My Standout Games of 2016

Games I enjoyed in 2016 in no particular order

2016 has been a good year for video games. It turns out I played more than I thought this year. I spent time in No Man’s Sky, but it didn’t make the list. It’s a pretty diverse list but here are my favorites of the year:

Super Mario Run (iOS)

We live in a different reality now, where Donald Trump is the president-elect and Nintendo is making games for non-Nintendo hardware. Super Mario Run is a great game and puts other mobile games to shame with the amount of polish this game has. (I wrote more about this in detail a bit ago.)

Videoball (PS4)

Videoball is a game I had followed for a while. It’s a single screen multiplayer game where players shoot balls into goals with triangles. It’s easy to pickup and start a game with newcomers even if they aren’t hardcore gamers. Shoot balls with triangles from your bigger triangle. It’s one of those easy to learn but hard to master games. “That sure was Videoball.”

Pokémon Go (iOS)

Pokémon Go has certainly been an experience, but is it really a game? It’s like a digital scavenger hunt everyone is playing. My fondest memory was playing it on vacation with four other grown adults. Our vacation spot was a veritable Galapagos Islands of Pokémon diversity. I am not super invested on Pokémon Go as some of my friends are/were, but I still open up the app from time to time.

DOOM (PS4)

I was pumped for a new DOOM1 since the first preview last year. When I booted up the game I found a first person shooter that threw all the “realism” (reloading, hiding behind cover, gritty story, etc.) right out the door. It is a throwback to older FPS games, but with modern sensibilities and level design. It also allows you to play the game how you want to play it. If you want story, there is one. If you want to explore, you can. Every encounter in this game is crafted and fun. If you stop moving, you’re dead. It makes for a frantic, ridiculous game that always gets my adrenaline pumping.

Overwatch (PS4)

Overwatch is probably my favorite game this year. Another FPS, but one that is so polished and fun. It doesn’t matter if you want to play this game casually or competitively, it caters to all. As of writing this there are 24 distinct characters, both in play style and personality. The game promotes teamwork through almost every design choice. Matches end with everyone’s contributions, and it completely negates kill death ratios2 in lieu of how each player contributed to the match. Every interaction with players is a positive one. It is very much like Splatoon in that aspect. Since this is a Blizzard game, there is a whole universe built around this game. Surprisingly all the information about that universe is found outside of the game through short movies and comics. The minor detail of having characters speak things to each other before a match referencing their personal histories is such a small thing that has a huge impact on the world Blizzard has built. Even if you don’t play the game, watch the short below and see the amazing world Blizzard has built.

Jackbox Party Pack 3 & Drawful 2 (PS4)

Jackbox Games continues their realization of making interactive party games that are so much fun to play. The great thing about these games is that experience of other video games is not necessary to enjoy them, which makes them very approachable for everyone. Just use your mobile device as a controller. These games always produce such laughter and are much deeper than something like Cards Against Humanity.

Forza Horizon 3 (XBone)

I love these games. It is so expansive. Driving into a sunset , or off a cliff, or racing a train, it’s got something for everyone.

Honorable Mentions

The Witness (PS4)
A fun puzzle exploration game that I’ve played with my wife. It almost feels like a modern Myst but better in almost every way. I need to finish this.

Oxenfree (XBone)
An adventure game focused on choices. It follows the story of five people on a trip to an island and then some spooky things happen. The best thing is how well the dialogue and dialogue trees flow into the game. It’s more about the journey than the destination.

Gone Home (PS4)
Another adventure game that tells an intimate story while you explore a spooky large house during a storm. There is more than meets the eye. I would recommend this to people who don’t play games often.


  1. It has to be in all CAPS, or else. 
  2. “What’s your KDR man? Headshots, boom!” 

My Games of 2013

This is a little late, but I wanted to post about my favorite games of 2013. I didn’t have a chance to play everything that came out. I really want to check out Gone Home when I have a chance. These are the games that stuck with me as I played them throughout 2013. They are presented in no particular order.

 

The Wonderful 101

The Wonderful 101

This game was something that I anticipated since it showed up briefly at E3 when the Wii U was debuted. There was something about the art style that just said “fun” on it. When I played the demo, I knew this was a game I would spend hours with. The Wonderful 101 was developed by Platinum Games who are known for their crazy over the top action with games like Bayonetta, Vanquish, and Metal Gear Rising: Revengence. If you have never played a game from Platinum, you’re missing out on how crazy an action game can get. They make God of War look tame.

The Wonderful 101 is hard to explain to anyone. It’s an action game, where you control up to 100 miniscule heroes that act as one unit to form giant hands, swords, guns, whips, and a hammer to defeat an invading alien race. At first it looks like Pikmin, but the looks are deceiving. This game requires you to draw shapes on the Wii U gamepad or the right analog stick that will then transform your team into the weapons you’ll need to defeat bad guys. The drawing has a hint of Okami in it, which should make sense due to the director being the same on both games.

Match the action elements with a sort of superhero Power Rangers vibe, humor, an action packed score, and a plot that never takes itself too seriously, with tons of unlockables and depth, and this game doesn’t want you to stop playing it.

I had a lot of fun with this game, and it made me smile and laugh. Just imagine  a bunch of giant robots becoming an enormous robot to save the day and you’ve got the gist of this game. It’s brutally hard in pure Platinum Games fashion which requires you to learn techniques instead of button mashing your way to the end. There isn’t much like this game, and it’s a shame not many people will play it.

Super Mario 3D WorldSuper Mario 3D World

Super Mario 3D Land was one of the best Mario games ever created. You’ve never played it have you? It debuted on the 3DS a few years ago. To me, it was the best 3D Mario game ever. I enjoyed Super Mario 64,  Galaxy, and I’m probably one of the few people that really enjoyed Sunshine. But Super Mario 3D Land was more Mario than any of those games. Run, jump, get power ups, get to the end within the time limit. Each level is different from the last.

Super Mario 3D World trumps everything 3D Land did and then some. We’ve received a lot of Mario games in the past few years, but if I told you to play one, this would be it. It’s fun, it lasts forever, there’s an appropriate blend of nostalgia and new stuff. It boasts a less stressful multiplayer than the 2D games did. I’ll end with this: Cat Mario!

 

Brothers: A Tale of Two SonsBrothers: A Tale of Two Sons

This is an indie game that is more focused on story than gameplay. However, the gameplay has a quirk that works in a novel way. You control two brothers simultaneously. I’ll wait while you catch your breath. Each brother is controlled with one of the analog sticks, and you have one action button designated to the corresponding trigger button.

The story is a sad one. It starts off with a father who is sick and dying. You play as his two sons and are tasked with retrieving the only thing that will save his life, the water of life found from a tree far away. With that you set off on your quest.

There are puzzles you’ll have to figure out using each of the brothers. The older brother is stronger and taller and can lift the younger brother to heights unreachable. The younger brother is smaller and more nimble. As you interact with characters you’ll find that the older brother is serious and stays on task, while the younger brother is a joker and likes to laugh. None of the characters speak any dialogue, but conversations are carried out in a sort of weird type of Simish which properly conveys the tone of each character. It’s simply amazing that you know what these characters are feeling without a word spoken.

Without ruining the story for you, be prepared to cry. I cried at the end of this game. The game world is beautiful, but you always get a hint of despair in this world as you move forward. The music always hits the right notes.

Even if you don’t game that often, play this game. It needs to be experienced.

 

Bioshock: InfiniteBioshock Infinite

One of the most anticipated games of the past year, Bioshock: Infinite is a game that I have a hard time figuring out why I enjoyed it so much. The gameplay is left pretty much unchanged from other Bioshock games, and frankly is the most grinding part of the experience as it never really changes or grows. I ended up using the same guns and powers for the majority of this game. The fighting almost felt like filler until the last battle.

The world and story, however, are on a whole different level. This is a world that you could never experience in film or a novel to the degree you would in a game. The worlds lets you absorb it at your own pace. Several of my favorite parts were just taking in the scenery and atmosphere.

The game is set in a city floating high above the United States of America in 1912. This floating paradise, called Columbia, is a place where the founding fathers are worshipped like gods, and has a sense of Americana only found in those old timey 1000 piece puzzles.

I love the story of this game and I can’t describe it fully in a way it deserves. This is a world that felt lived in and believeable. The characters felt believable. This game deserves to be scoured over and over for all kinds of details. The art design and score were top notch. And kudos to Irrational Games for developing a companion character that helps you and has a huge part in the story without ever feeling like you’re on an escort mission.

The ending was fantastic, surprising, and best left unspoiled.

 

The Last of UsThe Last of Us

The trend in the past few years has been “put some zombies in it.” I think that was one of the things that detracted people from this game initially. Post-apocalyptic stories are a dime a dozen these days. But this one tells a story that always has you trudging forward with some sense of hope, and a thread of humanity lingering in the distance.

This game pulls you in within the first 30 minutes. Then it flashes forward twenty years in the bat of an eye. The world has been ravaged by a killer fungus. There are infected in this game that take the role of zombies, and of course they’re always found in dark places, and terrifying. I’ll say this: the infected are not the scariest part of this game. It’s the survivors. This game is graphic and violent, but in a way that is brutally honest due to the world everyone lives in now. You either survive, or you don’t.

The characters in this game are some of the most human I’ve ever seen in a game. You see them evolve over the full playthrough. It’s also a game that makes most of the characters gray in their sense of morality. You don’t know whether you should be cheering for them or not.

But the gameplay is not sacrificed for story, which made me enjoy this game more than Bioshock: Infinite. This game could be classified as survivor horror. Supplies will be limited, you will need to be cautious to survive. I never felt that the game was unfair. Not once. Sure I died, but the gameplay blends seamlessly into the story. You catch your breath before you move forward.

This game also leads you to think you’ll be safe, and then you fall down an elevator shaft, and have to climb your way back to the top, in the dark, with everyone alerted to your presence. Several moments like this one appear. This world is always reminding you: nothing is safe.

If you like resolution in your stories, the ending may leave you upset, but for me it fit the game perfectly.

 

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past has a very dear place in my heart.  It was the game that made me look at games more seriously. It had a story unlike anything I had experienced at the time. It had fun gameplay, a sense of exploration, and music that fit every location perfectly.

A Link Between Worlds

A Link Between Worlds revives all my favorite qualities of a Zelda game.  It never tells you what to do, or how to do it. The best part is that they’ve evolved the gameplay a bit, and they let you tackle the game in any order you’d like. The dungeons are streamlined and fun, and I never felt like I was backtracking.The best part of that game was that it never told you what to do, where to go, or how to do anything. It required some old fashioned problem solving. Due to the freedom the game gave you, the world felt enormous. To this day, it’s still my favorite Zelda game no matter how many people tell me Ocarina of Time was better.

The world is taken from A Link to the Past, almost exactly. A few things have changed, but you’ll feel like you’re revisiting the home you grew up with if you’ve played ALTTP. If you haven’t, that’s fine and I would recommend you play this game anyways, but there are several homages paid to ALTTP that are always welcome.

The music features reprisals from A Link to the Past with more detail and nuances than the originals. In the last dungeon, the music mounted and grew as parts were added, and as the volume increased, you sensed that the final battle was about to occur.

This is the best thing to happen to a Zelda game in years. I am glad this game came out on a handheld after Spirit Tracks, which I consider to be a low point for the series.

The other favorite part of this game was that there were no gimmicks. No waggling a controller, no using a stylus to control something, no blowing into a microphone to simulate a pan flute. I seriously spent 15 minutes trying to blow notes into that stupid pan flute in Spirit Tracks, and I almost threw my DS across the room. I should mention that I finished Spirit Tracks just a month or two before A Link Between Worlds came out, which made this game so much sweeter seeing the series restored to such great heights.

Final Words

Well that’s it. It’s not hard to notice that three of my games are only found on Nintendo consoles. But these games are great examples of why Nintendo is hard to beat, and it’s great they came out in 2013 when scrutiny against Nintendo has been higher than ever. 2014 will prove an interesting year with the new consoles in play, and Nintendo hasn’t revealed anything new in awhile. I think 2014 will be a great year for gaming.