I gamed a lot this year. Especially when you take into consideration that I brought a 3rd child into the world right in the middle of it. When the end of the year hit, I looked at my backlog to see what I still needed to finish and was blown away. I bought all the games I was supposed to, but why haven’t I touched them? I even started working through my Games of 2016 podcast outline and had a hard time filling it out. Turns out, I spent most of this year playing games from last year.
We’ll start with the honorable mentions, kind of in order from least to greatest, but not really. I didn’t finish all of these, but if I played them for longer than 30 minutes, they’re worth mentioning because let’s be honest, I don’t have time to waste on shitty games.
I don’t remember a game that our crew went from so excited about to loathing so quickly. The beta was everything you could ask for in a game. Even when the full experience released we had a great time until we finished everything, and the Dark Zone became flooded with Safe House camping assholes. After a much needed break I finally came back and realized that they might finally be getting it together. Expansion 1 was a much needed improvement to help you grind through random ops missions to find gear, to improve your gear score, so you can find better gear. Yep, that’s what you do. Loot to get better loot is the cycle of life these days. Expansion 2 also looks promising even though I haven’t had a chance to check it out. Don’t worry Divison, I haven’t given up on you completely. Don’t hurt me twice though.
There isn’t much to say about this game other than, if you enjoyed the classic PS2 Hitman games, you need to check this out. I was a big fan of Absolution, but they took it to more of a story driven route. Hitman pulls back to it roots and delivers more of what I remember from the classics which are multi-angled puzzles woven into a stealth game. Get creative and go kill some people.
I feel bad this game got screwed by EA’s inability to look at a game release schedule. It shouldn’t have come out when it did, and had it not I feel like it would have done way better. Respawn took a solid multiplayer game, tightened it up even more, and added a solid single player campaign to it. The last half of that campaign is some of the most video gamey gameplay I’ve experienced in a while. It was just pure fun. The true Infinity Ward is still there, and this game is proof of it. Hopefully the decisions of their terrible publisher won’t keep them from unleashing their true potential in either another Titanfall campaign, or something new.
Hyper Light Drifter
From the start, this game had a familiarity to it that didn’t sink in until I was already lost in its world. I realized that I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know where I’m going, but it doesn’t matter because this game is gorgeous. There are zero hints as to what you’re supposed to be doing and that’s 100% ok. It was The Legend of Zelda all over again. People have been trying to recreate that feeling for decades, but haven’t quite pulled it off. Hyper Light Drifter nailed it and I feel bad that the first boss I ran into intimidated me so much that i haven’t gone back to try and finish it. Don’t worry, I will. You should too.
Salt and Sanctuary
“2D Souls” is what you hear the most from people talking about this game. Yes, Salt is an action RPG with really difficult bosses, but did you notice in between those bosses that you’re totally playing Castlevania? I feel like there’s just as much Castlevania influence with the level design as there is Dark Souls influence for the gameplay element. It wears its inspirations on its sleeve and that’s totally okay because the game is fantastic. It plays a great tribute to all the games that influenced it and is extremely impressive work from a 2-person studio. Do yourself (and Ska Studios) a favor and pick up this game.
The Top 4
Some of these games came out this year, some of them didn’t. Either way, this list is why I didn’t play any of the 2016 games that are in everyone else’s lists.
4. Pony Island
Yeah, I hadn’t heard of it either until I accidentally stumbled across it. I think Steam recommended it to me because of my love for demon possessed pony games. So how did this no-name indie game make my top 4? When you’ve played as many games as I have, you feel like you’ve almost seen it all. You’re rarely surprised by anything, but when you are, you remember it. That’s what Pony Island did for me. Even though it was one of the first games I played in 2016, it instantly popped in my head when I started thinking about my top 10 list. I’m not going to say much about it because you really need to experience it. It’s short, inexpensive, twisted, and extremely creative. If you enjoy a little dark humor you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t take a ride on that pony.
3. Bloodborne: The Old Hunters
This DLC is how I spent the first 3 months of 2016. Before I started the expansion I wanted to almost finish Bloodborne. Because the DLC scales with your game difficulty, I made it to the final boss battle and then hit the DLC before switching everything over to New Game+ and getting murdered even more than normal. Turns out this was a good decision because the The Old Hunters was no walk in the park. I struggled at the start until I leveled up a little further. Just imagine the hardest non-boss enemies from Bloodborne being the normal enemies. Oh yeah, and while you’re wandering around in dark caves, we’re just going to throw one of the bosses you’ve already fought at you as a normal level enemy too.
From didn’t waste any time setting the tone for what was in store here, as if they were getting even for all of the reviewers claiming Bloodborne wasn’t as difficult as its Souls predecessors. Difficulty aside, The Old Hunters is what DLC should be. It’s enough content to hold its own as a standalone game at a reduced price. It weaves into the original story almost seamlessly. There are a variety of new enemies and weapons to keep things fresh, and a familiarity of the world you just traversed comforts and terrifies you at the same time. I have no regrets spending as much time as I did on Bloodborne this year. It was a brutal journey, but I’m glad I stuck with it.
2. Rocket League
I feel like I need to right a wrong here. Looking back on last year’s Grimmys I think I was taking the stance that I didn’t want this game to win GOTY. I don’t know why. Maybe I thought it was just a sports game, and sports games don’t win GOTY awards. The truth is, I really didn’t spend any time playing it so I wasn’t able to make an educated decision and went with the more popular choice which was The Witcher 3. I’m just going to come right out and admit I was completely wrong. Rocket League was the 2015 GOTY, and if I could nominate it again, it would be a real big contender for 2016 GOTY. In the past we’d be lucky if you could find 1 person to play a multiplayer game with once a week. Now we can ring the rocket bell almost any night and someone will jump on with you. It rekindled the competitiveness in me from my old Counter-Strike days and has been the one major cause of my back log getting even more backed up lately. Good job Psyonix. You nailed it and I apologize to you and Cole for not realizing it sooner.
23 years ago I somehow convinced my mom to drive me an hour from home to a computer shop and drop $200 on a 2mb RAM upgrade for my computer so I could meet the minimum requirements to play the original Doom. It’s really hard to explain what it’s like to experience a new genre of video game, because it doesn’t happen all that often. With Wolfenstein and Doom, id forever molded me into the gamer that I am today. I was hooked on first person shooters. Years later, I find myself in the same boat. I’m upgrading computer hardware so that I can play Doom 3. We all know how big of a deal that game was. It gave us the first real projected shadows! It was so cool. You wanted everything to walk under a moving fan just so you could see the shadow again. Even though it deviated a little from what Doom was, it was still badass. Then Doom goes dormant...for a long time.
12 years later, I finally get to experience this long-waited game that we weren’t sure would ever see the light of day. My expectations were not high. id Software is my hero, but no one can survive that expectation and hype train. Many others have tried and failed miserably. I expected to enjoy it, but it wouldn’t be fantastic. How could it be? I’m so glad I was wrong. Doom is perfect. Thinking back on it, I don’t even know what I would change about it. There’s nothing to pick apart. It’s everything it needed to be. It feels like Doom should feel. There’s no hand holding; they just throw you in because you know this is Doom. It’s familiar. Now let’s shoot some demons in the face. The game achieves what you want from a first person shooter. You want to feel like a badass, and boy do you ever feel like a badass. The game is also gorgeous and runs like a champ even on older hardware. That optimization magic is something only id can do and I love them for it. Did I mention that music? The first time I ripped open a gore nest and that electronic metal kicked in I got goose bumps. You nailed it Mick. You wrote the perfect soundtrack for the perfect game.
I give id and Mick Gordon 666 standing ovations for doing what I didn’t think could be done. You made another Doom game and it was flawless. You proved to everyone that our childhood memories can be expanded upon and not torn to shreds by shitty reboots. And this is why Doom is hands down my Game of the Year.