It was a big year for games in 2016, with developers offering a wide range of experiences for folks to run, shoot, throw, drive, leap and puzzle their way through. So now the questions is, which games deserve to be recognized as the best the year had to offer?
Here at Cinema Blend, we're all about games that get a reaction out of the player. Sure, we prefer if a game looks good and plays well, but we'll take a rough diamond over a polished piece of granite any day of the week. This year's top games range the spectrum, including AAA blockbusters, indie darlings and everything in between. Here are our favorite titles from 2016.
10. No Man's Sky
Possibly the most controversial game of 2016, No Man's Sky took its sweet time getting to us and, once it was here, many felt the game failed to deliver on what Hello Games had been touting for several years.
As for us, we were plenty pleased with No Man's Sky, opting to enjoy the game's strengths rather than argue online over its weaknesses. While the initial gameplay was somewhat limited, few games take us through a range of emotions as consistently as No Man's Sky. There's a sense of wonder that goes along with every new species you come across, every new galaxy you warp into and ever new planet you discover. I still get excited every time I break atmosphere, wondering if I'll find a barren wasteland or a lush planet overflowing with new discoveries.
The fact that the developers themselves will never even see the vast, vast majority of what their own game has to offer is pretty impressive on its own, don't ya think?
We've seen Thumper described as "a rhythm violence game," and it absolutely lives up to that admittedly bizarre description.
Aside from being a solid, unique and finely-tuned rhythm game with a fantastic soundtrack, Thumper expertly introduces new mechanics into the game before demanding that you master them in a collection of levels that almost makes you feel like you're physically kicking holes in walls rather than skiing along a psychedelic interstellar highway. We've never played a rhythm game that could consistently build such an overwhelming sense of dread and anticipation, making every missed cue feel crushing and every expertly completed section of a level feel like a triumph.
Also, it's rad as hell in VR, which earns it brownie points.
8. Dishonored 2
One of the safer bets on this list, Dishonored 2 earns praise because it took everything that was great about the original game in the series and simply added on more of it.
Perhaps "simply" is the wrong term, because there is nothing simple about the time, care and attention that clearly went into making an even better stealth action game than its beloved precursor. The levels are more varied, the characters are more interesting and the abilities are just an insane amount of fun to use. Dishonored 2 is one of those games we can't help but feel is paving the way to the genre's future and, based on this entry, that future is looking bright indeed.
7. Stardew Valley
Stardew Valley is one of those impressive games that only becomes more baffling when you find out that it was basically built from scratch by a single dude with an insane amount of time and dedication on their hands.
Stardew Valley's official launch was in 2016, and we're pretty sure it would deserve a top-ten nod no matter what crop of titles it was stacked against. The game takes everything we love about farm/life-simulators like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing and cranks the whole thing up to 11. There's just so much you can do in this game. Coupled with a hell of a lot of customization and a continuous stream of updates, it's super easy to see why so many people lost days of their lives to growing vegetables, catching fish, wooing suitors and the like.
DOOM is one part sequel and one part reboot, only, unlike many games that try to be either of those things, DOOM succeeds at both with flying colors.
DOOM's single player campaign was one of the most satisfying straight shooter experiences we've had in a long time, coupling light platforming with tried but true shooting, fun weaponry, groovy baddies, and a health mechanic that almost turns the game into a sort of shooter rhythm romp.
Roll all of that up with a rocking soundtrack and DOOM reminded us why we fell in love with the series in the first place. There's a lot of new stuff here mixed in with the exact right amount of nostalgia, and it comes from a team who clearly understands what makes the genre so much fun to play.
5. Forza Horizon 3
What can we say about Forza Horizon 3 that hasn't been said about pretty much every other Forza game? The team has clearly gotten this whole "driving" thing down to a science, combining just the right amount of simulation driving with arcade fun and plenty of trimmings to keep us glued to the steering wheel for hours. Horizon 3 is like the best road trip ever, in places we'll likely never actually be able to drive.
The series has never looked or felt so great, and we're looking forward to where this road takes us next.
4. The Last Guardian
One of those flawed gems we mentioned earlier, The Last Guardian doesn't just skate by on the fact that it actually managed to come out after a decade of extremely turbulent development.
While we enjoyed the game for its clever puzzles and beautiful, mysterious world, what really won us over was the relationship between the protagonist and his unlikely friend, a massive creature that's one part bird, one part dog, one part cat and 100 percent magical.
Dig past the surface and you'll discover an intriguing study on the mechanics of a friendship, complete with heart-stopping set pieces and emotional punches peppered throughout. While we enjoyed every game on this list, we doubt any will stick in our minds as long as The Last Guardian will.
3. Titanfall 2
Talk about a dark horse candidate for game of the year, we wouldn't blame anyone for making Titanfall 2 their top pick for 2016.
Nowadays, single player campaigns in shooters often feel like they were bolted on just to earn a check mark on the back of the game's box. We went in expecting exactly that out of Titanfall 2 and received so, so much more.
While the story is serviceable enough, the mech companion, BT-7274, has more personality than most human characters in other games. But what really wowed us was the level design and variety seen throughout Titanfall 2's generous campaign. It felt like we were being asked to do something different every few minutes, which is a nice departure from the usual "move to a room, shoot the things, repeat" loop of other shooters.
Throw in a bunch of creative guns that are fun to shoot, multiple classes of Titans to figure out and some pretty sweet abilities, and Titanfall 2 surprised us by being some of the most fun you could have with a controller in hand this year.
2. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Naughty Dog is one of those developers you just expect greatness out of these days and, with Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, they delivered it once again.
The game's environments are insanely detailed, the acting is captivating and the action is more varied than it has ever been.
You wouldn't think that something as simple as a rope could have such a big impact, but the way swinging around allows the player to pull off more high-flying antics than ever before is impressive. Shooting from cover, springing out into the open, leaping through the air, tethering the rope to an anchor, swinging around an obstacle and then letting go at just the right time to come crashing down on a baddie fist-first is exhilarating, and Uncharted 4 lets you do things like that on a regular basis.
Bolt all of that fun shooting and platforming onto a legitimately compelling story and it's not hard to see why the crowd goes wild at a press conference just because the Naughty Dog logo has appeared before a new trailer.
If you're going to be the best game of the year, you've got to bring a lot to the table. Sure, some games tell the best story. Others offer the most fun. Still, others mess up all of those other aspects but still manage to stick in your mind weeks after the credits have rolled.
What's interesting about this year's top game is that it didn't really do most of those other things that typically makes a game stand out from the pack.
Blizzard has a knack for taking a known quantity and polishing it until it's better than ever. That's exactly what they did with Overwatch, offering up a class-based shooter that's pinpoint accurate, bright and lovely to look at and a heck of a lot of fun to play. It might not have a compelling story or a revolutionary new mechanic to brag about, but what it did manage to do is win over folks from all over the gaming community, becoming something of a phenomenon in the process.
We appreciate that some folks were hoping for a deeper experience, but we feel comfortable in saying that the insane number of people playing the game daily are plenty happy with exactly what is on offer. Plus, again, this is Blizzard we're talking about. Overwatch is only going to get better and better, and that's saying something considering just how good it already is.
Staff Writer for CinemaBlend.
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