Top 10 Games of 2016 — When You Swim Against The Mainstream

So what does the 2016 top ten list look like for someone that isn't a fan of AAA games?

Unlike the general gaming public, my tastes are a little different. In short, I lean very much on niche and indie titles — not that there’s anything wrong with mainstream games.

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After all, they drive the market at large and set consumer trends. So, like any other year 2016 saw the release of many games. I made sure to keep my focus under the radar if you will. Here’s my list of the ten best games I had the pleasure of playing.

Titanfall 2

Full disclosure; this is the only triple A title on my list. Now that’s not to say the game wasn’t fun or failed. The only real knock to is that not enough people have experienced it. The narrative is everything you want in a better than decent sci-fi anime. A regular soldier secretly trains to be an elite pilot, things hit the fan, you end up saving your planet, and maybe even time itself?

Throughout Jack and BT’s journey they form a bond behind man and machine. Time and time again both are placed into deadly situations. You have the ability to conquer these situations with skills of both individuals. For example, there’s a moment in the game where the enemy uses numbers against you. Through fast and well thought out planning you can turn the tides. 

The game also features interesting sections where you can display great feats of parkour. Also the robot fights are grandiose and dramatic. If there’s something wrong with enjoying robots blowing up, I don’t want to be right! And not the mention the multiplayer being a lot of fun too.

Let It Die

Grasshopper Manufacturer is back with what they do best. The title is punk, obscure, niche, and one of a kind. The game is a free to play dungeon crawler where you ascend a massive tower. The game takes place in a strange dystopia where you’re a dime a dozen explorer… in a very realistic videogame. Oh and a skateboarding, retro game loving grim reaper is your fan.

Let it Die, much like other Suda 51 games, slowly opens up all its details to you. The more you progress in the tower the more rewards and benefits come. The tile shares a lot of similarities with Dark Souls. Death is very likely and you have to keep in mind it can come at any minute.

Although it’s single player, it’s also a constant PvP title as well. Let It Die is also part survival action game, where you have to defend your base. Now all these facets of the game can seem overwhelming, however, the fun is a constant challenge.

The game also has a soundtrack backed by 100 rock bands. Yeah, 100 my friends.

Kirby Planet Robobot

Kirby has made a comeback and he lands on the Nintendo 3DS. Planet Robobot is a head nod to the pink powderpuff’s roots. It’s a fast and challenging platformer spanning a number of 7 stages. Let me tell you, Nintendo makes some worthwhile platformers.

Planet present collectibles that you must collect to move one. When you find all collectibles, you’re able to unlock a secret level. These secret levels serve as extra challenge stages. Its very worthwhile to test your mettle from start to finish. Boss fights much like meta knight really do require you to be at your best.

When you add in the clever puzzles that involves your powers, skills and robot it gets better. Oh yeah, you can use robots and your robot can get powers too. Kirby may not be one of the most popular of Nintendo’s platforming franchises. His games are still some of the best for the genre. Pink never looked so good.

In Extremis

So one of the best indie titles I’ve played was also one of the most artsy as well. In Extremis is a shmup where you explore the universe. Throughout the journey things get trippy and very symbolic.

I’ve played my fair share of titles this year and none have come close as to how aesthetically aware as this. You can play the game for hours worrying about your score. You may ignore all the art and messages dripping across the screen. If you’re at all like me, you spend those same hours trying to make sense of the imagery.

This shmup was built with a focus on art and the theme of aesthetics. From the ship, stages, and the bosses everything has a symbolic meaning. Also the game has an awesome soundtrack selection. Honestly speaking you’re committing a crime by not playing this.

King of Fighters XIV

A good fighter is many things and they have to constantly outdo themselves to stay relevant. KOFXIV is a standard for what fighters should be. It has a large cast of fighters whom each have their own unique play style. A fighter should also have a good number of content; a story mode, unlockables, art and etc.

In a year where more high profile fighters promised to be more, KOFXIV didn’t disappoint. It felt like a complete package mainly because SNK recognized what fans have been clamoring for. The game also feature a robust tutorial mode for all of its cast. The game can also help players become better for competition’s sake as well.

The next factor is competent netplay. Let me tell you that is often a toss up but KOFXIV does ok. If you missed out on this you passed on one of the best fighters.

Stories: The Path of Destinies 

Now imagine an action RPG starring an anthropomorphic cast and story that spans time, space and everything in between.

Confused? Well, in Stories you help Reynardo discover the truth as you play multiple paths based off your decision. The hero (mostly) becomes aware that he is reliving his life over and over. Each time you unlocking more details in the events surrounding the truth.

Each path will lead you more danger or avoid completely. These paths also reveal more about the hero, his friends and more. Some of these choices include betraying an ally or being killed by a love interest. The game also has numerous spells to unlock and weapons to wield. The game expands on the whole concept of replayability and makes it the strongest feature.

Stories is also a very beautiful adventure game. Also the narrator is amazing.

Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator

The best fighter of 2016 was not Street Fighter V friends. This award goes to Guilty Gear. It maybe niche but it has the best visuals, involves the most strategy, the best tutorial, and etc.

Where KOFXIV served at the standard for fighters, Guilty Gear is exceptionally better. No game in recent years has been designed with the same level of detail. The game features multiple levels of detail even among it’s players as well. So it simply isn’t a matter to just win. Certain characters like Sin have their own special gauge where if ignored is completely useless.

Arc System Works also took the time to build an impressive netplay as well. Matches online are practically lag free. I know I mentioned the game was also designed to match the flair of it’s characters. The best fighter again is the one you never heard of or played.

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight

Momodora is one of my favorite indie titles mainly because nothing is similar to it. A pixelated head nod to games of yesteryear. It also stars nearly an all female cast of heroines and villains a like.

This action platformer has you take command of highly capable priestess armed with a magical leaf. Yes I said a leaf. You then traverse a cursed city as you challenge demons, witches and warriors alike. From forest, ruined garden, rundown cathedral and etc. there’s danger everywhere.

Momodora maybe cute but it’s rather cut throat. A lapse of judgement will result in game over. Boss fights themselves can be pretty stress inducing. For example, you’ll fight a giant witch as you try to survive disappearing platforms. This is also just one of the “easier” encounters.

It’s also a wonderfully challenging and creepy game at the same time.

Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse

It’s hard to describe this game sans spoilers but here goes. This was one of my favorite titles because how the game bucks RPG trends. The main character is essentially the pawn of a god. You are then charged to fight demon and angel alike in a power struggle.

You are able to amass a party of powerful fiends and holy deities. The game features a plot where you will fight against various figures of respective folklore and religions. Strategically speaking you are encouraged to recruit and fuse these beings whenever you can. You can also make bosses allies after their defeat. The end game is to have numerous spells at your disposal to handle any situation or respond to them as necessary.

The game is challenging and requires you to be perpetually on guard. Did I mention getting gameover is relatively easy? If a foe within a random battle attacks your weakness you will welcome an inevitable death. Oh and the story is pretty heavy with the whole universe being on the line all and stuff. This game is a welcome addition to the franchise.

Hyper Light Drifter

So my favorite game of the 2016 is a game inspired by the 1990s. Heart Machine created a title that has more than delivered on all its initial goals. The game is haunting, lonely, unforgiving, and leaves the player in control. Outside of very brief opening scenes the game doesn’t directly provide the story, which is hinted at through dialogue — you are also left to proceed without any clues, just a few subtle hints.

Videogames in general are large productions that involve a lot of money — this is a billion dollar industry after all. However, a game doesn’t need a movie budget to be worthwhile.

HLD zeroes in on what games really need to succeed. A few things a game needs to succeed: a seemingly simple goal, an environment, music, and gameplay that reinforces its mood. The game is sad and this was made clear with just the drifter and no Hollywood magic.

Another thing as well is that this game serves as a breath of air for modern difficulty. Games hold our hands and our easier than the past. Obviously that decision was made to appeal to a larger market. So, yes HLD is thoroughly difficult but overcoming the overwhelming opposition feels fantastic. The game respects the skills of the player and makes no compromises. Side note: To the game’s credit it’s the most aesthetically pleasing pixelated adventure game to date as well — the game from beginning to end delivers in all these facets.

Play this game friends, trust me. It’s an experience

So there is my top ten for 2016. Looking back, I don’t see any shortcomings with any of these games really. The audience for each of them maybe small but they are worth the attention. Thankfully, the smaller market of focus will continue to be there for games. I just hope to stay there and not miss out on the gems along the way —  I look forward to 2017 as well because every year with games is an opportunity for more discoveries. I wonder what awaits us.

Did you play any these games? Disagree with the list? What was your top 10 for 2016? Let us known in the comments section alone.

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Jeffrey Rousseau
32. Haitian. Writer. Fan of niche arts/media. Health/fitness addict. Maybe fashionista, speedster, jjba fan music aficionado . Product of Miami, FL.