Much like Mark’s list last week, what follows is in no particular order. But first I must say honourable mentions go to some great games that fell just outside my final list:
Mario Kart 8
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
Super Smash Bros for Wii U
Anyway, on to my top ten:
This game. This goddamn game. If 2016 ends and Doom is not on the shortlist for Game of the Year, we are in for a hell of a last few months in gaming. I have always held the Doom name in the highest regard- the original may well have been the first game I ever played, and it is still one of my favourites. After Doom 3, there was a feeling that we’d all been burned by expecting that game to replicate the feeling of its predecessors. I would even go so far as to say that when the multiplayer beta for 2016’s Doom came out, we were all greatly concerned this game would flop. By the time I and many others got our hands on Doom’s campaign, our fears were washed away in a sea of blood and heavy metal.
Id Software have succeeded totally in recapturing the fast and frantic feeling of the original games and bringing them into a visually stunning modern game with heart-pounding action, a head-banging soundtrack, and even the gruesome violence you would expect from the series. Perhaps most vital of all to the success of this game is that it never takes itself too seriously and allows first person shooting to be fun again.
Take one part Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, one part Jet Set Radio, pour over a hyperactive child’s fever dream, and serve. That is the recipe for Sunset Overdrive- a game so entertaining and so bizarre it finally made me cave in and purchase an Xbox One. Insomniac developed an open world that wasn’t afraid to be as colourful and weird as possible, which has helped fill a Saints Row- sized hole in my life this generation. In addition to the colour, Insomniac made a point to build a combat system that heavily pushes you to never stop moving, using your environment to jump, grind and build your combo meter up to stay out of enemy fire and allow you to inflict maximum damage when you attack. This emphasis on quick and varied movement gives the combat a fast-paced and frantic feeling and adds an additional layer of challenge to the tradition of ‘hide behind a chest high wall’ that a lot of third person games fall back on.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
I will stay brief to avoid myself lapsing into a FUCK KONAMI diatribe, but the fact that MGSV is as good as it is for how much shit Kojima and the game were getting from Konami before and after its release is nothing short of astonishing. MGSV closes out the story of Big Boss in a game that features all the hallmarks of what you would expect from a Metal Gear Solid Game, but throwing them into a massive open world with an entirely more intuitive control scheme. It is the most ambitious game in the series, and yet one that is probably the most accessible to those not already hooked on the franchise, which is in some ways what makes it so bittersweet that it was the final Hideo Kojima MGS game. Sadly, some thoughts still linger over the legacy of this game that are tinted by the extent of Konami’s involvement: the feeling that there feels like there was supposed to be a third act or additional post-script mission that explained that ending more, or the constant source of hindrance and money-grabbing that came from the FOB side quests.
P.T. is the ultimate ‘what might have been’ of this generation. Allowing Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro loose on the Silent Hill IP after several tepid instalments was a tantalising prospect in itself, but when P.T. dropped it was another matter indeed. This short slice, which may not have even remotely reflected the final game for all we know, was an absolute revelation in horror games. Not in many years has a game in the genre felt as gripping, as terrifying, or indeed as real as P.T. did, and most crucially it fully captured that atmosphere of dread and hopelessness that once put the Silent Hill franchise in a class of its own.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
It is hard to sum up The Witcher 3 in such a short space. This game is an absolute masterpiece deserving of every Game of the Year accolade it has received, including ours. It realises a world so unspeakably vast and gorgeous that feels like it’s teeming with life and diversity and never collapses under its own weight (hello, Fallout 4). For the first time in my life I have found myself utterly wrapped up in the lore and life of a western RPG, and CDPR’s consistent commitment to improving the game and adding content, both free and paid, has been impressive. The game boasts so much content for your financial investment in it, and that is to say nothing of the excellent story expansions that have come out since release. The Witcher 3 is an absolute must play.
Jackbox Party Pack 1 and 2
In my old curmudgeonly existence of recent years, I have tended to lean further away from multiplayer experiences. One of the recent exceptions to this are the excellent Jackbox Party Packs which bring all the fun of couch multiplayer gaming into this generation. The packs are comprised of a number of different competitive party games, generally for up to 8 players. Rather smartly, all contestants need to play are any device capable of connecting to their website- phones, tablets, laptops, so having an abundance of controllers is never a concern. Most of the games in these packs are plenty of fun and suitable for multiple replays, and on more than one occasion we have played these games in our house and been reduced to tears of laughter by the end of the evening.
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
There isn’t much I need to say about ME:SoM. It is the combat of the Arkham games brought into the world of The Lord of the Rings. The history of LOTR games has been inconsistent to say the least, but this new story set outside the fringes of the stories we all know of from that world is one of the best we’ve seen to date. The game also had the advent of the Nemesis system that adds weight and history to physical encounters and enemy characters in the game. It’s hard to beat the satisfaction of a well-timed parry and spin into decapitating an orc.
Mark has already pretty much said everything we need to about this game in his list. Hitman has completely revitalised the franchise, and thus far given us three maps of incredible detail and choice that encourage repeat playthroughs. I also really appreciate the episodic nature of the game giving us the freedom to digest each of the maps and explore some of the incredibly creative ways to kill your mark.
My last two games represent a couple of games that really surprised me. Until Dawn was originally a PS Move game for PS3 that was redesigned as a PS4 game some years later. Until Dawn feels like what you would get if Quantic Dream made a slasher movie. The game is a total love letter to horror movies and the tropes they play into, and more so than most games I have played, it feels like my choices matter. Throughout my 8 hours with the game I constantly felt like one wrong choice, or one missed QTE was going to kill off a character, in a game where it is stressed that any character can die at any time and it is possible for all or none of them to survive. Until Dawn is a tense thrill ride with some great performances from Hayden Panettiere, Rami Malek and the always creepy Peter Stormare.
Dying Light is the game Dead Island should have been. It does the fear of a zombie outbreak better than most games I play, it does open world parkour better than most games I play, it does the adrenaline rush of melee combat better than most games I play and it does ‘OH FUCK DAVE WHY DID YOU GO OUTSIDE AT NIGHT YOU STUPID MAN! RUN! RUN!’ better than most games I play. Dying Light came out to little fanfare in January 2015, and even having beaten the game a couple of times myself, I still find it just as engaging to pick back up now