I have created a text file every year since 2010 that lists every game I played that year and the order in which I enjoyed them. Now that my blog is operational and I started the #GamesOfTheYear tag in 2017 I felt it was time to look back at those text files and record them here for posterity.
I am going to attempt to not write too much about each game because otherwise it will take me weeks if not months to transcribe all of these text files. My goal is to write a simple one or two line description of the game and what I think I felt about it back when it was first played.
1. Monster Hunter Generations
I will admit that Monster Hunter Generations being my 2016 Game of the Year is a bit strange since Monster Hunter X (the original Japanese version) was my 2015 Game of the Year. In my defense you can never be certain that Capcom is going to release anything Monster Hunter related in the West so you gotta grab any Japanese release you can!
There really isn't much to write here other than go back to my Games of the Year 2015 article and replace "Monster Hunter X" with "Monster Hunter Generations". It is the exact same game except this time I can actually read it.
This was the game I played the most in 2016 and continues the trend of any year a Monster Hunter game is released it takes my top spot. Maybe I need to start leaving these games out of the rankings and just add a disclaimer at the top saying "Duh of course I loved this year's Monster Hunter."
2. XCOM 2
If you read my Steam review of XCOM 2 you would probably think I absolutely hated this game. But outside of the glaring technical issues it was still the same old XCOM at its core and I don't think I will ever grow tired of that gameplay.
It is hard to describe the euphoria when your favourite solider hits that perfect shot or the utter despair you feel when you see they are about to die and there is nothing you can do about it. Those possibilities are what make XCOM great. Its tactical and strategic layers are always solid but if you didn't have that personal connection to your soldiers the game would be something completely different.
The concept of you now being the resistance trying to take Earth back from the aliens instead of defending it from invasion really did open up the game. The idea of concealment and establishing connections with resistance cells across the world were subtle modifications that drastically changed the choices you would make on the tactical and strategy layers. Oh and the plethora of customization options available to your soldiers just made me even sadder when one of them died.
All that being said, Firaxis' attempt to experiment with the core gameplay did result in some critical mistakes. I did not feel there were as many viable research paths as in previous games. If you don't get lasers before the first retaliation mission you're gonna have a bad time so the first two months always played out the same for me. Missions also did get a little repetitive. The procedural maps were amazing and I never felt that I was seeing the same thing twice but the guerrilla ops, alien facilities and retaliation missions really seemed to play out the same way over and over again. Perhaps that may not have been as much of an issue if the difficulty curve was smoother. The beginning of the game is incredibly brutal but if you can make it past three months you're almost guaranteed to get to the endgame. The aliens don't seem to scale as fast and the missions start to become rote.
I don't want to end this on a down note. I still put over 100 hours into XCOM 2 and cannot wait for the next sequel. Sure Firaxis may have gotten some things wrong but I am very happy they are not resting on their laurels. I really hope we get to see their take on X-COM: Terror from the Deep.
3. Titanfall 2
It is criminal that Titanfall 2 sold so poorly. It is one of the most underrated first person shooters in years and easily beats out every other one that was released in 2016. EA basically sent it out to die by releasing it the week in between Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.
While most triple-A FPS developers are focusing on multiplayer, Respawn Entertainment shows up with an absolutely stellar story mode. Every level of the campaign was unique and extremely well designed. Respawn's gunplay continues to lead the industry and their sleek movement system has yet to be matched. Combine this with a robot companion, BT-7274, that is more human and better written than 90% of other video game characters and you have yourself an amazing game.
4. Battlefield 1
I'm not gonna write much about Battlefield 1 except that it is a quintessential AAA FPS. It looks amazing, plays great and it super fun with friends. DICE took a little bit of a risk going with the World War I setting but at its core this is the same Battlefield game you've played before.
5. Pokémon Sun and Moon
I'm gotta be honest, I don't remember much about Pokémon Sun and Moon. It obviously wasn't a bad game because I rated it so high but after almost two years the only thing that jumps out to me about this game was how uninteresting and bland the story was. You weren't really a Pokémon trainer who wanted to be the best but some random kid who followed other whiny kids around islands, battling an even more inept version of anime Team Rocket before you dimension hopped and fought Cthulhu or something. Then after all of that you suddenly decide it is time to beat the Elite Four and become the greatest I guess.
I am definitely being too harsh on the game but outside of the 3D graphics engine it felt like a very cookie cutter entry to the Pokémon series. I wonder if we will finally see a big departure when the next main series game comes out for the Nintendo Switch.
Oh my god I completely forgot DOOM was released in 2016. How the fuck is this so low on the list? I know I said Titanfall 2 was the most underrated FPS in years but DOOM is an extremely close second. Designing the game to make you want to run at full speed towards your enemies at all times is absolutely genius. In an age of taking cover and trying to fire off a couple pot shots DOOM said fuck that and makes you want to get right up in your enemy's face so you can activate a glory kill and rip them apart with your bare hands.
And the soundtrack! Oh sweet baby Jesus the soundtrack! Every time that metal music started playing your adrenaline would spike and the blood would start pumping because you knew the action was coming straight for you. Noclip conducted a great interview with Mick Gordon, the composer for DOOM, about how he came up with such an amazing soundtrack.
After all of this ranting and raving about how great DOOM is I finally remembered why it was so low on this list. The boss battles. Oh dear lord those shitty boss battles. It was Deus Ex: Human Revolution all over again. I swear the boss battles in DOOM must have been designed by another studio because they were so out of place. Take everything that I loved and praised the game for and throw it out the window. Then drop the player into a bland open arena with a bullet sponge that you just have to shoot for five minutes and could 1 or 2 hit kill you. Those are DOOM's boss battles. I now vividly remember wanting to punch my monitor during that damn Cyberdemon fight.
That being said DOOM is still an amazing game. I recommend everyone play it up until the Cyberdemon and then put the game down and wait for its sequel, DOOM Eternal.
7. Dishonored 2
I actually wrote a Steam review for Dishonored 2 that is a surprisingly level headed considering I remember being much more turned off by it. The tl;dr is that Dishonored 2 is a solid game that did not improve on its predecessor. The same open world design and non-linear gameplay remain but your character is not given as much space for development.
I barely experimented with any powers because the resources you needed to unlock them were quite rare. I kept using the same solutions to every problem simply because those were the skills I already had. There was no impetus to take a risk with a my limited resources and pick a skill that may help me solve one unique problem but potentially make me weaker in the long run.
It is still a good stealth game but I would honestly recommend the original Dishonored over this.
8. Dark Souls III
Dark Souls III is the final entry in the Dark Souls series, what else do you want me to write? Do you enjoy a game with tight controls and a high skill ceiling where you get kicked in the balls over and over again? Cool, you've already probably beaten all of the other Souls games so I don't need to convince you. Does getting kicked in the balls over and over again not sound fun to you? Cool, you've probably never picked up a Souls game before and this one is giving you no reason to start now.
7.8/10 - would not get kicked in the balls again.
9. Offworld Trading Company
Offworld Trading Company is an incredibly original take on the real-time strategy genre that I got bored of fairly quickly. It's not a bad game, it's just not for me in a similar way that chess isn't. I understand the game, I understand its appeal, I can enjoy watching skilled people play it but I never play it myself.
10. Tom Clancy's The Division
Tom Clancy's The Division is your standard Ubisoft open world game. Buggy as shit with lots of rough edges but interesting and unique core gameplay that can be addicting. The world is expansive and the story is decent enough that it pulls you through until you get to the typical MMO end game loot grind. However, The Division puts its own unique spin on it with the "Dark Zone", a PvEvP area of the map that I thoroughly enjoyed running with my friends.
Like all of these MMO-lite games the loot grind did get tiresome but I had lost dozens of hours by this point. With the upcoming release of The Division 2 it wouldn't surprise me if the same friends raised the bat signal and we jumped right back in.
11. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is in a similar situation to Dishonored 2. A decent sequel that did not really improve upon its predecessor. More time seemed to be spent on the art and writing rather than the world and ways to navigate it. Missions were typically very tedious and linear which made me bored of the world rather than interested in exploring it like the first game did.
12. Darkest Dungeon
When I first heard about Darkest Dungeon I thought I had found my new favorite game. It seemed to have a lot the same things that I loved about XCOM and the first several hours were truly fun. But then the grind reared its ugly head.
In XCOM you're almost always moving forward. You can't sit still and putter around because the aliens will get ahead of you but the game does a good job of giving you opportunities to maintain pace. Even when soldiers die you can recover but maybe after three or four massive failures your game over and you either gotta restart or go back to a earlier save. In Darkest Dungeon the game seems to expect you to have these failures but just grind to replace what you lost. There is no concept of game over.
The tipping point for me was when I attempted the first bosses and I wrote about this grind in my Steam review. I spent four hours gearing up for my first attempt at a boss and did manage to beat it but it was a Pyrrhic victory. All of the resources I lost would take several hours to recoup and the only way to recoup those loses was to replay what was now a very boring part of the game. You spend most of your time in Darkest Dungeon treading water before you take a massive leap and then tread water again.
13. Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest
It has become quite apparent that I just do not understand the Fire Emblem battle system. "Classic Mode" in these games means your characters are subject to permanent death so you must be extremely cautious during combat. I played Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest in "Casual Mode" because it was rare that a battle would end with less than 80% of my characters dying. They were like lambs to the slaughter.
The story was also extremely anime and most of the characters were making dumb decisions to simply to advance the plot. I'd say that if you want to try out a Fire Emblem game you steer clear of this one and try Fire Emblem Awakening instead which I seemed to enjoy much much more.
14. Final Fantasy XV
Four bros on a road trip! How could you not love Final Fantasy XV? Simple, have a shitty stealth section 25 hours into the game that I consistently failed for about 20 minutes straight. Stealth sections in action games are my kryptonite which I have absolutely zero patience for. If the developers don't respect my time then I am not going to play their game. It is a shame too because I was really enjoying Final Fantasy XV up until that point.
15. Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past
As a huge fan of JRPGs I thought I would love Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past. Everything I had heard made it sound like it was the perfect Dragon Quest game. All of the standard gameplay and combat mechanics are in there. So if that is all you want out of a JRPG / Dragon Quest game then you are set.
But if these games don't have an engaging story it is easy for me to lose interest and that is what happened with Dragon Quest VII. Rather than have an overarching story, each character had their own disconnected story arc like Octopath Traveler. I'm not saying that these stories were poorly written necessarily but they just didn't pull me through the game. I remember picking it up one day and having literally no idea what I was suppose to do next because there wasn't some grand goal that I should be trying to achieve.
16. Quantum Break
Alan Wake is one of my favourite video games of all time. It is a goto example of how writing and world building can be even more interesting than gameplay. I barely remember the third-person shooting but the story is still one of the best in the history of video games.
So when I heard that Remedy Entertainment was making another game called Quantum Break I was beyond excited. Since the writing in Alan Wake so outstanding Remedy's next game would be as well right? I could not have been more wrong.
Quantum Break feels like a shitty chose your own adventure written for teenagers. The story only exists because every character makes the stupidest possible choice and the bad guy is so over the top cartoony evil that you can't take anything seriously. Also in between every "act" of the game you need to sit and watch a 30 minute TV episode that is home to some of the cringiest writing and dialog you will ever see.
Combine this with a third-person shooter that controls horribly, has useless powers, insta-kill boss attacks and frustrating platforming puzzles and you get a video game that is a slog to get through. I would not recommend Quantum Break to anyone. If you want an interesting time travel story just go watch Primer. Hell you could watch it 10 times in a row and still waste less time than you'd put into this game.
17. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
I really don't like that I am such a Naughty Dog hater but I just don't understand how so many people overlook the shortcomings in their games. Sure the graphics are always stellar and the writing is above average but the platforming and shooting became stale after the release of Uncharted 2 in 2009! They basically haven't changed in a decade.
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is just another carbon copy Naughty Dog game. The visual are stunning and the voice acting is A+. The story is hit and miss particularly regarding the main antagonist. A rich kid who is jealous of what Nathan Drake has achieved. Oh boy I can't wait to see how he fails horribly.
The shooting is just as bad as it was in Uncharted 3 and the platforming hasn't gotten any better. Basically 95% of platforming puzzles could have been skipped if the NPC I was with just dropped the god damn rope they were carrying!
I honestly wanna see Naughty Dog take a risk and move away from the action-adventure genre and instead make an interactive story game like Telltale did. I just wanna partake in the amazing visuals and writing instead of fighting the controls every step of the way.
I know this is going to be contentious choice but Overwatch doesn't deserve any more of my time so I'm just going to end with this. Overwatch is a lot like masturbation. It feels good doing it but in the end you're just fucking yourself.#GamesOfTheYear