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!” 

Super Mario Fun Run

The third Nintendo mobile app should have been its first.

Super Mario Run is here! Finally! The one thing that no one wanted was Mario on the mobile phone1. We were wrong. After Miitomo launched and was unapologetically a classic Nintendo move2, we got Pokémon Go, which Nintendo benefitted from but wasn’t directly involved in. People loved it! Nintendo previously announced Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem games in 2015. But to our surprise, an announcement of Super Mario Run came at an Apple keynote presentation in September with Miyamoto himself on stage. A surprise indeed3.

Super Mario Run falls in line with a genre of similar games on mobile devices called “endless runners,” but Super Mario Run isn’t endless. There are obstacles and a goal. The only difference is Mario keeps moving. He’s on a mission and he’s not going to stop. Some have said the game doesn’t feel like a Mario game. This game is called Super Mario RUN after all4. Mario always feels different based on his venue. The first time he showed up on the Nintendo 64, it felt nothing like the Mario we were used to – but it wasn’t bad, it was great!

Super Mario Run is the first Mario game you can play with one hand. It makes it super accessible. It is also one of the largest reaching Mario games, as it was released in over 100 countries. It’s a new frontier for Nintendo to make software on non-Nintendo devices5.

This game is one of the most polished gaming experiences on a mobile phone, period. It has great level design6, a simple yet deep control mechanic, and all levels require skill and can be mastered without cheap hits or other lame mobile game mechanics. It’s simply one of the best games to come out on a mobile device since the iPhone debuted.

Super Mario Run does have flaws, however. The Toad Rally mode feels like grinding, and it has inconsistent difficulty with the opponents. The World Tour mode feels like a game though. A real game. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s a Mario game and it’s fun.

I couldn’t write about this game without talking about the price. Nintendo is asking $10 for this game. Compared to other mobile games out there this may seem expensive, but mobile pricing for apps and games has been unsustainable for quite some time. I’ve had friends who have told me they were unwilling to pay $3 for an app they use everyday. But the fact is, developing and maintaining software or games is expensive. If you like something, support the developers with your wallet. Several great apps and companies have closed their doors because people were unwilling to sustain them, which hinders competition and allows for shit to flood your app stores. Most app stores have a refund policy now, so if you don’t like something, you can return it – just like real stores. It really disturbs me that everyone expects everything for free but will complain about what they get.

Nintendo is going about their pricing scheme the right way. They are presenting three levels of the game you can play without limits. If you like the game, you can pay $9.99 and unlock the full game forever. Nintendo is not presenting it with any micro-transactions. One and done. Try it out – if you want more you can pay, and if not, don’t. This seems to be hurting the success of the game, but I think it’s better than if you saw a $10 price tag for a game you couldn’t try. I don’t agree it’s a bait and switch even if it does show up in the “Free” category.

All and all it’s a good start for a new world for Nintendo, and I’ve had a ton of fun playing it. I think it’s fun for everyone and my friend explained it best:

I’m not a very strong video game player. This game is great for someone like me though, because the worlds are short and survivable, and the lives are essentially infinite. It takes the pressure off, a LOT.

Sidenote: I’ve also really enjoyed the marketing Nintendo has done for the game. See the two videos below:


  1. People were imagining a port Super Mario Bros. with touch screen buttons. Not a new experience. 
  2. Meaning that it didn’t make sense, and was kind of weird but kind of cool but only for a minute. 
  3. Nintendo and Apple working together! 
  4. I love the parkour moves and acrobatics Mario performs in this game. They are so fluidic. I hope they make their way into another Mario game someday. 
  5. Hard to imagine a few years ago. 
  6. A Nintendo standard. 

You Can’t Take The Sky From Me

Open World? Try Open Universe

2016’s most anticipated (and harshest reacted to) game No Man’s Sky has been getting a lot of press. Some good, some bad. In my opinion, it’s making a lot of people think about what games are, could, and should be.

I was smitten when the original trailer for No Man’s Sky debuted at E3 2014.

It was a view at an optimistic space game. Not one focused on war or battle, but just exploration and the great unknown beyond. It almost echoes the mission of the Enterprise: “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Pushing Boundaries But Not Enough

I’ve enjoyed my time in the Euclid Galaxy1 thus far. The game may be repetitive and have no real goals other than just looking around, but it’s the journey, not the destination, that’s important. The game is very reminiscent of early Minecraft, other than it lacks any building mechanic. No Man’s Sky encourages you to see what’s in the next star system. Maybe something great lies there or maybe it will be horrible. Maybe I’m reading too much into the game as an allegory for life.

In my opinion, it’s undetermined if the $60 is worth the price of admission. Once you’ve invested several hours in the game, the late game doesn’t change very much. The early game is spent trying to expand the amount of things you can carry, but unfortunately when your character is able to carry many things, there isn’t any amazing thing you can do. But I can see coming back to this game and universe often in future years for a few hours at a time.

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No Man’s Sky was made by a ridiculously small team. Indie game development and game development in general is a rocky path to success. So I’m happy they’ve charged a full game price for the game. This is more sustainable for them to continue working on the game. I want to see more of what this game could be, so I am choosing to invest in it now. It may be a completely different experience in a few years, or it may not. The developers have been a bit dodgy with questions on what can happen when you come across another character in the game, and I believe Sony falsely marketed the game as an AAA release. But as a person who invested in Mighty No. 9 before that game even came out, I can tell you No Man’s Sky is much more enjoyable than that dumpster fire.

Imagine The Potential

When I travel to each new planet or star system, it makes me imagine a new open galaxy Metroid game starring Samus as she travels from star system to star system searching for answers about the Chozo2 while being hunted by the Space Pirates. The concept of No Man’s Sky will hopefully push the envelope of what is possible for the future.

No Man’s Sky is the closest thing out there that can simulate stepping into a world from science fiction where anything can happen. And you may be the only person ever to experience such worlds based on probability3. It has generated some feels for me unlike anything else and accomplished its goal of being able to step into a cover of a 70s sci-fi novel. Coupled with its amazing atmospheric soundtrack, it makes me feel alone in this vast universe4, and truly does capitalize on the the premise of to boldly go where no man has gone before.


  1. The games immense starting Galaxy. There’s more than one amazingly. 
  2. The now extinct race of people that raised Samus Aran after her parents where obliterated by Space Pirates. 
  3. The game features over 18 Quintillion planets. 
  4. Just like real life! 

Spire Plunging (Love for Towerfall)

I found out about Towerfall when I got an Ouya. It was the Ouya’s “killer app”. I played the single player mode for a few minutes, didn’t see the fun and moved on. I knew it was a game best played with multiple people but I only had one Ouya controller. You can technically sync PS3 controllers with the Ouya but it’s a hassle. I had excuses.

When I found out Towerfall was coming to PS4, bewilderingly I got excited. I only had one PS4 controller. Controllers are expensive these days $60 if you don’t get them on sale. After some Best Buy price matching magic I obtained more controllers, then, I embraced Towerfall.

Towerfall is hard to explain. The fun is lost in description. You don’t have to explain Mario Kart. Mario Kart is the UNO of multiplayer games. Everyone knows about it and you’re either willing to play or not. Admittedly, that’s not the best example.

I invited some friends over gave them a controller and made them play Towerfall. After a few rounds they got it and liked it and wanted more. Towerfall is couch multiplayer at it’s finest. It’s the closest thing to Super Smash Bros. on a Playstation (I’m looking at you Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale).

So what is Towerfall? The best job I can do to describe it is: Towerfall is a 2D four player retro inspired competitive platformer archery game (phew!).

This is a typical match with my friends and wife.

Matches are fast and chaotic. Some will wait in the shadows preparing to strike while others may volley all the arrows in their arsenal. Each stage exhibits what I call uniform infinite edge flow or “PAC-MAN” physics. There is no edge and thus no real advantage spot. Each stage is symmetrical. In a modern era of HD televisions it eschews the typical widescreen format of 16:9 and goes for the old school 4:3 to condense the tension. Stages are dynamic and by default the game turns on auto balancing to make sure everyone has a chance until the end. It’s easy to learn but hard to master. Arrows are just as deadly as hopping on someones head.

There’s an underlying lore as each character isn’t simply a color. They have different personas such as “Forgotten Master” and “Turncloak Soldier”. After each match everyone receives awards based on how they played. I often get the “Most Zen” award because I’m patient, methodical, and deadly.

To add to the experience, there are a wealth of options to tailor your game to your group. Once everyone has experienced vanilla Towerfall you can start throwing in variants like drill arrows and exploding corpses. Yes those are things.

Towerfall brings back memories of playing against your friends in a room side by side, and it creates new ones. If you haven’t considered this game, consider it now.

Music Select

In today’s age of the remix, some artists are putting their own touches and takes on some familiar classic works. No, not Shakespeare, but rather the classics of our generation: video games.

There are a ton of covers out there for video game music and plenty of awesome sites like OC Remix to find them. But few actually expand on those pieces and make them into something bigger and better.

I’ve recently come across two albums that have struck my fancy.

The first album that I can’t stop listening to is History Repeating: Blue from The Megas, a Mega Man cover band. This album is based on the music from Mega Man 3. Each track is from the perspective of either Mega Man or one of the Robot Masters. The Megas take each track and take elements of each stage song, and work it into something more lyrical and dynamic, and it works better than any other Mega Man cover I’ve heard. The first two tracks are especially awesome as part one leads into the title theme for part two. If you like Mega Man, you can’t miss this album.

The second album I recently discovered is Metroid Cinematica by Sam Dillard. This album takes tracks spanning nearly all of the Metroid games and weaves them into an epic film score. It reprises motifs and mixes tracks from all the games into an cinematic tale. It really makes me wish that Nintendo would evolve Metroid into the sci-fi universe it wants to be. It’s sad that Metroid Other M was meant to expand and build Samus’ character. This album does that more than that game ever will. Listen to this, and close your eyes. Imagine the Metroid movie that will never be.

That’s all from me. Let me know in the comments if you like the albums, and throw some money at these artists who truly love and appreciate the originals as you can hear it in their hard work.

Collecting Memories

I’ve been a Nintendo fan as long as I can remember.

My first memories of Nintendo were playing the NES at the barbershop my Dad took my brother and I when we were kids. The earliest games I remember are Duck Hunt, Gyromite, Top Gun, and of course Super Mario Bros.

My memories are inherently tied to video games, specifically Nintendo games. I don’t remember what my first kiss felt like but I can tell you what the first time playing Super Mario 64 in a local game store felt like: dreamy bliss. It’s confounding how my brain is wired.

When I started collecting video games, systems, and accessories a few years ago, it was spurred by finding my original Game Boy in a box of old items. That was the spark but I’m not certain what has kept that flame bright. Was it my sled named Rosebud? Was it to add to my geek cred? My precious antique cans? I think I am finally realizing what it is. It’s my link to the past (see what I did there? no?) Maybe that’s just my way of justifying material possessions. I understand people who want to eschew keeping all but the necessary physical objects. I just have never been able to do it myself. I like having things that other people have created, and things I can use to create.

Now I’ve moved into the realm of “collector” complete with a “collection.” It’s weird for me to think about. I don’t have items just to have them; they all mean something to me. They are part of me. Games differ from movies and books. Movies and books are easily rented or purchased regardless of publication date. Games on the other hand can often fade into the time they were created. Some will be remembered or even rereleased. But some will live on only on the system they were created for. Take Earthbound for example. It was a Nintendo game released for the Super Nintendo. It is actually fairly rare, and until 2013 never rereleased or available again for purchase. It’s a quirky RPG without a real equivalent. Maybe games like these will never fade and some library will exist for them to be played by anyone in the future, or maybe they will eventually die. Video games are a very young medium.

I don’t have anything in particular to achieve with my collection. I hope to share my memories with others, for them to share their memories with me. To share my experiences if I ever have a child. If I do I’ll raise them right.

Honestly I can’t imagine where this will end up. Maybe in ten years I’ll be selling everything for drugs and guns thanks to Armageddon (Thanks Armageddon!). I do know one thing that I keep coming back to: these games, toys, time wasters, playable stories, experiences, or whatever else to call them – they are a part of me. They are part of how my brain works. I’m collecting my own memories.