it's the following...

    1. Rainbow Six Siege (yes it came out in 2015 but really hit its stride this year)
    2. Civ VI
    3. Stellaris

    That's literally all I've bought this year except premium in World of Warships... but that's old.

    Speaking of which I must be getting old too playing so few games :P

    I just finished Infinite Warfare and one of the things that really stands out is the real lack of loading screens. The entire game flows together, you have to get in your ship and break atmosphere, then land on your carrier, talk to your crew before you can move on. Its really well done.

    That said, Titanfall 2 is on my list to play next, so I can't give a comparison, but IW is rather good. Ethan is like the polar opposite of the last Black Ops game and he's great.

    I don't know if I can generate a nice, pat, list, but so many of these games would be on it.

    The Witness was a wonderful rabbit hole.
    Dark Souls 3 finally won me over to Dark Souls and playing it at the same time as other people was great
    Uncharted 4 was a game about aging, and endings, and I don't want an Uncharted 5 because I love the ending so, so muchTHEY HAD A LITTLE GIRL AND LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER AAAAAAAAAA
    No Man's Sky was like stepping into a different reality- sometimes desolate, sometimes teeming. Not everything worked, but damn was it interesting.

    Good list.

    I agree that NMS belongs on this list. Despite all the outrage and craps that went on surrounding it (and frankly I don't care about any of all that), it's still my 'go to "Zen" game' .... when I just want to switch off and become one with the universe.

      Same. I've said so before; this is such an excellent chill-out game! That, and I enjoy the drama it generates ;). Thanks for making it the title pic for your article, Mr Serrels. Though I have to say, I'm rather disappointed in the reaction by readers.

      Last edited 13/12/16 12:35 pm

      NMS, agree! I never got on the hype train. I'm the kind of person who enjoys going into games without knowing a great deal about them, except what genre it is. NMS is great, at least I think so and the recent patch has made it better. It's not "best game in the world" material but I hate herd mentality and I had too much fun with NMS to give a crap about what people were saying.

    I don't want to be another one of those people to tell you how good BF1 is, but if you have fond memories of playing Battlefield 1942, then you should definitely give it a chance, it's not the same old rehashed modern warfare style shooter we've been stuck with for the past decade.

    For me the only game that I truly loved was DS3. Yes it has its faults and is, is some ways a let down but the game play is just so dam great that it makes up for any problems I have with it. I got it at launch on XB1 and put about 100 hours into then another 100+ after re-buying it on pc and can really see myself coming back to the game time and time again like the other FROM games.

    Great list. I would have on mine:

    - Uncharted 4
    - Darkest Dungeon - So many hours on the train playing this game. Almost beat NG+ and still not bored!
    - Batman Arkham VR - The best VR full game (although pretty brief) experience.
    - Battlefield 1
    - Inside
    - Severed - I hope they port it to smartphones (from vita) where everyone will get to play it. The most fun I have ever had swiping in a game.
    - Firewatch
    - Star Wars Battlefront VR Mission - Only a mission but still sooooo much fun. I must have played it 10 times now.

      They have already ported Severed over to iOS, I'm looking forward to grabbing it at some point.

        Good to know they might actually make some money from the game. Its great fun you'll love it!

    My list this year is entirely Overwatch. I've bought other games, but they just keep getting pushed back to accommodate my Overwatch playtime...

      Tell me about it... I have a massive pile of shame to get through... but nope one more round!

        Getting through the pile of shame is like trying to get my team to push the payload...Not gunna happen...

    This is why I keep reading kotaku everyday. Agree with so many of the favourite games listed here. I had The Witness and Inside as my top two. The environmental puzzles in The Witness constantly had me amazed thinking, "how did anyone come up with this?".

    Final Fantasy 15 is probably edging into the top 3 for me, I can't put it down. It's generally pretty wonky, the camera sucks, storyline is neither great nor terrible, and the combat regularly swings from being really fun and intuitive to messy and confusing. But all that's quickly forgotten and forgiven when you're just wandering around and one of your bros starts singing "I want to ride my chocobo all day.....".

    One game that I am finding enjoyment in again is Tom Clancy's The Division. After finishing the main section of the base game and unlocking all the achievements, I was done. The glitches, the completely unbalanced Dark Zone and the lack of content in the so-called 'End Game' was pointless. I returned to Destiny and played. I added another one hundred or so hours of game time in the April Update and Rise of Iron expansion.

    But, I heard of good things about patch 1.4 in The Division. Having played over 600 hours of Destiny, I went through and hibernated during The Dark Below and the House of Wolves. The Taken King expansion drew me back in and patch 1.4 of The Division did the same.

    I left New York behind back in May and a break is as good as a holiday. Destiny went through a rough patch and Tom Clancy's The Division did as well.

    So my vote for, 'Sorry, we gone and done goofed, but now we're all better' award for 2016 goes to Tom Clancy's The Division.

    You're not perfect, but you're getting there.

    Hyper Light Drifter was the best game of 2016 for me - Amazing aesthetic, soundtrack and perfect control/gameplay. Don't miss this game if your a fan of pixelart/retro/dark souls/zelda etc.

      Yeah never got round to playing that one. Shame, since it always sounded like my kind of thing.

      While maybe not my number one, HLD would make my list without a doubt. I enjoyed every aspect of it (and I usually have an aversion to challenging games). And that soundtrack...

      Actually, this year has been excellent for soundtracks. Firewatch, Oxenfree, Hyper Light Drifter, Samrost 3. I've actually actively sought out and listened to these video game soundtracks, which is something I've never done before this year.

    4. Rez - Infinite - I'll platinum you one day when I get through boss rush with no bombs!

    3. Ark Survival Evolved - I think I'm gonna live here from now on.

    2. Dark Souls 3 - Platinumed this. Conflicted, as the DLC was def not as good as From's standard. Not even the best Dark Souls game. But still, I love souls.

    1. Dishonored 2 - Platinumed this. My last playthrough was no powers. It played like Thief! I love Arkane Studious. I love you so much.

    I bought Last Guardian but haven't had the time to play it yet. List subject to change.

    For me:
    Uncharted 4
    Watch Dogs 2 (so much fun now. A much more likeable guy than before)
    Fire Emblem Fates

    Rise of the Tomb Raider (does that count as i only have a PS4?)
    Pokemon Sun

    Might add these guys but im not far enough into them yet to confirm
    Dishonoured 2 (i refuse to omit the U)
    Final Fantasy XV
    The Last Guardian

    Titanfall 2 is basically the only new release I've had time to play this year (new dad) and by gosh if it isn't the best online shooter I've ever played!

    My top ten for this year, in no particular order: Doom, Inside, Dark Souls 3, Factorio, Watch Dogs 2, Oxenfree, Uncharted 4, Hacknet, Cities Skylines, and the first 2/3rds of Quadrilateral Cowboy.

    Haven't finished Pokemon Sun or FFXV, but they'll probably displace something on this list by the time I finally finish them. Shenzhen I/O would have a good case as well, but I'm also still working my way through it. Last Guardian is on my 'I'll get to it when I've finished these other behemoths" list, but I hear good things.

    this year was a weird year of gaming for me where I played fewer games but for longer, still a great year though.
    1. The witness
    2. Onward
    3. Uncharted 3
    4. Firewatch
    5. Final Fantasy 15
    6. Nms
    7. battlefield 1
    8. overwatch
    9. rocket league
    10. fallout
    ( I know those last 2 weren't this year but I'm still playing and enjoying them)
    dark souls and last guardian are on my to do list in the new year

      I don't think Uncharted 3 was this year either :)

        Oh dam! I just don't know anymore. I'll take that as my edit for #4. technically fallout as well 😃

        Last edited 16/12/16 9:07 am

    I've been trying not to let my pile of shame grow too much this year. Most time has been spent on the DLC for Fallout 4 and Witcher 3 released early in the year and then Civ VI, No Man's Sky, Skyrim Special Edition (does this count?).

    Just started Rise of the Tomb Raider (PC) which released in January I think but I picked it up recently in a Steam sale. Have Firewatch (also Steam sale) but haven't played it yet and The Witness is on my wishlist waiting for the next sale.

    Upcoming: Uncharted 4, Watch Dogs 2, Dishonored 2, Last Guardian and Pokemon Sun & Moon are under the Xmas tree. Looking forward to trying all of those out.

    Last edited 13/12/16 3:35 pm

    1. Overwatch - Just. cant. stop. playing.

    2. Doom - Went in expecting a very average game. Completely blew me away

    3. Titanfall 2 - Was not even remotley interested in this. Havent played a "dude bro" shooter in years and assumed this would just be another one. Bought it cheap only because of all the love it was getting, But that campaign and level design/mechanics. Wow

    4. The Witness - This consumed me for months

    5 - Bro force (PS4) - Techinically this came out this year for me as i dont have a PC. Anyway this was great fun, especially couch co-op

    For me in no order

    1. Inside - I've "Lucy'd" (if you listen to a IGN Pubcast you'll know the saying) Limbo but I got into this game way more
    2. Dark Souls 3 - So much frustration...yet so rewarding for me
    3. Watch Dogs 2 - besides the very hipster portrayal of hackers...the game has been fun
    4. Uncharted 4 - A beautiful game to look at and good storyline
    5. Forza Horizon 3 - Racing around 'Straya is great
    6. No Mans Sky - Yes it's way overhyped...but I'd sunk like 40 hours into this (pre-update). A game with different pace and somewhat relaxing for me (need to play post-update)
    7. Rainbow Six Siege - sure it's a 2015 game but like @ashigaru said, this game came into its own this will all the DLC which changed it all up.
    8. Pumped Up BMX+ - A game playing on the Vita while passing time...just as addictive and annoying as OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood
    9. Battlefield 1 - Just got this game (gave in and brought it on PS4)...so far, so good very immersive
    10. Quantum Break - besides bad port on PC and videos buffering (even on a NBN connection)...I like the concept of the game and live action tv show integrated

    I haven't got FFXV, Titanfall 2, The Last Guardian and

      Good man backing up R6!! I ignored other shooters because of it ^_^

    The great thing is that there are hundreds of games listed in this article and comment section but every single one deserves to be mentioned. 2016 is going to be remembered as a hell of a year for gaming!

    Personally GOTY is a tight race between UC4 and Overwatch. UC4 was gorgeous and inventive, simultaneous epic and deeply personal. Naughty Dog brought all of the finest elements of (my GOAT) TLoU in to the Uncharted world to grand effect. Easily the best of an already superlative franchise.

    On the other hand Overwatch has captured me in a way that very few games have. I've long lamented the trend of modern gaming toward MP-only experiences but I couldn't help but be a convert because of Blizzard. My only hope is that they make a concerted effort to expand the narrative - I'm like a junkie when it comes to exploring the world they've created!

    Honourable mention: The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine. More content in a DLC than most full-priced games it managed to meet, and in many instances exceed, the quality of storytelling as its 2015 GOTY predecessor.

    Looking forward we've Horizon: Zero Dawn, new Uncharted, Death Stranding, TLoU2, new God of War, FF remake... Jesus it's a great time to be a gamer!

    Funnily enough, FFXV is quickly charging up through the field.

    Witcher 3 was an amazing title, even the side quests were epic.
    It came at a bad time for me sadly, where a slew of decision based games trying too hard to be poetic and gritty, have jaded me.
    (Sorry Fallout 4)

    Honourable mention to Dragon Quest: Builders.
    Surprising Minecraft clone that did a fantastic job of being unique.
    Dark Souls, loved it, but didn't smash home for me.

    Looking forward to Last Guardian.

    Need to tie off The Uncharted series, I didn't want to play it sadly, but I think that's more because it's the last.

    Otherwise 2016 has just been fairly uneventful for me.

    Last edited 13/12/16 7:59 pm

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