It's January 2017 and that means it's that time of year when we all get nostalgic for the year that was. We like to take a look back and remember what we played, list our favourite games of the year, and even have a chuckle at the very worst the year had to offer.
So that brings us to the very best 2016 had to offer. It's fair to say a lot of people left 2016 feeling a little disappointed -- at least on the AAA front -- especially when you glance back at the star-studded 2015. However, once you dig a little deeper and look past the Mirror's Edge's, Mafia 3's, and No Man's Sky's, you'll find a lot of great titles that surpassed expectations, or came out of nowhere to blow us away!
Before we dive in to this list of greatness, the games are listed by their Metacritic score. Several games scored the same average, and are therefore ordered by their user score. There is no bias on this list, it's all based on the compiled reviews of critics, but don't be afraid to jump into the comments and let us know what your favourite games of 2016 were!
Here we have the only VR game that makes the top 10 list. Rez: Infinite almost didn't make the list however because it is technically a revamped version of the PS2 game, Rez. However Infinite is a significantly improved and changed version of the game that's more than just a remaster.
Rez is an on-rails shooter that pits you as an AI in a computer system, with humans as the enemy injecting viruses into the system to destroy you. Making use of a lock-on mechanic and bombs, you blast your way through many levels of electronica-infused colour spasms that threaten to induce you in a coma.
Indeed Rez: Infinite is an experience like few others; don't get me wrong, many have tried but none have succeeded. Somehow the Rez formula still holds up to this day and just so happens to find new life inside a PSVR helmet.
Dark Souls was born from the ashes of Demon Souls -- a game that Sony had exclusive rights to but didn't see any potential in -- and what a spiritual successor it turned out to be. I for one would have considered the art of being relentlessly killed to turn many gamers off, but apparently we are gluttons for punishment. Dark Souls was a big success, then Dark Souls II released to less fanfare. Soon thereafter, Sony, releasing the error of its ways, rekindled its relationship with the studio to make Bloodborne. The PS4-exclusive was another huge hit and proved that lightning could strike twice.
Which brings us to Dark Souls III. Once again rising from the ashes, the From Software team resurrected the series from the limp corpse of Dark Souls II, added what they learned from Bloodborne, and created their finest adventure into madness yet.
Dark Souls III is a masterclass is world design, boss battles, visuals, and character progression. Sure the frame rate can wobble here and there, and the difficulty spikes are egregious, but those are two small complaints in what is a fantastic game. From Software, and creator Miyazaki, say that Dark Souls III is the end of the series -- although we will get more Bloodborne -- thus the series leaves us the way it came in; with a mighty punch in the face.
Let me guess, you haven't even heard of this one. Well don't feel bad, neither had I. Stephen's Sausage Roll was definitely not a title I expected to come across in the Metacritic best games of 2016 list, and yet here it is.
The gist is; you roll a sausage around a map until you reach the cooking area, and attempt to keep it there, without burning it, until done. Pretty straightforward stuff but if you've played, or watched, I Am Bread or Surgeon Simulator, you'll know it's anything but. The game gives you little in the way of instructions and forces you to figure certain things out on your own, a nice breath of fresh air in the days of over-complicated tutorials.
The ingenuity of the level design and the way the game teaches you things without you even realising are where this game succeeds most. It's a difficult game, but not an unfair one, and you'll be shocked by how very long it is. The game costs $30, which may sound a little much, but there is dozens of hours of content and the game consistently reveals new things and upends your expectations. It was a surprise that Stephen's Sausage Roll made this list but the real surprise is just how damn good it is.
Sometime in the past 5-6 years, 2K's NBA series snatched the crown of the best sports game and refuses to give it back. The series boasts unmatched graphics, career mode, commentary, and pure gameplay.
The caveat with the NBA series is that it's far from easy to just pick-up and play. The controls for the game are deep and quite complicated, unlike EA's Fifa, and that can be a barrier to entry but for those who take the time, find incredibly diverse gameplay that offers many hours of replay value.
The devil is in the details, as they say, and NBA is unrivalled. Every team plays exactly like their real-life counterparts, the crowd looks fantastic, guest-commentators keep things fresh, and many new and tweaked gameplay modes, are the reason NBA 2K17 retains the crown of best sports game.
You would have to have been living under a rock to not have heard of Stardew Valley. Releasing in February of 2016, Stardew Valley slowly spread like a forest-fire via word of mouth. The groundswell around this little title was reminiscent of Undertale last year.
What seems like a fairly innocuous farming simulator with charming graphics, Stardew Valley repeatedly peels back layer-after-layer of story and new gameplay elements. Like a cross between Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing, this game created solely by Eric Barone, is a heartwarming life-simulator that threatens to eat-up hundreds of hours of your life.
I think we all know what Overwatch is; a stylised team-based shooter from Blizzard. And we all know that it's pretty much unrivalled in the genre.
2016 was looking to be the year of the "hero-shooters," what with Battleborn, Paragon, and Overwatch duking it out for the crown. Now, at the start of 2017, I think we can all safely say that Overwatch wiped the floor with its competitors.
Featuring fantastic characters, slick visuals, and an addictive one-more-match mentality, Overwatch set itself apart from the other hero-shooters. Sure those games tried the same thing but they lacked that special Blizzard-level of polish and swagger. Overwatch is as good as it gets right now on the competitive multiplayer scene, and was voted game of the year by many an outlet.
Every year Microsoft releases a new Forza game, be it Motorsport or Horizon, developed by Turn 10 or Playground Games, respectively. And with every passing year, Forza has slowly but surely replaced Gran Turismo as the King of the racing genre -- on consoles anyway.
Forza Horizon 3 is the latest instalment in this amazing franchise, and it genuinely took the series to new heights. Horizon is the more open of the two series', allowing players to drive a variety of vehicles and race in wide open environments. This time around, the fast-action was taken down under to the land of Australia where players got to race in beautiful, exotic locales.
The sheer breadth of activities, tracks and vehicles gives the game a ton of replay value but really the fun gameplay and stunning visuals are the real reason to go on this trip. Playground Games reminds us that driving games can be simply fun for those who aren't masters of the genre. You're up Turn 10, let's see what 2017 brings.
Just like last year, Out of the Park Baseball '17, ahem, knocks it out of the park and scores high on the year's best list.
Simply put, OOTP Baseball series is the go-to game if you want a baseball simulator. I mean, just look at the amount of information on screen (as seen above). The game puts you in the shoes of a baseball GM and tasks you with rising through the ranks, managing finances, trading/scouting, negotiating contracts, and all the standard GM mode affairs. However it's the insane amount of depth that OOTP '17 really shows-off.
For example, you can play as any team, from the major league to the minor league... or any team from the past 150 years. Yep, any baseball team in the frickin' history of the sport. The game doesn't feature any new modes worth mentioning, so unless you were a huge fan, you could stick with '16 and be fine. But for the hardcore fans out there, OOTP Baseball '17 is yet another entry in the finest sports sim around.
We waited 6 years for the next game from Limbo developer, Playdead, and boy was it worth the wait.
It can be very hard for a game to live-up to the expectations of a wait like that, especially an indie game because they are smaller games that tend to only last an hour or two, so that makes it even more impressive when they exceed those expectations. Inside did just that.
Receiving absolute critical acclaim, Inside evolved the formula of Limbo and, some would say, perfected the puzzle platformer. The visuals were perfectly artsy, the animations were highly-impressive, clever puzzles, and the story intriguing and just the right amount of vague. Some could argue that the puzzles in the game left a little to be desired but they weren't the focus of the game, Inside is about narrative, and the tale it weaves will leave you reeling for some time.
Ahhh Naughty Dog, the unquestionable rulers and masters of the video game universe. Colin Moriarty of Kinda Funny often says that Naughty Dog operates on a level that no other developer even comes close to, and I'm inclined to agree.
The Uncharted series is among the very finest in all of video games, with 2 and 3 being both genuine masterpieces (and the original no slouch either). Then came The Last of Us which, for all of Uncharted's plaudits and achievements, cemented Naughty Dog as a step above everyone else in every way. The Last of Us is one of the greatest pieces of art and storytelling ever, in video games, movies, TV, whatever. It's that good.
So with Naughty Dog returning to Uncharted, and calling it Nathan Drake's last adventure, it's fair to say expectations were high. Well, Naughty Dog proved to everyone once again, that pressure and expectations mean little when you have a story to tell and the chops to make it good. And that it the biggest difference between Naughty Dog and many other developers, they don't just make a video game for the sake of it, they tell stories with compelling characters, the finest dialogue around, unparalleled graphics, and awe-inspiring set-pieces.
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End had all of those elements and more. Naughty Dog presented us with a more mature Uncharted; one we weren't sure we wanted but made total sense when we played it. Gunfights were scaled back in lieu of more exploration, driving sequences, and environmental storytelling. It was the perfect marriage of Uncharted and The Last of Us.
Nathan Drake's final adventure was a thrilling, emotional journey that cemented him, and Uncharted, as gaming royalty. I don't believe we've seen the end of Uncharted but, for now, Nathan Drake bows out on the highest of high notes. What more can be said about another masterpiece from the best developer in the industry? Uncharted 4: A Thief's End was the very best game of 2016, bar none.
And there you have it! 2016 is officially in the rear view mirror and, after a list like that, we can agree it was a heck of a year.
From blazing the trail in Madagascar with Nathan Drake, to building your own world in Stardew Valley -- with a few sausages in between -- 2016 offered up some pretty amazing experiences.
If nothing else, this list proves the sheer diversity in video games these days, what with a racing game, two sports titles, a VR experience, and several indie games. There really is something for everyone on this list and that's representative of gaming as a whole these days. We're spoiled with variety like no other time in history and maybe we should remember that the next time we get mad about Assassin's Creed's next location, or Death Stranding being many years away.
We gamers like to gripe about the little things sometimes, but every now and then it's nice to sit back and take a look at the truly amazing adventures we partake in. Developers spend hundreds, thousands, of hours toiling away on some of these titles and they deserve our thanks every now and then. So hop on to Twitter and send a nice word the way of Naughty Dog, or Playdead, or Increpare. Of course, before you do that you should let us know what your favourite game of 2016 was! And, as always, stay tuned to GameSkinny!