Blessing’s Top Ten Games of 2016
2016 was an eventful and magical year for a myriad of reasons. I began 2016 by moving to Seattle. I started OK Beast. I played more games than I likely ever had played in years prior. I met Ian Preschel, Alex Van Aken and a bunch of other nerds. Then there’s the whole Prince dying thing and the election… I didn’t say it was a perfect year. It has for sure been a memorable one for myself and I believe many others.
The games I’ve played in 2016 have been some of the most impactful and diverse games I’ve played in a single year. I played Life Is Strange, a 2015 game and I shed “thug tears” as Max and Chloe’s relationship resonated with me. I played Persona 4 Golden and spent nearly 100 hours’ worth of bus rides engrossed in a Japanese schoolboy’s tale of murder mysteries and romance. I played Banjo Kazooie for the first time and felt false nostalgia over a game which I was new to, but which belonged to a genre from an era I was born in.
2016 was a special year for me in games. The games that came out in 2016 have much to do with that. I played games like TitanFall 2, Pokemon GO and Let It Die that I sadly wasn’t able to fit on my top 10 list. Any other year, they would’ve been on. This speaks to the volume of great to masterful game releases that took place. 2016 was awesome. Without further ado, my name is Blessing and this is my personal list of the top ten games that released in 2016.
I got a Vita this year! And I may have only really played two games on it. One of those games changed my life. The other one is Severed. Dungeon crawling has never sounded appealing to me outside of the context of the 3D Zelda games. However, Severed is special.
Severed is addicting, cool looking, and most of all unique. The game uses Metroid-vania influences with touchscreen controls and a first-person perspective. It is unlike anything I’ve ever played.
What Severed did most of all was challenge me. The game introduced new challenges and right when I would enter them thinking “there is no way”, I eventually found a way. Only truly special games are able to pull that kind of perseverance out of a person.
9. Deus Ex Mankind Divided
At the beginning of the year, I would have expected this game to be in my top 3. I was a huge fan of Deus Ex Human Revolution and I expected nothing less than that from Square Enix. What I got was a very similar game with a few cool improvements and some performance issues but not enough to keep me from finishing the game. It was a great year for games and so there are many entries that were able to sneak their way above Mankind Divided but what ultimately is the reason why this game makes it onto my list is the subject matter.
Deus Ex Mankind Divided tackles race and equality in a way that is cliché for the sci-fi genre, however unique for video games. Many criticize it for not being more direct in its approach towards these topics but I appreciate the approach that the game took. Hints of racial discrimination and segregation are sprinkled throughout the world and narrative. It’s explicit on the posters on the walls. There are side quests dedicated to it. The game uses its setting to make a statement. In the midst of oppression and segregation, there are other things that go on. For someone like Adam Jensen who isn’t necessarily too deeply involved with the social issues in Mankind Divided, life goes on. And in reality, this has been true in the past and present. We often ignore these things even though they are obviously and explicitly happening around us. It’s not right, but it happens. Everyone knows these things are happening but everyone either wants to pretend that they aren’t, or is too busy to pay focus. In Deus Ex, the story isn’t about the racism, but the racism is not ignorable.
Why is nobody talking about this game? Like seriously.
The tone, the atmosphere, the writing, the close-combat, the distanced-combat, the colors, the music, the art style, and the overall feel just nail it. This is a game. Furi makes me feel like I’m playing a really good PlayStation 2 game. And if you know me, you know I love the PlayStation 2.
Furi is all boss fights which is enough to make me love this game. But coupled with that is the fact that I never don’t enjoy playing this game. It’s the right amount of arcade-like gameplay to keep me coming back for more.
7. Dishonored 2
No game I have played this year does a better job of environmental storytelling than Dishonored 2. This is level design that everyone else in the industry should aspire to. This stems from the multiple paths/solutions system to the overheard dialogue of NPCs while exploring areas. The mechanics and abilities at your disposal also leave so much room for improvisation. Emergent gameplay is the name of the game and Dishonored 2 encourages it well.
Oh and that clockwork mansion is dope.
6. Forza Horizon 3
I haven’t truly loved a racing game since Burnout. Burnout 3: Takedown is what I consider to be the best racing game in existence. Burnout: Paradise is up there too. Those games nailed speed and chaos better than any other game I’ve played.
Forza Horizon 3 introduced to me another side of racing games. That is the euphoria of the experience. I made a video earlier this year about how Forza Horizon 3 is crafted to create an experience that is aimed towards encouraging positive emotion. There is something about the design that makes me feel good as I’m playing. I still can’t pinpoint it. Horizon 3 is a special game and it pulled me back into the racing genre if even for just a brief moment.
5. Ratchet and Clank
Remember when video games used to be about fun? Apparently Insomniac Games remembers. This game based off of a movie based off of the original game is better than it has any right being. I originally played Ratchet and Clank when I was in elementary school. I then played the PlayStation 3 version in 2014.
Playing this new Ratchet and Clank game was weird. I felt like I was visiting my renovated elementary school… which is also something I actually did this last year. Everything was the same but everything was new. There were different characters, cleaner surfaces, rearranged rooms, yet I was familiar with mostly everything around me. I couldn’t ask for a more faithful remake. Playing the game felt like I was playing PlayStation 2 again and that is the highest praise I could give.
Inside doesn’t have one kink in its design. I truly believe this is the closest you could get to a perfect game. Everything that is in the game has purpose and this makes playing Inside feel special. It’s a brief experience and once it ended, all I wanted was more. It was the first game I’d played in a long time where when I finished, I immediately clicked new game and started playing again. It’s that good.
3. The Witness
The Witness made me go absolutely insane for the few weeks that I played it. I spent days in The Witness staring at panels and staring at walls and staring at grass and staring at literally anything in the game that looked like it had an inkling of what could be the next step to finding a solution to this gigantic interwoven puzzle that is the island.
The Witness is a game about perception. It makes you look at things in different ways. The Witness is a game about patience. It makes you learn a language and it rigorously tests you on your knowledge of that language. The Witness is a game about perseverance. It pushes you to your mental limit and makes you look beyond yourself to find a solution. The Witness is a game about beauty. It tries to explain the questions of life by making you struggle while beauty is all around you in the flora, architecture, art, and solitude. The Witness is an authentic game. It doesn’t try to act like it’s a game about war, or oppression, or social issues. It’s a game about solving puzzles both literally and metaphorically.
So this was totally my game of the year until last week. Overwatch means so much to me. The game released as soon as OK Beast started to get its footing and in many ways, is responsible for OK Beast being what it is. It is definitely the game that had the most impact on my life this year. I started an Overwatch podcast with friends. I met various people from various communities while playing the game. I even conversed with and got to know people I admired while playing the game. From people like Sean Pitts, Xyger, Andy Cortes, and Alex O’Neill to the likes of IGN’s Fran Mirabella. I watched Mayumi and Albert get super dope playing as Soldier 76 and Symmetra. I chilled with Ian and Alex for countless days while we’d get wrecked in competitive mode and listen to Alex take pee breaks. I got into fights in Overwatch and had my best gaming moments of the year in this game.
Overwatch is not just a game, it’s a tool that creates community. And I haven’t even talked about the game itself. The thing is, I don’t really need to. Of course, the game has amazing characters, awesome gameplay, excellent curation, play of the game etc. etc. that’s all cool. This is a game that was setup to win from the start and so of course it’s a great game. The thing that makes this game truly special to me are the experiences I had around this game. Those experiences I can never get back, and I’m sure there are more amazing ones to come.
1. The Last Guardian
Surprised? Let me explain. I didn’t think I would like this game when it came out. I love the game Ico. I don’t just love, but am IN love with Shadow of The Colossus. When The Last Guardian was announced, I was convinced that it was going to be my new favorite game. My expectations were through the roof. As time went on, it was apparent that the game didn’t exist. Every E3 I had hopes that Shuhei Yoshida would show up on stage with the good news that The Last Guardian has a release date. Every E3 I was met with upset until I finally accepted the reality that I would never get the game that was my most anticipated for many years. Then E3 2015 happened and you know the rest.
I went into The Last Guardian with tempered expectations. Of course a tortured development cycle would mean trouble. I expected the game to be some kind of Frankenstein’s monster. But I began to play and was hit with the revelation that not only was the game good… the game’s excellent.
On Saturday December 10th, I spent most of the day playing countless hours The Last Guardian. I almost completed the whole game in a single day. That is not something I do. Deus Ex Mankind Divided took me three months. Inside is three hours long and took me three days. I still haven’t finished The Witness. The Last Guardian pulled me in for a day and just wouldn’t let me go. It is wildly engaging.
The game works in the places where it matters most and is detailed in the places it matters most. The way that the boy moves accents actions like running, climbing, pushing, hanging, and more. His animations emphasize the struggle he is going through. When he’s pushing a door, he’s pushing for dear life. When he’s carrying a barrel, he’s carrying that barrel like it’s about to slip out of his hands. He has style. I don’t mean style as in “he’s a cool person”, I mean style in the sense that I can’t take my eyes him due to the level of detail that was put into making the boy fascinating. This goes double for Trico.
Trico (giant bird-dog pet) is the highlight of The Last Guardian. He looks incredible. His animations are awe-inspiring. He feels like a real animal… Let me say that again for the people in the back. He feels like a REAL animal. He doesn’t always listen. He’s frustrating sometimes. But when everything works out the way it’s supposed to, the feeling is gratifying. I fell in love with Trico a few hours into the game and I didn’t look back. The fact that there’s a button to pet Trico did wonders for our relationship. When he hurt, I hurt. When I was in trouble, he’d be there to help and vice-versa. That relationship felt real and the fact that I couldn’t stop staring at him the whole game due to just how fascinating and incredible Trico looked and behaved also contributed to my feelings for Trico. He’s bigger than life.
The story of The Last Guardian is also amazing. The cutscenes are used sparingly and effectively. The game explains so much while keeping the mystery of the world intact. There are just so many things that are done right here. And they are the things that matter.
The Last guardian has issues. Almost none of these issues truly bothered me. I admit that this game is not a game for everyone and can understand the justification for both a seven out of ten score along with a nine out of ten score. I just tend to lean more towards nine. It’s a piece of work. And it somehow managed to reach my original expectations.
The Last Guardian is poetry. It shouldn’t exist. Games like this end up being Inside or The Witness. By that, I mean they end up being excellent, smaller budget experiences. That is in no way being used pejoratively because Inside and The Witness are better than anything else that came out this year. The Last Guardian is just a big budget one of those and it is a wonder that this game even exists. I love The Last Guardian. I had an amazing experience with The Last Guardian and that is why The Last Guardian is my personal game of the year.
Thank you so much for checking out my list of the top ten games of 2016. Make sure to stay tuned this week and next week for more lists including a barrage of guest lists.
This piece was written by Blessing Adeoye. You can find Blessing tweeting about how great Donkey Kong 64 is at @blessingjr on Twitter.