It is, once again, the time of year where we look back and reduce an entire year of games to a list of the exceptional ten; and it’s certainly been an interesting year. Although it may not have contained the bombast and significance of previous years, 2016 still gave us some interesting news stories and some fantastic games.
Before we get started, a bit of house cleaning. Since this will be the first year TNC has done top 10 lists, it would be best to explain a couple of things:
Firstly, I know that this year has seen some particularly sordid business practices and unfortunately these business practices have fallen on some otherwise brilliant games. As such, some of the games I included on this list have had some nasty practices attached to them, but such is the distinction I need to make between games as art and as business.
Also, with the exception of my game of the year, these games will be listed chronologically by release date, rather than ranking them by how much I liked them. Honestly, trying to cut down all the games I loved this year to ten was hard enough, let alone ranking all of them in order of preference. So with all that nonsense out of the way, let’s get started.
Story based games are often considered tricky to write about for fear of spoiling what makes the game so great, but even a cursory glance at the Firewatch’s gorgeous world should have you interested. As soon as you dive into the world you will be astounded by the quality of the voice acting and writing of this gem. It’s an all-encompassing experience that will have you hooked, even if you hate so called ‘walking simulators’.
Number 9: Rocket League
OK, I need to preface this: I hate football. I’ve hated it in every form it’s come in. I’ve hated it in film adaptations, games, books, trading cards and I absolutely despise the actual sport. Yet despite all of that, I still manage to love Rocket League. This isn’t because Rocket League is particularly… loose interpretation of football because it has lots of cars and ludicrous situations (maybe a little of that, actually). It’s because Rocket League is something football has never been able to be for anti-social, lazy sods such with no knowledge of football such as myself – accessible and simple.
Number 8: Devil Daggers
Holy HELL what a game Devil Daggers is. This really isn’t like anything I’ve played before; like some kind of strange mix between the classical DOOM and Hotline Miami it completely overwhelms you with crunched up audio, a fast pace and a uniquely disturbing visual style. I’ll never be able to describe it better than Matt Lees did when he called it “Doom for the Vine generation.” That’s what it is and it’s bloody brilliant.
7) Enter the Gungeon
A delightfully silly little rogue which doesn’t take itself seriously and provides some of the best top-down shooter content I’ve played in a long time. Many of us so often get caught up in games with complex stories, trying desperately to receive commendation as high art, so it’s refreshing to play something that is concerned with nothing other than making you smile.
6) The Banner Saga 2
I only played The Banner Saga this year so you can imagine my excitement when I got the chance to dive into the sequel so soon. The differences between the two although small are very welcome with new units, locations and victory conditions. The story may not be as gripping as the first but it’s still enjoyable and sets us up well for the third instalment. If you’re a fan you should play it just so you’re not lost later.
As someone who wasn’t around for the original release of DOOM, the run up to this game concerned me a fair amount. A lack of review copies and some fairly negative opinions of the demo had me worried this would be another slap dash game playing off of nostalgia. Fortunately this is one of the few times that the pre-release content was wrong. The fact of the matter is that this is a wonderfully designed game. It’s certainly the best shooter of the year and completely deserves it’s place on this list.
I played Limbo as soon as it was released. Sitting in my friends living room playing the game for a solid day was one of the first instances of me loving indie games. So you can imagine the excitement and expectation I had for Inside. Fortunately for all of us, what we got was a worthy successor to Limbo and a genuinely fantastic puzzle platformer.
3) Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Despite running into quite possibly every pre-release controversy possible, the fact of the matter is that Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an absolute masterclass of games design. It’s some of the most engaging gameplay of the year with a great story and a world that’s a treat to be in. It’s just a lovely game.
2) Dishonoured 2
Dishonoured 2, although very similar to the original, is just an absolutely cracking game. It takes everything that was good about the first title and packages it in a way that just drowns you in more of a world that I couldn’t get enough of. On top of that it adds an entirely new set of powers in Emily so no matter how you play there will always be a reason to go back, which you will likely want to do.
TNC’s Game of The Year: XCOM 2
I often forget that this one came out right at the start of the year. It’s been the one game that has occupied my mind throughout the whole year. The XCOM series has a reputation for devouring great chunks of time and, by god, this is true for XCOM 2. The core gameplay is as gripping as it usually is but the differences to the strategic gameplay and the decision to put the player completely on the back foot makes the game far more intense and personal. XCOM 2 is a delightfully difficult game, one that often feels like a struggle – but that only serves to make the easy victories so much more gratifying and the horrible losses so much more upsetting. With a talented modding community extending the life span of this game indefinitely, and with a litany of water cooler moments, there is no way I couldn’t make XCOM my game of the year.