The Best Games of 2016
Everybody realizes 2016 was a remarkably shitty year in several respects, and unfortunately, even videogames didn’t escape the storm.
There were some games of note of course, mostly general Triple A-sequels, and who could forget Pokémon Go (everybody, about six weeks after it started apparently. I never tried it).
There really isn’t a lot to talk about this year when it comes to our favorite electronic entertainment, but I’ve manage to scrounge up five games of note, nevertheless. I dig through the muck so you don’t have to. At least 2016 had some interesting things to offer.
Honorable mention: Batman: The Telltale Series, which is delightful fun and a deserved no. 6 on this list. Telltale, with their narrative-driven games based on player choices, never disappoints (their third Walking Dead-game also started in 2016, and is supposed to be pretty great).
5: Gears Of War 4
It seems that I put a typical Triple A-shooter-male fantasy-game on this list every year, which, I guess, just goes to show that these games aren’t as bad as one would think. ‘Gears of War 4’ is the first continuation of the Gears of War-plot after the main story of the first three parts had concluded, and follows a new set of characters, led by James Dominic Fenix, who is the son of previous main character, Marcus Fenix.
The game – while still about soldiers protecting their home world from an alien invasion that doesn’t come from the sky, but out of the ground – changes its storyline in that it focuses more on the horror-elements of such a situation, and less on the rowdy shooting that the first three games consisted of. In this way, the game becomes more personal and less like a typical Hollywood blockbuster. Don’t worry though, since blasting baddies is still most of what you’ll be doing. This time however, you’ll soil your pantaloons once or twice while you do it.
Oh, and the game looks gorgeous (although that might also be thanks to my new Xbox One S, which is a beauty). The aliens look cool and terrifying, the washed out landscapes convey a real sense of dread, and you can almost smell the morning dew covering the mist covered treetops.
So, if you wanna clear your head, live out some delightful scares, and simply root-toot point-’n-shoot, this is the game for you. Popcorn entertainment at its finest.
From the creators of Limbo (2010), a game without dialogue about a boy who is searching for his sister in the woods, comes a game without dialogue about a boy who is searching for a way out of the woods when first we meet him.
Write what you know, I do suppose.
There’s more to Playdead’s new masterpiece of course, but since the beauty of their games is figuring out the narrative for yourself and philosophizing about what it all could mean, I won’t spoil it for you.
Inside, like Limbo, is a puzzle game at heart, and while the scenery is delightfully creepy, the frustration of some of the puzzles might ruin the mood a bit for you. None of that will matter much however, since you’re thrown from delightful set piece to delightful set piece.
The horror vibe is less than in Limbo (the game isn’t black and white and silhouetted, for starters – in fact, it’s rather beautifully rendered in dark and moody colors), but it’s still there, and the feeling of helplessness the game achieves will serve to make this game an intense and satisfying journey for the player.
3: The Last Guardian
I only recently discovered gaming’s biggest indie contribution (through college, go figure), namely the games by Japanese developer Team Ico: Ico (2001) and Shadow of the Colossus (2005). Like the games by Playdead, they lack dialogue and hide their narrative for the player to figure out. Their emphasis is on the journey the player embarks on, and the locations he discovers, not necessarily the goal he’s trying to achieve (chasing a goal with blind determination, the aesop of the games seems to be, could do more harm than good).
Team Ico’s third game, The Last Guardian, got mild reviews, but I loved it. A young boy finds a strange, giant creature that had been hunted down, and befriends it by tending to its wounds. Together, they roam beautiful landscapes and solve puzzles.
Criticism was directed towards the difficulty of manoeuvering the animal, but while I will admit this requires patience, I found it to add a lot to the ambience of the game. The creature is still wild, and won’t always respond to the young boy’s commands. This lends a very real vibe to the relationship between boy and beast, and makes the player hesitant towards the monster – which is probably how one would feel in real life.
The game breathes real emotion, and to me, really embodies the journey of a child. Full of wonderment, and learning by doing. A true artistic achievement.
2: Quantum Break
From Remedy Entertainment, the creators of one of my all-time favorite game series, Max Payne, and another gem, Alan Wake, comes another masterpiece (no one else seems to agree with me). Quantum Break is well acted, intense, has great gameplay, and looks gorgeous. Jack Joyce (Iceman from the X-Men films) is the player character, who follows his best friend Paul Serene (Littlefinger from Game Of Thrones) in a time travel experiment that, naturally, goes awry and threatens to end time forever. What follows is a very cool and intriguing time travel plot that manages to be intricate without becoming too inexplicable.
Having been at the center of the time accident, Jack now has time control powers that are a joy to use and destroy enemies with. The gameplay is smooth as butter, and mixing up the shooter elements with several different ways of distorting and stopping time makes every fight an intense one that will get your adrenaline surging.
A unique selling point is the fact that five live-action episodes have been added to the game, so that every once in a while, the game is interspersed with a short movie, following a secondary set of characters. This was critiqued the most, and while they’re not great, I thoroughly enjoyed them and never felt they interrupted the action. At the very least it’s refreshing to see game developers try something new. Still, they do tend to prove that Littlefinger is not that great of an actor, apparently.
Personally, I’m hoping for a sequel, and since Remedy, who normally take at least five years to produce a new game, have already announced two (!) new games on the way, it feels like Christmas has come early.
1: Mr. Robot: 1.51exfiltrati0n.apk
Well, the Number One on this list holds several surprises. It’s a mobile game, it’s a text adventure (weren’t those extinct?), and it’s based on a television show.
Mr. Robot is a show following Elliot Alderson, a hacker with mental problems who wants to take down a mega corporation to save the world from debt enslavement.
In this game, which is set in the middle of Season 1, you play a hapless observer who happens to pick up a phone from the street, belonging to Elliot’s sister. She needs it back, and blackmails you into helping her hack several persons by sending them texts, gaining their personal info and impersonating officials.
While it’s a bit glitched (the game crashes more often than you’d like), this game deservedly gets the number one spot for being utterly absorbing. The game acts as a simple messaging app, on which you are constantly sending and receiving texts. It works in real time, so if someone tells you they’ll get back to you in an hour, an hour you’ll wait. Since it plays out on your phone, you start to feel like a real hacker when you are conversing with hapless victims while in real life, you’re at the dinner table.
Since it all feels so real, the game can really get to you. When I was blackmailing a man into doing something for me, or else I’d tell his son his father was visiting prostitutes, you do genuinely feel like a real douchebag. I wonder what it says about me that I made good on my threats.
Oh, will you look at that. Produced by Telltale Games. Keep it up, guys, you’re doing just fine.
Tom Breedveld (1994) is film student by day, crime-fighter by night. He’s also a smart-ass.
op 18 01 2017 at 11:38 schreef Theo:
Great this. 2 questions for ‘smart-ass’ Tom. What console Inside can be played at and what did you think of Fall Out 4? Thanks for this.
op 18 01 2017 at 14:44 schreef Theo:
Nevermind Tom. Googled it. Leaves the second question: did you play Fall Out 4, if yes, what are you’re thoughts on that one?
op 18 01 2017 at 19:36 schreef Tom Breedveld:
I played Inside on the PS4, and as for Fallout 4: it’s number 1 on my ‘best games of 2015’-list. I am a big Fallout-fan, and I thoroughly enjoyed 4. Can’t wait for the next game.
op 18 01 2017 at 21:35 schreef Theo:
You’re absolutely right Tom. November 2015 it was released . Looking very much forward to the switch aswell. Good old Mario. Im an old school Zelda fan although the last 3 were too Disney if you ask me. There’s rumor that a new Metroid game will be devellopped for the switch so that’s good news.
op 19 01 2017 at 22:05 schreef Murat:
Zou je een “best books of 2016” kunnen doen?
op 20 01 2017 at 00:30 schreef Peter:
Ik heb niet genoeg boeken gelezen die in 2016 zijn uitgebracht voor een top tien.
op 20 01 2017 at 01:15 schreef Murat:
Misschien een top 10 voor de laatste, zeg, 10 jaar of zo?
Ik vind je smaak voor films en series erg goed dus ik weet zeker dat ik je boeken ook kan waarderen.
op 20 01 2017 at 09:42 schreef Peter:
Dank, Murat. De laatste jaren lees ik heel weinig nieuw werk, vooral klassiekers die ik vroeger heb overgeslagen: Decamerone, Tristram Shandy, dat soort boeken. Afgelopen zomer heb ik voor het eerst iets van Hemingway gelezen.
Iemand vroeg me al eens eerder, en ik werk er af en toe aan, om een top 100 van favoriete boeken te maken.
Some time in the future.
op 20 01 2017 at 11:25 schreef Murat:
op 20 01 2017 at 22:24 schreef Tom Breedveld:
Never been that big of a Nintendo-fan, but of course it’s always interesting to see what they can come up with. One of these I’m going to try and finish a Zelda-game, every gamer should.
op 21 01 2017 at 17:30 schreef Theo:
Tom: if you are going to try Zelda, which every gamer should indeed, i advise you to play The Ocarina of Time. It’s still the best ever in my opinion.