2016 might have been a bad year in many different aspects of life, but for video games 2016 was amazing and 2017 looks like it could become even better. In 2016 we finally saw the release of long-anticipated titles like Final Fantasy XV, The Last Guardian or Zero Time Dilemma and conclusions to popular franchises like Dark Souls or Uncharted. Of course not every game that I had been looking forward to turned out to be golden (I am looking at you Zero Time Dilemma and Star Ocean 5), but overall I was not disappointed and in this post I want to list my 10 favorite games of 2016.
As with every year though I am unfortunately not able to play all games that interested me and therefore some titles might have missed this list although they would have made it otherwise. Most notable games that are still on my list are Odin Sphere: Leithrasir, Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse and The House in Fata Morgana. That’s why I want to start this list with my personal “Late-to-the-party”-Award for the best game that I’ve played this year, that wasn’t released in 2016.
LTTP-GOTY: The Legend of Heroes – Trails in the Sky Second Chapter [PSP, PC]
Those who know me should know by now that I am a big fan of Nihon Falcom and the Trails series is one of the main reasons for this. Trails in the Sky SC starts exactly where the first chapter left off and brings this tale to its epic conclusion. The story starts slow as in the first game, but this time the major pieces are already on the board and I couldn’t wait to see how all the different storylines would get resolved in the end. It’s enough to say that the story kept me on my toes and I couldn’t put my Vita away for the last part of the game. The characters were already great in the first game, but the character development in the second chapter makes them even better and I still think that Estelle is one of the most interesting and well written female protagonists gaming has ever seen. I already mentioned the excellent world building in the Trails games in another post so I won’t repeat that here, but just let me tell you that it is also excellent in this game. Another highpoint of this game is the music with great emotional themes and exceptional battle themes. I know I am repeating myself, but if you haven’t played any Trails game yet, get yourself the Trails in the Sky games on Steam and enjoy!
And with this being said, let’s start with the actual list!
10. Ratchet & Clank [PS4]
The Ratchet & Clank series is dear to my heart since the series’ debut on the PS2 and this Remake/alternative version of the first game did not disappoint. The game looks phenomenal and Insomniac is getting really close to make a game that looks like a Pixar Movie (especially on the Pro). The cast was as entertaining as ever and the gameplay was also more than just solid. I am glad that the game also seemed to have sold well since I want to play more Ratchet in the future!
9. The Last Guardian [PS4]
The first game on my list that underwent huge development issues and probably not less divisive. Shadow of the Colossus is one of my favorite PS2 games and I can still remember being awe-struck when playing that game. I was worried that in a time, in which indie developers provide countless game experiences that deviate from the standard AAA structure, The Last Guardian wouldn’t feel special anymore, but I am glad that I was wrong. Ueda and his team have managed to create one of the most fascinating game creatures of all time and I will never forget the time that I spent with Trico. Never before has an AI creature felt as real to me as Trico and even though I was annoyed at times at his refusal to do the things I wanted, it just felt so right at the same time. It’s definitely not a game for everyone and I can totally see why the game is hated by some and loved by others depending on what you expected from the game. I enjoyed my time with it although it fell short of SotC for me. Can’t wait to see what Ueda will do next!
8. Furi [PS4, XBO, PC]
Thanks to PS+, I was able to enjoy this little indie gem that I might have missed otherwise. Furi is a brilliant action game that focuses on one element that I particularly like in videogames: boss battles. It’s basically one long Boss Rush game with very interesting visuals and soundtrack and varied and enganging boss battles with several stages. It took me a while to get used to the controls, but once I got into the rhythm, the fights felt awesome and really satisfying!
7. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End [PS4]
Uncharted 4 is a technical masterpiece and Naughty Dog has once again knocked it out of the park in terms of visual fidelity. Without a doubt this game was one of the best looking ones in 2016 and being able to play through the whole game without encountering a single loading screen (except when loading into the game) is pretty impressive. It’s actually hard to describe why this game isn’t placed higher in my list, but I think it all boils down to the more serious atmosphere in this game compared to the first 3. I appreciate the fact that this game was more of a character study and focused more on Nathan Drake as a character, but at the same time it felt too much like The Last of Us at points, where I would have preferred the usual more lighthearted take. In the end, Uncharted 4 is still a brilliant game and a great end to this series, but it just didn’t click with me as much as 2 and 3 did.
6. Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone [PS4]
This game is probably the definitive Project Diva game featuring over 220 songs and over 350 modules and a flawless 1080p/60fps presentation. The amount of content that you get is incredible and the game play is as challenging and fun as ever. Thanks to multibutton presses this game is even harder than the console versions and should pose a decent challenge even for veteran players. This is a game that will probably stay on my hard drive forever since it just feels so good to play 3 or 4 songs in short sessions. The only negative for me was the lack of a physical release.
5. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth [PS4, PSV]
This game was probably the biggest surprise of the year for me. I knew that the game was well received in Japan, but I didn’t imagine that I would enjoy it this much. Digimon CS is a great JRPG with a cool story that was reminiscent of the older Digimon animes and a lot of nostalgia bombs thanks to the inclusion of nearly every Digimon of the first anime series. Digivolutions were really well done and I became addicted to grinding in this game just to get all Digimons that were in this game. The combat was nothing revolutionary although the added Hard mode was appreciated since Normal was just too easy.
4. Steins;Gate 0 [PS4, PSV]
The original Steins;Gate is one of my most favorite Visual Novels ever made and probably features one of the best time travel stories in any medium. When they announced a quasi-sequel to the game I was worried that it might tarnish the reputation of the first game. After having played 0 though, I can with confidence that my worries were baseless and although 0 doesn’t reach the heights of the original game it manages to tell a engrossing tale on its own. It was great to see the character development of known characters in this world line and it added even more depth to all of them. Everyone who liked Steins;Gate should not miss this one.
3. Final Fantasy XV [PS4, XBO]
Final Fantasy XV is a strange game with huge flaws, that nonetheless manages to be more than just the sum of its parts. At its best it is a brilliant game with surprisingly fun combat, atmospheric dungeons, a stunning world, great soundtrack and great interaction between the 4 main characters. At its worst it feels like a buggy game with an incomplete story told badly, side characters that don’t get enough screentime and boring sidequests. This discrepancy is probably fitting for a game that has been in development hell for such a long time and it is to the development team’s credit that the game nevertheless felt like a cohesive work. It is definitelay not the best FF ever made, but it managed to fill me with optimism fo the future development of the franchise. For a more in-depth discussion of FFXV take a look here.
2. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II [PS3, PSV]
Trails of Cold Steel II picked up right where Cold Steel I ended and almost improved the game experience in every way. The story is much more interesting from the beginning (thanks to this game being the second game in this arc) and the game’s pacing feels less rigid since it’s no longer alternating school and field trip chapters. Combat was already great in the first game, but the addition of Overdrive and a better balance between physical and magic attackers just made it even better. Mecha battles were also improved and were actually fun to do. In the end, I enjoyed the game less than the Trails in the Sky duology, but it was still a great game that made me love this series even more.
1. Dark Souls III [PS4, XBO, PC]
After having played so many “Souls” Titles in the last few years, the obvious question that popped up in my mind was whether there was a danger of me getting fatigued by it. After finishing Dark Souls III I can say with confidence that the formula still works perfectly for me and there was no other game this year that managed to engross me as much as DS3 did. DS3 feels like a culmination of all the other Souls games and while it doesn’t match the greatness of Dark Souls or Bloodborne it once again featured great world, level and enemy design, exciting boss fights and is therefore worthy to be my Game of the Year 2016. I am totally fine with the series ending after this game, but if Dark Souls IV should come out, I would totally play it! That being said… I can’t wait for what Hidetaka Miyazaki has in offer for his next endeavour!